I start with a caveat, which is that I detest the violence by the furious Muslim rioters in many parts of the world with an equal passion that I condemn the unacceptable film made to denigrate the religion of Islam by a combination of Islamophobic, hate-mongering Jews and Coptic Christians.
The film is a product of a sick mind, created with the incendiary purpose of provoking Muslim anger and violence. The makers of the film know how strongly Muslims feel about these issues as well as the fact that some of them are likely to react violently. These riots and killings have proved them right!
The violence, especially in Egypt and Libya was not only self-defeating but also injurious to Islamic religion. As a consequence, the protesters have their legitimate views buried in gunshots and teargas, largely unheard by the reasonable opinion-forming publics around the globe.
The Americans and the Europeans push out the view that this garbage is protected by freedom of speech, a cherished virtue throughout the democratic world. But the word hypocrisy is too light to describe their double standard on this issue.
In fairness, I would leave out the U.S. which has entered a damage control mode, denouncing the clips and distancing itself from its mischievous makers.They just spent about USD 70,000 advertising their country’s innocence on Pakistani English and Urdu TV.
The British government, which sees nothing wrong with these anti-Islam deformations of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) has in another breath surreptitiously been trying to impose a ban on the display of the topless pictures of the future Queen of England, Princess Kate Middleton, Prince Williams’ wife.
Since the pictures debuted online and a in few European magazines, the Royal family has been using every possible means in the court of law and the court of public opinion to block the pictures. The palace said they expected France to investigate and press criminal charges against the photographer for breach of privacy and trespassing.
In France itself, where a satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, put naked Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.) on the newsstands, the authorities say they see nothing wrong with those cartoons, that they are in line with the freedom of expression. In an apparent contradiction, Muslims who feel angered and wish to protest peacefully have been told that there is no such right. The country’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls said prefects throughout the country have been given orders to prohibit any protest over the issue and to crackdown if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exception,” he said, warning that “demonstrations will be banned and broken up.”
The Indian State which arrested a cartoonist in connection with a copy he drew that is critical of the ruling coalition government has told Muslims, angry over these two incidents, that demonstrations were unacceptable. Muslims are angry everywhere because they feel that people are riding roughshod over their sensibilities and not giving a damn about it. Europeans in particular go on deriding this faith as if they have one peg above the rest of the world.
A secret agent of Belgian origin said a few years on the BBC that he killed the Kenyan nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba “because he ridiculed my King.” There is a point of view that the real reason for America’s hurried war against Iraq was that Saddam Hussein made a doormat of George H. Bush’s (Bush senior) effigy. Visitors to the fallen dictator’s office marched their feet on the former President’s face.
In England, agents of the State carry on their business being on “Her Majesty’s Service.” The British anthem’s “God Save the Queen,” line is on the lips of children and adults alike. In Israel and all of Europe, the denial of the holocaust is a jail-able offence just as is the tossing of the crucifix or denial of the holiness of the Pope a blasphemy in many Catholic nations. What is wrong with them that they can’t accord Islam and its symbols the same respect?
While no responsible Muslim would support the excesses of demonstrators against the derogatory film, the indifference of Western governments to Muslim legitimate complaints over this issue is incomprehensible.
It is not enough to guarantee the Muslims in Western democracies the right to practice their religion while at the same time turning a blind eye when their faith and its symbols are deliberately attacked by deranged iconoclasts under the cover of the so-called freedom of expression. Race, religion, nationality and ethnicity are sensitive issues that every government should handle with caution. Muslims feel a sense of discrimination because of the curious indifference of Western government to their faith.
This indifference carries the risk of radicalization of Islamic societies, which might weaken the efforts to contain terrorism. When the West looks the other way in the face of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed, (S.A.W.) they run the risk of complicating their relations with Muslims, thereby, providing radical Islamists the opportunity to attack Western interests. When you ignore legitimate grudges in the name of democracy, there is the risk of creating complications which might not serve the best interest of the West.
The death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, wouldn’t have occurred but for the latest inflammatory film against the dignity of Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W.). The film created the chain of events that gave radical Muslims the opportunity to hide behind the peaceful protests in Benghazi to kill the diplomat who was described as a friend of the Arabs. Stevens was not the culprit in this provocation but became a victim of another mad man’s mischievous creation to deliberately disturb the peace.
Garba Shehu writes a weekly column for PREMIUM TIMES every Wednesday