Tahrir Crowds

Tahrir Crowds
Midan Tahrir, 1 Feb 2011

Thursday, September 13, 2012

USA: Take the Log Out of Your Eyes

Of course I mourn the loss of our Ambassador to Libya and the other State Department employees who lost their lives in the Ben Ghazi consulate.  I abhor violence of all kinds, so I do not think it is an appropriate response to the film trailer which defames the prophet Mohamed.  I think the whole case of the attack in Libya needs more investigation, as it seems unlikely the timing of the attack in Libya was a coincidence, and perhaps not a reaction to the film’s content.

However, the film itself needs more investigation.  Now it seems it is cloudy who made it and for what purposes, attributed to a US/Israeli/Copt who cannot be found.   
The film did and will continue to stimulate lot of anger, not just in Egypt, but throughout Muslim populations everywhere. 

I respect the US First Amendment and Freedom of Speech rights very much; however, this film constitutes, in my view, incitement to violence, which is illegal under US law.  It is an extreme form of hate speech, as its content is so malicious.  Its filmmakers must have intended for it to spark violence.  It is the equivalent of “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater,” which is not protected speech [Oliver Wendall Holmes in Schenker v. US].
Who would even think of portraying any religion’s prophet as a buffoon, preaching fictional texts, engaging in sex, and condoning pedophilia and killing of women and children in warfare?  Regarding any other religious faith, it would never be done.   

These images of the prophet Mohamed occur in the first 5 minutes of the trailer.  It is beyond reprehensible.  I think it is defamation of the religion.

I wish each country would look at its own religious extremists, whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian, and investigate them carefully, as they each believe in violence to achieve their fanatical religious views, look at the log in one’s own eye, before pointing the finger at the speck in the other’s eye. The religious extremists in one faith engage in ideological warfare with extremists of other religions, escalate tensions, and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us. The extremist Christian groups in the East and in the West continue to fan the flames of hatred of Islam. There is an unholy ideological alliance between Egyptian Coptic extremists and the US evangelical right-wing Christians, feeding each other’s hatred of Islam and supporting the faulty “War on Terrorism” paradigm.

The “problem” is not Islam.  The problem is all forms of religious extremism. Muslim extremists inappropriately call for jihad, Jewish extremists attack Muslims and Christians. Christian extremists fuel misunderstandings of Islam and attacks against Muslims.  All these groups share hatred of others, a love of violence, literal interpretation of their holy books, misinterpretations of their own religions, and the use of a wide range of extreme tactics.

In Egypt, I do not see an increase in anti-American sentiment in recent months.  I did see anti-American sentiments grow during and since the Revolution, with encouragement from the Mubarak government and thereafter, from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who encouraged the view on television that Americans were behind the 25 January Revolution.  However, that has stopped since the election of President Morsy, and I think it unlikely the Morsy government will encourage such attitudes.  I can still walk safely anywhere in Cairo, even at night, and when someone occasionally asks where I am from, they will typically respond positively.  The people on the ground like Americans, regarding us as honest and friendly.  They don’t like US foreign policy in the Middle East. People here have some genuine grievances against US policy in this region.  But overall, Egyptians respect President Obama, while being critical of US policies.  Egyptians tend to differentiate between actions of a government and the individual citizens.

I can imagine US citizens in front of their TVs, wondering aloud, “Why do they hate us?” and imaging that we are innocent. “They” don’t hate us, but hate US policies in the Middle East.  We should look into that and find out why. There are ample reasons: the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the 30 years of financing of the dictatorial Mubarak regime in Egypt, the US financing of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories are just a few examples.

Anti-Islam propaganda like the film trailer does profoundly offend Muslims here, as the film trailer offends me and any other reasonable person (I am a Christian, a Quaker).  Americans need a lot of education about other cultures and religions and need to grow in respect for religious differences.  Mainstream Jewish and Christian groups should denounce the film and similar misrepresentations of religions, as well as denounce their extremist co-religionists.  Mainstream Muslims have repeatedly denounced the violence of their extremists, as not appropriate behavior for Muslims.
The film, and “War on Terrorism” propaganda efforts like it, can make life in the Middle East unsafe for US citizens living abroad, so please reign in such religious extremists.

 I wish each country would reign in its religious extremists, before pointing the finger at someone else’s.  The Terry Joneses, the Christian Identity Movement, Jim Joneses, the Brand Dravidians and their like in other religions make the world more dangerous for everyone.

Short bio: Kathy Kamphoefner holds a PhD in Communication Studies from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She specialized in Intercultural Communication and Middle East Studies.  She currently teaches US university students and leads Community-Based Learning in an study abroad program.