Three minutes into a film trailer that recently sparked a rash of violence and outrage across the Middle East, it becomes apparent as to why such a reaction has manifested. Since the bombing of the US Embassy in Libya, it has been all too easy to take shots at what the heart of this issue might be. It’s the fault of Islamic radicals. It’s religion, or lack of religion. It’s because of cultural divides or cultural oppression. Or maybe it’s the degrading racism that has always inherently followed Islamic-Western relations — on both sides.
It’s a mixture of all of the above — a pseudo-North American radicalism that has developed as an answer to the notion of radical Islam that has pervaded deep into the collective consciousness. But of course, the most important part of that Western radicalism is freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech has become the rebuttal for many attacks for or against an ideal. One thing that tends to be overlooked is hate speech. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that all Western democracies share. And while certain countries like Canada have restrictions on hate speech, It’s important to note that America does not. While this video does not explicitly tout Muslims as being less than human, the implication is there — they are stupid; they are barbarian. We can laugh at them and degrade them and it’s all fun and games until someone gets killed.
Despite the outrageous prejudice of such attitudes, some might argue this kind of flippant bias has been given credence by past events. Violence has been inherent in the Middle East for a long time now and knowing this, the line needs to be drawn before it gets to that extreme. These petty “he did it, she did it” disputes must end. Speech incites actions, and while the creators of the film did not individually elicit the violence that followed, they were vital in bringing it about. They cannot wash their hands of the affair and take no responsibility, because ignorance is no longer an excuse.
Western countries have largely cast off the public sacredness of religion and the role that it plays in society — opting for a secular approach. The mantra that nothing is sacred has become the only truly sacred thing for many people. Islamic violence has become a running joke in some Western households, as has the Islamic prophet Mohammed. But the development of a film specifically designed to target and humiliate an entire group of people has no right to exist and has no merits on which to be defended.
The film itself is corny and extremely low-budget. Poor acting and casting team up with a poor script and props to create a wholly forgettable experience. What it lacks in cinematic merit it makes up for in utterly crass and unnecessary goading. The purpose is clearly to make the history and faith of Islamic peoples look foolish. By extension, the people themselves are the target; it is humiliating and infuriating.
Although there is absolutely no justification for extremist violence, it’s ridiculous to be surprised at the violent retaliation of hard core Islamic cells. People have long been aware of the existence of these groups — and it’s common knowledge that the United States is not their favourite country. Creating a video like this is akin to poking a sleeping bear, except the bear has been awake and growling for quite some time.Islam gets a bad reputation because of events from recent years. Whether or not that reputation is wholly deserved, it is important to realize that cultural differences have created a gap that is nearly impossible to bridge. In Western culture, nothing is sacred. Making fun of Mohammed is much less taboo than other jokes that deal with sensitive subject matter. And in many circles, these jokes are encouraged. However, through the eyes of a nation that still has a unifying religion, treading on this dangerous ground is nothing short of blasphemous.
The makers of this video should not only be ashamed of themselves, but they should feel guilty for the turmoil and destruction they’ve created. Men and women unrelated to the video have lost their lives over what should have been nothing more than a tasteless joke. But luckily for the creators, they live in a nation where they never have to feel the full effects of their actions and thus never have to truly face the consequences — while other people have already paid a more costly price.
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