Opinion: The real issue

POSTED: 09/20/12 12:41 PM

If Mitt Romney, George Bush, Barack Obama, Queen Beatrix, Mark Rutte and Sarah Wescot-Williams and all their contemporaries were as sensitive about criticism as Muslims are about their prophet Mohammed all political cartoonists, critical journalists and columnists would either be dead or in prison by now.

Making fun of the prophet is a tricky proposition, as Salman Rushdie could tell you. When he published his Satanic Verses in 1989 the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against him that still stands today. Rushdie has lived in hiding for more than ten years and his life is not going to become any easier after the price on his head was upped to more than $3 million recently.

Now we are dealing with the amateurish Innocence of Muslims video that has incensed Muslims around the world, though somebody calculated that the protesters represent something like 0.00006 percent of all Muslims worldwide. A lot of good that will do you if these fanatics happen to fire a rocket at your office.

But this issue is not about numbers. It is about freedom of expression and, up to a point, respect for each other’s opinions. Jews are (in)famous for making jokes about Jews others would not dare to make. Same goes for black comedians: they get away with stuff about their own people that would land white comedians in the dog house.

But when anybody makes fun of the prophet the rules of the game change dramatically. It does not matter whether you are an obnoxious degenerate film maker from Los Angeles, a rabbi or a faithful Muslim with the wrong sense of humor. If you touch the prophet you’re applying for an early exit from your earthly existence.

The reason why this is happening is not too difficult to pinpoint, though any explanation is a mere opinion. Hirshi Ali has for instance claimed that the anger about the innocence of Muslims video comes from run of the mill Muslims, not from extremists. We think she is wrong there.

The anger the video has sparked has been consciously fueled by Muslims who need a new focal point to channel their anger against the big bad wolf – the United States of America.

That the laughably poor production became an explosive topic around September 11 is of course no coincidence. And now the chairman of the European parliament Martin Schulz has seen fit to criticize this “anti-Muslim movie.”

Well, it was not exactly a movie-review of course, everybody who has taken the trouble to watch this piece of garbage knows that the term worst movie ever does not begin to describe it. No, Schulz met with Arab members of the European parliament. After the meeting he had this to say: We agree that this kind of blasphemous films must be condemned. I condemn in the strongest possible terms not only the content, but also the distribution of such a movie that is tremendously humiliating for many people across the globe.”

Schulz’ remarks were not received well. Many saw them as support for radical Muslims. On Twitter many people noted that Schulz would have done better to make statement against the Muslim protesters who have in the meantime killed 30 people, amongst them the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

A president of parliament who refuses to make a stand for freedom of expression is not worthy of his office, others remarked.

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published an issue yesterday with cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. In a reaction the French government announced the closure of all embassies and schools across the globe, fearing protests after Friday’s midday prayers.

The White House also criticized Charlie Hebdo, saying that it questions the decision to publish the cartoons. A spokesman for President Obama also said that that the publication does not justify the use of violence.

So there you have it: freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but as soon as fanatics start throwing bombs, firing missiles and randomly killing people exercising this fundamental human right becomes questionable, even in the eyes of the United States where freedom of expression is akin to the Holy Grail.

The anger about the Innocence of Muslims video is not a spontaneous reaction of ordinary Muslims. It is a fabricated anger, designed to serve a specific purpose: to harm the interests of the United States. We’re not claiming that the United States is the world’s sugar daddy or that the country’s foreign policy is above reproach. That is an entirely different discussion.

It is worrisome that somebody like the president of the European parliament apparently has buckled under the pressure and put pacifying the Muslim community above everybody’s fundamental right to freedom of opinion. That is the real issue at stake here.

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