14 September 2012
Islamic civilization in Egypt
Reuters gives us a survey of Friday preaching from Egypt, where many remain enraged, or choose to appear enraged by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's "Innocence of Muslims." The opinions reported give us a good idea of what religious and political leaders consider appropriate and inappropriate responses to an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Most seem to believe that Nakoula, the Coptic Christian who apparently hid behind the pseudonym of "Israeli Jew" Sam Bacile, should be tried and (if found guilty) put to death. The speakers quoted by Reuters seem unanimously opposed to the collective-guilt reasoning that drove attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, apart from some advocating a boycott of U.S. imports. Among the new establishment there seems to be agreement that this week's violence was excessive, though the anger behind it remains legitimate. The most admirable sentiments came from a leader of a Salafist party who, as usual, condemned insults to Muhammad but then went so far as to say that not even the producers of the movie should be killed. You have to applaud these small steps while pressing for larger principles. If there really can be such a thing as a universal declaration of human rights, it should include the firmest possible assertion that no one should be legally penalized, much less killed, for "blasphemy." That should be one of the minimum prerequisites of a truly global civilization. If that looks like a hurdle that would give Muslims difficulty, rest assured that some of my "civilized" suggestions would look like obstacles to Americans, too. The thing to remember whenever one is outraged by Muslims is that they're not the only people who'll need to change for the world to become truly civilized. So no one should back away from criticizing Muslims, when they've earned it, out of some suspicion that they're being singled out for bigoted reasons. Those who make a living condemning Islam, as if Islam alone prevented world peace and prosperity for all, should take the advice of one they most likely worship, albeit slightly modified. You don't have to ignore the mote in the other guy's eye because of the beam in your own -- you should ignore neither.