I am a Muslim and I condemn the rampant and widespread violent protests over a badly made anti-Islamic film.
I believe one needs to have a very high bar when it comes to getting offended. If everything is offensive to you, then it is perceived that something is wrong with you. The Indian government proved it recently with its tantrum against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s mediocre caricatures. Now a section of radical Muslims is proving it over an insignificant film.
I saw “Innocence of Muslims” a couple of days ago on YouTube. It is a laughable attempt at insulting Muslims and sooner rather than later would have met its fate at the hands of a Ricky Gervais or a Jay Leno. It is therefore worrying when such trash goes viral simply because a rabid bunch of Muslims sulked and how.
Getting hurt at intelligent lampooning (to some extent), à la Rushdie, is pardonable as long as the hurt does not translate into killing people. But if trashy lampooning by a convicted fraudster cannot be ignored, who cares if we shout from rooftops that ours is a “religion of peace.” More dangerously, such behaviour is fodder for all the critics of Muslims around the world. For example, in Gujarat where I live and work, many continue to absurdly justify the anti-Muslim violence in 2002 as a “reaction” to what the Muslims did to Kashmiri pandits thousands of miles away! The mistake of reviving the memories of another place, another time need not be repeated, especially in this digital age where offence can be manufactured at the click of a button (I’ve just read about the French cartoons today). It doesn’t take much intelligence to understand that you cannot punish an entire community or country for the acts of a few. But perhaps it does take a cogent leadership to condemn such universalisation of punishment. This the Muslims don’t have.
Above all, my biggest concern is that this has just pushed the moderate Muslim inside me deeper into solitary confinement.
(Raheel Dhattiwala is a doctoral candidate at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.)