Courtesy of MCT
When thousands of protests represent a religion of billions among a media fire storm, the line that distinguishes an individual from the group can become blurred.
The posting of the anti-Islam YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims” created unrest among the Muslim community that sparked numerous riots and protests on almost every continent. Although the response to the video is recent, the filmmaker, Egyptian immigrant and California citizen Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, first released “The Real Life of Muhammad,” a video of similar content to “Innocence of Muslims,” in July.
“When it was (first) posted, nobody paid attention because it was so bad,” said Morgan Liu, an associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Culture. “It was only maybe two weeks ago that video was dubbed into Arabic and got the attention of a few key people in various places in the Middle East that suddenly the issue became hot.”
However, some members of the Muslim community feel that the Sept. 11 riots in Libya resulting in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the media attention around the controversial video, creates a generalization and notion that all Muslims feel the need for violent protest.
Although the riots and violence prove to be more newsworthy, Zakaria Farah, a third-year in environmental engineering and co-president of the Muslim Students’ Association, explained the importance in separating individual reactions from generalizations.
“I always reiterate that an act, a single individual does not reflect on the voice of 1.6 billion people. You simply can’t do that,” Farah said. “Like this interview does not mean I am correct, I don’t voice the opinions of even all the Muslims on campus, the Muslims in the Columbus area, or we might not even share the same opinion. We’re all individuals, and that’s what I feel like Islam teaches.”
Shine Hawramani, a fourth-year in comparative studies and co-president of the Muslim Students’ Association, feels the media is blowing the issue out of proportion.
“Instead of showing all the hateful protests, why don’t you show the dialogue that’s happening between Muslims? For example, there were dozens of candlelight vigils for Christopher Stevens all over the country, including one in Columbus downtown by Muslims,” Hawramani said.
According to NBC News, the prophet Muhammad, a key figure of the Islam religion, was depicted as a “womanizer, homosexual and a child abuser” in the video. However, Ayat Aldoori, a first-year graduate student in human nutrition and a member of the Muslim Students’ Association, said Muhammad has encountered much worse offense than how the video insulted the prophet.
“(Muhammad) was attacked, he was mocked continuously, he was betrayed, he had garbage and animal innards thrown on him while he was praying, and across the board, he would respond with kindness, patience and forgiveness. He won over a lot of hearts this way with his sincerity,” Aldoori said.
Although Egypt has issued an arrest warrant for those responsible for the video, the U.S. government has taken no action against Nakoula. Farah said that because Nakoula initially hid under the alias name “Sam Bacile” and later went into hiding demonstrates an uncertainty Nakoula has with his own work.
“Clearly he doesn’t want to be associated with (the video), which to me, signifies that he isn’t proud of it, like on a personal level,” Farah said. “The intention of why he did it isn’t because he really believed it, otherwise, if you stand behind something that you do, your work, you can put your name to it proudly.”
Liu said a great demand for President Barack Obama to “crack down” on the person responsible for the video emerged from the Middle East following the video’s new international accessibility. This demand, Liu said, is in accordance to a Middle Eastern cultural norm of thinking in terms of group and group responsibility rather than the individual.
“The idea of the president punishing one on behalf of a whole nation just totally does not make sense from an American point of view. It’s because we’re thinking in terms of individual responsibility, that’s an American mindset,” Liu said.
YouTube decided to restrict access to the video in Egypt and Libya, while Afghanistan censored YouTube from the Internet. According to a CNN report, YouTube and Google were blocked in Iran over the weekend, due to public demand. The video is still accessible in the U.S., but Hawramani questions YouTube’s standards in what it chooses to remove from the website.
“(Users) will flag (a video, YouTube) will bring it down immediately. They said there’s literally been tens of thousands of flagged … notifications for that video, but it has not been taken down because of free speech,” Hawramani said. “I mean, that is really hypocritical and contradictory to what it’s supposed to be.”
Many seem to look down upon a religion that is synonymous with numerous instances of violence in the past and assume that if it were Christianity, Judaism or any other religion being parodied in the video, the response would not be comparable to that of the Muslim community. However, Liu explained that a difference in values – not religion – is the key to understanding a potential difference in reaction.
“It’s just a different value, and I think it’s just important for both sides to at least understand the other side’s point of view,” Liu said. “Say, ‘OK, I may not hold those values, but I at least understand why you are holding on to them, and I’m not going to insult you just because you hold a different value.’ I think that’s what’s key to all of this.”