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Anti-Islam Film Sparks Violence and Killings: Complex Challenge


By C Uday Bhaskar for New Age Islam

The death toll resulting from violent protests that followed the dissemination of an anti-Islam video continues to increase.  A deep anti-western sentiment  is spreading  through  many parts of Africa and Asia , as also in Europe and the target of such attacks are  the diplomatic and military premises of the  US   and  some of its  western  allies.  At the time of writing this comment, as many as 15 countries reported such protests – including India – where Chennai and parts of Kashmir reported such occurrence.

Tragically, the US Ambassador to Libya J Christopher Stevens was killed in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday (Sep 12) along with three other US diplomatic personnel and on Friday (Sep 14), the Taliban attacked a US military base in Helmand province of Afghanistan and killed two US marines.  Details are still awaited about the casualties of this attack. In other related protests, seven people were killed in  Khartoum  (Sudan ) , Tunis  (Tunisia ) and Cairo  (Egypt )  and there are deep concerns  of further unrest. – Some of which is being stoked by right-wing extremist groups in these countries.

Most people who have seen this short anti- Islam video are unanimous that it is very offensive and deliberately provocative. Furthermore, it is a poorly made film clip but the death, destruction and sectarian damage it has triggered is significant – both in the immediate context and for the long term. The fact that South Asia   has also felt these tremors is evident in the protests in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

There is little dissent in the dominant view that while the film may have been provocative, this kind of violence and mayhem is not justified – and that it has to be condemned and the perpetrators brought to book. This is easier said than done, though President Morsi of Egypt has taken very firm action in Cairo and the next few days will be critical for Egypt and the Arab world. However the fact that this kind of Islam related, anti-US violence occurred on this scale and that these events unfolded a day after the 11th anniversary of 9/11 suggest that there may have been other forces that were planning and abetting the tragic sequence of events that have unfolded over the last five days. The implications of this challenge are complex and this turbulence needs to be dealt with objectively, firmly - and yet with empathy.

The Arab world which will mark the second anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring’ that began in Tunisia on December 18, 2010 is currently in a state of ferment and Egypt symbolizes the underground tensions and anxieties that have come to the surface.  Dictatorial regimes have been rejected and Hosni Muabarak of Egypt is representative of the pattern in the region, where the US had often supported oppressive regimes against the interests of the people.

Thus deep anti-US feeling stemming from the democracy-dictator divide is a fact of life on the Arab street.  In the aftermath of 9/11, this sentiment has been stoked and exploited by right wing religious groups that subscribe broadly to the extreme and inflexible schools of Islam associated with the Wahabi-Salafi strand of Islam and further distorted by the al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terror supporting groups.

Thus the current wave of protests and the killings that followed in North Africa and West Asia are thriving on this fervor and in some cases, local groups have used the opportunity to advance their agenda. In Libya, the hasty and ill-advised overthrow of the Gaddafi regime paved the way for anti-US, right wing Islamist groups to consolidate their position and the killing of the US ambassador is being ascribed to a well-planned assassination by this constituency.  The Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in   Helmand appears to follow a similar pattern and it is likely that more such opportunistic attacks will take place.

Specific to India,   the manner in which the US consulate in Chennai was targeted by as many as 1500 protestors drawn from the local Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra  Kazhagam  merits scrutiny.  While peaceful protests and demonstrations are part of the democratic experience, the manner in which the US Consulate was targeted raises many questions – more so against the backdrop of the recent Jihadi-terror related arrests in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.  Are some sections of the   domestic Muslim sentiment being misled in India?  In other words are there potential Jihadi sleeper-cells that can be activated to propagate such religion-incited violence to advance certain anti-national, political agendas?

These are disturbing questions for India but need to be raised in the public domain.  Modern communication technology allows for the rapid dissemination of   inflammatory information, provocative images and wild rumors – as India witnessed during the exodus of North easterners from Bangalore. The need to preempt such developments will be the highest priority for the Indian state and this means acquiring both professional capacity and institutional integrity.  Alas, both are currently lacking.

India is already grappling with two cancers – that of corruption and the cynical manipulation of caste for short-term electoral gains.  If the malignancy of communal discord enters the body-politic, then many of the excesses of the past – ranging from 1947 to 1984 and 2002 will come back to haunt the sub-continent in the most extreme manner.

The rash of violence that followed the news about the release of this anti-Islam video is a warning.  Deliberately distorting religion with ulterior motives can poison the socio-political fabric of a society very rapidly and the damage can often be irreparable.  Both state and civil society need to reflect over this incident in a constructive and non-acrimonious manner.

C. Uday Bhaskar is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst. He is counted among the leading defence analysts of India and has contributed over 50 research articles/papers to professional journals and books published in India and abroad.



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  • 5 .
    to believe in anything just because your community tells you that it is the truth is the height of is often just out of fear [of hell] or greed [for heaven] that people believe in all sorts of things....and these things make them even more fearful and greedy...far from liberating them from fear and greed, these beliefs make them worse human beings....
    By maihinhun 19/09/2012 03:15:44
  • 4 .
    It seems to be trying times for the good people on this forum. But I suppose what happened to christianity will also happen to islam. The dark ages finally gave way to liberal thought and self critique among thinkers in europe.

    This process is already underway in forums such as these. But the time frame is somewhat uncertain as saudi arabia that has been the prime mover has never ever been called to account.

    That nation is a blot on the world. When every sermon, fatwa and pronouncements from the arabic clerics is foul, discriminatory, minatory, anti-women, spiteful and degrading the non muslim, the UN is impotently shackled to the arabian money bags and the oil sultans of the US.
    By now and then write 18/09/2012 08:20:59
  • 3 .
    The recent events that followed the release of this anti-Islam video have terribly sickened me.
    I feel morose to see the nuisance, violence and provocation and all the inhumane and un-Islamic activities that
    surround the event.
    As a Muslim, I am deeply hurt, insulted and offended by the video that was made. It dismays me to see how inconsiderately it was done, how a proper action wasn't taken against it, and as a fellow human being at the same time, it disheartened me to see how my fellow Muslims acted so violently, harming people who weren't the perpetrators of the imbecilic and ridiculous attempt to malign the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to date.
    By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi 18/09/2012 04:57:03
  • 2 .

    No doubt, it is a brilliant piece of work that exposes, without any malice, innuendo and generalization, the propensity of the Muslims to go violent on an issue (demonization of their Prophet) that their scripture commands them to ignore:

      “Thus we made for every messenger an enemy - Satans from among men and jinn, some of them inspiring others with seductive talk (in order to) deceive (them), and had your Lord pleased, they would not have done it. Therefore, leave them and what they forge” (6:112).

    “Thus we made for every messenger an enemy among the criminals - but enough is your Lord (O Muhammad,) as a Guide and Helper” (25:31). 

    The truth is probably far more bitter and terrifying than what the world has seen during the last couple of days.

    Just a couple of days ago, I almost lost my sleep on reaching the conclusion that my religion (Islam, as practiced today) as petrified. The impelled me, in a spell of agony, to give the following title to my recent already posted article:

    'The twin growing menace: Petrifaction and Radicalization in Islam and Islamophobia – Are they interconnected? How best they can be diffused? An SOS to the Muslim Intelligentsia, Leadership and Ulama!',-new-age-islam/the-twin-growing-menace--petrifaction-and-radicalization-in-islam-and-islamophobia-–-are-they-interconnected?-how-best-they-can-be-diffused?-an-sos-to-the-muslim-intelligentsia,-leadership-and-ulama!/d/8686

    I read the following link today:§id=1&contentid=2012091620120916010555732fa6c8673

    A 13 year old Muslim girl in Bangalore gets raped and becomes an unwedded mother; and the local clergy cite Islamic law to appropriate the rapist as the honourable husband. This reminded me of the famous case of Imrana (June 06, 2005, India). Her father-in-law raped her and the local clerics tried to reward him with the hand of his victim. Virtual appropriation of incest in Islam – a blatant mockery of the Qur’anic message!

    The moral degradation of the Muslims and their remoteness from the Qur’anic ideals is reaching a stage that could be suicidal for them. The violent global outburst over the film insulting the Prophet clearly mirrors this given that the Qur’an asks Muslims to ignore any demonization of prophets. On the moral front un-Islamic laws rewarding the rapists and condoning incest are if anything a greater indication of the petrifaction of Islam.

    My article referenced above is an SOS to the global Muslim community. I wonder if there is any self respect among the Muslim Intelligentsia, they will take it on board and either challenge me or do something to reform their populist religion in line with the Qur’anic guidelines. Unless something is done, “the sleeping cells’ will wait for their chance to pounce upon the community as much as a sexually pervert old Muslim man will plan to rape his daughter in law – thanks to the rape law. I know both the cases represent a fractional minority but both have deadly consequences – one institutionalizing incest in Islam and the other terrorizing the nation and humanity in the name of Islam. I wonder if it was possible to get my referenced article printed in the mainstream media and all Urdu and Hindi newspapers in India.
    By muhammad yunus (1) 17/09/2012 23:52:45
  • 1 .
    If any Muslim knows of or suspects the existence of any Jihadi sleeper cell in their neighborhood, they must immediately report them to the authorities. The activities of such cells can cause serious harm to India's secular fabric as well as to India's Muslim community. 
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin 17/09/2012 14:47:11