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Making points more deftly

Reader comment on item: Another Islamist Assault, Another Western Cringe
in response to reader comment: 'Make the point more deftly', Sigmund?

Submitted by Sigmund Derman (United States), Sep 18, 2012 at 10:08

Dear Sara,

That fact that reactions to things like "Innocence....", "Satanic Verses...", "Fitna", etc. explode into largely scripted violence that is mostly performed by regular crews of religious/political operatives does not mean that there are no Muslims willing to discuss the potential for their religion and their society to interact more peacefully with other religions and with what we commonly call "Western" society (which now actually includes Japan and other regions that are not really Western). I think that a goodly number of Muslims are searching for ways to do this.

Movies, even poorly made ones, pull a lot of emotional strings very strongly. So it would not be easy to make a movie that offered criticism of Islam in a way that did not lead to violent outbursts. Similarly, if Mel Gibson thought that his religious movies would start a calm dialogue with Jews, he was quite mistaken. And he really is a talented artist (regardless of seemingly getting out of control at various times, which is not uncommon among talented artists). Yet I think the various religiously themed movies that were not trying so hard to send a message have, over the decades, helped the Christian/Jewish dialogue. So probably movies made deliberately to advance dialogue could be helpful as well, maybe even more helpful.

Suppose you made a movie along the following lines. Two young Muslims are discussing the question of "Why does the Christian/Jewish world do such things as make movies offensive to Islam?" They find some Christian they know from school and they start discussing it with him. The Christian asks questions such as "Why are the Coptic Christians ill-treated in Egypt? Wouldn't you expect them to protest in some way? That movie is, after all, a peaceful protest in and of itself. We don't' really think that Islam is like it is portrayed in that movie. But from the way Muslims act toward us, we do suspect that there is something fundamental about it that leads to intolerance. " They discuss this. Maybe they even get into a fight about it. Etc. Etc. If I knew exactly how to write this I would be in a different line of work, but that's one general idea that could serve as an approach.

Would the above provoke outrage and violent demonstrations? You bet. But something like that, with a more mild and inquisitive tone rather than a totally confrontational tone, might also provoke more beneficial dialogue.

Movies aren't the only way to provoke useful dialogue. In fact, in the past they have rarely, if ever, been directly thought of in international politics. But with Youtube and other means of rapidly disseminating videos, they may be a good modern way to get people talking with each other in the present world. At least we know they can have some kind of an effect. The next step is to modify that effect.

Perhaps I am unjustifiably optimistic, but I think the current lack of mutual understanding between Muslims, Christians, and Jews is neither total nor intractable. It is just difficult.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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