Understanding Muslim Anger Over YouTube Film
September 17, 2012
The film that sparked the anti-American violence last week in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen was breathtakingly offensive to most Muslims.
Protests over the film entitled The Innocence of Muslims are now spreading across the Middle East and North Africa. I want to take a moment to talk about what is happening and why.
The now infamous trailer on YouTube was uploaded back in July, but the protests only started in Egypt this past week. There is some chatter that the man who made the film, believed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, specifically targeted the Egyptian news media. It is believed that he alerted the Egyptian press to the YouTube trailer himself for maximum exposure within Egypt. It is possible that Nakoula timed his interaction with the Egyptian press to coincide with 9-11.
First, it is important to understand that the Qur’an and other Islamic teachings are crystal clear: Mohammad is never to be portrayed in a sketch or a painting, much less played by a bad actor in a cheap B movie. For Muslims, Mohammad is the perfect Muslim. He is the living Qur’an.
But this movie shows Mohammad seducing many women, and one actor states that the Prophet was gay. If you are a Christian, imagine if a movie depicted Jesus Christ engaging in oral sex and then claimed that he was a child molester.
The film portrays Mohammad as a sexual predator, a fraud, and possibly insane. It is in the poorest of taste.
Sam Becile – which is the pseudonym Nakoula Basseley Nakoula used – claimed to be an Israeli Jew, and said that the film was financed by other Jews back in Israel. That appears to be completely false, though. Nakoula is being identified as an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian who’s alleged to be extremely anti-Muslim.
It is possible that the film was designed to not only denigrate Islam, but also to stir discord between Muslims and the Coptic Christians within Egypt. There’s been a lot of tension in those relations as of late, so such a film would be intended to further strain Egypt’s social fabric.
A series of anti-Christian attacks has heightened tensions since the ouster of Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. Coptic Christians blame the the Muslim Brotherhood for the increase in violence.
Coptic Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the biggest Christian church in Egypt. The church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches, and it has been a distinct church body since the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (it took a different position over Christological theology from that of the Eastern Orthodox Church). Coptic history dates back 19 centuries, and the language used in their liturgy can be traced to the speech of Egypt’s pharaohs. Coptic Christians were once a majority in Egypt, but now they make up only about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million population. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East.
With Egypt’s first free elections in history giving victory to Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, fears have risen among Christians, many of whom supported his rival, a pro-Mubarak official, Ahmed Shafiq.
Egypt’s Islamist politicians continue to lash out, but President Morsi has vowed to keep the calm.
U.S. courts spokeswoman Karen Redmond said on Friday that the Office of Probation in the Central District of California was reviewing whether Nakoula violated terms of his probation. Nakoula has been convicted on bank fraud charges, and had been ordered not to own or use devices with access to the Internet without approval from his probation officer – even then only for work related use. Uploading the movie trailer onto the Internet could land Nakoula back in jail.
But, back to the film itself. Nothing in Islam justifies violent avengement over an insult. A traditional religious response does not include the harming of innocent people. In this case, the reactions across the Middle East and North Africa are as much a political response to a hegemonic super power as they are a religious response to an ecclesiastical insult.
What do you think? I would love to hear some of your responses.