[FoRK] Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Mon Sep 17 17:58:23 PDT 2012


Excellent article, excellent insight. The worldview, primitive in 
several ways from my point of view, is starkly backward. Interestingly, 
this kind of thing may be a way for them to educate themselves 
significantly, both on differences in concepts of a "free" society and 
of the ways they can be manipulated and exploited to hurt themselves.

If they continue to think that any kind of protest or criminal activity 
or terrorism will change the US Constitution, that will become (maybe 
grimly) laughable very quickly. One crackpot having been successful in 
getting a rise out of the Muslim "home" territories, expect a stream of 
these just to rub it in.

> “We want these countries to understand that they need to take into 
> consideration the people, and not just the governments,” said Ismail 
> Mohamed, 42, a religious scholar who once was an imam in Germany. “We 
> don’t think that depictions of the prophets are freedom of expression. 
> We think it is an offense against our rights,” he said, adding, “The 
> West has to understand the ideology of the people.”
>
> Even during the protests, some stone throwers stressed that the clash 
> was not Muslim against Christian. Instead, they suggested that the 
> traditionalism of people of both faiths in the region conflicted with 
> Western individualism and secularism.

...
> Egyptian officials said that some non-Salafis involved in the embassy 
> attacks confessed to receiving payments, although no payer had been 
> identified. But after the first afternoon, the next three days of 
> protests were dominated by a relatively small number of teenagers and 
> young men — including die-hard soccer fans known as ultras. They 
> appeared to have been motivated mainly by the opportunity to attack 
> the police, whom they revile.
>
> Some commentators said they regretted that the violence here and 
> around the region had overshadowed the underlying argument against the 
> offensive video. “Our performance came out like that of a failed 
> lawyer in a no-lose case,” Wael Kandil, an editor of the newspaper 
> Sharouq, wrote in a column on Sunday. “We served our opponents 
> something that made them drop the main issue and take us to the 
> margins — this is what we accomplished with our bad performance.”
>
> Mohamed Sabry, 29, a sculptor and art teacher at a downtown cafe, said 
> he saw a darker picture. “To see the Islamic world in this condition 
> of underdevelopment,” he said, “this is a bigger insult to the prophet.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/world/middleeast/muslims-rage-over-film-fueled-by-culture-divide.html
Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film

Moises Saman for The New York Times
A protester threw a tear-gas canister toward the United States Embassy 
in Cairo. “The West has to understand the ideology of the people,” a 
religious scholar said.
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: September 16, 2012

CAIRO — Stepping from the cloud of tear gas in front of the American 
Embassy here, Khaled Ali repeated the urgent question that he said 
justified last week’s violent protests at United States outposts around 
the Muslim world.
Related

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
Riot police officers took cover from stones thrown by Egyptian 
protesters near Tahrir Square.
“We never insult any prophet — not Moses, not Jesus — so why can’t we 
demand that Muhammad be respected?” Mr. Ali, a 39-year-old textile 
worker said, holding up a handwritten sign in English that read “Shut Up 
America.” “Obama is the president, so he should have to apologize!”

When the protests against an American-made online video mocking the 
Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage 
was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or 
resentment of Washington, protesters and their sympathizers here said. 
It was also a demand that many of them described with the word 
“freedom,” although in a context very different from the term’s use in 
the individualistic West: the right of a community, whether Muslim, 
Christian or Jewish, to be free from grave insult to its identity and 
values.

That demand, in turn, was swept up in the colliding crosscurrents of 
regional politics. From one side came the gale of anger at America’s 
decade-old war against terrorism, which in the eyes of many Muslims in 
the region often looks like a war against them. And from the other, the 
new winds blowing through the region in the aftermath of the Arab 
Spring, which to many here means most of all a right to demand respect 
for the popular will.

“We want these countries to understand that they need to take into 
consideration the people, and not just the governments,” said Ismail 
Mohamed, 42, a religious scholar who once was an imam in Germany. “We 
don’t think that depictions of the prophets are freedom of expression. 
We think it is an offense against our rights,” he said, adding, “The 
West has to understand the ideology of the people.”

Even during the protests, some stone throwers stressed that the clash 
was not Muslim against Christian. Instead, they suggested that the 
traditionalism of people of both faiths in the region conflicted with 
Western individualism and secularism.

Youssef Sidhom, the editor of the Coptic Christian newspaper Watani, 
said he objected only to the violence of the protests.

Mr. Sidhom approvingly recalled the uproar among Egyptian Christians 
that greeted the 2006 film “The Da Vinci Code,” which was seen as an 
affront to aspects of traditional Christianity and the persona of Jesus. 
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries banned both the film and 
the book on which it was based. And in Egypt, where insulting any of the 
three Abrahamic religions is a crime, the police even arrested the head 
of a local film company for importing 2,000 copies of the DVD, according 
to news reports.

“This reaction is expected,” Mr. Sidhom said of last week’s protests, 
“and if it had stayed peaceful I would have said I supported it and 
understood.”

In a context where insults to religion are crimes and the state has 
tightly controlled almost all media, many in Egypt, like other Arab 
countries, sometimes find it hard to understand that the American 
government feels limited by its free speech rules from silencing even 
the most noxious religious bigot.

In his statement after protesters breached the walls of the United 
States Embassy last Tuesday, the spiritual leader of the Egypt’s 
mainstream Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, declared that “the 
West” had imposed laws against “those who deny or express dissident 
views on the Holocaust or question the number of Jews killed by Hitler, 
a topic which is purely historical, not a sacred doctrine.”

In fact, denying the Holocaust is also protected as free speech in the 
United States, although it is prohibited in Germany and a few other 
European countries. But the belief that it is illegal in the United 
States is widespread in Egypt, and the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, 
Mohamed Badie, called for the “criminalizing of assaults on the 
sanctities of all heavenly religions.”

“Otherwise, such acts will continue to cause devout Muslims across the 
world to suspect and even loathe the West, especially the U.S.A., for 
allowing their citizens to violate the sanctity of what they hold dear 
and holy,” he said. “Certainly, such attacks against sanctities do not 
fall under the freedom of opinion or thought.”

Several protesters said during the heat of last week’s battles here that 
they were astonished that the United States had not punished the 
filmmakers. “Everyone across all these countries has the same anger, 
they are rising up for the same reason and with the same demands, and 
still no action is taken against the people who made that film,” said 
Zakaria Magdy, 23, a printer.

In the West, many may express astonishment that the murder of Muslims in 
hate crimes does not provoke the same level of global outrage as the 
video did. But even a day after the clashes in Cairo had subsided, many 
Egyptians argued that a slur against their faith was a greater offense 
than any attack on a living person.

“When you hurt someone, you are just hurting one person,” said Ahmed 
Shobaky, 42, a jeweler. “But when you insult a faith like that, you are 
insulting a whole nation that feels the pain.”

Mr. Mohamed, the religious scholar, justified it this way: “Our prophet 
is more dear to us than our family and our nation.”

Others said that the outpouring of outrage against the video had built 
up over a long period of perceived denigrations of Muslims and their 
faith by the United States or its military, which are detailed 
extensively in the Arab news media: the invasion of Iraq on a 
discredited pretext; the images of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison; the 
burning or desecrations of the Koran by troops in Afghanistan and a 
pastor in Florida; detentions without trial at Guantánamo Bay; the 
denials of visas to prominent Muslim intellectuals; the deaths of Muslim 
civilians as collateral damage in drone strikes; even political 
campaigns against the specter of Islamic law inside the United States.

“This is not the first time that Muslim beliefs are being insulted or 
Muslims humiliated,” said Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the 
American University in Cairo.

While he stressed that no one should ever condone violence against 
diplomats or embassies because of even the most offensive film, Mr. 
Shahin said it was easy to see why the protesters focused on the United 
States government’s outposts. “There is a war going on here,” he said. 
“This was a straw, if you will, that broke the camel’s back.

“The message here is we don’t care about your beliefs — that because of 
our freedom of expression we can demean them and degrade them any time, 
and we do not care about your feelings.”

There are also purely local dynamics that can fan the flames. In Tunis, 
an American school was set on fire by protesters angry over the video — 
but then looted of computers and musical instruments by people in the 
neighborhood.

Here in Cairo, ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis initially 
helped drum up outrage against the video and rally their supporters to 
protest outside the embassy. But by the time darkness fell and a handful 
of young men climbed the embassy wall, the Salafis were nowhere to be 
found, and they stayed away the rest of the week.

Egyptian officials said that some non-Salafis involved in the embassy 
attacks confessed to receiving payments, although no payer had been 
identified. But after the first afternoon, the next three days of 
protests were dominated by a relatively small number of teenagers and 
young men — including die-hard soccer fans known as ultras. They 
appeared to have been motivated mainly by the opportunity to attack the 
police, whom they revile.

Some commentators said they regretted that the violence here and around 
the region had overshadowed the underlying argument against the 
offensive video. “Our performance came out like that of a failed lawyer 
in a no-lose case,” Wael Kandil, an editor of the newspaper Sharouq, 
wrote in a column on Sunday. “We served our opponents something that 
made them drop the main issue and take us to the margins — this is what 
we accomplished with our bad performance.”

Mohamed Sabry, 29, a sculptor and art teacher at a downtown cafe, said 
he saw a darker picture. “To see the Islamic world in this condition of 
underdevelopment,” he said, “this is a bigger insult to the prophet.”

Mai Ayyad contributed reporting.

sdw



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