KRAYEM: Rage is right, riots are not

Iam Arab. I condemn the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocks the Muslim religion and its prophet. I also condemn the abhorrent reaction of protestors on the American embassy in Libya that lead to the death of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats.

I have watched the protests at American Embassies in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon and Iran. My senses are fueled by rage, my mind occupied by a surge of thoughts finally making their way onto paper.

The movie, a thirteen-minute trailer, depicts the Muslim prophet as a slaughterer, glutton and child molester. It derides excerpts of the Quran as solely the creation of the “preposterous” prophet, tailored to his personal needs and obsession with power. Needless to say, the trailer is poorly produced, the actors are far from impressive and the art direction is a joke.

I have been brought up in a secular surrounding, with no ties to any religion. However, I have learned to be tolerant and respectful towards any religion. I do not use the term tolerant loosely. I do not believe that one religion is superior over any other; rather, each is a mere set of beliefs and lifestyle people choose to abide by.

When I saw the movie, I was offended. Not as an Arab, not to signal support for Muslims, but as an individual whose values do not allow mocking or disrespecting people’s beliefs no matter the reason.

While the message of the trailer is far from subliminal, it is quite obvious that the purpose is to anger masses of Muslims, igniting violence that would serve as fodder for depictions of Muslims as extremists or terrorists — or any other rehashed label.

And — hearty congratulations to the repulsive but prodigious work of a young American — the rage has erupted like never before. Rioters have killed an ambassador and three other employees and confined American embassies in several countries, all in an attempt to protect what is left of their Muslim dignity.

I am ashamed of those people. Islam is not an identity. It is a religion that you believe in. It does not define you, and it certainly does not ask of you to slaughter any American because an offensive film’s producer is American. The theory of transitivity does not hold, and will never hold, especially when used to validate such unjustified violence.

America did not produce this movie; a dim-witted American did. Nothing justifies this massive outrage and dispossession of lives in reaction to an offensive movie.

I am aware that the United States Constitution upholds freedom of opinion and allows movies considered blasphemous and provocative of public outrage to be seen, but such a movie is taking freedom of expression a stretch too far, particularly given that its sole aim is to insult, ridicule and disrespect the Muslim religion. I refuse to compare this trivial movie to great works like Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” While I will not delve into the details of conspiracy theories, it is no coincidence that Sam Bacile’s movie came out on Sept. 11. Bizarrely lengthy trailers force audiences to question whether the whole movie actually exists.

We live in a tough world where everyone must be held accountable for his actions on an individual level, but certainly not on a national level. There are civil ways to punish Bacile, and the rule of law must prevail. The answer is not public vandalism of American property worldwide; the answer is not murder. Quite the contrary, such thoughtless reactions divert the attention from the real issue at hand and highlight our shameless faults.

I am Arab. And I dream of an Arab world of moderation: a world where people are able to read between the lines and distinguish between a set-up and a real cause, a world where our rage is not instinctive but tamed and rationalized.

Two years ago, in the name of the Arab Spring, we made a vow to transition to a better world, a world void of tyranny, marked by freedom and enriched by tolerance. Today, we taint that vow with horrid barbaric actions of extremism from the seventh century. I dream of a setting where a movie like “Innocence of Muslims” is belittled, ignored and laughed at — a setting where religion is not an identity, where none of us has the urge to kill. I am Arab, and I dream a lot.

Dima Krayem is a master’s student in international and development economics.

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