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Drawing the line

I still can’t get my head around the fact that the YouTube broadcast of a cheap, sorry excuse for a short movie, one that was so poorly produced that it made me break out in hives, caused the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya and another 20 people.

The so called video, entitled “The Innocence of Muslims” is such an audio-visual disaster that I would have expected no one, and I do mean no one, to take it seriously, let alone to cause a riot and get people killed over it.

Soon after the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya, Hilary Clinton gave a moving speech. The most indisputable point she made was that no matter how insulted we might feel, no matter who offends us, our family, religion, country or faith, reacting with violence is always wrong and never justified.

Because her speech writers are more eloquent than I’ll ever be, I’m reproducing her exact words hereunder:

“The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this video, we absolutely reject its content and message. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation and, as you know, we are home to people of all religions, many of who came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion including of course millions of Muslims…. to me personally this video is disgusting and reprehensible, it appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage, but… there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence!”

Admittedly I too sometimes feel that no amount of arguing beats a slap or a kick in the butt, but hand on heart, on this one, I have to agree with Clinton hands down.

In an attempt to calm the waters, Google has since then blocked the video from searches in various North African countries and though I understand the pressure that Google must have been under in order to curb the violence, I’m in two minds about the blocking.

On the one hand I agree that one should do everything in their power to restore peace, but on the other, blocking the video, is an indirect way of giving in to terrorist attacks.

Under YouTube’s terms of service, hate speech is defined as speech against individuals, not against groups, so because the video mocks Islam and not a particular Muslim, it does not breach any conditions of the site and, falls clearly within its guidelines.

So blocking the video sends out the wrong message –  that if you violently react to anything that you disagree with then you can get it stopped.

Perhaps this was a one off move based on the severity of the situation, but it could also be the end of free speech as we know it.

Just a couple of days after this incident France had to increase security at their foreign embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools, because a French satirical magazine published obscene cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.  Riot police were also deployed around the magazine’s office and the magazine’s website has already been attacked!

The biggest loss from this whole situation is not only the loss of life but also the continued degeneration of how we perceive Muslims. Because of a few thousand hot heads who represent only a minute percentage of the global Muslim population, most Europeans and Americans will continue to validate their stereotypical view of Muslims as being the ‘violent type’ – an untrue and unjust view that betrays the bigger picture.

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