Chris Stevens, the United States Ambassador to Libya, and three others with him were violently attacked and wrongfully killed on September 11, 2012 in the Libyan's eastern city of Benghazi. The finger of suspicion has been pointed on extremist Libyans who, the Libyan President Muhammad Magarief confirms, pre-planned the attack, with the protests serving only as cover. It goes without saying that those who killed these innocent men acted outside the framework of Islamic teachings as ambassadors are guests in their host countries. Besides, nothing justifies the killing of innocents due to an obscure film that aims to insult the Prophet Muhammad's character whom God Himself has elevated in status, in this world and in the hereafter. By killing these men who had nothing to do with the film, the killers certainly did more to offend the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) than this film could have ever done. Their actions will never bring relief to any grievance and will only serve to foster discord and misunderstanding about the Islamic faith. More importantly, their actions go against the mercy, love, patience, and justice that the Prophet (SAW) embodied on a daily basis, despite many provocations and more bizarre attacks by a few around him.
According to the most credible reports, the repulsive film which was written, produced, and directed by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian who hates Muslims. Nakoula is a felon convicted in California on bank fraud charges, for which he received a suspended 21-month sentence and was fined $790,000. According to press reports the low budget movie was filmed last year and starred sixty actors who recently released a statement stating that they were never told that the movie was about the prophet Muhammad (In fact, one of the actors, Lily Dionne, has sued the film producer for grossly misleading him because the actors had been told they were making a film on "an historical Arabian Desert adventure."). The actors also maintained that most of the offensive language was later dubbed over their images and the 79 cast and crew members have since released a statement claiming they were taken advantage of. The film, screened last June in a near-empty Hollywood theater, was a flop that barely registered on anyone's radar. Shortly after the screening of the film, Nakoula was reported to have contacted another Egyptian-American extremist and Copt Christian, Morris Sadek, 70, who for decades has led an anti-Muslim campaign in the U.S.. Sadek, who has an extensive email list that included many Egyptian media outlets and journalists, then started promoting the Arabic version of the trailer on his numerous websites and Facebook page. Also enlisted was Pastor Terry Jones, the Qur'an-burning Florida pastor, and Steve Klein, an anti-Muslim activist in California. The American civil rights groups say Klein trained militant Christian groups in addition to promoting anti Muslim materials online. Nakoula got Sadek's help in promoting and distributing the film but Sadek's efforts caught the interest of some Egyptian reporters who consequently covered the story extensively in the local Egyptian media. A few days later the Egyptian satellite channel Al-Naas called for a protest in front of the American Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11. Upon hearing this, similar groups in Libya also called for a mass demonstration on the same day in Benghazi. Meanwhile, Al-Azhar, a major seat of religious authority in the Sunni world, condemned the film but called for a calm and measured response. Although the initial protests in both Egypt and Libya had been largely peaceful, ignoring the scholarly warning from the Al-Azhar led to devastating consequences.
From the listed sequence of events, it is easy to see that the film, Innocence of Muslims, is a work of an evil alliance that labours to ensure that malicious attacks on Islam are sustained. From Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses in 1989, the Danish cartoons in 2005, the burning of the Qur'an by the nutty Florida pastor Jones in 2010, to the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik who regards Islam as "the enemy", argues for the violent annihilation of "Eurabia" and calls for the deportation of all Muslims from Europe based on the model of the Beneš decrees, the list goes on and on. From their language and common motives, this cold and rogue alliance continues to use provocative sounds and images as hidden weapons to stir up the Muslims. The U.S. Islamophobia industry has well oil machines that have been responsible for widening the global fault-lines between Islam and the West and for decades, they have been responsible for translating books and opinion articles from other languages into English in order to accelerate the movement of anything that smears Islam and Muslims into the Western media bandwidth. Poster-boy/girl of the hate industry, people like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, are treated like stars while their hate theologians and apocalyptic spiritual leaders like Pat Robertson, Rev. Bill Keller, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Benny Hinn, etc routinely provide spiritual blessing for the ceaseless onslaught. These putrid Islamophobes and Zionists intoxicated with hatred towards the Muslims, truth and justice, spew out their ceaseless Islamophobic rhetoric. Islamophobic rhetoric that inevitably have translated into acts of bias, discrimination and even violence against Muslims.
Strangely, it seems too easy to make a career in Islamophobia in America. Finances are readily available to right-wing special interest groups that negatively influence media coverage in the U.S. while extreme Christian evangelical groups are free to preach and export standardized packages, crammed with newly minted anti-Islam rhetoric to hasten the Armageddon. Their power and influence transcend the boundaries of America, and their actions, an influential factor on the American foreign policy, have effects in the remotest parts of the world. We are not talking about people raving on a street corner downtown. These virulent Islamophobes, like Dutch politician Geert Wilders who sought re-election to the Dutch parliament last week, have a powerful platform at their disposal, or are allowed unfettered access to powerful platforms by reporters and editors in what are considered mainstream publications. Anti-Islam groups in Philadelphia (Middle East Forum) have funded Geert and paid his legal costs in 2010 and 2011 after he was accused by Muslim minorities in Holland of inciting racial hatred through the release of his film Fitna in 2008. The U.S. continues to serve as a safe haven for these Islamophobes and hate merchants bent onsetting off angry and counter-productive reactions in a region already seething at U.S. intervention and its long history backing repressive Arab rulers.
So far more than 20 people are reported dead as a result of the protests which according to Reuters, less than 0.001 per cent of the so-called 'Muslim world' is estimated to be involved in. This is both tragic and unacceptable. It is now clear that the singular impact of violent protests and fiery speeches have been loss of lives and destruction of properties, and not protection of the honour of the Prophet (SAW). God has honoured the Prophet in truth and no body can strip him of this honour till the end of time, even though the slander and attacks have started since his (prophet Muhammad's) time. No mistake must be made, Muslims have a right to peacefully protest and, if they want, to use boycott as a mean of showing their anger. But to move from there to attacking embassies or holding ambassadors responsible for the decision and actions of a few nuts in their countries, worst still, to engage in wanton violence against people or property is to leave the field of legitimate complaint and enter one of criminality and mob justice. The actions and behaviours of those engaged in the violent protest are detestable in the least, and mindless as much as those stirring up the troubles. America must wake up to the fact that the actions of the Islamophobic thugs in the U.S. are not isolated but integral pattern and they must be curbed by putting a very short leash on them at all time. But as Muslims we must maintain exemplary standards regarding the treatment of others and refuse bubbling fury or passion to make us abandon Islamic etiquette that must guide our actions even in the heat of the moment.
Myprayer is that ambassador Steven life's calling and the sacrifices of others killed in the protests will enlighten us all to continue striving toward a world that is filled with justice, love, tolerance, respect and peace.
Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC
e-mails: [email protected]