It’s been over a week since protests erupted across the Muslim world in response to the “Innocence of Muslims” video. I’ve seen the video in question — it’s bad. Laughably bad. A VHS recording of my very first nativity play circa 1993 has higher quality production.
Sadly, the quality of a video is not enough to be banned from YouTube — if that were the case, we might have been spared the deluge of pointless cat videos.
The video does not attack Muslims directly, only Islam as an ideology — thus is not in violation of the YouTube terms of service. The US government has reportedly tried to get YouTube to pull the video, which it so far has refused to do. As much as it pains me to say so, I commend them for sticking to their guns and keeping the video up there.
Peter Bradshaw, writing in The Guardian, does not hold back in his assessment of the film:
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s movie is a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world. It ought to be treated with the contempt it deserves.
Take that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula! Bradshaw also makes the rather depressing point that this detestable video may well be looked back on as the most influential movie of 2012;
Critics like to talk about the “films of the year”, but the awful truth is that this year’s most significant movie may well turn out to be a non-movie, a hoax movie, a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world. Innocence of Muslims is a 13-minute low-budget video on YouTube, abysmally scripted, acted and directed; it might be risible were it not for the ugly Islamophobia which it promotes and whose effects are now being seen around the world.
In many ways it is the ultimate test of a commitment to the ideals of free speech, a free society, and the right to mock authority of any kind. To defend free speech and the right to mock religion is to defend this video. It is really a test of resolve to those of use who value those freedoms.
I don’t for a second agree with anything in the video, but I agree that it has the right to exist — even though I wish it didn’t. I wish this video didn’t exist, in the same way I wish Blade: Trinity or The Matrix Revolutions didn’t exist. If anything, it damages the chance to legitimately criticize Islam — Channel 4 in the UK has already pulled a scheduled repeat of “Islam — The untold Story” from its listings.
All that being said, the response from the Muslim world has being depressingly familiar. The edicts handed down by some Islamic leaders have sought only to fan the flames. Hezbollah’s leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah appeared publicly for the first time since 2011 — specifically to denounce the US and to call for further protests. The events of the last week have included:
- About 3,000 protesters from the Philippines Muslim minority burned US and Israeli flags in the southern city of Marawi
- In Yemen, hundreds of students in the capital, Sanaa, called for the expulsion of the US ambassador
- In Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, hundreds of protesters faced off with police, throwing stones and petrol bombs, while police retaliated with tear gas
- Hundreds of Palestinians staged a peaceful sit-in protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah
- Angry demonstrators in the Afghan capital, Kabul, fired guns, torched police cars and shouted anti-US slogans
- Police arrested at least 15 people at a small protest outside the US embassy in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku
Why aren’t we hearing more from moderate Muslims?
There have been statements denouncing the protesting but usually from people such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I suppose, in part, it may be down to the western media perpetuating the story, always seeking out the extreme ends of the scale. That argument only goes so far though before questions need to be asked of heads of state and the foreign diplomats of some of these countries. The silence from that particular quarter is deafening.
President Obama hasn’t handled it that well, but then again, I’m not sure what else anybody could have done. Apologizing for the video was necessary, if only for crimes against film-making. The tone and timing of the apology issued by the Egyptian embassy was poorly judged as well. Of course, this didn’t stop the loathsome Sarah Palin from jumping on the apology and using it for political ends — a point well made by the White House to put down Mitt Romney’s criticisms by saying they were “shocked that he would choose to launch a political attack at such a time.” The subsequent statements by the White House have been far more robust.
Ultimately the fact that these events have unfolded in 2012 would be laughable were it not so dangerous to international security. The makers of the video are idiots of the highest order, but that is no excuse for the disgraceful acts of vandalism and violation of international law committed across the Islamic world. It is just one of those stupid religious lose-lose scenarios that leaves most of us standing on the sidelines wondering when everyone is going to grow up.