America champions the freedoms of speech and religion and that makes it a desirable place to live. Having said that, I also believe that with freedom comes responsibility. People should consider sensitivities of the immense diversity existing in this great nation while practicing their right of freedom of speech.
Any irresponsible statement about a person or a group could result in creating suspicion, fear and hate among the masses. Extremism that exists all around, flourishes on it and results in pain at the end. Anti Muslim sentiments in the US are on the rise and being a Muslim, a cause of great concern. A new sample of hate, the new movie by an Egyptian Coptic Christian (based in California) titled ‘Innocence of Muslims’ that caused a lot of chaos around the Islamic world.
On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, while CNN was reporting on its recent poll, 70 percent of Americans have decided to move on from the tragedy of 9/11 (especially after Osama bin Laden is gone) and getting their focus on states of the economy and election; another tragedy struck. Riots broke out in the Middle East in protest of the said movie. The moviemaker’s apparent objective was to offend the feelings of Muslims by ridiculing the Prophet of Islam due to his belief in Islam to be a ‘cancer’. There is no doubt that he is entitled to his opinion, but it was not the case of freedom of speech but rather more of hate speech. And what did hate this result into? More hate, innocent lives lost in Libya including U.S. Ambassador Stevens.
Though the reaction to this hateful film was equally hateful and irrational, the focus should remain on the hate that triggered it. Even if the authorities believe that this kind of reaction in Libya and many other Muslim countries might not be the direct result of this filthy film, there is still need to find the actual cause.
Just last month, hate instigated the killing of innocent Sikhs in Wisconsin and even right after 9/11, a case of mistaken identity. People need to remember, Islam is the second largest religion of the world and majority does not agree with this kind of violence and bloodshed. Islam is pro-life, pro-moderation, pro-tolerance and pro-human rights and religious freedoms. If some ignorant clerics are misleading and picking the extreme route, then the whole faith should not be judged based on the actions of a few. These incidents are reminders that there is even greater need for interfaith dialogue and awareness.
I am glad that many Muslim leaders took a stance and denounced the unjust killing of fellow Americas as a result of these riots. It was heartwarming to receive notes of concern and disgust from local Christians over the film made to disgrace founder of our religion. As Muslims, we believe that all prophets of God (1,24,000 in total) are equally respectable and an effort to disrespect any one of them is indecent. Discussing blasphemy, the fourth Caliph (world wide spiritual leader) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the late Mirza Tahir Ahmad made it very clear that, “Islam does not advocate the punishment of blasphemy in this world nor vests such authority in anyone.” (Islam’s Response to Contemporary Issues, page 39)
In conclusion, there is absolutely no need of violence to show difference of opinion. Hate is evil and brings out the worst in people. The movie was inappropriate and so was the response to it. We need to remember that at the end, love conquers and hate divides so the hate needs to go.