13 September 2012

"We won't accept mocking"

Monkey-see, monkey-do riots continue in the Middle East today as various groups use the pretext of the "Innocence of Muslims" video to vent grievances against the U.S. Protests have expanded into the wider Muslim world, with at least one demonstration breaking out in Bangladesh, where a protester is quoted saying, "We won't accept mocking of Prophet Muhammad." You wonder how someone like that can, most likely, accept a lot of other crap in his life, yet draws this line in the metaphorical sand. While the dregs of these societies riot, the president of Egypt deplores the violence in his own country, but tells reporters that his U.S. counterpart should "put an end to such behavior" -- the making of "mocking" videos, that is. The only appropriate response to such a request would be undiplomatic, but the Secretary of State has been busy representing the administration line that the video is garbage yet protected by the U.S. Constitution. While Mitt Romney attempts to exploit the issue but has apparently only damaged his cause by accusing the administration of being soft on rioting Muslims, the government has made it as clear as possible that Islam has no right to pre-empt or punish "mockery" anywhere on Earth. Diplomacy obliges responsible politicians to say little else, but more ordinary citizens ought to go further. We don't need to burn mosques or holy books, but can't we get a bunch of people together to say that we find these riots a mockery; Islamism a mockery; Islam itself, and religion itself a mockery? There's no point to saying we won't accept it, since none of us are going to go to Benghazi for payback anytime soon, but we can make plain that we hate it. We should also get to the bottom of the making of "Innocence of Muslims," since it seems from some accounts that somebody tricked the actors and dubbed inflammatory dialogue over the words they originally spoke. We can affirm Americans' right to mock Islam while calling the people behind this project cowards, insofar as they tricked the actors and obfuscating their own identities. It's one thing to use a pseudonym, as I do, to keep my political opinions immune from ad hominem commentary, another to hide your identity simply because you're a physical coward while other people are suffering for what you've done. When we deny that Americans as a group are responsible for this film, that doesn't mean that we should throw them to the wolves, but it should mean that we, as well as the rest of the world, ought to know who these provocateurs actually are, if only to diffuse the conspiracy theories that are certainly proliferating already. And if we want to call the filmmakers cowards, we should say the same for the rioters, since none of them would dare come here to find and deal with the actual people who offended them. Their tribal way of thinking gives them an easy out when their proper target is too well protected or too hard to find. They mock their own commitments by taking such cheap shots, and their own compatriots and coreligionists shouldn't accept that. Any video of the past day's violence is as much a mockery of Islam, it might be said, as "Innocence of Muslims" is -- so by their own standards, the demonstrators ought to kill themselves.

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