On Thursday, Canada Customs, that wonderfully-democratic institution of unelected bureaucrats, decided that Canadians weren't capable of deciding whether Pastor Terry Jones, whose congregation held a Quran burning in March 2011, was worth listening to. They have a long history of overstepping their authority, and this denial of entry is just another case of censorship at the hands of unelected and unaccountable government officials. By taking the choice away from Canadians to decide what they're capable of hearing and evaluating for themselves, Canada Customs has done our country yet another disservice
So there I am in my last column agonizing over whether Canada should ban that obscene and hateful Internet video called Innocence of Muslims, when it occurs to me that it might be a really good idea to come up with an example of freedom of speech in action. Something easily understandable. Something vivid. Something gutsy.
Innocence of Muslims aspired and failed to be a film, which was then dubbed, cut, and turned into a hybrid trailer-clip of a YouTube video. The poor production value, and the ignorance put into the creation of this project are far from worthy of the protests, bloodshed, or lives lost. Despite this, the Iranian government has decided to take a stand against the Academy Awards, for not taking a stand against a YouTube video and is boycotting the awards. This reasoning is untenable, and thus it merits some analysis.
The subject matter and plot of Innocence of Muslims are an abomination, deeply offensive to people who really, really don't need to be offended any more, particularly during this delicate time in their history. But I believe absolutely in my right to be offended. Which is the reason I simply can't propose that we lessen our democracies by banning any writings and films offensive to Muslims or any other religious folk.
On one hand, Muslim mobs express their freedom of expression by twisting the facts and even creating a hatred towards others, while on the other hand dismissing others' opinions of them as hate propaganda. In this scenario, Islamic media people need to understand the fact that if they want others to not be blasphemous to their religion, they and their mobs needed to be respectful to others' faiths.
One of the most frustrating things about watching a story like the one surrounding The Innocence of Muslims unfold is knowing that there are a whole lot of people set to profit on the chaos. These puppet masters of public opinion know that in both the west and the Islamic world, most people will have knee-jerk reactions that are fueled primarily by hate and mistrust of the other.
The raging battle between the demented people hell-bent on depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad in lurid and, frankly, insulting films and cartoons, and those equally demented people who respond to such presentations with unbridled violence are engulfed in a diabolical circle. The not insignificant number of Muslims who believe the West is out to destroy their belief system and way of life require the crass images of Muhammad to legitimize their cause; the purveyors of the images need the Muslim reaction to validate their provocation. Around and around it goes.
I initially vacillated between addressing Westerners in this blog, 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. 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 are not online seeking out measured arguments. Nor are those who simply can't understand "Muslim irrationality." 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.
Let's get one thing straight: Abubakar Kasim is not advocating for "tolerance, respect and harmony" in his latest piece for the Huffington Post. He's advocating for the banning and censorship of "Innocence of Muslims." While "Innocence of Muslims" contributes nothing whatsoever to the discourse surrounding "one of the world's greatest religions" to ban it would be to ban the understanding of an inciting force that has had gut-wrenching consequences.
Canadians who value tolerance, respect and harmony should not listen to the voices of people like Chris Selley of the National Post who wrote that the media should show clips of the anti-Islam film behind the outrage if it offends people or not. Why on earth would anyone go out of their way to screen this obnoxious product, unless it is to inflict further hurt on Muslims and inflame more anger? Those who are portraying themselves as advocates of freedom of expression are hypocrites in the highest order. Canadians should listen to balanced voices that bring people together at a time when hatred is taking its toll on humanity.
I should start by admitting I was only 15 months old when Peter Lougheed concluded his highly transformative tenure as ruler of Alberta, so my memories are a little hazy. But I seem to recall there was a time when this nation's editorial pages weren't quite as overflowing with praise of the late Conservative premier as they are today.
To my fellow Muslims -- the 99 per cent who are peaceful -- here is my message. Online articles, information and resources, including amateur video productions, are everywhere. "Policing" opinions on religious matters is unrealistic in most instances. But some of you say "Innocence of Muslims" is a special case and should be banned. Personally, I disagree. The video should not be banned, nor should any video that one finds disturbing because of its anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-religious content. Why? For a number of reasons.
Those emotionally-charged hooligans who went ballistic in their protests probably know little about the prophet they claim to defend. They most likely know more about movie stars like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie than they know their own prophet. Had they known a little about his character, they would not have gone wild as they did in their protest.
The man who "wrote" and "directed" Innocence of Muslims -- the same movie which has led to the deaths of four U.S. diplomats, up to 10 Libyans, four Yemenis, and one Lebanese in Tripoli -- in is fact Nakoula Bassley Nakoula, an Egyptian Coptic Christian living, or rather, hiding, in California. But what may help one better understand this artiste is to look at the company he keeps, namely, Pastor Terry Jones and Steven Klein.
The 13-minute trailer of the controversial Innocence of Muslims film that provoked the violence, was rough on the Prophet Mohammed -- but so what? That's a hazard of freedom, democracy and tolerance. And yet Hillary seems to blame this low-budget movie for barbarism in Benghazi and Cairo -- a movie that is clearly more political than religious. What is it about the Islamic faith that invokes intolerance and violence? Peaceful religion indeed! Only, it seems, if you ignore its excesses or subscribe to its ideology.