Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sanctity of Speech or Prophets

By Abu Anas

Egyptians and Libyans were enraged, last Tuesday, by an offensive and hateful US produced film that depicted Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a degrading manner. In Egypt, protesters climbed over the US embassy in Cairo and teared the American flag, while in Libya, an angry and armed crowd surrounded the US embassy in Benghazi setting it on fire after throwing grenades and storming it with live bullets. The US Ambassador to Libya was killed in addition to three other foreign service personnel.1 Many Libyan security forces sacrificed their lives while trying to protect the embassy during the encounter.

This incident comes at a very delicate time when the US is trying to rebuild relations and trust with the Muslim world after the Arab revolutions. In the past, the Western-backed tyrants of the Middle East used to rule by an iron fist and would have crushed such protests, but today the Arab world went through a transformation that has set limits on these regimes. Especially the "liberal" Islamist governments, that were voted in recently, would encounter the wrath of the masses if they side with the insult of Islam. That is why the Brotherhood government in Egypt has condemned the US film and even called for a peaceful vigil in front of the same US embassy in Cairo. This constitutes the dilemma of the US foreign policy towards the Muslim world, which is a clash of values and ideals! 

While some Westerners might argue that these types of films are protected by the freedom of speech in a civil democratic state, Muslims consider such portrayal of their Prophet as blasphemy. The world had witnessed, for the last ten years, the worldwide demonstrations against the Danish cartoons and the uniform response across the Islamic world. As a case in point, when a protester in Cairo was asked about free speech, he replied, "freedom of religion is more important than freedom of expression"1, which is a rejection for the sanctity of this liberal and secular value. This clearly shows that Muslims oppose the real notion of a civil democratic state which would approve of the disdain of religion. In reality, what Muslims are demanding for, through the Arab Spring, are the rights to freely choose their rulers and to have social, economical and political justice based on the sacred teachings of their religion.


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