Angry Libyans, apparently encouraged by mortal enemies of America, killed the US Ambassador to Libya and three of his colleagues last night 9/11, in response to a scandalous anti-Mohamed film, made by a California-based film-maker. The protesters stormed the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and Egyptian demonstrators scaled the walls of the US Embassy in Cairo.
In Benghazi, Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues were killed as they tried to evacuate the burning Consulate, assailed with bullets and grenades. In Cairo, a multitude stormed the Embassy, and replaced the Stars and Stripes with a black Islamic flag, bearing the Muslim declaration of faith. Some shouted “We are all Osama now” in an act of identification with Bin Laden, a mass-murderer of Americans.
The bloodshed is tragic and to be condemned unreservably. None of those murdered were in any way involved in the film. Even if they had been, any violence against them would be morally and legally wrong, however deplorable the film. Murder, indeed any form of violence in such circumstances, is wholly unacceptable. Both the Libyan Prime Minister and Parliamentary Speaker condemned the attack, and the Egyptian President has called it “unlawful.”
Why did the crowds react so fiercely? The film, judging from its trailer, is intentionally scandalous, provocative, in the worst possible taste, and without any positive feature. I have seen the trailer. It depicts Mohamed, the founder of Islam, in a wholly offensive and lewd manner, and as if there were no good of any kind ever done by him to anyone.
An intelligent anti-Mohamed film would have questioned his human rights record, but also acknowledged his achievements. This film, however, pandered to ignorant bigoted Islamophobia and salaciousness. I’m neither Muslim myself, nor an apologist for Islam. But the saving of human life, Fairness and Truth are important to me. Whatever one’s religion, there is no disputing that Mohamed eradicated idol-worship among the Arab tribes, discouraged much crime and alcoholism, and promoted a form of family values, (admittedly polygamy, but in a society of a shortage of husbands.) . Many of his teachings are shared by Christianity, Judaism and other faiths, and the Quran’s poetry is often magnificent.
Yes, Mohamed himself took the lives of many – as did Joshua and King David – and others of his words and actions are controversial in non-Muslim eyes, but that is not relevant to my argument here. My point is that the trailer (and presumably the film) are wholly unbalanced, unfair, and gratuitously insulting, and present a cynical abuse of freedom of speech, a hard-earned, noble and essential freedom, in the exercise of which our ancestors suffered greatly, in order to disseminate Lofty Ideals and the Truth. Remember Socrates, Amnon of Mainz, Giordano Bruno, Spinoza and countless others. Remember those, whose sublime books were burned by the Nazis, the Inquisition and others. Was it for such works as this low film that their authors and champions laid down their own lives? No!
Whether the violence in Benghazi and Cairo was spontaneous and purely for the defence of Islam, or whether it was egged-on by Al Qaida and other anti-American militants on the anniversary of 9/11, (and one suspects that both elements were involved), those who made the film knew they were playing with fire. Why provide ammunition to the enemies of the US? Why provide a pretext to those looking to kill Americans?
The mysterious film-maker, based in California, has gone into hiding. According to AP, who interviewed him, he said he made the film in order to attack Islam, and justifies it on the US blood spilt in Iraq and Afghanistan. Readers are well aware that there was much more Muslim blood shed in those countries, and much of the American blood spilt there, was a result of the politicians’ having no prepared program for the stability of those countries, after replacing the tyranical Saddam Hussein and the murderous Taliban.
Shame on the film-maker and his assistants! It was bound to end in bloodshed. One can debate others’ beliefs fairly, but a gratuitously tasteless and indecent film is inexcusable, and certain to have explosive results, when Muslim sensibilities are targeted. Remember Salman Rushdie (whose High Court trial I attended in London, when peaceful Muslims sought unsuccessfully to have his Satanic Verses banned.) This time, apart from the lives of innocent diplomats, and the understandable rage of Americans and Muslims of all views, damage has also been done to the names of both the US and Israel, to whom the director has been linked, (whether improperly, or not.) Most of their citizens are fair-minded, decent and tolerant of other religions. Nonetheless, their enemies have sprung to attack them over this, and will continue to do so. Iranian Press TV has already highlighted the sad event under the headline “Anti-Islam movie – directed, produced by Israeli-American.”
Far greater shame on those who responded with violence! They should all be imprisoned, and the instigators and the most violent should be incarcerated for life, or worse.
For those Muslims tempted to resort to violence, surely the best way to treat such base productions is to ignore them. Bloodshed is never the solution.
Andrew M. Rosemarine is a British-based international lawyer with long experience of the Middle East.
Copyright Rosemarine 2012