Violent Reaction to Film Indicates Rise in Muslim Extremism

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The reaction to the film Innocence of Muslims not only indicated increased extremism in Muslim societies but ended up promoting a film that would otherwise have faded into oblivion, argues Khaled al-Houroub. Ignoring it would have reflected self-confidence in Muslim values.

What kind of a nation is this? From where did that instinctive reaction, extremism, and demagoguery come from in response to the awful film Innocence of Muslims? That instinctive reaction will not defend any rights but will exacerbate the damage, destroy our societies, and take them backward. What do the Lebanese owners of KFC and McDonald’s in Tripoli have to do with the film so that the “masses” destroy their property? What do the Colombian members of the international force stationed in the Sinai desert for decades have to do with the film for the inhabitants of the desert to assault them? What do the German and Italian embassies in Khartoum have to do with the film in order to be targeted by the angry “masses?” What did the owners of the cars parked on the side of the streets leading to the US Embassy in Tunisia do so that people destroy their cars? Who is responsible for the blood of those killed and injured in the demonstrations and by the barbarian attacks on the embassies and on everything that is Western? What is the responsibility of the US ambassador and his companions who were killed in Benghazi? They had not heard of the film and had nothing to do with it. They stood with the Libyan people and supported them against a tyrant who controlled their country and its people for more than four decades.

The danger today is not found in that insulting and silly film. The parts of the film posted on the Internet are so silly that they don’t deserve to be considered part of the reciprocal intellectual attacks between ethnic and religious groups. The poor quality of the film in terms of content and artistic form forced the only movie theater that agreed to show it during the summer to stop showing it after one or two screenings. The film is not a forged intellectual thesis that intelligently insults and that requires an intellectual response. The film itself is an insult that should only be ignored, for ignoring it will reflect self-confidence.

The most terrifying aspect of what we’re seeing now in the Arab and Islamic streets is extremism sweeping our societies and culture and the rapid collapse of our culture and civilized behavior. This is all the result of the religious intolerance that was being spread among the people for more than half a century. The dominant feature of what we are seeing is the absence of rational thinking and self-confidence in favor of instinctive behavior, stupidity, insecurity, and misplaced priorities. Let us start with the irrationality and the insecurity and put things into perspective. Most of humanity are not believers, let alone Muslims. Therefore its view of religion and the prophets is not one of deference and respect. So we cannot force it to respect them. The only effective way is dialogue, persuasion, and debate in the best manner, which are the mark of self-confidence. But for millions to instinctively erupt because of silly insult is indicative of insecurity and a lack of confidence in the values that are supposedly being defended, thus making those values appear weak and frail and that will collapse by a simple insult by some idiot. Some will say that the West is hypocritical and allows the insulting of Muslims but prevents insulting Jews or Israel. This is true but it is not the topic of conversation here. We are not excusing the West and its policies but we are looking at ourselves and the calamity that is destroying our societies.

This extremism and instinctive behavior has lost any sense of priorities. For example, why do tens of thousands of demonstrators go out to protest the silly director of a lousy film but not even a few hundred demonstrate to support their brothers dying in Syria by the hundreds every day? Why doesn’t one-tenth of those demonstrators go out in support of Jerusalem, which is threatened every day, or Gaza, which is under siege? Mass instinctive behavior and behaving like sheep put reason on the side and put the stupid in charge. The film in question could have remained almost unheard of and ended up with the other failed films, thereby frustrating the goals of its producer who wanted to insult Islam and Muslims. However, the “genius” instinctive response saved the movie from that fate and made it internal. Hundreds of millions rushed to see it. So how did the instinctive response defend the prophet when it made millions of people see the film? The problem here is that we never learn our lesson. Using instinct as a tool began in the 1980s with Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, author of “The Satanic Verses.” Khomeini, who claimed to represent all Muslims on earth and that he spoke in their name, triggered the instinctive response in order to present himself as the defender of Islam. He turned a fourth-rate writer into one of the world’s most famous writers and his book into a best-seller. A book that would have been read by perhaps a few hundred people was read by hundreds of millions. This “world war of instincts” which we launched against the Danish cartoonist is still fresh in our minds. One cartoonist and a few racist and silly cartoons were able to move millions of Muslims, cause the death of many, and destroy property in countless Islamic cities. This instinctive behavior turned that painter into a hero and made the entire world see his drawings.

There are many such sad examples and they all point to something disturbing and dangerous about our societies: the growth of extremism. Our societies are moving toward religious extremism, which has accelerated after the elections of the Arab Spring. The wise men in our countries and the opinion leaders must put extremism in their crosshairs and treat it as an enemy that is ruining the future of our societies. It is an enemy that is more dangerous than all external enemies. Those who go out to the street and break everything in their paths are also prepared to destroy everything [in our societies] and even kill. The fanatical thinking of these people is based on eliminating the other even though they live in religiously and ethnically diverse societies. The problem with extremism and instinctive behavior is that they destroy the self while he is trying to destroy the other, who remains safe and sound because the self-destruction leaves no room for progress in any direction.

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