We are going through strange times.
While the science, technology and rationalism has given us
physical and intellectual tools to better the lot of humanity, we
are witnessing the production of provocative material, literature
and films in particular, which demonize the particular religion,
Islam to be precise, and the prophet of Islam. On the other hand
there is a section of community, feeling threatened and insecure
coming to the streets to protest against such humiliation and
insult of their religion. There are debates on freedom of
expression, but how come the freedom of expression always goes to
humiliate and demonize one particular religion only?
Currently (September 2012), there are massive protests in
different countries against the American embassies, resulting in
death of four from the US staff, including Ambassador Chris
Stevens, in Benghazi. Different countries are asking Google, the
owner of YouTube, which is hosting this provocative and insulting
video clip, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, to withdraw the film clip. At
places the video clip has been withdrawn and blocked. US sticks to
its ‘Freedom of Expression’ stance and the many protesters are
still on the streets.
The film clip, of around 14 minutes duration is part of the full
length feature film made by Nakoula Basseley, a US based
Christian. The film is very insulting to Islam. In this film large
number of modern day mob of bearded Muslims is shown to be
attacking Christians. It also takes the audience back in time to
show a distorted life of Prophet Mohammad with negative and
aggressive traits of personality. It is crude film, made in
extremely poor taste and has generated strong reaction amongst
large section of Muslims. It must be pointed out that this is not
the only type of reaction to this film. There are sections of
clerics who have asked the Muslims to keep restrain. Quoting the
moral precepts from Islam, Quran, they said that Islam is a
religion of peace and no violent protests should be held. The best
response to this despicable film has been from a section of
Muslims distributing the book on life of Prophet Mohammad, the
prophet of peace.
During last several years, it has become a sort of standard
pattern by many in the West and some here in India to demonize
Islam. We remember the Danish cartoon of Prophet, where he is
shown as a terrorist, with a bomb tucked in his turban. A Florida
Pastor went on to burn this holy book, Koran, saying that Koran
teaches violence. Some US soldiers in Afghanistan also burnt
copies of Koran, on the ground that the terrorist elements had
written messages on those copies.
The demonization of Islam and Muslims has a pattern and agenda.
The cartons and films are the outcome of the deeper political
processes, which aim to control the oil wells in West Asia. The
imperialist greed of United States marshaled the flag of “Islam
the New threat” since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in Iran,
overthrowing the US stooge Raza Shah Pahlavi. Later the slogan was
worsened with US setting up Madrassas in Pakistan to train Al
Qaeda-Taliban to initiate the Muslim youth to fight against the
occupying Russian armies in Afghanistan. The word, Jihad and kafir
were distorted to indoctrinate the Muslim youth in these Madrassas.
With later trajectories and the event of 9/11, World Trade Center
attack, the US media with all its guile, popularized the phrase
‘Islamic Terrorism’. The phrase was picked up by the media all
over the World and later became part of the social common sense.
This is a major abuse of religion for political goals by the
imperialist power. One can understand this demonization of Islam
as a part of US policy, a cover to hide its agenda to control the
oil. To understand it in the way Noam Chomsky ‘coined the phrase’
Manufacturing Consent’, the coining of the word Islamic terrorism
is part of the US mechanism of manufacturing consent of the world
to give assent to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.
This US policy gas given rise to twin processes. On one hand the
phenomenon like a Florida Pastor Terry Jones burning Koran or the
Danish cartoonist drawing Prophet Mohammad as terrorist or the
present film has been the outcome of the intense propaganda
against Islam. This US propaganda has been backed up by the US
sponsored ideology of ‘Clash of Civilizations’, according to which
the current era of World History is the era of assault of backward
Islamic civilization on the advanced Western civilization. This
distorted perception, this ideology was used as a cover for US
agenda in West Asia. The other process which got unleashed was
that the psyche of global Muslim community started being affected.
The perception came up that Muslims (Afghanistan and Iraq) are
being attacked, they are under threat. In India the added aspect
was the rise of RSS type politics, bringing up Ram Temple issue
and starting hatred for Muslims. A large section of Muslims
started feeling intimidated and besieged. It became easy for
mobilizing them around identity issues. Any community which feels
besieged, section of it becomes vulnerable to easy provocation and
identity based mobilization.
It is a vicious circle, the Islamophobia on one side and besieged
community on the other. In this scenario the Muslim clerics who
are asking for peace are the beacon lights of hope for the
community. The Muslims who are distributing the books on life of
prophet need to be complimented. This is what the sane response
from the community has to be. What about US, imperialist designs
and its mighty propaganda machinery doing all the mischief in the
world? Can there be a process of controlling that? Under Kofi
Annan, when he was Secretary General of United Nations, a high
level committee produced a report, ‘Alliance of Civilizations’.
This report got lost under the barrage of Islamphobia. It is time
the world as such takes note of the deeper humane values which
have developed by humanity over a period of time, the values which
have led to the reports of type of ‘Alliance of civilizations’,
the UN conventions which have conceptualized the Human rights for
The trigger which has incited the demonization process of religion
and films like this one are provoking these insane reactions from
a section of Muslims. Can United Nations be revived as a global
platform for monitoring the norms for Nations, media and other
aspects of our global life evolved to ensure that democratization
and human dignity is promoted. Can the World come forward to check
the aggressions of ‘The Super Power’? That’s when such films will
cease to act as factors promoting violent reactions. And even such
crude attempts at insulting others’ religion will come down. May
be with such norms and restraints on US policies we can hope that
such incidents will come down. Even if there are elements making
some films like this there will be others making a film giving
their own versions of Prophet’s Mission of peace in the World.
And finally we also need to preserve the concept of freedom of
expression moderated with its limits. We also need to cultivate
methods of protest where hysterical emotions are kept at bay and
rational approach is brought to the fore.