by Masood Raja
Let us stand firm against all forms of cultural imperialism and bigotry, but let us also condemn the senseless killing of the innocent and especially the attacks on Western embassies
At least five people are dead, including a dedicated US diplomat who had risked his life during the Libyan revolution to stand with the people of Libya against the tyranny of Qaddafi. These people certainly did not deserve to die especially since they had nothing to do with the film produced by a producer whose real identity is still not fully clear.
Let us examine our own actions first. A clip of this movie (Innocence of Muslims) is posted on YouTube. The Egyptian media start talking about it. A group of Muslims then attacks the US embassy in Cairo and another group attacks the US consulate in Benghazi. The second group ends up killing four people, including the very ambassador who had fought alongside them during the revolution. Does this meet any criteria of Islamic sense of justice or Islamic mores on political alliances? Of course it does not?
The shariah is clear: one cannot punish randomly for wrongs committed by specific people. Thus, if an American makes a film about Islam and insults the prophet, it does not make every American a suspect and a criminal. The diplomatic missions of all countries within Islamic nations are places of Aman, places that need to be protected at all costs. Attacking them, therefore, is not only wrong under international law but also immoral in terms of Islamic rules of Aman and protection provided under national and international treaties.
So, absolutely, without a doubt, all attacks on US embassies in wake of this new scandalous attack on Islam are haram, forbidden, and immoral.
The movie, of course, is the cause of this series of tragic events. The movie falls into a specific genre that happens to be the main concept in my forthcoming book: poetics of incitement. This kind of poetics, which has its attendant politics, involves picking up topics most sensitive to practicing Muslims and then rendering them in one or the other art form.In all cases the producers of these texts always claim that their purpose was to challenge Islam and Muslims to rethink their practices and that they have the artistic license to do so.
Now, of course, there is another brand of racist opportunists who abuse this freedom of expression and end up producing works with no artistic merit but with a huge potential to enrage common Muslims. The cause of this rage, thus, offers itself as a proof of what is to come. Or in other words, such stupid movies and books claim that by attacking Muslims where it hurts the most they will, somehow, be able to smoke out the most intolerant practitioners of Islam. And when these intolerant Muslims perform the unspeakable acts of burning building and killing innocent foreigners, the actions are then offered as a proof of Muslim atavistic nature and inherent intolerance. The same logic is being applied by at least one person involved in the production of this tasteless piece of ordure.
Mr. Steve Klein was deeply involved in the production of this film. That his involvement in this production is not free of malice and bigotry is painfully obvious. This self-proclaimed warrior goes around US mosques looking for the lurking Islamic terrorists and finds it his patriotic duty to do so. That this kind of private crusade has been allowed to continue in today's America is what we should be protesting about. Would he been able to do this kind of surveillance and offer his silly proclamations against any other ethnic or regional group in the United States. Somehow, it is believed, the tragedy of September 11 has given him the right to go on a perpetual witch hunt against Muslims in America. And, let us not forget, he is not the only one: many a GOP lawmakers have made it central to their campaigns to scapegoat American Muslims just to "secure" their base and get a few votes.
Another sad pathetic participant in this sad attempt at self-promotion is Pastor Jones, famous for public burnings of the Qur'an. He was proud to show the video clip of this so-called movie to his parishioners. So, what do these people get out of these actions: to prove that Muslims are irrational and dangerous? But you are likely to enrage even some regular Muslims if you threaten to burn their book, especially since you cannot force them to see your act from the perspective of your own cultural and religious sensitivities.
So, in the end then, Muslims are inherently evil and prone to violence because they, somehow, refuse to see the world with the eyes of the very people who are attempting to goad them into violence. And when this violence erupts, as it has over a vast global landscape, these minions of hate can then tell us that they were right all along and the proof is on the TV screens. So, basically Muslims must become passive, inert, and docile and must show no rage or anger when the most sacred in their religion is mocked and derided: That seems to be the only way to prove that Muslims are decent people.
Let us not forget that those who caused this rage are no model Americans either: Pastor Jones in no way represents the American tradition of tolerance and compassion and is rather a great example of sanctimonious bigotry; Mr. Klein is unapologetic vigilante anti-Islam bigot and in no way represents America, and we are not even sure what the elusive Mr. Bacile (or whatever his name is) stands for. These three represent the worst of America and should not be allowed to become symbols of America to the Muslim world.
On the other hand, our mullahs should not incite the kind of rage that makes their followers lose their common sense of decency and justice, especially if they seek revenge on those not even remotely responsible for this sad episode in tasteless "reformation" of Islam by yet another group of bigots.
So, let us stand firm against all forms of cultural imperialism and bigotry, but let us also condemn the senseless killing of the innocent and especially the attacks on Western embassies. They are in our lands under Aman, under international treaties and to protect them is not only our international responsibility but also our moral obligation.
(This essay is also available at writer's blog Cross-Cultural Talk: http://www.masoodraja.com/)
Author of Constructing Pakistan (Oxford UP, 2010) Masood Ashraf Raja is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of North Texas, United States and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. His critical essays have been published in journals including South Asian Review, Digest of Middle East Studies, Caribbean Studies, Muslim Public Affairs Journal, and Mosaic. He is currently working on his second book, entitled Secular Fundamentalism: Poetics of Incitement and the Muslim Sacred.