To the members of the Muslim community who saw fit to attack the U.S. embassies in Cairo and Benghazi, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya —
This is what you were protesting:
This god-awful, piss-poor, wretched excuse for film-making. That is what compelled you to protest. Granted, I think it warrants protest as well, but in my case it’s because, as a struggling artist, I consider it a crime against nature that any money, time, or energy was actually expended creating such a pathetic and worthless pile of cinematic horse-shit. Speaking only for myself, if I’m going to bother protesting a film, I’m going to at least make sure it’s well-made.
Now, I realize that the quality of the material is irrelevant to you. What matters is that your prophet was depicted (and pretty pejoratively, fair enough), which is against your religion. Fine. But here’s the thing — your reaction is wholly, in every way possible, without justification. Because whether you like it or not, you are now a part of the modern world. And there are consequences, as you’ve probably noticed, to being a part of the modern world:
1.) Your religious beliefs are fair game. Any beliefs, for that matter. Fair game. For anyone. The president and secretary of state have made nice statements about how we “reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” but the fact of the matter is we do it all the time. And again, it’s not just religious beliefs. We reserve the right to mock, belittle, impugn, and just plain laugh at anyone’s opinions, beliefs, and worldviews that may or may not agree with our own. It’s called freedom of speech. While you may still try to infringe upon that right in your neck of the woods, we in the United States will treasure, defend, and exercise it to the very end, so you should probably get used to that. Religion has its own protections, of course. We are equally (if not more) devoted to our freedom of religion. And that leads me to my second point.
2.) Freedom of religion means freedom of belief, as well as the free exercise thereof. Your exercise. Not anyone else’s. You do not get to force individuals of other faith communities (or no faith community at all) to abide by your religious precepts, and you certainly don’t get to exact punishment on them if they don’t. Don’t worry, I get what’s going on. We have religious zealots here in the United States who don’t understand that distinction either. And, every now and then, they engage in their own violence and blow up an abortion clinic or two. But would you like to guess how much additional respect they earn for their religious beliefs by engaging in the violence? Absolutely zero. In fact, they become that much more marginalized, ridiculed, and dismissed as being unfit for society (in addition to being criminals, of course). Because we recognize in a liberal, democratic society that no amount of moral offense is a justification for violence. Furthermore, we acknowledge that we have our own individual responsibility to avoid and shield ourselves from things likely to offend us. My mother does not visit seancody.com. I do not read Focus on the Family newsletters.
There’s a popular meme that surfaces every now and then on Facebook that follows the general rhetorical setup of “Against gay marriage? Don’t get one… Against abortion? Don’t have one…” and so on and so forth. Perhaps we should add to the list “Against crappy movies that portray a religious figure in a negative way? DON’T WATCH THE GOD-DAMN MOVIE”
As a final thought, please consider this: even as derogatory as the portrayal of Mohammed is in that film, I can pretty much guarantee you that not a single American’s view of Islam was going to be influenced by it. Why? Because the film sucks. And if any American was influenced by that film, my guess is that their own worldview is so warped they probably watched it while preparing a homemade bomb for their neighborhood abortion clinic (see how I brought it full circle there?).
But do you know what does have a very real, immediate, and lasting impact on the world’s perception of your religion and those who practice it? Your decision to react to every perceived threat to the holiness of your faith with violence. Every time you react in this way, you justify the prejudices of everyone in this world who views your culture as immature, volatile, downright medieval, and not worthy of being treated as an equal partner on the world stage.
And while you may not care much now about how esteemed you are in the non-Islamic world, you might stop and think of what that will mean for you the next time an American president decides he needs to invade your country for oil.