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Why It's Time to Shut Up About the "Innocence of Muslims"

09/19/2012 12:21 EDT | Updated 09/19/2012 12:21 EDT
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A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the film 'Innocence of Muslims' in Jakarta, on September 14, 2012. More than 350 Muslim fundamentalists and their supporters staged an anti-US demonstration in Jakarta Friday, spewing anger at America over an anti-Islam film. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/GettyImages)

Is there anything left to say about the disgusting DIY "film" that has sparked renewed outcry from Muslims across world?

No, not really.

I initially vacillated between addressing Westerners, to alleviate their fears that Muslims were all crazy, and addressing the destructive Muslims that were affirming by their actions the discourse of the very people they hate.

Muslim writers and other reasonable people have compiled facts about Prophet Mohammad and Islam to counter prevalent misconceptions. Others rightly compare violence-prone extremists in the East to violence-prone extremists in the West, to remind people of how illogical it is to let outliers paint the picture of an entire faith or of its 1.3 billion followers.

Many Muslims -- through articles, through Facebook, through rallies -- will fervently explain that acts of terrorism and violence have no place in Islam, that such actions run counter to the Prophet's own example and to the beliefs and values they cherish. They will join and organize vigils for four individuals that they never held for millions of dead Iraqis and Afghans, and certainly not for the increasing numbers killed in protests.

Finally, those with enough knowledge to do so hypothesize that the whole production was well-planned and well-timed by certain bodies with political objectives in the Middle East or American politics. Or alternatively, manipulated by leaders "over there" to distract from domestic issues.

On the other hand, I considered addressing the rampaging Muslims, as other writers and clerics have done not only this past week, but also following 9/11, the Danish cartoons, and every terrorist act or attempt in between. In this scenario I would be silent on the nauseating depiction of the Prophet and focus on the fact that it was made by some dude(s) with no backing with access to a video camera and internet connection. It didn't represent Americans. "You're making all Muslims look bad," the article would read. "What do you think this can accomplish?'" "Have you even read the Quran?" "Don't you trust in God's punishment?"

Amid my vacillation I realized that either article would be written for me alone. Those enraged Muslims that believe the U.S. government approved the video (many such Muslims live in countries where cultural productions are screened by the government), and those that found storming American embassies an appropriate response, are not online seeking out measured arguments for and against such actions (note, however, the prevalent view that the Benghazi murders had nothing to do with the film). For some people, your mother gets called a whore and you react without logic, and for most Muslims, the Prophet is held in even higher esteem. The rioting mobs, like all mobs before them, are not using reason.

Nor are those who simply can't understand "Muslim irrationality" (and much, much worse) going to be swayed by good journalism, by sound arguments, by personal experience, or by hard facts. Anyone following the American presidential elections understands well the impotence of logic to sway the other side.

So to my fellow Muslims caught in the middle I would say that we can't spend all our energy, time and writing reacting, defending, and explaining. We've done it all before. Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs have even done it on our behalf. There's nothing new to be said. No matter your argument, many will respond with offensive Islamophobic diatribe (read any comments section to any article on anything to do with Muslims, Arabs, or the Middle East for examples).

The only thing you can do is to go about being a useful member of society. Hopefully you're an honest, hard-working, tolerant example of a Muslim but the reality is you are no different than flawed people of other faiths and persuasions -- you are just being scrutinized against stereotype more.

We need not be appalled that out of seven billion humans living in the world, some would be so hateful (or strategic, depending on your predilections) to create this latest video, or would draw the Prophet as a terrorist, or would call for mass burning of Qurans. This seems both inevitable and unavoidable. As inevitable as the fact that years of assault on a people coupled with uncertain futures and few prospects would lead some to violence or terrorism.

What should really raise our ire and our comment is when those who have a duty to be more responsible openly demonstrate or nurture Islamophobia. It is when politicians, networks, and journalists are comfortable airing their fears about Islam and presenting them as fact, that bigotry is normalized, rationalized, and accepted.

And to reasonable non-Muslims watching events unfold, aghast, I only say this: your Muslim neighbours are just as aghast. Let's not forget though that people in countries both East and West protest, get hurt, hurt, light things on fire. Sometimes over summits with leaders. Sometimes over austerity measures. Sometimes over police brutality and sometimes over a Stanley Cup.

The rage, though, seems uniquely representative and repulsive when perpetrated by men in robes angered by the desecration of something deeply personal to them.