In defence of American Constitution and Islamic offensive reactions
“Innocence of Muslims” has been widely touted as a low budget film. Produced by an amateur in Los Angeles and circulated on YouTube, it has still continued to infuriate many Muslims around the world because of its perceived disdainful portrayal of Prophet Mohammed. As soon the film debuted on the You Tube, it sparked protests and violence which targeted U.S. diplomatic missions. In Libya’s Benghazi, a deadly assault on the U.S. Consulate by an irate Muslim mob saw four Americans dead including the U.S. Ambassador to that country. In Pakistan, huge crowds rose up in defiance of the call for restraint to touch properties and set vehicles on fire. They were revolting against what they saw as an insult on the person of Prophet Mohammed. The storm continues to gather in many more countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
Indeed, the violent protests in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and some other predominantly Muslim countries of the world would not be the first of its kind in recent times. Similar protests were staged few years ago against Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”, at the discretion of the Ayatollah Khomeini. In 2005, the famous cartoons equating Islam with terrorism – first published in Denmark – triggered off violent reactions around the world. And now, this.
In America, Muslim and Coptic Christian leaders, eager to douse the inferno that had been lit, quickly put up an event in Los Angeles, the city from which “Innocence of Muslims” emanated. The event which was widely publicized around the world remained the one important pointer to the direction concerned Americans are moving towards, in their search for peace between the Muslims and non-adherents of that faith.
American Muslims were quick to condemn the recent violence. For once, American Muslims who are usually accused of failing to speak up against violent outbursts which are being perpetually perpetrated in the name of their religion condemned both the anti-Islam film that sparked the fire of recent demonstrations and the violence that followed in most parts of the Nation of Islam. Not only did they condemn the film which, everybody believed, was designed to anger Muslims. Their leaders did not mince words in condemning extremists who, they said, were behind the anti-Islam film and the violent reactions that followed its publicity. They even went a step further to host vigils for the American victims and send condolence messages to the families of the Benghazi victims.
One of their leaders was Ibrahim Hooper, Director of Communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. Hooper captured the mood when he said: “The American Muslim community was very forceful and consistent in its rejection of a violent response to the intentionally provocative material.”
The event that was put up by American Muslims in Los Angeles addressed two very vital issues.
First, it highlighted the fact that people should understand that Americans and the American government should not be blamed for the actions of a few individuals who produced the hate film. In other words, the production of the hate film was not in tune with American domestic or foreign policy nor did it have the country’s political stamp of approval. Second was that people should also understand that every Muslim cannot be blamed for the acts of just a few Muslim activists who carried out the violent reprisal attacks.
To bring their point home, American Muslims in the US released a video which was narrated in Yoruba language by an Imam. “It is clear that the motive behind the film is to enrage Muslims and to display a hatred of Islam,” subtitles on the video explained. “However, Muslims need to demonstrate good behaviour as our Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt harmoniously with people. We appeal to our scholars to calm down the youth and encourage people to cultivate exemplary behaviour as Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) teaches.”
They also released an Arabic-language video appealing to protesters not to blame ordinary Americans and the U.S. government for the film which was designed to stoke religious sensitivities. In the video, one of the leaders, Nihad Awad , Executive Director of CAIR, called on protesters to emulate Prophet Muhammad, “who did not retaliate in kind to personal abuse.”
But how justifiable is this position taken by American Muslims? In comparison, how would the world-wide Christian Community have reacted if Jesus was perceived to be blasphemed or insulted by a non-believer? A few examples will illustrate the point.
Dr Susannah Cornwall, a female theologian recently claimed, for instance, that Jesus may have been a hermaphrodite. As her contribution to the ongoing debate in the United Kingdom about enthroning women bishops in the Church of England, the Manchester University’s Lincoln Theological Institute professor was of the opinion that the “assumption” that Jesus was male was simply “a best guess.”
In her paper, titled “Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision,” she postulated that it was impossible to know with any iota of certainty that Jesus did not have both male and female organs. She even argued that the fact that Jesus was not known to have children made his gender status even more uncertain.
Christians all over the world read Cornwall’s rather delusional ranting, but not one of them raised a finger against her private opinion. At worst, they dismissed her as a misguided theologian who was bent on thwarting the Scriptures in order to offer women positions they probably did not deserve.
It was Peter Mullen, a priest of the Church of England, who wrote in The Telegraph refuting Cornwall’s claims. He insisted that in the original Greek gospels, Jesus was always referred to as a male. Not once did the original version of the Bible use the equally available feminine gender to describe him. Mullen noted that the gospel writers meant that Jesus was a man. “If masculinity is recognized by particular characteristics, there were circumstantial evidences that Jesus was male”, he argued. In his infancy stories, Jesus was referred to as a male child. On his ritual pilgrimage to the Temple at 12, he was also described as a boy.
Chris Rosebrough, host of the radio programme, Fighting for the Faith, also dealt with Cornwall’s claims in a subsequent broadcast and accused her of rejecting sound doctrine in her paper. Rosebrough anchored his contention of Jesus’ masculinity in the fact that on the eighth day of his life he was taken to the Temple and was circumcised according to the Law of Moses. That Law never made any provisions for any form of female circumcision. Nor was female circumcision part of the teaching of the Scripture.
“If Jesus was not a male child, why would he be circumcised?” Rosebrough queried.
In 2005, a Roman Catholic group in France sought the interdiction of a commercial poster which depicted twelve women in similar positions as the Twelve Apostles in the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, The Last Supper. Not one Christian raised a voice of protest against the producers of the poster. It was just not enough to rampage and protest about. They rather went to court.
More recently, a Professor in an Iowa College in America claimed that as a Christian, he believed that Jesus was a Muslim. The eminent scholar ignored the historical fact that Jesus preached some 2,000 years ago in the Middle East and that the emancipation of Islamism was only dated six centuries later. How then could Jesus have been a Muslim? Yet, Robert F. Shedinger, who wrote “Was Jesus a Muslim?” insisted that his research convinced him of Jesus reasoning as a Muslim. Shedinger said the issue arose when a Muslim student challenged his teaching about Islam, and he thought again not only about Islam, but about all of religion. He then saw Islam as a social justice system instead of a religion, and discovered that he thought the same about Jesus. “I discovered that Islam was a social justice movement and I think that is who Jesus was in the first century. So I concluded that Jesus was more like a Muslim.” Astonishingly, he described his book as “a call” for Christians and Muslims to work together to promote social justice, claiming that his idea was to improve understanding between Muslims and Christians.
Compared with how most Christian communities are likely to react to any perceived provocation in their faith, we now know that sworn enemies of America can capitalise on practically anything to drum up support for their violent reactions. It could be a film, a book or even a statement.
President Obama believed that to maintain credibility with the Arab states, he had to encourage a visible level of transparency in the relationship between America and Israel. At the start of his administration, therefore, he sought to engage Iran and Syria, two sponsors of terrorists who had been killing Americans for decades, in a constructive dialogue. As President, he began his tenure by going to Cairo. And in Cairo he said he considered it his “responsibility” as President of the United States of America to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they raised their heads.
Americans never saw it his way. They kept saying that it would be better to have an American government that stood up for America, for its people and its principles, whatever that meant.