Saturday, September 22, 2012

Misguided response to desecration of Islam

Over the past couple of days, I tried to make sense of violent, anti-American protests, killings and destruction of property in the Muslim world sparked by a video made in the United States. Anyone interested in international affairs remembers what happened in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September 2012 - the day J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya, was killed during a protest against a video mocking Prophet Mohammad.  The ambassador was killed with three other Americans and the US government believes that the attack that claimed the ambassador's life was an act of terrorism.

Terrorism is defined as "... the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objective." [SourceMindful of the definition of "terrorism", it is plausible that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was an act of terror by radical Islamists designed to coerce the US administration and intimidate the non-Muslim, civilian population.

Besides the consulate in Benghazi, other US diplomatic posts in the Middle East were breached by violent mobs operating outside the law. Violent protests spread across the Muslim world with incidents reported in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia, Morocco, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. In Pakistan, deadly protests left at least 19 people dead on a  day dubbed "day of love" for the Prophet Mohammad by the Pakistani government. This was a disservice to Islam and the Prophet.

Protesters have the right to express their grievances but it cannot be overemphasized that rights come with responsibilities. Rights should not be enjoyed in a way that violate the rights of others. The author of the controversial video has the right to express himself and at the same time he has a moral - if not legal duty to ensure that his rights do not undermine the rights of others.

The movie that sparked all this violence is distasteful. It desecrates Islam. In this vein, it should be condemned.

On the other hand, the response to the video is equally distasteful and reprehensible. The video in question was made by an individual in the US and the Obama administration has distanced itself from it. Top US officials including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have strongly condemned the video. It is therefore senseless to go attacking US embassies and diplomatic posts because of the action of an individual who has nothing to do with US policy. Such assaults suggest anti-Americanism and justify the deployment of American troops to "protect" the country's interests around the world.

The world would be literally "unlivable" and chaotic if we all go burning flags, attacking embassies and killing diplomatic staff because of the actions of nationals they represent. During a visit by the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William to France, a photographer took topless photographs of the Duchess and the photographs were published in a French magazine. Many Brits and supporters of the Royal Family were offended by what some termed a "grotesque" violation of privacy. French embassies were not attacked by supporters of the monarchy because of the actions of a few individuals in France. The photos were condemned and the offended royals pursued legal means to redress the situation.

Violence is not a sensible and effective response to desecration of a religion. Widespread violence failed to stop a French magazine from publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad barely one week after ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. Again - the decision by the French magazine to publish caricatures of the prophet is provocative. It is also not a cause for violence.

When rights are violated or when people are offended by the actions of others, it is the business of law enforcement and courts to ensure that justice is served. Offended persons should seek redress through legal channels and refrain from operating outside the law. French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, shared this view during an interview with France 24.

It is unreasonable to attack embassies and diplomats because of the actions of reckless or hate-mongering individuals. Many Muslims understand this - that is why there were counter demonstrations by Muslims against the violence. Not all Muslims endorse violence in response to desecration of Islam.

I am sure many Americans were offended by the denigration of their flag in Egypt, Pakistan and other countries where diplomatic grounds were breached, and the killing of ambassador Christopher Stevens. But no embassies were attacked as a result.

Violence is no solution to offense or provocation.

*Photo: The Week.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. The US is a nation of free enterprise; the government has no control over individual ventures. This was a one-man idea, yet the response is against the entire country. I agree with those who observe this to have been nothing but an excuse to perform these extremist acts by radicals.


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