Muslims Must Adjust to Mockery, Like Everyone Else
When Westerners mock Islam and thus run the risk of provoking Muslims to commit mayhem, it’s tempting to excoriate the mockers.
That’s what the U.S. Embassy in Egypt did, after word got out about a trailer on YouTube for a vulgar, amateurish U.S.-produced video depicting the prophet Muhammad as a pederast-recruiting idiot who receives the inspiration for Islam while burying his head between the thighs of a woman. The embassy condemned “misguided individuals” who “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”
It was for naught. Rioters stormed the embassy in Cairo and attempted to do the same in Tunis. Protests broke out in the Gaza Strip. In Afghanistan, the Taliban called on citizens to “take revenge” on Americans. Worst, in Libya, a rocket attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi claimed the lives of four U.S. diplomats, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The U.S. is exploring the possibility that the Benghazi attack was planned, with perpetrators exploiting outrage over the video for timing.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney caught flak for criticizing the embassy’s statement, which he apparently thought came after the killings. At any rate the statement was trumped by President Barack Obama’s later remarks denouncing the attack “in the strongest terms” and vowing to work with the Libyans to bring the perpetrators to justice. Still, the embassy’s commentary, issued even as protesters were amassing outside the compound, was light on principles of free speech.
Of course, the price of free speech is a lot of bad speech, some of it offensive. The video “The Innocence of Muslims,” which was clearly designed to denigrate Islam, certainly falls into that category. But it ought not to have been a provocation for killing.