“The Innocence of Muslims”: The Start of a Transcontinental Melee?

Let’s put statements of religious unity and solidarity aside for a second and examine what happened here. Someone made a questionable piece of “art” that ridicules Islam and set off a lot of backlash. Is it the first time that this sort of thing has happened? Absolutely not.

Purported picture of the man behind one of the most controversial films of the year, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (Source: Reuters)

This is clearly the work of someone looking to push some buttons and prove a point. This wasn’t done “by accident”. This wasn’t done in an honest attempt to make a meaningful cinematic movie that would carefully cover the critical message under tones of metaphor and allegory. Basically, whoever made this movie has had a long-standing hatred to Islam, and this is their way of saying “the gloves are off”.

The reason behind such an attack is probably simple: tired of the way minorities have been treated in an increasingly Islamic Arab world, someone sought to set off the powder keg and let the next few developments take its natural course of events. It’s basically what revolutionaries like Wael Ghonim did in Egypt by setting off the January 25 protests. Those protests were the spark that ignited 30 years of frustrations in a span of 18 days. Now, this movie is a spark that is set to ignite long-standing tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East, and it’s meant to air the dirty laundry between both sides.

This image could be the most controversial depiction of Mohamed in the history of the religion (Source: MSN.com)

The dynamic of the whole situation raises some interesting questions: will the Egyptian government take action against the alleged filmmaker (one “Sam Bacile”)? Will the Egyptian government take action against its own citizens, whether in Egypt or abroad? How will this affect relations between the US and Egypt? Will the mobilization of US warships to Libya affect Egypt or other Arab states at all?

It’s easy to draw comparisons to Salman Rushdie’s saga with Iran or the Danish Cartoon incident, but those occurred in a different time when dictators still ruled and radical Islam was still (relatively) under a tight lid. Now, with radical Islam out in the open and taking positions of power, the diplomatic strategies of all the players involved will change substantially, and it’s up to the US and other Western countries to consider whether it will play the appeasement card (like it has in previous scenarios) or go with an alternative approach. It wouldn’t make much sense to try to play this thing off as a one-time incident because, eventually, someone else will come along and do something similar to ignite the powder keg again. And with the Western world becoming more and more secularized, no organized religion is sacred from the critiquing eyes of Western society. So unless something changes, Muslims will continue to protest critiques of their religion, and Westerners will continue to critique religion. And the deeper we go into this cycle, the more violent and more critical the blows to each side will be.

“The Innocence of Muslims” takes the Western punch into a whole new level, and the anti-US riots have reacted accordingly. The next question is, how much worse is it going to get?

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