Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic. But this is essentially the situation we have here.
In case you missed it, an outbreak of violence was initiated against U.S. Embassies in both Libya and Cairo. What is the reason for all this violence? Well, a trailer was posted on youtube titled “Innocence of Muslims”, which was (possibly mistakenly) interpreted to mock Mohammad and Islam in general.
Yes, that’s right. Criticizing and making fun of a religion is apparently reason to kill others.
When someone asks me why I have such a problem with religion in general, I point to episodes like this. If your ideology demands you kill those who criticize it, then your ideology is too weak to be taken seriously.
Islam however, is unique in this regard. If I posted a video of me burning a Torah scroll on Youtube, not even the most zealous of Ultra-Orthodox Jews would think of killing me or my family, let alone someone who represents the country I live in. And the only way I could get a Christian to kill me is if I worked at an abortion clinic.
It’s not that you don’t have Jews or Christians who can’t stand their religion being criticized. There are plenty of fundamentalists hailing from these religions who will make a conceded effort to reject and denounce criticisms of their faith without actually responding to the criticisms (i.e. Calling someone Anti-Semitic because they are against unnecessary violence on eight-day-old infants). And this speaks for the insecurity and pathetic nature of these religions.
Still, in the 21st century, you won’t get killed because you made fun of Jesus or Moses. It’s unfortunate that you can’t say the same for Mohammed.
What is more distressing, at least for someone living in the United States, is the reaction some people have had.
Here, we see how the Embassy responded.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others
The last part is particularly concerning. I wouldn’t define criticisms of a religion (even bad criticisms, which is actually the case with “Innocence of Islam”) to be abuse of free speech. In fact, even if you shouted “ISLAM IS THE RELIGION OF THE DEVIL” in front of the Freedom Tower with a megaphone, that still wouldn’t be an abuse of free speech.
Death threats would fall under the category of “an abuse of free speech”. Threatening the physical well being of others and their families is an abuse of free speech. However, criticizing a religion, no matter how much it offends others, doesn’t constitute an abuse of free speech, ever.
Even saying overtly false statements doesn’t constitute an abuse of free speech. If it did, half the Republican party would be rotting in jail because of denial of Evolution, Global Warming, or speaking complete nonsense about how women’s bodies have a built in defense mechanism to prevent rape babies (I’m looking at you, Akin).
So why would the American Embassy say something so incompetent? Probably because they recognize that Islam is unique in it’s barbarism and violence (at least in the 21st century), and thus it’s practitioners should be pandered to.
I understand this mentality, and perhaps I would feel differently if I was a diplomat or had relatives or friends working in an American Embassy in a predominantly Islamic state. But I find the attitude of “walking on eggshells” to be insipid and counterproductive.
The message being sent is one of an approval of violence. Fundamentalists can be as violent and zealous as they want, because they will always get their way. I seriously doubt that a sustainable, healthy global civilization will be possible when large portions of the world see violence as an effective means of silencing that which they don’t like.
And even then, Islam needs to learn to grow up. The Catholic Church stopped burning Atheists at the stake centuries ago, and they held the title of “World’s Worst Religion” for a long time (a title I’m afraid Islam has usurped). And indeed, there are plenty of Muslims who aren’t spoiled children, who don’t throw extreme tantrums because their feelings were hurt, and in many cases will debate Atheists/Anti-theists like Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, and Lawrence Krauss.
I wonder, when will western liberals finally be honest about the threat religions, particularly ones which are so antithetical to western values (like freedom of speech), pose to the world.