At any moment in Western history, some people have been targeted for broad-based hatred: Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Anabaptists, Africans, Irish, Slavs, Gypsies, peacemakers, communists, liberals, radicals, homosexuals, and, unfortunately, so forth. Today, anthropologist John R. Bowen wrote in his 2012 book Blaming Islam, the main targets of abhorrence are Muslims.
Bowen’s observation, on some points, might be right. In the eyes of some non-Muslims and Westerners nowadays, the image of Islam and Muslim societies, more or less, resembles al-Qaeda, Taliban, and other Islamist extremist groups that (1) exert violent means to achieve their goals, (2) advocate oppressing and torturing women, (3) condemn westerners and non-Muslims as infidels, (4) struggle for an Islamic state or application of Islamic Sharia, (5) oppose Western values of democracy, secularism, or liberalism, to name but a few.
The tendency to view Islam as a “religion of the sword” colored by acts of terrorism and violence, it should be noted, is not a new phenomenon that emerged following the attacks of the Pentagon and the WTC on 9/11. Such biased views and stereotypes are deeply rooted in propaganda of media, speeches of conservative evangelists or “radical right wings” of Christians and Jews, and works of (some) early and modern orientalists since the rise of so-called “Western civilization” which regards Islam as a “Green Peril,” borrowing the term of Nader Hashemi, for the existence of Western gestalt. For early or even current “unfriendly orientalists” and “religious propagandists,” Islamic civilization is perceived to be an incarnation of what Western civilization was not. While they considered Western civilization as peaceful, progressive, dynamic, rational, and humane, Islamic civilization was deemed as violent, aggressive, decadent, stagnant, irrational, mythical, despotic, and inhuman.
Such biased perception toward Islam certainly is only partially true. Blaming Islam as a “religion of violence” and Muslims as a terrorist and “uncivilized” group ignored the whole picture of the Muslim world and missed the other widespread facts of peaceful Islam and civilized, tolerant Muslims.
However, unfortunately, such unfair views of Islam have gradually undergone a process of internalization in the minds of some Western non-Muslims people today, and then, have subsequently formed an attitude of hatred, enmity, and prejudice toward Islam and Muslim societies. Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Director of the Peacebuilding and Development Institute at American University, Washington, D.C., in his book Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam (2003, 2) reveals that there are some reasons why some Westerners and non-Muslims view Islam and Muslim societies pejoratively. The reasons are, Abu-Nimer said, because of “selective reporting, lack of scholarly works on nonviolent and peaceful issues within Islam, the legacy of colonial subordination of Islamic countries to the West, ignorance of cultural differences, failure of Muslims to convey their messages, and the violent Arab-Israeli conflicts.”
Sadly, Muslims often respond violently toward propaganda and provocation of a handful of non-Muslims such as the recent case of the appearance of Innocence of Muslims, a deliberately provocative and vulgar anti-Islam American made video. The movie, as we can see on the Internet, portrays Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a buffoon, “bastard,” greedy, bloodthirsty, womanizer, homosexual and child molester. Such negative portrayals of the prophet actually had previously been written in a number of books by some non-Muslims or ex-Muslims (e.g. Ibn Warraq’s edited book, Leaving Islam or Anwar Shaikh’s Faith and Deception). But such rude depiction of Islam never resulted in the massive public protests or popular rage among Muslims. This happens, perhaps, due to limited access to the books and, for sure, no actors that mobilized masses to engage in brutal protests.
Now, with the Internet and You Tube, people can easily post or broadcast any intolerant idea and controversial product that is accessible wide-reaching audience. No doubt, the posting of Innocence of Muslims on You Tube was meant to incite fear, anger, and hatred of Islam and Muslims, and provoke Muslims worldwide, and so it did. The civilian protests—exploited by conservative religious groupings and violent extremists—have spread from North Africa to Southeast Asia, often leading to mob violence and the death of innocent civilians.
While Muslims around the world still protest in streets, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. Issues of the magazine, as the Huffington Post (9/19) reports, “hit newsstands with a front cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned figure in a wheelchair with several caricatures of the Prophet on its inside pages, including some of him naked.” No doubt, the cartoons also triggered mass demonstration in France.
Georgetown University Professor of Religion John Esposito said that the terrorist attacks on the US embassy in Benghazi (Libya) and the major riots in Cairo (Egypt) and elsewhere look similar but share in common, namely the incitement and exploitation of popular outrage among many Muslims, as was the case of the Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses novel in late 1980s and Danish cartoons affair in 2005. They, Esposito notes, “exploit deep seated popular anti-American sentiment, based on decades of resentment over U.S. and European foreign policies in the Middle East” (Aljazeera, 9/15). The primary drivers or motives behind the attacks, Esposito claims, are political agendas reflecting the shifting political landscape in the Arab world.
Indeed, as Esposito has noticed, there are some ambiguities with regard to the Muslim protests to the movie. The Muslim protesters and rioters not only denounce the film but also scapegoat American societies and U.S. government which they accused behind the making of the movie aiming at ridiculing Prophet Muhammad and insulting Islam, despite the fact that President Barack Obama and many Americans have condemned the movie. Indeed, Americans have undoubtedly nothing to do with the production of the film.
The men behind the movie have been identified as (1) Alan Roberts, a 65-year-old porn director, and (2) Sam Nakoula, a hardline anti-Muslim Egyptian-American Copt and convicted embezzler. In contrast, Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles denounced the film, and noted that the Christian teaching is to respect people of other faiths. The duo maybe has been paid by some shadowy anti-Islam non-Muslim figures with fat pockets and a hidden agenda to destabilize Arab, the Middle East, or even the “Muslim world.” But still, it is unfair to point their fingers to US government and American people as a whole.
As Esposito has observed, I hence suspect that the initial protests against the movie have been manipulated by some anti-American Muslim hardliners for their political agenda and individual interests. If my suspicions are correct, then the plan of whosoever lurks behind Nakoula and Roberts, as well as America haters may have been successful. It is easy to provoke masses in order to commit violence and hostility, but it is extremely hard to create “peace provocateurs” and incite people for tolerance and harmony!
Source: The Jakarta Post