Freedom of speech is America but violence is not Islam
Published on Your Middle East
"Al-Salamu Alaikum" this how we greet everyday, every morning, every-time we meet and it means "Peace be upon You". We’ve been raised up on the Islamic teaching that :"“If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew all humankind: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all humankind”, Surah5, Al-MAida, Ayah 32.
At some point in January 2011, when the whole world was looking up to Tunisia very inspired and amazed, I was happy that the revolution started from my county because it is 99 percent Muslims. I was happy to change that image of Islam that has been propagated since 9/11 as a monolithic, stateless and apocalyptic faith. I was happy to prove to the world that we, Arab Muslims, toppled our dictators with non-violent resistance and civil disobedience, that we peacefully stood up for our rights and human dignity which are cornerstones of our values and religion. I was happy to draw a new picture of an Arab Muslim different of that of a terrorist and suicide bomber.
However, again in 9/11, Americans were murdered by Muslims.
Recent protests and riots have erupted for a week now, in front of the US embassies in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, Mauritania and obviously we will see more in the coming days. Some of the events escalated to violence and resulted in deaths. Diverse explanations have been made but let's keep in mind that this out of control situation is marked in the countries that are witnessing revolutions, transitions or existing wars and conflicts and not in any of the Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad.
Demonstrators' arguments varied between the movie as a conspiracy of the US and its allies to get their hands on Libya and a war against Islam. Indeed, the filmmaker said: "The movie is a political movie. It's not a religious movie". Regardless of the political affinities through religious means, both sides have to approach deeper insight of major factors from this everlasting history.
On the one hand, Muslims have to be aware of three major factors. First, this amateurish video with few actors, some customs, fake script, background and sounds, terrible audio and dubbing was uploaded on YouTube since July 2nd, 2012 but it has been massively circulating on Facebook and aired on Egyptian Islamic channel only on the anniversary of 9/11. Most Americans have not heard or seen the so-called trailer or movie "the Innocence of Muslims" until the death of the US ambassador Christopher Stevens simply because the target group is Muslims not Americans, the goal is Muslim provocation not American Islamo-phobia.
Besides, the first amendment of the US constitution states that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". Therefore, freedom of expression is unlimited and abridged and the US cannot condemn the filmmaker because there is no federal law that forbids "religious vilification" or "blasphemy" or "hate speech". One more important factor is that the filmmaker is not even an Israeli-American but a Coptic Egyptian Christian. So the video was not produced neither by an American nor by the U.S. government.
On the other hand, Americans have to be aware of three major factors too. First, it is true that the killed is a US citizen but those criminals should be made accountable by their own governments so that it will not turn out to another "War on Terror" for the same excuses. As we tend to see one side of the truth, let's see the other side. As people came out for terror in the name of Islam, double and triple of their numbers came out calling for peace in Libya, Morocco and other countries. Moreover, Libyans have died also trying to protect the US embassy - an overshadowed fact by mainstream media - and the protesters themselves have died in clashes with the police. Accordingly, it is not about an anti-US sentiment but it is about these extremists who pick the verses from the Quran and commit atrocities for the dogma to which they call "Jihad". This actually reminds me of what happened in Tunisia just two months ago when a violent protest from Salafists emerged over a painting, during an art exhibition, that didn't even exist in the exhibition hall but it has been massively circulated on Facebook and outraged the extremists. Those who are in the street today saying: "Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar" may not have even seen the video but they are ignorantly manipulated and try to apply 8th century society to today's world.
Then, the attacks seem obviously to be pre-planned either by Al Qaeda that has a nostalgic day to celebrate or Qaddafi's loyalists since these people are armed. Unexpectedly, while the US has been strengthening its self-defense for 12 years, the attacks were prepared in another country because terrorism is a faceless threat. The rest of the protesters are not but criminals and thieves who remind of the militias of the revolution days in Tunisia who took advantage of the disorder.
When people identify themselves with their religious fundamentalism, they accept legitimate the gross act of killing and each side places value on the other’s loss value. Ironically if the majority makes the revolution and the minority vote, this minority can make the division while the majority believes in peaceful coexistence. Still, only people can change the balance of power and refuse to let a minority directs the world. The reaction from both sides is still interesting when Libyans rise the slogan "Thugs and killers don't represent Benghazi nor Islam" and "Benghazi is against terrorism" and Americans tweet that “no more than that film or cartoon represented the US or most Americans”.
I address the people to seek solutions and listen to their peers rather than mainstream media’s propaganda and stop pushing for constant turmoil.
We will celebrate soon the International Day of Peace, will people come together as they do for violence and war?
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This post has been edited and published on "Your Middle East"