The Innocence of Humans

Posted on September 17, 2012 by

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With all the recent news, I wonder what would happen if we could somehow get Muhammad and Jesus to sit down together and talk. What would they discuss? How would they interact? Would they get angry at one another? My guess is that they would not interact as their followers would in a similar situation. Interactions between differing religions and even cultures can be challenging and sometimes violent. When it comes to Middle East culture versus American culture, and Muslims tradition versus Christian tradition, there has been a unique if not overly violent history. To make it worse, the movie The Innocence Of Muslims (1) has unleashed a wave of Muslim anger. The movie insulted Islam and Muhammad in multiple ways, sparking violence in Libya and Egypt.  On Tuesday September 11th, riots led to an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. J. Christopher Stevens (2), Washington’s ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed by extremists.

This kind of complicated event raises many questions. Was there Christian extremist motive behind this movie? Why are Muslims so upset? Is it possible to have too much freedom of speech? One of the most important questions to ask is can Americans understand and relate to the world around us? For a country that started out rebellious and grew up to be a mosaic of individuals and beliefs, the rules and freedoms we set for ourselves matter when we interact with the world around us. The first amendment gives all Americans the freedom of speech. Steven Klein (3), a key figure in the production of the outrageous film, reminds the press of that fact. And he’s right. But to Muslims, the idea of free speech is not nearly as important as their sacred prophet Muhammad. “What kind of freedom of expression is that which hurts the religious sentiments of others?” said Haider Gul (4), a grocery store owner who joined the anti-American rally in Peshawar. Now America is in a tough spot. Clearly, free speech can be taken to the extreme. Now because of this “freedom,” 4 innocent Americans are dead, and many goodwill relationships between cultures are destroyed. Do we really have the freedom to offend and harm?

To advocate for the opposite argument, how can we determine what is offensive? Can we just write off the Muslims as “crazy” or “ultrasensitive?” I would say that many American Christians understand a joke here or a tease there about Jesus or God, but just because our culture gives us freedom to feel as we want, it does not give us the right to tell others how to feel or not to feel. “In Islam, the notion of God versus any depiction of God or any sacred figure is very strong.” says Akbar Ahmed (4), who chairs the Islamic Studies department at American University. As Americans, we need to understand that our way of life is different from in other cultures.

How we handle ourselves in this unprecedented situation will be remembered forever. Many Americans cry out for justice for the lives lost, and rightly so. President Obama (2) backs up his country by stating, “Make no mistake. Justice will be done.” But while the government works with the Libyan government to find the perpetrators, what happens to those who created the film? As many Americans cry out for justice for murdered friends and family, numerous Muslims are outraged that America could ever let this happen in the first place. While most Muslims agree that violence was not the answer, I would say that many still believe the passion behind the action was justified. After all, what’s the American constitution when compared to Muhammad?

When it comes down to it, I don’t think Muslims need tolerance, or Americans need more rules, I think everyone needs a little more education and strong patience. More education for everyone will lead to less incidents like this. People need to understand each other, even if they don’t agree with each other. Agreeing to disagree is a powerful way to stop conflict. With more patience, everyone needs to understand that there are extremists in every group. Extremists will do terrible things. But with strong patience, and education of the other side, we should look at the best way to resolve the situation, without calling for massacre of the other culture and religion. Neither Jesus nor Muhammad ever called for massacre.

1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAiOEV0v2RM

2: http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/12/world/africa/libya-us-ambassador-killed/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

3: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/national_world&id=8812521

4: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/12/ambassadors-killing-shines-light-on-muslim-sensitivities-around-prophet-mohammed/

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Posted in: Islam