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30 September, 2012

Innocence of Muslims

When news broke out that an embassy had been stormed and people had been killed over a shitty, 14-minute trailer to a pathetic, bigoted indie film disparaging Islam, I was pretty mad.

Free speech should be protected even when offensive! There are limits that have been argued in the Supreme Court, but for the most part, there shouldn't be any suppressing of free speech, especially if it is offensive. Muslims in the Middle East don't seem to understand that, insisting that someone die for this ridiculous film. There response should be to use their own free speech to protest or ridicule the moviemakers, not kill people!

I was furious. You see Christians in the US doing crazy things, but for the most part, when someone insults their religion, they don't burn embassies and kill diplomats. The Onion had a post that, by not mentioning Islam at all, said a whole lot to me about Islam and the rabid reactions to different forms of art they find offensive to their religion or prophet.

In the last few days, though, I've been reading some blogs, talking to people, and have had to take a step back to really evaluate the situation.

First, news broke that the protests might have been a cover for Al Qaeda extremists. Next, I had a few conversations with others that mentioned the Middle East is not a place of free information. They have been protected from legitimate criticism for so long that the influx of media from the internet, so readily available on so many platforms, has left them reeling with the realization that the whole world doesn't live like they thought it did. This is a double-sided coin, of course, because it means they can finally see opposing views, but at the same time, it might shock them into a frenzy because they are simply not used to being disagreed with about theology.

Finally, they've never been able to learn that there is a difference between the state and the government. It wouldn't occur to them that a shitty, bigoted, low-budget film wouldn't be made by the government with the help and support of the majority of US Americans. In a way, this really is the "Innocence of Muslims." They have been sheltered to the point of ignorance about things like free speech, independent film, freedom of expression, etc.

Have I reversed my view? No, not really. I'm on the fence because I can point to this and say it's kind of a cop-out. People should know better than to kill other human beings over a movie, no matter how offensive it is. Then again, we've been over there killing innocent people for decades.

If Al Qaeda really was behind this and the reports of Muslims speaking out against the violence is true, then that definitely pushes me one way more than any new information could point me back toward my original, gut feelings about this incident. I'm not saying that I'm endorsing or excusing the violence, just that perhaps I was too hasty to jump down Islam's throat over this and should have waited for more information. If there's no Al Qaeda link, the killers are still at fault, but with the new perspective on their ignorance of criticism, I suppose I can at least see how a crowd like that could come together and start rioting. After all, rioting happens after football matches in the UK and no one blames the sport.

I want to know what you think. Is there enough to the US government's claim that Al Qaeda was behind this? If not, is the inability of the Middle East to handle insults a fault of Islam or simply a bi-product of their enforced ignorance? Perhaps a mixture of both? Would more denigrating images and movies create more rage or would it eventually desensitize Muslims in the Middle East? Have I missed anything else?

Leave your thoughts in the comments, as always.

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