By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
There is a Farsi couplet:
Ba Khuda deewana basho
Ba Muhammad hoshyaar
(Meaning: Play madly with God if you wish, but be careful with Muhammad.)
The Muslim world from Senegal to Indonesia is angry over the release of an anti-Muslim film in the YouTube ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad (S). There were protests in at least 23 nations. In the volatile Middle East the angry demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassies in the region. Demonstrators in Iraq chanted, “We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our Prophet.” In Lebanon, a crowd set fire to a KFC and a Hardee’s restaurant in the port city of Tripoli, 50 miles (85 kilometers) north of Beirut, sparking clashes with police. Police then opened fire, killing one of the attackers. In Benghazi (Libya) the attackers killed the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 3 embassy officials.
The reaction of many Americans to the protests in the Muslim world is utter bewilderment mixed with anger. They feel that those Muslims are ungrateful to the US for delivering them out of tyranny of the likes of Zine bin Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Muammar al-Gaddhafi of Libya. Last Thursday (September 13, 2012) the front page heading in the USA Today read – ‘We hate America’: The USA helped liberate them from the dictators. Now Americans are the enemy once again. The Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was heard saying, “Many Americans are asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”
The fact is: outside the case of Libya, the response of the Obama Administration towards the Arab Springs has been lukewarm at best. While thousands of Syrians continue to be killed by Bashar al-Assad’s murderous Nusayri forces the U.S. government has not done anything meaningful to support the rebels. Truly, if it had cared and imposed only a fraction of the biting sanctions that it helped to impose on Iran – at the behest of the rogue state of Israel — through the U.N., the Syrian tyrant would have been gone long time ago.
For decades, the successive U.S. governments since the days of President Reagan have been Hosni Mubarak’s greatest benefactor. Even the very tear-gas canisters fired by Mubarak’s security forces on the Egyptian crowd demanding democracy in the Tahrir Square had the “made in USA” logos. In 2009, the U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton declared, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” President Obama supported the Egyptian dictator up until the very last minute when his downfall became inevitable. As noted in the New York Times, dated February 7, 2011, the Obama administration’s plan was to engineer the ascension of the much hated, loyalist, torturer Omar Suleiman as Mubarak’s replacement in the name of “stability”.
Thus, when some of the U.S. media depict Egyptian anger towards the U.S. as “ironic” on the ground that it was the U.S. that had freed them and “allowed” them democracy, they must be suffering from selective amnesia.
But more appalling is the utter failure of the U.S. media to educate their audience that words have consequences. People can die for venoms unleashed in the Internet. And they should have known this fact since the publication of the offensive books and films like The Satanic Verses and Submission, respectively.
Muslims take their religion very seriously. To them Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, is not just an ordinary person who got revelation from God, but simply the best of His creation. They don’t utter his name without reciting the salutation – sallal-lahu alayhi wa sallam (meaning: blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). The Muslim testimony of faith “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is uttered five times daily during the call of prayer (adhan) from the minarets of masajid (mosques) urging Muslims to come and pray to Allah. A Muslim also ends his/her prayer with a supplication to Allah seeking blessing and bounties for the Prophet and his family the same way He had blessed the family of Abraham (Ibrahim alayhis salam). In the Qur’an, the Muslim Holy Scripture, Allah Himself testifies about Muhammad’s (S) perfection of character as a human being. He is the Insan al-Kamil who had combined the characteristics of the Prophets Moses and Jesus (AS). He is the most praised one both in this world and the Hereafter.
After analyzing Prophet Muhammad’s (S) life, British Orientalist Stanley Lane-Poole said, “He was the most faithful protector, the sweetest and most agreeable in conversation. Those who saw him were suddenly filled with reverence, those who came near him loved him; they who described him would say, ‘I have never seen his like either before or after.’ ”
Truly, in the annals of human history, no Prophet was as much adored by his followers as Muhammad (S) was. In his poem below, Hassan ibn Thabit (R), a contemporary of the Prophet, captured this sentiment as to how the Companions felt about Muhammad (S):
By God, no woman has conceived and given birth
To one like the Apostle, the Prophet and guide of his people;
Nor has God created among his creatures
One more faithful to his sojourner or his promise
Than he who was the source of light,
Blessed in his deeds, just and upright.
(Sirat Rasulallah by Muhammad Ibn Ishaq)
It is out of this profound sense of love and reverence that Muslims don’t draw any picture of their Prophet (S), which could lead to deification that is absolutely prohibited in Islam.
So, when someone writes highly offensive words and depicts Muhammad (S) in ways that are ludicrous and historically inaccurate it is not difficult to understand that the sentiment of 1.6 billion Muslims is hurt; they feel violated in the worst possible way. They see their faith denigrated by these savages, the cyber terrorists and pen-pushing hate mongers. They are naturally furious with America, which under the pretext of First Amendment right to free expression, protects these hatemongering terrorists that hurt the feelings of Muslims. They feel betrayed when they see that some of these offenders/terrorists, responsible for the death of innocent human beings, are even knighted and rewarded by western governments and institutions. They also see obvious hypocrisy when President Obama had no problem authorizing assassination of American born Anwar al-Awlaki for he considered the latter’s freedom of speech a threat to national security.
As to the identity of the latest culprits pushing for a civilization war between the worlds of Islam and Judeo-Christianity, we are told by the Associated Press journalist Gillian Flaccus, the highly offensive and inflammatory video was made by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian who lives in California. It has been promoted by a Christian evangelist Steve Klein whose unabashed and outspoken hatred of Islam has made him a contemptible hate monger. Klein, a Vietnam War veteran, is a failed real estate investor who now works with his wife as an insurance agent and lives in San Jacinto Mountains about 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles. “Klein founded Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques, and started Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which preaches against Muslims and publishes volumes of anti-Muslim propaganda that Klein distributes. He also has helped train paramilitary militias at the church of Kaweah near Three Rivers, about an hour southeast of Fresno, to prepare for what they believe is a coming holy war with Muslim sleeper cells, according to the law center. His anti-Muslim activities indirectly led him to his affiliation with Nakoula, an Egyptian Christian living outside Los Angeles, who contacted him about making an anti-Muslim movie.”
To heighten the animosity with the Muslim world, Nakoula – who used many pseudonyms including the name Sam Bacile – falsely identified himself as an Israeli Jew and claimed that his produced movie was financed by Jewish money. We are also told that even the actors were duped in this nasty scheme; they did not know that it was a hate movie to denigrate Islam and its Prophet (S).
As I mentioned in my book – Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah: an exposition of his life for inquisitive western readers – (available from Amazon.com) – anti-Islamic polemics is not new and dates back at least to the 7th century C.E. Karen Armstrong tells us that during the Crusades “… biographies of Mohammed by Christians describe the Prophet’s sex life in a manner that reveals far more about their own sexual problems than about the facts of the Prophet’s life.” Thomas Carlyle (d. 1881) said, “The lies which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man are disgraceful to ourselves only.”
And if the past is any barometer to predict the future, the anti-Islamic polemics and hatred will continue to grow for quite some time. Not to be forgotten in this context is the wide support such narratives enjoy amongst many mainstream Christian politicians – the likes of Bachmann, Palin, Gingrich and Giuliani.
I won’t, therefore, be surprised if we later learn that Nakoula’s movie was funded by some of the same Judeo-Christian villains who have been trying to bring about the war of civilizations since at least 9/11. To them, Bush Jr. has left the war unfinished.
Mindful of the violent reaction to the video, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland emphasized during a briefing for reporters, “The U.S. government has nothing to do with this video.” But that should not be an excuse not to prosecute Nakoula who had triggered the embassy attacks. The western governments must understand that freedom of expression is not free and need not be a vehicle to promote hatred and start civilization wars.
As Patrick Buchanan recently noted, “There are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom their faith is their most priceless possession. They live it. They will die for it. And not a few will kill for it. Others will seize upon real or imagined insults to that faith to excite the crowds to expel us from their world. And some Americans will accommodate them by using books, films, and videos to manifest their contempt of Islam.”
So we have an irreconcilable conflict unless a red line is drawn, which does not allow the likes of Nakoula, Klein, Terry Jones and Robert Spencer to poison our world under the pretext of the First Amendment. They are no better than other terrorists and should be treated as such if we are serious about avoiding a civilization war. Otherwise, Chris Stevens won’t be the only casualty!
The views expressed are the author’s own