Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yelling "Fire" in a Crowded Theater....that's on fire

And all the brouhaha in the Middle East continues--supposedly over an anti-Mohammad film, and now some French satirical cartoons.

I haven't seen the movie clip yet, but everyone says it's pretty amateurish. Maybe all those rioting Muslims don't have a problem with the content, but are all film critics and just HATE substandard productions.

Not that I think for a second that the film really provoked all this violence. Too many factors intersected: it's  likely that the film was a pretext, and now it looks like the Current Administration is reluctantly beginning to admit as much. For one thing, the clip had been circulating for months prior to all this violence. For another, the riots were too well-organized to have arisen spontaneously. And on the anniversary of the greatest Islamic military victory of the 21st Century! If you believe in coincidence, which I don't, that's a pretty big one.

Our press is constantly urging us to "move past" the "events" of 9/11--as if 3,000+ people died in a natural disaster instead of being immolated by murderers--but I guess no one in the Muslim world got that memo. And really, how many among the rioting mobs actually saw the film clip? Not that it matters, because we've seen other riots over the past decade that were provoked by rumors at Friday prayers.

As for portraying Mohammad in an offensive manner, you don't have to do much.  Anyone who has had the misfortune of sitting through "The Messenger," a 1970's biopic starring Anthony Quinn, might recall that bloody riots ensued when word about that production leaked. The cast and crew had to move the entire operation to Turkey, and they were still under threat. (I wouldn't have even known about this film if not for some Muslim friends who insisted this would be a life-changing experience for me. Yeah: I lost a lot of respect for Anthony Quinn as a result.)

That movie was intended to portray Mohammad without actually portraying Mohammad, which saved them from having to pay at least one actor's salary. The directer wanted the film to be totally positive and inoffensive, so the point of view of the cameraman served as the Mohammad character: no face, no voice, just Anthony Quinn approaching in closeup to say things like, "What would you have us do, O Messenger of Allah?" and then Anthony Quinn would restate what was apparently Mohammad's advice. It was a weird movie, but about as controversial as an episode of The Waltons. 

It is pointless to worry about offending Muslims because Muslims will be offended anyway. In Spain, they're offended by female meter maids, and several Muslim-majority towns have become so dangerous for women to hand out parking tickets that they have been re-assigned out of fear for their own safety.

(This has caused kind of a dilemma for the political left wing in those areas, long advocates of broader immigration policies and more "tolerance"....because they have also stood for women's rights. Suddenly tolerating the intolerant has become an issue.)

But let's just say that the recent "provocative" film trailer was, instead, an accurate portrayal of what Muslim scholars agree are the facts of Mohammad's life. No one has come out and said this, but such a movie would be pretty damning, by our standards. He would come across as a homicidal monster with broad and uncontrolled sexual appetites, including a fondness for little girls. (No one who has studied Islam, from a strictly Muslim perspective, disputes the fact that he was in his 50's when he consummated his marriage to 9 year old Aisha, or that he put out  contract killings on his detractors. Among other things.)

I have lost patience with people who have--while condemning the Embassy attacks--insist on offering a lame apology for the trailer. These are the same people who got all bent out of shape when kooky Rev. Terry Jones wanted to burn all those Qur'ans. The response to the violence should be, "Knock it off!" Remember the saying, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? A lot of the rioters ought to be able to relate to the stoning part of that adage, and they should grow up and accept that insults lose their power when they are ignored.

The US has unfortunately gotten on board with anti-blasphemy initiatives that have been pushed through the UN by powerful Muslim interests and are now being enforced in places like Pakistan. Hillary Clinton is a big supporter of anti-blasphemy laws because she confuses blasphemy with discrimination. Blasphemy is entirely defined by the dominant religion of any given country, and as we've seen, there is a LOT that falls under the blasphemy umbrella in Islam.

The problem with blasphemy laws is that it merges state and religious concerns. Blasphemy should fall under rules by  which believers live, and no one has a problem with religious leaders deciding who should be forced out of a religious community for violating the precepts of that religion. But when believers AND non-believers are all held criminally responsible for religious offenses and subjected to legal prosecution, terrible things can happen. (Like, crucifixion! But I'm sure you can think of other examples.)

Recently, a retarded Pakistani girl was released from a Pakistani jail  because she had been charged with blasphemy for burning pages from the Qur'an along with the household trash.  Her family was Christian in a neighborhood that had recently decided to encourage non-Muslims to move. The girl was illiterate and developmentally delayed, with absolutely no understanding of why she was arrested and separated from her family. Eventually a neighbor came forward and reported the local imam to the police. The imam had in fact planted the burned papers, and he's now in jail. The girl and her family have since, wisely, moved.

The State Dept. was silent on this event because the Pakistani authorities had been given, indirectly, the US seal of approval to go after this kid.

The people who apologize for the offensiveness of crummy movies are the same people who want to protect the rights of Islamic states to persecute the innocent for the crime of not embracing shariah.

Victor David Hanson has an excellent analysis of the situation here, and he makes these recommendations for dealing with the Muslim world:

Start developing vast new oil and gas finds on public lands here at home. Get our financial house in order. Quietly cut back aid to hostile Middle East governments. Put travel off-limits. Restrict visas and call home ambassadors -- at least until Arab governments control their own street mobs.
Develop a consistent policy on the so-called Arab Spring that applies the same criticism of illiberal dictators to the theocrats who depose them. Keep quiet and keep our military strong. Don't apologize for a few Americans who have a right to be crude. Instead, condemn those premodern zealots who would murder anyone of whom they don't approve.

Detectives who solve homicides--like the deaths of our foreign service officers--always look for means, motive, and opportunity. The means, of course, were sheer numbers of angry people, many of them armed; the motive is a deep-seated hatred of functional non-Muslim societies, but particularly the imprisonment of the mastermind of the first WTC attack ("The Blind Sheikh") and the opportunity was 9/11. 

[It will be very interesting to see if the Blind Sheikh will be transferred to Egypt, as per the demands of The Arab Street and the Muslim Brotherhood (they're our friends now, remember?). I certainly hope this is out of the question. If he is given a humanitarian release, remember that only a fellow Muslim would extend such a favor, and he would have to have a very high position in our government to do so.] 

If the anti-American riots show us anything, it's that "offensive" movies are not the problem. The problem for the civilized world is that, contrary to what President Obama says, we ARE at war with Islam. Not every single Muslim was out there causing mayhem. But we have to admit that, by protecting freedom of religion and freedom of speech, as well as basic human rights, we are on a direct collision course with millions of people who all share an ideology and who would like to limit--or eliminate--those liberties.