How offensive is “Innocence of Muslims?”

by , under Enrique

A few scenes from Innocence of Muslims was enough for me to understand that free speech not only gives you the opportunity to make a horse’s ass out of yourself, but declare war on a religious group that ended costing the lives of USAmerican citizens in Libya.  

The stance of the Finnish Islamic Council (SINE) concerning the fourteen-minute film must be commended. In a common statement, SINE condemned both the film that offends the Prophet Mohammed and the violence that it sparked. ”The sacred values of Muslims are constantly targets of attacks in the West,” the statement declares.

There is little sympathy for “Sam Bacile tirade.

One of these is Salman Rushdie, the author of the Satanic Verses, which caused outrage from conservative Muslims for blasphemy and mocking their faith.

Reporter: Do you feel that that person has done something terribly wrong? 

Salman Rushdie: I think he [Bacile] has done something malicious. That’s a very different thing from writing a serious novel. He’s clearly set out to provoke and he has obviously unleashed a much bigger reaction than he hoped for, and one of the problems of free speech is that you often have to defend people who are outrageous, unpleasant and disgusting. 

Reporter:  So when you saw that man taken in for questioning over the weekend  completely shrouded to mask his appearance any level of sympathy there? 

SR:  Not really. 

Reporter: Why not? 

SR:  He did it on purpose and he set out to create a response and he got it in spades. 

These types of movies that aim to insult other groups are no different from the Islamophobic hate speech we are seeing in Europe these days.

The last matter that these extremists are interested in is free speech.

Free speech is only a catchword they use to eventually limit such an inalienable right.

  1. akaaro

    MT, Halla-aho is a good example on this topic when it comes to Finland Islamophobic hate speech, how he uses abusive insults against Muslims here and degrades Islamic religion.

  2. virmamatt

    this was well said by French newspaper. The ones who want to get insulted, gets insulted.

    ”Ranskalainen viikkolehti aikoo julkaista pilakuvia profeetta Muhammedista keskiviikkona. Satiirisen Charlie Hebdo -lehden mukaan “kuvat järkyttävät niitä, jotka haluavat järkyttyä”.”

  3. Mark

    virmamatt

    this was well said by French newspaper. The ones who want to get insulted, gets insulted.

    As if it was that simple. When someone says something hateful to someone else, our reasonable expectation is that the person who is ‘verbally assaulted’ feels a degree of anger, disappointment and frustration, as well as perhaps expecting and hoping for some kind of justice, particularly if the hateful comments involve a distortion or fabrication of the truth. We also expect and hope that the response is proportionate, though proportionality is highly subjective and relative. It is often dangerous to speak for others and to tell others that they should or should not be offended by something. It is dangerous because it often leads to a dismissal of people’s feelings or values and one person dictating to another. This inevitably leads to a downward spiral in the whole relationship. We’ve all seen this in our daily lives. And once it spins out of control and the blame game begins, it’s hard to rescue that situation, because trust and confidence are not givens. They require hard work to build, but they can be torn down in a moment of recklessness. It is no understatement to say that this truly is our human vulnerability, vulnerable in the sense of capable of being hurt, and vulnerable in the sense of it being potentially a massive weakness if we fail to respect the vulnerability of others also.

    In this case, the personal also meets the political. It is the norm of politics to compete for people’s allegiances or votes, and this competition often involves vilifying those that have a different set of solutions to society’s problems. It’s a dirty game at times. In some parts of the world, it’s an extremely dangerous game. In some of the world’s most unstable countries, which lack basic internal security, decades of war, dicatorship, or political conflict have made the expressing political views dangerous. Take the assassination of Bhutto in Pakistan, or the blasphemy related killings, or the countless political assassinations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have to be realistic about the kind of politics that holds sway in these unstable countries. It is naive to ask that political groups in these countries would not use every opportunity to create division and passionate and even blind allegiance through manipulating ordinary citizens into creating a ‘them vs. us’ scenario.

    Still, focusing on the response to a hateful comment is only half the story. Focus must also go on those that make the comments. The comment you made, that only those that are ‘stupid’ enough to get insulted will be insulted removes all responsibility from those that may be guilty of crimes against another. If I punch you on the nose, I could just as easily argue that it only hurts if you pay attention to the pain. I could even argue ‘take a painkiller’. In other words, I make you entirely responsible for the pain and accept no responsibility for it whatsoever. Clearly in a modern society, such an approach is unworkable and a recipe for anarchy. There have to be rules and standards, whether in the hard form of legislation, or in the soft form of cultural taboos.

    At the moment, blasphemy is controlled mostly by ‘soft’ rules. But soft rules can be smudged all too easily if it turns out that people start to abandon a standard. In the 1930s, it became acceptable to say all sorts of vile things about Jews. In today’s world, it’s becoming more and more acceptable to say vile things about Muslims. In fact, contrary to the claims of some that you cannot cricitize Muslims, the opposite is clearly the reality, that Islam is a target in a way that no other religion is currently. The standard has slipped. And the soft rule is no longer enough to protect the dignity of a large group of people within society. Clearly, the full force of ‘hard’ rules have to be brought to bear, especially when it clearly involves defamation of people on the basis of religion.

    There will always be a fine line between social criticism and ethnic agitation. But there are people who are trying to bully society into a kind of ‘no limits’ approach to social criticism. The problem though is that clearly this no limits approach serves a political agenda, that of the Far Right. Up to now, society’s norms and rules have served us well in the last 30-40 years. But now, some people are trying to get us to accept the vilification and defamation of entire groups of people, on the basis of ethnicity or religious belief, and they are doing it so that they can capitalise on that politically. We have to be very suspicious of this.

    In the same way that groups have capitalised on this film politically in Yemen, Lebanon, Libya and Egypt and elsewhere, so groups in Western countries are trying to capitalise on it, by trying to paint Muslims as extremists, to remove any right that Muslims have to be offended, and to downplay the vast vast majority of Muslims who choose to protest peacefully over this film.

    A recent Channel 4 documentary was pulled from airing. It was entitled ‘Islam: the untold story’. The assumed reason was ‘security threats’, but with a title like that, I would think that there was some question too about its integrity. It reads too much like ‘Islam: the truth!’, followed by a negative tirade that focuses only on extreme elements within the faith. It’s hard to know for sure without seeing it. It perhaps shouldn’t be illegal to make such a film but is it responsible of a national network channel to be seen to be promoting such a film? This is clearly the point where prejudice can become all too easily institutionalised. Such a controversial form of ‘social criticism’ has to be properly couched – perhaps followed by a specific debate where an alternative view is given, where people are free to respond to the ‘allegations’ being made. Clearly, extremism must be faced, but it must be done in a sensitive way if it is not to lead to further extremism by way of response.

    These issues certainly present us with ethical, social and political dilemmas. They are by no means easy, so let’s be suspicious of those that would sum these up in sentences like ‘those that get offended are those that want to be offended’, as if it was just a question of people being oversensitive. We are all sensitive about different things, and the law offers us a degree of protection and dignity. Otherwise, we fall into the same justifications that allowed anti-Semiticism to rise to dangerous levels in pre-war Germany and elsewhere. History is important, not just in terms of the excesses, but in the path that led to those excesses. Let’s not make the same mistakes again.

  4. tp1

    Mark, all the things you would like to be forbidden to say about muslims, you have absolutely no problem to say them about Perussuomalaiset.

    • Mark

      tp1

      Mark, all the things you would like to be forbidden to say about muslims, you have absolutely no problem to say them about Perussuomalaiset.

      I never mentioned PS in my comment.

      So, which bit don’t you agree with?

      What is it that I have said about PS that upsets you?

      And what do you think I would forbid to be said about Muslims?

      here we go again…

  5. MK

    MT, Halla-aho is a good example on this topic when it comes to Finland Islamophobic hate speech, how he uses abusive insults against Muslims here and degrades Islamic religion.

    Well, there is a lot of hate speech on both sides…
    Halla-Aho is anyway a legally elected MP, and most of what he says is always well based on facts he puts behind he’s writings.

    True enough, he sometimes forgets he’s status as MP and should consider twice before hitting the “post” button on Homma or Scripta sites.

    • Mark

      MK

      Hitler was legally elected. 🙂 Hate speech on both sides? What is this, an attempt to create equivalence in the arguments? He’s a fascist with a PhD, which has its advantages, I’m sure, such as knowing how to draw arguments in support of one’s opinion and how to make best use of the facts available. Personally, I’m not so impressed, as anyone with a higher degree should have learnt how to do that, but that is no guarantee of either their political ideology or their intellectual integrity. From what I’ve seen of his arguments, he is extremely evasive and seemingly incapable of representing an opposing opinion in a coherant way. He is passionate, and very capable of obfuscating an issue, with legalese or with abstraction, but that doesn’t get away from the problems of his core decision-making or his willingness to swallow and perpetuate a fundamentally fascist agenda.

      True enough, he sometimes forgets he’s status as MP and should consider twice before hitting the “post” button on Homma or Scripta sites.

      Interesting, care to give an example?

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