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What Should Be the Take Home Lessons?

Reader comment on item: Another Islamist Assault, Another Western Cringe

Submitted by Sigmund (United States), Sep 13, 2012 at 17:37

Many inflammatory statements are being made in all the media concerning these recent events. Here are a few thoughts of my own for consideration.

1) Seemingly lost in all the hullabaloo is the supposed main point of the video: Egyptian Muslims are persecuting Egyptian Christians. The presentation of this idea may have been clumsy. So far I have not seen the scenes of Christian persecution which apparently are shown at the opening of the film. But I think that was the original point and I believe it is an important point.

2) Another way to say the above is to answer a commenter (I lost on the name) I heard on national public radio. She stated, in a rather outraged manner, that the problem with the film was that it disrespected the "Arab Spring" movement. Well maybe that was the point and that is a good point to drive home. If the Arab Spring really was a transition to better government with respect for human rights, one would think that acceptance of other religions would follow. The fact that the religious hatred shown by many Muslims to non-Muslims has actually increased is quite telling. Thus, after demonstrating the current Christian persecution, the film shifts to the authors hypothesis regarding what is causing the problem: Islam is the problem. Personally, I agree with Dr. Pipes that Islam per se is NOT the problem. It is the Islamist interpretation of Islam that is the problem. But despite the amateurish and even buffoon nature of the very loosely historically based scenes portrayed in the film, it does actually present a reasonable presentation of why a large number of Muslim do interpret Islam in a manner incompatible with the usual standards of modern civilization.

3) Another take home lesson is that Islamists are quick to use any available pretext to "justify" their actions. I doubt the film caused the deaths of Ambassador Stevens or the three embassy employees. Possibly, however, the demonstrations about the film distracted our military intelligence and lulled the guards into expecting nothing morn than a chaotic demonstration. This could have allowed the previously planned 9/11 reprisal to succeed. But that is the only sense in which the movie "caused" the deaths. If there had been no movie, I am sure the attack would have been attributed to a different incitement. Perhaps something that Dr. Pipes has said recently in one of his articles would have been offered as the pretext. But almost certainly the attack would have occurred anyway.

4) Possibly the long term consequences of the cartoons, Innocence, Fitna, Submission (Theo Van Gogh's film) and others be to start some kind of dialogue between Muslims and the rest of the world. But it will not be a useful dialogue unless the rest of the world strongly defends our right to criticize Islam and raise questions about Islamic values and practices. I believe that many Muslims do have questions about Islam and they recognize that moderate interpretations are preferable to extremist views. But many are (understandably) afraid to speak out. Perhaps a few hundred more of these videos, backed by our firm willingness to fight back when Islamists attack, will drive home the point that Islam must be open to question. We also have to distinguish between "apologizing" for such films and criticzing their quality. Truly, the Innocence movie could have been made a lot better. Perhaps someone will come along with the talent to make the points more deftly. But still I think the film does more good than harm.


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