Modern Communications fans the flames of religious attacks
By Oliver Moore, Globe and Mail, September 12, 2012
The movie isn’t going to win any awards for artistic brilliance.
A 14-minute version circulating on the Internet relies on low-grade actors whose hackneyed lines demonize Islam. The Prophet Mohammad – strangely Aryan-looking for a person whom history records as having come from Mecca – is mocked as a hypocritical libertine who condones child rape and who suffers the indignity of being chased by women who batter him with their shoes.
But as clumsy a piece of agitprop as it is, the film was enough to spark violent mobs in several countries, joining a growing number of incidents in which a perceived insult to Islam has sparked deadly attacks.
It’s a modern phenomenon, the most notorious being the Danish cartoon controversy, which left nearly 150 dead.
“It is very difficult to find parallels, if you go even 10 or 20 years back,” said Jamal Badawi, a professor emeritus in the Department of Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. “I’m not aware of something older, at least not as dramatic.”
He pointed to modern communications as an aggravating factor. Satellite news and social media mean that, in short order, a perceived insult can be disseminated, a hardline mob roused and the results of their violence broadcast. It’s a manifestation of the global village, with Prof. Badawi noting that the inter-connectedness can confuse those who don’t grasp Western freedoms.
“Foreigners may not realize governments cannot order films, for example, to stop,” he said. “They perceive the attack on the prophet as an attack on their own identity.”
The results can be deadly.
Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, a great-grandnephew of the painter Vincent, received death threats after making the provocative 2004 movie Submission, which included showing verses of the Koran written on female bodies. According to his friend and scriptwriter Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the firebrand Somali-born intellectual, he did not take the threats seriously. He was killed while cycling to work, shot eight times by a Dutch-Moroccan who also stabbed and tried to decapitate him.
In 2005, unconfirmed reports that the Koran had been thrown in the toilet at the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay sparked violent protests. Dozens were killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa. Newsweek later retracted part of its report and military investigators said that no deliberate desecration had occurred.
Later that same year, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a number of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The incident passed largely unnoticed outside of Denmark, until several local Muslims created a dossier of the cartoons, along with their feelings of hurt and several unrelated images, and circulated the material. The resulting protests in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan left 139 dead. The cartoonist lived for years under the protection of police, who shot and wounded a man who burst into the house with an axe and a knife.
In 2010, fringe Florida preacher Terry Jones announced plans to set fire to a Koran on the ninth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the United States. His plan – which he dubbed “International Burn a Koran Day” – drew widespread condemnation. Only two days before the act he called it off, after protests that left 20 dead in the Middle East and central Asia. He vowed never to burn a Koran but broke his word the following year, joining supporters for a “trial” and “execution” of the book that garnered limited attention and brought a fine for not having a permit.
Earlier this year, the U.S. military decided to burn a large number of religious materials, including Korans. They said these had been written in by prisoners at Bagram air base, in Afghanistan, as a way to pass notes. Only a small amount was burned before an Afghan labourer noticed and doused the flames. But the news caused a mob attack on the base, as well as other protests that left 30 dead. Among those slain were several Americans believed killed in retaliation.
The latest violence was sparked by a film produced by a California resident who calls himself an Israeli Jew. It is back by Mr. Jones, the Florida preacher. Film-maker Sam Bacile spoke openly to the Associated Press of trying to discredit Islam, calling it a “cancer” and said the $5-million production was funded by 100 Jewish donors. He is now in hiding but denies responsibility for the U.S. ambassador being killed in Libya, saying that his security detail failed.
(UPDATE! The movie was not, apparently, funded by Jewish doctors, but to the tune of merely $60,000 by Coptic Christians in Egypt, family members of the movie maker (source Brian Ross, ABC investigative reporter,quoted on Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, Thursday, September 13, 2012)...whoever he turns out to be. His bio is so "swiss-cheese-like" that the holes and stench have yet to be corrected.)
Framing the murder of the American ambassador to Libya and three staffers at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, as a merely religiously motivated killing, misses two important aspects of the events.
First, the making of the movie is, and should be regarded as a "hate crime" as is the killing of the Ambassador. For the movie-maker to deny responsibility, claiming "that his security detail failed" is heinous, at least, and criminal at worst.
Second, the political ramifications of the movie's provocative reactions, including the legal implications, cannot be left unmentioned. The White House has already announced that "justice will come to those who committed the acts in Benghazi."
By Jim Kuhnhenn, The Associated Press, in Globe and Mail, September 12, 2012
President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday the United States would “work with the Libyan government to bring to justice” to those who killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
“Make no mistake. Justice will be done,” he said in an appearance at the Rose Garden outside the White House, where he was joined by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mr. Obama, who ordered an increase in security at U.S. facilities overseas, said he “condemns in the strongest possible terms the outrageous and shocking” attack.
He spoke after Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney condemned the attack, and criticized the administration for its initial response to a separate incident on Tuesday, the breach of the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
The attacks occurred Tuesday night in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, according to Libya officials. Ambassador Stevens, 52, was killed when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as the building came under attack by a mob with guns and rocket propelled grenades. Three other Americans were also killed.
Speaking at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decried an attack that she said “should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world.”
She blamed a “small and savage group” of militants, not the people or government of Libya.
“There is no justification for this. None,” Ms. Clinton said. “Violence like this is no way to honour religion or faith and as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know true and lasting peace.”
The radicals among the Christian fundamentalists, among the Islamic jihadists, and among the Jewish community are seizing more power than they merit, more funding than they deserve and more political coverage than their bigotry warrants. And the social media are merely megaphoning those realities.
It was the convergence of three kinds of religious radicals that produced the vortex that killed the Ambassador.
Having been the target of the radical wing of the Christian fundamentalists, on more than one occasion, I have witnessed the virulence that continues to exist even against one raised in their church should that one disagree with their positions. They have used innuendo, gossip, slander and libel with impunity in more than one instance against me personally, in both Canada and the U.S.
So when the Koran becomes the target of the hatred and bigotry of some of their numbers, including the "reverend" Jones holds and expresses without either contrition or shame, imagine the heat and the amount of their venom in these escalated stakes! (Was that not also, ironically, the same last name of the "reverend" who had his disciples drink their "kool-aid" in a mass religious suicide in Waco Texas?)
As for the participation of the "Jewish doctors" who allegedly funded this half-baked movie project, linked also to the Netanyahu demand for a "red line" and a deadline from the U.S. on Iran, with some fifty days left in a U.S. presidential election (in which Bibby's personal "horse" in the race is running for the Republicans), their actions are inexcusable, but obviously co-ordinated and calculated to produce the desired impact on geo-politics, especially in the U.S. election.
There are going to be more deaths coming out of this latest chapter in international religious conflicts before there is a calming period. And some of those deaths are going to be among the Islamists, the Jews and the Christians, most likely.
With the failing clout of the UN, just when international collaboration is critical to reducing tensions, and the mounting pressure from Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah, including the Syrian civil war, and the blocking of even humanitarian aid by both China and Russia to suffering refugees and victims of the Assad brutality, as ordinary people are putting it more frequently, "This is one helluva mess!"
And for us, we add, Who would even consider switching horses from Obama to Romney in the middle of the mess?