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.

The Innocence of Muslims

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.

7 Responses to “Understanding Muslim Anger Over YouTube Film”

  1. Benjamin said

    Despite the anger it brought forth from seeing these depictions, don’t you think it’s ridiculous to react in anger? Why can’t the idea be satisfaction in knowing that all the infidels will never reach the afterlife for doing such a nonsensical thing?

    Alas, just think how peaceful the world would be if there was either no religion, or simply eastern thought religions like shintoism where there is no personification of anything, but the spirit of each thing lives and treat it as such.

  2. Junior Samples said

    “Someone made a film that offends me. I think I’ll burn down the KFC to get my revenge.” I just can’t understand this way of thinking.

  3. spandexclownhat said

    Re-dubbing Innocence of Muslims trailer to be Innocence of Christians as we speak. Very easy, just take mention of Muhammad and replace with “Jesus.” The actor is a good fit for that stereotypical image of Jesus. What do you think the reaction from Christians will be? I will bet you a million dollars no one dies as a result of the reaction.

  4. Michelle E. said

    I definitely found this article illuminating. It is helpful to see this response as part of a larger political picture. As noted, the Muslim faith does not condone a violent response to this offense, so those who are using their faith as a justification for their reaction to the film are definitely not truly following the teachings of their faith. To respond so passionately against all Western influences when only one isolated group actually made and released the film is most certainly just a convenient excuse to release anger that was already ready to boil over. I hope this does not trigger another war, but I do also think it is necessary to send in another team of elite military forces to respond to the specific groups that killed our Ambassador and attacked innocent Americans.

  5. name said

    Christians have already had their inquisitions, conquistadors, and crusades… Muslims are simply entering the same point in their historical timeline.
    We will continue to see religious strife escalate, until all nations come together to find a solution. And proposed solution will be the outlawing of all forms of religion. When it becomes obvious the solution is impractical because humanity cannot exist without spirituality they will come together again to find a new solution. The new solution will be “find an inclusive” spirituality. And they will be astonished to discover an inclusive spirituality has already been professing the medicine needed by humanity from the Divine Physician since the 1800′s.

    • Steven K. said

      I find it perplexing that as a post-modernist society we find it justified to attack and occupy multiple areas of the Middle-East, while at the same time our society expects to be hailed as liberators and free thinkers. The reality is that we can find seeds of our own authoritarian culture in the recent anti-American violence. The common denominator is that our cultures, that is the Western/Middle Eastern cultures have their roots in the Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic construct. The underlying basis for the continuation of that construct lies in the idea that “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” aka do not question thy father. We see this authoritarian hierarchy in both Jewish, Christian, and Muslim culture still to this day. If you analyze Hasidic Judaism, Fundamentalist Christianity, and Wahhabism you can see the similarities of thought. The entirety of their construct lies within a binary which says that either you are with me or against me. It was this exact same mentality that drove our country to enter two wars against innocent people and this exact same mentality is driving anti-American violence. I also would like to point out that when reflecting on other people’s habits and actions one should examine the occurrences from a culturally relativist perspective, that is not to say that we condone any violence. The recent violence has nothing to do with the movie, but was rather fueled by an ongoing culture clash in which neither party is looking for peace, and if you fail to see that digression then your understanding becomes increasingly myopic!

  6. We Muslims respect all religions because Islam is a religion of peace and love, but the media hostile disservice to Islam and Muslims because true religion, and they to lie on Islam and spin it, because they are afraid of the spread, because true religion, enter here to learn about Islam correctly and real, http://www.islamhouse.com/

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