Muslim Outrage ‘Fueled by More Than Religion’
In many Muslim countries people continue to demonstrate against the film “Innocence of Muslims.” But is religion really the main issue? Arab intellectuals have a different view.
A howl of outrage is being heard across the Arab world. Many Muslims are convinced that their Prophet has been insulted, and they cannot and will not accept it. But is religion really the issue here - or, more precisely, is religion the only issue?
The Arab newspaper Al Hayat is skeptical. In a recent editorial it interpreted the protests as a belated consequence of decades of dictatorial rule. Citizens of many Arab countries have suffered under years of oppression, isolation and a lack of prospects, it writes. The paper believes that the protests are a discharge of pent-up resentments now a collective pretext has been found for their release.
“What is happening right now,” writes Al Hayat, “is far from having religious significance. Of course the case that triggered the protests had to do with religion. But the reaction to it was not an expression of religious faith, but of a complex historical, political and societal conflict situation.”
Outlet of pent-up anger
So are decades of accumulated resentment now simply seeking an outlet? This interpretation would imply that the demonstrations and the accompanying violence are simply a twisted expression of pent-up suffering caused by political and societal injustice.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle, the Syrian philosopher Sadiq Al-Azm commented that at the present time societies in the Arab and Muslim world are very volatile and easily excited. “In such a situation, it provokes a violent reaction, even an explosion, if important symbols are attacked. But these actions are not planned. They’re instigated by ordinary people.” Above all, he explains, these demonstrations are not really aimed at Western states, but secretly have a quite different target: “Ultimately, the demonstrators are turning on their own governments.”