News / Middle East

    Different Voices on Islamic Protests

    A Muslim youth holds up a placard during a protest against against the anti-Islam film, in Jammu, India Sept. 21, 2012.
    A Muslim youth holds up a placard during a protest against against the anti-Islam film, in Jammu, India Sept. 21, 2012.
    The nature of worldwide protests against an anti-Muslim video made at a California film studio has ranged from orderly to deadly. Similarly, the reaction of political leaders, clerics and intellectuals has varied greatly.
     
    While virtually no one defends the video itself, there is a great disparity of opinion about the violence it has provoked and the underlying causes of the violence.

    Here, VOA gathers a sampling of those comments:
     
    Mufti Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the top Muslim leader in Bosnia, addressed the subject Thursday in an interview with VOA's Bosnian service.
     
    “Some people have their own agendas and reasons for provoking with the movies like this one, or the cartoons and that is not the first time. However, it must not be a reason for the violence and fiery reaction we have seen so far.”
     
    The mufti said the violence has been provoked by individuals with a political agenda.
     
    “I think that, both in the West and in certain Islamic countries, there are people who would like to prevent Muslims getting into [a] good and close relationship and mutual cooperation with the Western countries. There is no prescription on how to stop this now, but I am encouraged with the latest voices of the Ulema [Muslim religious leaders] who call upon peace.”
     
    He also urged Muslims not to blame the United States for the video.
     
    “I am very sorry that some politicians in the Muslim world accused the U.S. government to have something to do with the movie. That is wrong, and I would like to send a message to those who listen, and especially to the Muslims of the Balkans, that it is utterly irresponsible to accuse [the] U.S . Government for something which in the Western world is clearly [an] freedom of expression.”
     
    U.S. Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine made a similar point in an interview with the Alhurra television network.
     
    “Let me be very clear. The United States government had nothing to do with that hateful and disgusting piece of video. Nothing. Full stop. And that is worth repeating because I think not everyone in the world understands that. We had nothing to do with that piece of video.”
     
    Sonenshine said U.S. laws and principles sometimes lead the government to defend the right of individuals to say things it finds abhorrent.
     
    “But again, what is unacceptable is when a piece of video leads to violence. Violence in response to that piece of video is unacceptable. It is not how people want to live. So we find ourselves defending those universal freedoms, and yet also speaking out against the ugliness of the video and the violence of the response. Confusing to some, contradictory, yes.”
     
    There is no confusion about how to respond to the video in the mind of Qari Yaqoob Sheikh, a leader of the Islamist Jamaat-ut-Dawa organization.

    Members of that group marched in protest Friday in Lahore, Pakistan. Qari Yaqoob Sheikh's remarks were recorded by VOA correspondent Sharon Behn.
     
    "This is an insult, and we condemn the movie, and the American government should arrest and hang Sam Bacile and all the actors in the movie, or our protests will continue."
     
    Behn also recorded the tough line taken by Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
     
    "We are demanding that the United Nations and other international organizations seek a law that bans such hate speech aimed at fomenting hatred and sowing the seeds of discord through such falsehoods, which is a grave violation of all basic norms of humanity."
     
    A more moderate note was sounded by Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's ruling Islamist Ennahda party.

    He was recorded Thursday by VOA correspondent Elizabeth Bryant.
     
    “While Muslims have the right to protest, they do not have the right to get violent with their adversaries, especially that U.S. Embassies and personnel have nothing to do with this issue. That is why we deplore the attacks, whether in Libya or Tunisia, against the embassies and personnel. Thank God that in Tunisia the damage was only physical and there was no loss of lives. Tunisian security forces dealt with the aggressors with needed firmness and killed some of them and injured others. “
     
    Indonesia's ambassador to the United States, Dino Patti Djalal, said he has told U.S. officials that the video is damaging to harmonious interfaith relations.

    He spoke to VOA's Indonesian service after a meeting at the White House this week.
     
    "Our message to them was that this video plagues any effort toward a peaceful inter-religious society, not just in Indonesia, but on an international level. We also said that we, the people of Indonesia, both Muslims and non-Muslims, condemn harshly this video."
     
    The ambassador added that the American officials are themselves critical of the video.
     
    "The U.S. officials we met understand our position and they agree that the video is contrary to the goals of both Indonesia and the U.S., which is to create a peaceful and tolerant society among religious groups. They, the U.S. officials we met, also expressed that they have condemned the video and have asked YouTube to review the content of the video and whether it deserves to stay on YouTube."
     
    Olivier Roy, a French scholar who has written extensively on Islam and politics of the Middle East and Central Asia, notes the anti-video protests are much smaller than the Arab Spring rallies seen in many countries over the past two years.

    He spoke this week in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
     
    "The protests have been carried out by a small minority. [For example,] you have 2,000 Salafists in Tunisia and you have 190 in Paris. So, it's politically motivated. It's simply politics. If the Muslim world were against the West, you would have millions of people on the streets, but now you only have thousands of people on the streets. So, it's a way to present an elliptical illusion."
     
    Tariq Ali, a veteran Pakistani-born British military historian, author and journalist, told RFE/RL that the protests have more to do with broad geopolitical trends than with the video itself.
     
    "The reasons these films are being made is precisely because of the occupation of the Muslim world by the United States and its allies, which have created an atmosphere of extreme Islamophobia. You have, sometimes, liberals but usually the right and extreme right, which feel it's a good thing to carry on provoking [extremists in the Middle East]. That's why they do it. It has nothing to do with free speech."
     
    Charles Kurzman, an author and leading authority on Muslim movements, also was interviewed by RFE/RL. He argued that the protesters do not represent Muslims as a whole.
     
    “Let's keep in mind that protesting an insult is perfectly legal in most countries including the United States, and if people want to hold signs or even burn flags, they're allowed to do that. That is called free speech, and so I do not mind when groups organize to protest a movie. I think that is a sign of political participation. Now, when those protests turn violent, of course, then a crime has been committed and I oppose that. But to give these filmmakers the level of importance that these protests have done is almost a gift - a gift by extremists from one side to the extremists on the other side - and it's a gift that keeps circulating among the extremes."

    Here are some views from our audience:

    Via Matthew on Facebook:

    I'll be the first to admit many people see both ways of life, Islamic and Western, as backwards, but there are also many people who are intelligent enough to realize these stereotypes are insufficient to define, address, or solve our problems. The obvious prejudices from both groups in the past week are very troubling.

    Via Tian:

    One must strike a balance between freedom of expression and the duty/responsibility/sensitivity which come along with this freedom. In ancient Chinese wisdom of words, acts of humility and respect for other religions speak louder than words - Live and Let Live. This stupid man who denigrates the holy symbol of others' religion brings shame to the good name of ordinary American folk.



    Via Twitter:

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: James from: Nebraska
    September 22, 2012 11:58 AM
    The issue is not Islam. The issue is religion: without it you would have good people doing good and evil people doing bad, but to get good people to do evil you need religion. Plenty of evil is done in the name of religion here too.

    by: Rob from: Nebraska
    September 21, 2012 4:11 PM
    Seriously, You all believe that the act of violence is caused by a movie. That is like saying that I am going to harm my neighbor because I do not approve of his opinions. Hillary Clinton stated that America has been Religious tolerant since this country was founded and if she knew her history she would know that this is not the case. These outrages just proves that the Islamic nation will fight over just about anything.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.