- Posted October 3, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Turbulence, violence in the Middle East
Muslim Rage – Fact and Fiction
Rage of any group has to be justified. The present Muslim rage over what is usually described as a stupid film, based on facts seems to have been misplaced. Muslim rage considering the historical background is more a political action that a socially felt emotion. Nonnie Darwish in ‘Cruel and Unusual Punishment’ writes about the necessity of keeping the 'Muslim rage' well whipped up, from 'Cruel and Usual Punishment’ writes: “Many Muslim institutions are built around the existence and promotion of Muslim anger. The anger resulting from cruel and dysfunctional Sharia must be channeled toward the outside world through jihad. Without anger there could be no jihad. The clever Muslim leader is the one who keeps anger in proportion with jihadist activities. But he must be very careful, Muslim countries that do not promote jihad are vulnerable to the anger turning inward. ...That is why the Arab Street is ungovernable if the outlet of jihad is taken away, while at the same time Sharia laws remain intact. Sharia's inhumane laws must be coupled with jihad if the pressure cooker of the Muslim State is not to explode in the face of Muslims themselves.”(p. 187)
It is a fact that but for the wide spread violence nobody would have even noticed the film, the way majority who read Rushdie’s Satanic Verses had the fatwa not been issues.
Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, has hit the bookshelves just as the world has become embroiled in a new controversy over Islamic sensibilities. The extraordinary violence unleashed across the Muslim world by Innocence of Muslims, an obscure US-made video, has left many bewildered and perplexed.
Rushdie was, of course, at the centre of the most famous confrontation over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. The publication in 1988 of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, launched a worldwide campaign against the supposed blasphemies in the book, culminating in the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa on 14 February 1989 condemning Rushdie to death, and forcing him into hiding for a decade.
Joseph Anton is Rushdie’s account of the fatwa and the years that followed. So, what does the battle over The Satanic Verses tell us about the current controversy over The Innocence of Muslims?
The Rushdie affair is shrouded in a number of myths that have obscured its real meaning. The first myth is that the confrontation over The Satanic Verses was primarily a religious conflict. It wasn’t. It was first and foremost a political tussle. The novel became a weapon in the struggle by Islamists with each other, with secularists and with the West. The campaign began in India where hardliner Islamist groups whipped up anger against Rushdie’s supposed blasphemies to win concessions from politicians nervous about an upcoming general election and fearful of alienating any section of the Muslim community. The book subsequently became an issue in Britain, a weapon in faction fights between various Islamic groups.
Most important was the struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for supremacy in the Islamic world. From the 1970s onwards Saudi Arabia had used oil money to fund Salafi organisations and mosques worldwide to cement its position as spokesman for the Ummah. Then came the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah, established an Islamic republic, made Tehran the capital of Muslim radicalism, and Ayatollah Khomeini its spiritual leader, and posed a direct challenge to Riyadh. The battle over Rushdie’s novel became a key part of that conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia made the initial running, funding the campaign against the novel. The fatwa was an attempt by Iran to wrestle back the initiative. The campaign against The Satanic Verses was not a noble attempt to defend the dignity of Muslims, nor even a tat the end of 1988 to get the novel banned in Muslim countries few responded – not even Iran. It was that fatwa, imposed for political reasons that transformed the controversy and the confrontation.
The biggest myth of the Rushdie affair is the belief that best way to prevent such confrontations is by restricting what people to protect religious values. It was part of a sordid political battle to promote particular sectarian interests.
The second myth is that most Muslims were offended by the novel. They weren’t. Until the fatwa, the campaign against The Satanic Verses was largely confined to the subcontinent and Britain. Aside from the involvement of Saudi Arabia, there was little enthusiasm for a campaign against the novel in the Arab world or in Turkey, or among Muslim communities in France or Germany. In the battle over The Satanic Verses, many intellectuals and politicians sympathized with Muslim anger, blaming Rushdie himself for his plight. ‘There is no law in life or nature’, the novelist John Le Carré insisted, ‘that that says great religions may be insulted with impunity’. ‘We have known in our own religion people doing things which are deeply offensive to some of us’, Margaret Thatcher observed. ‘And this is what has happened to Islam’. Of course Obama would not agree with Thatcher.
After riots in Islamabad, the American embassy there expressed its ‘wish to emphasize that the US government in no way associates itself with any activity that is any sense offensive or insulting to Islam or any other religion’. It became accepted in the post-Rushdie world that it is morally wrong to give offence to other cultures and that in a plural society speech must necessarily be less free.
These myths about the Rushdie affair have shaped responses to every similar conflict since. Each one of these myths is being replicated in the current debate about Innocence of Muslims: the belief that violence is being driven by religious sensibilities, that all Muslims are incensed, and that Muslim anger is reason for new restrictions on free speech.
It is true that Innocence of Muslims is a clearly crude, bigoted diatribe against Islam. But the idea that this obscure film that barely anyone had seen till this month is the source of worldwide violence is equally wrong. Unfortunately the facts of the film are verifiable from Islam’s holy books, as shall be seen below.
As in the Rushdie affair, what we are seeing is a political power struggle cloaked in religious garb. In Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, the crisis is being fostered by hardliner Islamists in an attempt to gain the political initiative. In recent elections hardliner Islamists lost out to more mainstream factions. Just as the Ayatollah Khomeini tried to use the fatwa to turn the tables on his opponents, so the hardliners are today trying to do the same by orchestrating the violence over Innocence of Muslims, tapping into the deep well of anti-Western sentiment that exists in many of these countries. The film is almost incidental to this.
The insurrections that have transformed much the Arab world over the past year have certainly created a new terrain. They have undermined old security structures, created a greater sense of social fragmentation, and opened up new spaces for Islamist politics. What has really changed, however, is that over the past decade political rage has become far more inchoate and increasingly shorn of political content. To be ‘anti-Western’ used to mean to take a political stand against Western policy. Now, it simply expresses an unformed sense of fury, leading to a random, frenzied outpouring of anger. The nihilistic character of anti-Western sentiment today means that it can attach itself to the most arbitrary of causes. Even an obscure YouTube video can seemingly launch worldwide protests.
While the hardliner Islamists have managed to bring out thousands of people on to the streets in violent protest, there is little to suggest that the majority of Muslims, even in Egypt, Libya or Pakistan support them. Indeed, hardliners are only forced into organizing such demonstrations because of their lack of popular support. Those who do not support the Islamists do not take to the streets, so are generally ignored in the West. The reactionaries come to be seen as the true voice of Muslim communities. At the same time the perception that the violent mobs are representative of Muslim feeling has lent support to calls for offensive works such as The Innocence of Muslims to be made illegal and, in this case, for the film maker to be arrested.
At the height of the battle against The Satanic Verses Shabbir Akhtar, the Muslim philosopher who acted as a spokesman for the anti-Rushdie campaign, mocked the equivocations of Western liberals. ‘Vulnerability’, he wrote, ‘is never the best proof of strength’. The more you cave in to those who would censor, the more they wish to censor. And the more you seek to appease the hardliners, and view them as the ‘real’ Muslims, the more you marginalise progressive movements in the Muslim world. The myths enshrouding the Rushdie affair have ensured that the lessons we have drawn from the battle over The Satanic Verses are the very opposite of the ones we should have learnt.
The Muslim Rage over ‘Innocence of Muslims’ poses a question: Should Deference or Factuality Act as Cover for Defense? If factuality would be the cover for defense, a defamation case against the "Innocence of Muslims" film-maker in a court of law would not stand a chance.
September of 2012 will go down in history as a month of rioting, murder, and intimidation over a poorly-produced 14-minute trailer about Islam’s prophet Muhammad. Over fifty people – among them Libya-based American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three colleagues, the rest Muslim – were killed, Muslim-owned businesses were torched, and numerous pundits and scholars were forced to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Muslim nations in the U.N. and the O.I.C., as well as many Muslim organizations, have called for international laws to criminalize any defamation of Muhammad, the Quran, or Islam. Fatwas and rewards have been posted calling for the assassination of those involved in the notorious YouTube clip. Even the bounty for the head of Salman Rushdie, who had no connection with the film, was revived and increased.
There is scarce acknowledgement, however, that most of the crudely-dramatized vignettes in the video were taken directly from highly-respected hadith and biography accounts of Muhammad (see Analysis of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film below). The outrage was not over the inaccuracy of the portrayals, but rather about the exposure of the shameful side of a man, whose reputation has been protected through extreme deference by faithful Muslims. For their part, the producers of the clip would probably argue that uncritical reverence for Muhammad has allowed militants to parley his violent pronouncements into an international call-to-arms that threatens all non-Muslim civilizations. So the question becomes, “Should respect for X prevent the public from knowing about the imminent danger of blindly respecting X?”
The legal base of the weakness of the Muslim outrage is clear from the case of Suzuki. Consumers Union and its publication, Consumer Reports, have provided American with a world-renown product testing and evaluation for over sixty years. Engineers and scientists purchase products and put them through rigorous tests to determine, if they are safe, if they have hidden defects or hazards, and if they own up to the manufacturers’ claims. In 1988, while testing the compact SUV Suzuki Samurai, engineers found they could easily cause the vehicle to tip over while navigating their standard short, “avoidance maneuver” course. As a result, the prestigious magazine deemed the Suzuki Samurai “Not acceptable” – the only car in history to earn such a rating. Suzuki auto sales in the U.S. plummeted. Suzuki sued the Consumer Union for $60 million in damages and unspecified punitive damages for what Suzuki claimed was willfully fraudulent testing. While the suit was developing and progressing through the courts, Suzuki rollover incidents resulted in 213 deaths and 8,200 injuries. Suzuki’s own internal documents confirmed that they were aware of the serious safety problem in the vehicle’s design. In 2004, the lawsuit was dismissed with no penalties paid by the Consumer Union. Meanwhile, Suzuki partnered with General Motors to develop a new SUV model that met or exceeded all the national auto safety standards. The moral of this story is that speaking up truthfully about something that is dangerous saves lives and is to be commended, not condemned.
Islam might be called the Suzuki Samarai of religious ideologies. Analysis of the film trailer below will show how everything portrayed in the movie was accurate. Therefore, any case against the film-maker, claiming defamation of Islam and Prophet Muhammad in the court of law, would not stand a chance like the faulty Suzuki Samarai car case.
Analysis of the 'Innocence of Muslims' film
Was the “Innocence of the Muslims” video trailer inaccurate?
Most of us have seen “Innocence of the Muslims”, the film trailer that sparked rioting resulting in over 50 deaths and damage of properties worth millions of dollars. Listed below are the scenes (by time-stamp and theme) along with the references to Islamic sacred texts that provide support for the assertions:
3:02 - Muhammad’s father is unknown. (His father died before he was born, and his mother never raised him.) Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, para. 105
3:45 - Young Muhammad taking orders from and married to older Khadija – Ishaq, para. 120
4:43 - Muhammad buries his face in Khadija’s garments to determine if visions are divine or satanic – Ishaq, para. 154
5:24 - Khadija’s cousin Waraqa is a Christian scholar who helped Muhammad – Ishaq, para. 121
5:43 - Muhammad’s revelations stopped when Waraqa died, prompting him to consider suicide – Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, No. 478
6:27 - Muslims used booty for their income – Quran Surah 48:20
6:35 – “Muhammad is our messenger and the Quran is our constitution.” – taken from the Muslim Brotherhood oath
7:19 - Muhammad given special privileges regarding women and marriage – Quran Surah 33:37-38
8:37 - Muhammad is linked to Allah in authority and worship – Quran Surahs 3:32, 4:80, 8:20, 9:71, 24:47, 24:54, 47:33, 61:11, 64:8, 64:12, and many others
9:11 - Abu Bakr gives his 9-year-old Aisha in marriage to 53-year-old Muhammad – Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 5, No. 234
9:27 - Muhammad and Omar are “gay”. (With nineteen wives and concubines, Muhammad had very few children and no male heirs.) References to bizarre sexual behavior can be found in Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 4, No. 143, Sahih al-Bukhari, No. 2393, and Sahih Muslim, Nos. 3663 and 3674. The story about Omar apparently comes from this Shiite cleric’s speech: http://ibloga.blogspot.com/2012/06/london-based-shiite-cleric-yasser-al.html
11:15 – An elderly woman, Umm Qirfa, is torn in two by two camels – Ishaq, para. 980
11:32 – “Whoever refuses to follow Islam has only two choices – pay extortion or die.” – Quran Surah 9:29
12:38 - Torture of Kinana bin al-Rabi (a Jew) in front of his wife, Safiya, who Muhammad later raped – Ishaq, paras. 764 – 767
13:10 - Fight between Muhammad and two of his wives – Hafsa and Aisha – when he is caught in bed with Hafsa’s Coptic slave Maryah after he had promised not to sleep with her. This is the subject of Quran Surah 66.
13:43 - “Every non-Muslim is an infidel; their land, women and children are our spoils.” – Ishaq, para. 484
Several scholars, who studied the origins of the Quran, have concluded that the traditional Islamic claim of the Quran being the “verbal word of God”, transmitted to Muhammad by Angel Gabriel, is not true. For example, the quotations enshrined on the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem do not match the canonical texts of the Quran. The Quran seems to be a collection of religious and political statements from various sources that was assembled in its final form as an Arab national religious text during the rivalry between Caliph Abd al-Malik and Abdullah ibn As-Zubair around 685 – some 53 years after Muhammad died (See “Did Muhammad Exist?” by Robert Spencer, pg.58). Prior to that time there is no clear reference to Muhammad as a prophet of Islam in either Islamic or secular accounts.
Rebecca Bynum has, quite eloquently, stated the dilemma regarding Islam: “Real peacemaking is the result of the stout and unyielding defense of the values our civilization was founded upon. We can start by defending the truth concerning the differences between Islam and Western civilization. We can attempt to bring the enemy to his senses (non-violently) by pointing out the errors in his understanding of reality, because the truth is, Islam is deeply and profoundly wrong. Pretending it is right only worsens our situation by delaying actions that must be taken if our civilization, however imperfect and unseemly it may be, is to be preserved.” (“Allah Is Dead – Why Islam is Not a Religion,” pg. 61)
Rational people do not “respect” something because they are legally required to show deference. True respect is earned by the qualities that a person or ideology exhibit. Other religious and political ideologies have had to make radical changes in order to earn public respect. The Mormon (LDS) religion had to abandon polygamy and discrimination against African-Americans to find acceptance in the United States. Nazism was outlawed because there was no way to reconcile its racist and violent ideology with Western civilization. Apart from politically motivated use of people to show, this outrage is an insidious onslaught on rational thought and totally baseless.
Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political and business strategist can be contacted at 905 848 4205. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org