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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs