If Muslims took time to see just how bad the video is, they might realise it's not worth getting so upset about.
Back in the late 1980s when I was young and relatively innocent, my parents dragged me to a boring Sunday afternoon gathering at a Pakistani doctor's mansion.
Following an extra spicy lunch, we were forced to listen to our host curse and malign British novelist Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. It took the doctor so long to defend the honour of the prophet Muhammad that we missed two out of five compulsory prayers.
One slightly irreverent uncle popped this question.
"So Dr Sahib, have you actually read the book?"
"Never would I poison my eyes with such filth!"
"So how do you know for certain whether Rushdie has blasphemed?"
Keeping this in mind, I recently forced myself to watch the 14-minute trailer of Innocence of Muslims, the uploading of which on YouTube has led to violent protests in numerous Arab countries and even in Sydney. I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.
The first thing I noticed was the woeful acting. Even the puppets from Team America had more expression on their faces.
Then there was the clumsy script. The voices of actors appeared to change in mid-stream. Which makes sense given that at least one actor is now saying that the words she recited from the script were deliberately dubbed over.
But most comical of all were the fake bushy beards. One actor looked like his face had been infected by a blown-out fungal infection. Even stranger, the chap who played Muhammad had no facial hair whatsoever. He looked less like a 5th century Arab and more like Sylvester Stallone without muscles.
Perhaps one good way to diffuse the minority of imbecilic and violent protesters across various Arab cities is to show them the actual video. It's unlikely many would have seen it themselves. Perhaps viewing it alongside, say, Team America might make them realise their response might be a tad overblown.
They might also ask themselves how their own prophet Muhammad reacted to the various insults thrown at him. A number of these insults are recorded in the Koran itself, eg, that he was a magician, a sorcerer etc. He and his followers didn't exactly go rioting through the streets of Mecca at such slights. As for murdering ambassadors, as happened in Libya, Muhammad is known to have threatened war on a city when he received reports that his own envoy and son-in-law Usman was murdered. One simply doesn't harm the messenger. Still, al-Qaeda (believed responsible for planning the US Ambassador's murder in Libya) aren't exactly known for taking Islamic orthodoxy terribly seriously.
Some parts of the dialogue were quite offensive, even if delivered in a clumsy manner. The result has been a number of peaceful protests which have largely gone unnoticed in Western news reports. In Sydney and Melbourne, major Muslim religious groups have condemned the movie and the violent responses, including riots taking place in Sydney.
In his statement, Australian Mufti Dr Ibrahim Abu Muhammad wrote: "The unwarranted reactions of attacking innocent people, embassies and public property is a disservice and a hijacking of the protest, because it will turn us from victims to aggressors, which is what the makers of this film want. Therefore we strongly condemn all actions of violence and lawlessness that took place in Australia."
Perhaps more importantly, Dr Abu Muhammad made it clear that although the film-maker may have been a Coptic Christian, his hatred must not be seen as reflecting on all members of this ancient Christian congregation. "We assert that this hateful group of individuals who happen to be Coptic have sold themselves and their homelands, they do not represent the Copts of Egypt, nor are they keepers of its churches."
Unlike the crazed protesters busy attacking embassies, the vast majority of unheard Muslims are following the approach of Dr Abu Muhammad and other religious authorities.
Were this not the case, and if the majority of Muslims were involved in violent protest, not a single Western embassy in any Muslim-majority country would be left standing.
And so we are living in a crazy world, one where the silent protests of the majority are ignored, despite their being more consistent with scripture than the antics of loud-mouthed violent publicity-hungry fanatics. Chapter 31 of the Koran says: "And be moderate in your movement; and lower your voice: verily the most unpleasant of voices is the braying of the donkey."
Irfan Yusuf is a lawyer in Australia and authot of Once Were Radicals: My Years As a Teenage Islamo-fascist.
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