On September 10, 2012,the world first gained attention to a purported low budget film that Muslims regard as an insult to the Prophet Mohammad, and the religion of Islam, when Channel 4 decided to put a hold on the broadcast of the documentary film “The innocence of Islam” because of fear from Islamic extremists who threatened a disastrous repercussion. But then it seemed all hell was let loose by what followed in less than twenty-four hours, as the world was raptured into another waves of religious violence.
The turmoil surrounding the low-budget movie alleged to have denigrated the Prophet Muhammad has unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world, reminiscent of medieval time, when people were often accused of heresy, and blasphemy, and killed by angry mob in the name of religion. Thousands of protesters first swarmed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, burning the US flag, and then spread unto Libya where the American Ambassador to Libya was killed, along with four other Americans before the violence outburst continued onto Afghanistan, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Indonesia where protesters also burnt U.S. flags and chanted “Death to America”.
However, the most disturbing thing about the episode is its blatant challenge of the Twenty-first Century, the age of information, the peak of knowledge. Or, perhaps, what is even more alarming is the way in which Western politicians and their Islamic counterparts have gone about denigrating a humble work of arts. (I can’t remember when last politicians became film critics.) Politicians from around the Free World need to open their eyes and see beyond this violent outburst of more than a million people over the screening of a low budget, poorly made film by a group of amateurs. No matter what the content of the film was, no simple work of arts in the Twenty-first century should be able to stir up such violent outburst most especially from a religion which very name means peace.
Whatever may have been the intent of the producers of the alleged Anti-Islamic film, one thing remains totally clear: the movie is an embodiment of what freedom of expression is all about – the ability to think freely and to make critical judgment on everything that affects our modern world, from religion to politics. People don’t have to agree with the work, in fact that’s the beauty of every art, to be able to draw your own reasonable conclusion as an observer or critic.
The freedom of the human spirit is the most dynamic gift to mankind. And one individual who effectively took advantage of it was the Indian/South African Muslim scholar and cleric, Ahmed Deedad, who wrote so many Anti-Christian literatures poking fun at such Christian teachings as the Resurrection, without rage from Christians against Muslims, or against the publishers of his Anti-Christian’s materials. Despite being a Muslim, he lived in the Free World, and took advantage of the opportunity of its freedom of expression, and became one of the greatest contemporary Muslim scholars to be awarded the prestigious King Faisal International Prize in 1986 for his 50 years of outstanding literary work.
And it’s with this same standard of the Free World, we free thinkers are set to unraveled the many mysteries of our world, especially unclear ideas of divinity imposed upon our humanity. The amazing thing about this century is that it ushers mankind into an age where we are just as eager to know – to understand the significance of more than hundred religions that have claimed ‘to be the only hope of mankind in a world nearing its end’, in as much as we want to understand the current state of our expanding universe, and what hope we have in it as human beings. And nothing can stop this quest. Not even a religion like Islam which was founded some five hundred years after such rooted religions like Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity, can hinder mankind’s quest for knowledge.
The fact is, it took the Church some hard truths from radical reformers like Luther, Swingli and Calvin, who were willing to be burnt, beheaded or stoned to death by the church for heresy, before they suddenly realized some grave errors. But the sad truth is Islam has violated every law of the Twenty-first Century.
For years, Islam has struggled to distance itself from the perceived images of a religion that practices terrorism, or Jihadism in the name of God, and a religion that violates human rights, especially that of women. But the recent outburst of violence from millions of faithful Muslims around the world have clearly demonstrated the religion’s phobia of freedom of speech, the hallmark of the Twenty-first Century, which does not support ignorance, but seeks to scrutinize all ancient ideas and beliefs.
The fact that Islamic militias, and hate groups like Hezbollah that often reportedly practiced terrorism and jihadism could rally so effectively the rest of the Muslim world against America, a strong supporter of universal human rights, should sent a clear message to the rest of the Free World that Islam is just as united in its acts of intolerant that leads to violence and bloodshed as ever.
Conclusively, freedom of expressions in this Twenty-first century is going to be more dynamic than any fixed belief in any ancient teaching. The dark days of Islam have become numbered. People are eager to know why is jihadism so often linked with a religion like Islam that claimed to be peaceful. And other secrets like what kind of life did the Prophet Muhammad lived as a trader between Mecca and Jerusalem for more than 15 years before he became a prophet.
People also want to know such complicating issues as if the messages of Judaism and Christianity that are so widely contrasted in the Quran from that of the two ancient Holy books were first learned from Christian missionaries or Jews he met during his caravans, or actually from an angel. And what kind of life did the prohet of Islam lived after his claim of a visitation from an angel of God, which scholars of Islam often claimed gave the Quran to him in a complete version. And people want to know all these from more historical point of views, different from the censored versions given by Islamic scholars.
No amount of threats from any given religion can stop this quest for knowledge, and the sooner these blind religious zealots get to know, the better it would be for everyone in the Free World. All free thinkers know that in the Twenty-first Century, the freedom of expression is more important than the freedom of religion, which often denies mankind our God given rights. What happened in the Arab world should be seen and condemned by the rest of the Free World as a complete violation of our humanity, something which was only common in medieval times when people were burned, tortured, stoned, hunk or beheaded for heresy in the name of religion.
One of the greatest free thinkers of our time, Sir Salman Rushdie, most wanted by Islam, who wrote the Satanic Verses of Islam in 1989, in a recent interview with BBC, summed it up, “If you look at the way in which free expression is being attacked by religious extremism, the things of which these people are accused is always the same – it’s blasphemy, heresy, insult, offence – it’s this medieval vocabulary.”
With these type of vocabularies that challenge our precious gift, the freedom of expression, in this Twenty-first Century, the American secretary of States’ words will continue to ring a profound bell of conscientiousness to the rest of the free world: “As long as there are those who are ready to shed blood in the name of religion, the world will never know peace.”