NEW YORK — As anti-American protests continue in Islamic nations against a U.S.-made film that mocks the Muslim prophet, the leader of the world’s largest Islamic organization met with United Nations leaders this week to condemn violence over the film and call for a ban on insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
“Freedom of speech is one thing, but usage of your freedom should not be to offend others or advocate hate speech or provoke people to violence,” Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said an interview with The Huffington Post.
First, and most importantly, it’s simply too goddamned bad if you’re offended by what somebody else says. I don’t care who it is, or what they said. That’s life, and it happens every minute of every day; you’d better get used to it, and you can’t legislate it out of existence. In fact, your going to the UN to propose that we collectively prevent people from speaking against your religion or its prophet greatly offends me, because at its core it’s clear that you only care about the delicate sensibilities of your own religion without giving a damn about anything or anyone else. In addition, your solution to this problem represents not only the very antithesis of the idea of free speech, but is also probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. And I’ve debated creationists.
What if your government took the same position as you? What if they enacted laws to prohibit people from saying anything that offended them? Would the nation you lived in still have what you consider “free speech”? Would you cherish it as you do now, or would you feel differently if the control of such ideas is in the hands of a group of people with different values and beliefs than you?
Second, enough with what basically amounts to victim blaming. Seriously. I saw the video, and I admit it’s one of the worst works of cinema I’ve ever seen. (It actually kind of reminds me of Gwar’s “Phallus in Wonderland“, but that was actually intended to be a low-budget travesty.) As I’ve said before, the guy who made it is probably some racist, xenophobic loon who’s probably spent a little too much time listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. It’s offensive, childish, and insulting … but I still don’t blame him for the worldwide response to it. The responsibility for the violence, destruction, and death that has occurred over the last few weeks falls exclusively on those carrying out these criminal acts. Trying to convince us that it’s somehow our job to keep these people from losing their shit at the slightest perceived offense against their religion is utter lunacy.
But hey, at least you got something right:
The right of demonstration should not be used to kill people or to put fire to buildings or to offend others by burning flags,” said Ihsanoglu, who is from Turkey. “So we should not abuse the freedom of demonstration and we should not abuse the freedom of others.”
… and then he falls off the wagon again:
In a separate interview, the Associated Press reported that Ihsanoglu called for a ban on insults against the Islamic prophet. “If the Western world fails to understand the sensitivity of the Muslim world, then we are in trouble,” he told the AP. He said provocative insults are “a threat to international peace and security and the sanctity of life.”
The rest of the world has seen firsthand that the “sensitivity” of parts of the Muslim world lacking a strong secular government is such that a drawing, phrase, or shitty video from the other side of the planet will send them into a weeks-long orgy of destruction and death. I wish I were exaggerating, but it’s still going on in various parts of the world. Maybe the Muslim world should try to understand that if they wish to get any respect or exercise any influence in the international community, they need to begin acknowledging that this sort of barbaric and childish behavior needs to stop.
“Provocative insults” aren’t the problem. The people who respond to them are. If people in positions of power such as yourself refuse to understand that, then we truly are presented with a threat to international peace and the sanctity of life, and you’re enabling it.
“My position is condemning this film and those who produced it and strongly condemning the killing of the ambassador and diplomats because nothing justifies that,” said Ihsanoglu.
Yet it’s still the “responsibility” of the Western world to keep these Muslims from doing the killing … by not saying mean things about Muhammad.
Calling the uproar an “issue that needs to be understood,” Ihsanoglu said, “a film or caricatures denigrating the prophet are unacceptable by the masses because they revere him. They want him to be revered by others or at least not insulted by others … We have to respect that.”
No we don’t. Not when their response is what we’ve witnessed this past month. How do these same people deal with apostasy? Blasphemy? Women having the audacity to educate themselves? Maybe when they start dealing with these issues as if they weren’t living in the 12th century, I’ll consider showing some respect in return.
“I shun Christianophobia and anti-Semitism just as I shun Islamophobia,” he said. “We have to respect the other believers. We have to respect the freedom of faith if they believe in this religion or that religion or even if they don’t believe in any religion.”
Yeah, except for the fact that people of other religions don’t exactly revere the prophet Muhammad, do they? What then? If the very existence of these other religions is interpreted as an insult to Muslims in certain areas of the world, do you expect them to convert? Stay quiet? Pray in a closet? What if a Christian happens to inadvertently insult their neighbors by preaching their belief that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ? Sounds like fightin’ words to me.
Ihsanoglu said he believes the best path toward achieving peaceful relations between religious groups has two steps. First, he encouraged the media to showcase “voices of moderation” with “the small marginal group (of extremists) not overestimated.” And, he said, “we have to teach our kids, and generations to come, that we are all part of the same family, the same human race.”
Well, I’m glad we’re finally at a part where we can agree. I think we should spend more time talking about the voices of moderation from every religion. On a personal level, I understand that the Christianity I complain about in this blog represents a relatively small fraction of our population and that most Christians are generally decent people who want to do the right thing. I know the same thing applies to other religions, including Islam.
I also think that it’s important that we teach the generations to come that we are all part of the same family. With that analogy in mind, you might want to consider the way some family dinners go in America, especially during the holidays. By the time all of the members of a family are grown up with kids of their own, it’s pretty likely there’s going to be a motley crew of all sorts of personalities around the table, each with their own individual worldview, religion, favorite team, and opinion on the best way to make their first million. The good feelings may inevitably give way to heated discussions, arguments, hurt feelings, and the occasional food fight … but, in the end, it’s still family. After all of the insults and shouting matches, there’s a bond that goes above and beyond the petty differences that will still bring everyone together, especially in the face of adversity or a common goal. As a family, we can – and are expected to – take the arguments and insults in stride.
So yes, I believe the analogy is appropriate. But that means we should be able to publish things like this …
… without considering it the end of the world or a capital offense. Does that sound like a plan to you?