Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Innocence of Islam: On Relations between Islam and the West

Pastor Terry Jones-the notorious Islam and Muslim hater- has helped in producing and promoting a film titled,’ Innocence of Islam’. The film and its title-a loaded and an insidious one- have apparently been financed by an Israeli American real estate developer. It has naturally elicited protests in the Arab Muslim world. Unfortunately, the protests have turned violent leading to the death of an American diplomat and destruction of property and material. Media commentary on the issue has pointed out to the sour and souring nature of relations between the United States and the Arab Muslim world and the deemed the protests as indicative of this. The United States embassy has issued an apology and declaimed the acts of an individual and pointed out briefly the nature of the contemporary United States: a tolerant country that respects religion and religious beliefs.


This apology, however, will not calm passions in the Arab Muslim world given that the masses are excited and animated by things other than bland apologies and given the depth of anti Americanism in the Arab Muslim world. (This anti Americanism or broadly anti westernism is perhaps matched by aversion toward Islam in the west. And, in a grim irony, both are premised on stereotypes).The film adds fuel to the fire. It is neither aimed at educating nor entertainment. The aim of the film is to sow division, hatred and inflame. It has multiple audiences in mind-the western one and the Muslim one. To the former, the film validates prejudices about Islam and Muslims and to the former the film is means to provoke and inflame. The reasons, if one may speculate, are to deepen the chasm between Islam and the West or more accurately the United States.


The hateful pastor has unfortunately succeeded in provoking and stirring the Arab Muslim world. Having said this, it cannot be clearly stated that the protests are not orchestrated and that that who want to malign the Arab Spring may not be behind the protests or in the least stoking them. The protests will validate to the west that Islam is a regressive religion, with violence central to it. And, it will harden the beliefs of Muslims that the west or the United States is against Islam. And that there is a bit of a conspiracy between Jew and Christians to malign, impugn and discredit Islam. In other words, the flawed Jewish-Crusader alliance theory will gain credence. This can be but bad for the relations between Islam and the west. This development will redound negatively to both the world of Islam and the West.


State society relations in many parts of the Arab Muslim world may now be aligned but this alignment does not and should not mean a confrontation with the West. The West is more than the sum of its parts and cannot be reduced to hedonism. It is the pioneer of modernity and good relations with the West are important for the Muslim world if Islam is to integrate and synthesize reason with faith. Confrontation and its concomitant isolation then will not be a prudent option for the Muslim world.  The same holds true for the West. Confrontation or a skewed relationship with the Muslim world will lead to the same jaundiced dynamic that determined relations between the two , the attendant security problems and the division of the world into hostile blocs. The idiom  and the prism that each will see the other will be that of security and terrorism. This is an unsalutary and an ignonimous development.


The question is what can be done to prevent this scenario or more accurately development? The first step is restraint and prudent caution by both sides. The second would be to develop and a more sanguine and prudent framework for relations between the Arab Muslim world and the United States. This framework should not be informed by old , dated and impractical shibboleths but by new paradigms. The United States should take recourse to vigorous public diplomacy and outreach programs that explain the nature of the west and the United States to Muslims-how it is a tolerant country where freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution and where a vibrant Muslim diaspora thrives and excels. This cannot and should not be a one way street or exercise. Sober and prudent sections of Muslim opinion and society should also endeavor to understand and put into perspective the nature of the west and the United States. They should then explain this to the lay section of the Muslim population in their respective countries. Mutual understanding, tolerance and disavowal of bigotry, flawed stereotypes and hatred are the operative words and themes. It is then that the insidious designs and intentions of the likes of Pastor Jones  and other insidious forces who want confrontation will be defeated and sobriety injected into the relations between Islam and the West. Till then, the forces of darkness will prevail on either side. It is the marginalization of these forces that energies must be focused on. Let these not be allowed to prevail and let reason and prudence win.


  1. KNow this to be true, Islam is based on intolerance - while the west relies on tolerance. An open and free society has varying opinions, some good, some bad but mostly educated. When Islam becomes tolerant those believers will be truly free, until then they are enslaved by the writings

  2. I am an American, and a Muslim. I love America and God. We are free in America to express our beliefs, however, when those freedoms trample, hurt and maim other people and their freedoms, then that should be against the law and constitution. This so-called Christian pastor should be held responsible for the deaths of these men. He has already incited violence because of his burning of the Qur'an last year. How would he feel if someone did that with the Bible? Obviously, he doesn't realize, in his ignorance, that Islam holds Jesus and the Bible in high esteem. I was born and raised in America. As a matter of fact, I am native American. I'm so tired of people who are so narrow minded that they can't see past their own tiny opinions to see any other point of view. Isn't that why all the Europeans came to America in the first place? To get away from people just like this? These guys stand up and say, "Get out of my country." as if they were there first. I can say the same thing and be justified. Can they? Where did their ancestors come from? Mine were here first. And their ancestors did the same thing to my people as this guy is trying to do to the Muslims now. They say ignorance is bliss, but in this case, ignorance is murderous. I'm sure this will get media coverage as some unimaginable attack from the Muslim extremists. I don't condone any violence that the terrorists are doing. It's totally against Islam, but propagating lies and hating others is against Christianity as well. Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." This guy must really hate himself. His ignorance is so obvious. He doesn't even know the history of Christianity and what was done to "convert" the world, or what is still happening. It's time people start judging people by the intent of their heart and the character instead of what religion they follow or color of their skin. I truly thought we settled this in 1964. I guess, I was wrong.