Terry Jones and Sam Bacile Do Not Exercise Free Speech: They Practice Hate Speech Designed to Provoke Muslim Violence

The recent killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, is a shocking reminder that innocent people often get caught in the cross-fire between ignorant hate-mongers and equally hateful perpetrators of violence.

It is unfortunate that a diplomat with an impressive record of diplomacy had to lose his life as a result of unnecessary and intentional provocation from an “unknown” group of film producers, who sought to insult the Prophet Muhammad through the film Muslim Innocence. Further, that this all occurred around the 11th 9/11 anniversary makes it all seem less likely to be a “coincidence.”

I believe that the current spate of protests and violent reactions should be seen in a context, and while not justifiable by any means, the outright malicious and incendiary acts of “creativity” cannot be justified either.

As Robert Fisk writes in his latest column in the Independent: “Several radio presenters asked me yesterday if the unrest in Cairo and Benghazi may have been timed to ‘coincide with 9/11.’ It simply never occurred to them to ask if the video-clip provocateurs had chosen their date-for-release to coincide with 9/11.”

This seems to be another deliberate act of trying to portray Muslims as a violent and blood-thirsty community.

The Danish cartoon controversy comes to mind and more recently, the Koran burning incident by Pastor Terry Jones in Florida last September 11. The intention of these acts is important, rather than trying to justify them by cloaking them under “freedom of speech.” There is a hairlines difference between freedom of speech and hate-mongering and these acts belong to the latter category, as they are designed to provoke, cause social unrest, and violence.

Where does this hate spring from, one may ask? From what I understand, it arises from a distorted sense of “reality,” and selective reading of historical as well as current events, to see the “other” as so distinctly alien and different that it is impossible for them to be like “us,” unless they change and try to be like us.

Deep rooted arrogance, ignorance, and bigotry is at the root of this malice. At other times, it is intentional provocation and malice, aimed at getting the kind of reaction that would demonstrate that Muslims are violent, blood-thirsty murderers.

I have often wondered how one should deal with these folks? One cannot ignore them completely, as some activists and scholars suggest. One should certainly fight these ideas, with ideas, facts, and some imagination, not violence.

As T.S Eliot described, what these hate-mongers really lack is “moral imagination,” which allows its practitioner to “escape from the confining limits of our personal experience to become conscious of what is beyond us. By perceiving what we hold in common with others, or imagining seeing things from the perspective of others unlike ourselves, we become aware of ourselves as members of a community.”

Perhaps once they start seeing the “humanity” of Muslims, they will start to realize that these provocations and acts of bigotry that provoke are not worth the time and trouble.

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Sabith Khan

Sabith Khan is a social entrepreneur, researcher and founder of MENASA, a think-tank and policy shop engaged in issues related to MENA and South Asia. Sabith has worked for several years in the field of strategic communications, public affairs and nonprofit management, trying to understand and communicate issues pertaining to civil society, development and youth in the US and MENA region. Sabith has worked with several large global public affairs firms, on award-winning campaigns in healthcare, entertainment and government relations. During his stint at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, he ideated and executed a global award-winning campaign for Apollo Hospitals (Abby and Clio Awards). He has also worked in the Middle East managing accounts as diverse as Dubai Film Festival, Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation, Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai School of Government. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Muslim Public Service Network in Washington D.C, an NGO that engages and inspires young American Muslims to do public service. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. He has been involved as a team member and leader in several international development projects including consulting for the Near East Foundation, in helping set up their Monitoring and Evaluation system for their offices across the MENA region. Sabith has a Master of Public administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. In Summer 2013, he conducted research on American Muslim philanthropy at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, Indianapolis, in an attempt to map giving behavior among Muslims over the last ten years i.e., 2002- 2012. Sabith’s research interests include Religion and Philanthropy, Youth issues in USA, Middle East North Africa and South Asia, Governance and Civil Society. Sabith is also the co-editor of Millennials Speak: Essays on the 21st century, a snapshot of the ideas and opinions of the global Millennial Generation. Twenty writers from five continents, a diverse mix of young academics, policy professionals, and future thought and creative leaders, cover topics from the legacy of the Arab Spring, the global food system, the U.S. student loan crisis, youth unemployment, to popular culture. Currently working: Founder and Executive Director, MENASA Publications: 1. Humanitarian Aid and Faith-Based Giving: The Potential of Muslim Charity - Unrest Magazine, George Mason University. May 2013. Accessible at http://www.unrestmag.com/about-unrest/past-issues/#sthash.GEqNfv0U.dpuf 2. Arab American Diaspora and American Muslim Philanthropy: impact of crisis situations on mobilization and formation of a “community.” American University in Cairo Press. Cairo. (NP). Expected Fall 2013. 3. Middle-East Peace Talks 2010: Investigating the Role of Lobbying and Advocacy Groups in Washington, D.C. as Spoilers. Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Spring 2011. Accessible at : http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/parcc/Research/intrastate/Spoilers_of_Peace_Project/ Blog: www.sabithkhan.wordpress.com

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