Ignoring ‘Innocence’

— A. Lin Neumann
The Malaysian Insider
Sep 23, 2012

SEPT 23 — The “Innocence of Muslims” film controversy, which resulted in riots in the Middle East and the death of the US ambassador to Libya, seemingly exposed the many fault lines between the West and Islam. But that story line has quickly unravelled.

In Indonesia, fortunately, the reaction has been pretty calm. Apart from about a thousand people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the US Embassy in Jakarta and small mobs elsewhere looking to attack McDonald’s and KFC franchises — where no doubt the customers were fellow Muslims — the nation has absorbed “Innocence of Muslims” and wisely decided to let it go. In another week or so it should be forgotten.

In Libya, where Ambassador Chris Stevens died during a riot, a video surfaced showing Libyans entering the smouldering consulate building and trying to rescue Stevens, who was then barely alive. US security people had apparently evacuated the facility and lost track of their own ambassador. So much for us against them and the idea that all of Libya was on a rampage.

In the United States, one of the actresses who appeared in the film is suing the filmmaker for fraud, saying she signed up for something called “Desert Warrior” that had nothing to do with Islam, did not mention the Prophet Muhammad and was later redubbed into “Innocence of Muslims” by the producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a native Egyptian and Coptic Christian. There goes the vast conspiracy theory.

That the film is beyond trashy and has the production values one might expect from an underfunded high school drama department has been well established. Indeed, I watched parts of the film — here in Indonesia on YouTube, after it was supposedly blocked on the local Internet — and it does not take long to see what a mess it is. It is laughably awful and offensive on many levels, but it is not concerted propaganda from the West or a centralised attack on Islam. It is “hate speech,” not unlike similar efforts from idiotic neo-Nazis or the loony racist fringe in the United States. It is not worth getting worked up about.

I even found myself in the unusual position of nodding in agreement with the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), which said that Muslims should calm down following the violent protests in Jakarta on Monday.

“Muslims should not respond to the movie emotionally. Even if it humiliates and assaults [Islam], we shouldn’t be provoked by other parties and should keep protecting the public interest,” MUI’s Muhyiddin Junaidi said. Which makes me wonder why President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has put his name behind the idea of a UN protocol banning blasphemy and defamation of religion? Quite apart from the fact that such a protocol would be unenforceable, Indonesia has seen the damage that trying to ban blasphemy can do when it is used to bolster the arguments of extremists who want to impose their view of Islam on others.

No doubt the president has good intentions, but the notion that an international protocol could prevent insults against religion and keep passions in check is an illusion. Like that loony American preacher who wanted to burn the Quran last year, the efforts of this half-baked filmmaker should be roundly denounced as hate-filled and dangerous but protocols would only embolden such behaviour.

It is hard to legislate against stupidity and taking the actions of some renegade American idiots as a justification to impose greater orthodoxy here or anywhere else would be a “cure” that would be worse than the disease. Given the sheer number of competing and contradictory religious views in the world, the last thing we need is anyone trying to prevent hurt feelings through international treaties.

In a vast country like Indonesia, the reaction to the film was by and large muted. Life went on with few incidents, which is how it should be. We get up, we go to work or school, we live our lives — and people like Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should barely matter. By paying attention to a marginal fool like that, we risk putting the court jester on the throne. — Jakarta Globe

* A. Lin Neumann, founding editor of the Jakarta Globe, hosts the “Insight Indonesia” talk show on BeritaSatu TV.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Sunday, 23 September 2012 - 10:29 pm

    So why are so many innocent people killed and properties damaged when they have nothing to do with the film?

    The protestors worldwide have all been irresponsible when they wantonly and randomly targeted many innocent bystanders, parties and businesses causing damage and hurt. Were they all justified in their reaction to the ‘insult’ ? Will they all receive ‘credits’ to their name ?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Sunday, 23 September 2012 - 11:57 pm

    ///I watched parts of the film — here in Indonesia on YouTube, after it was supposedly blocked on the local Internet…///

    The blockage was ineffective as the entire movie was freely downloadable from China websites.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Monday, 24 September 2012 - 3:01 am

    Guided democracy by heads of countries and in Malaysia…democracy id allowed if all Malaysians stay faithfully to support the Govt.
    Otherwise …you will be labelled as traitors and if you are influential like Suaram…watch out…MACC will go after you and shut your mouth.

  4. #4 by waterfrontcoolie on Monday, 24 September 2012 - 9:32 pm

    In this Flat World, we have to accept the fact that there are those who love to see innocent people get hurt for any kind of reasons. If you love to cause mass reaction for which only innocent people in your OWN country will suffer; they are quite happy to stir it. A wise man once said “Why should I suffer the pang of anger just because you wanted me to do so?” We know anger will destroy oneself faster than many other means and yet we freely allow someone from Timbuktu to make us going through that agony! Smart? Your Choice!

  5. #5 by mickeytiger2006 on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 - 12:34 pm

    If you burn the bibles/holy buddhism scriptures n speak/write articles against for eg christianity/buddhism, nothing will happen. What a great difference! It is a matter of tolerance, a religion you choose to believe/disbelieve/agree/disagree. Not follow and agree blindly by what religion have to say.

You must be logged in to post a comment.