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.