Turn the other cheek, I'll whack that too
It’s all so predictable. Someone sets out to provoke Muslims with perhaps the most amateurish, inept and unconvincing piece of footage ever published – Innocence of Muslims – and are duly obliged with a massive over-reaction. The film is so bad it is comical – except for the results.
Just as with the Danish cartoon scandals of 2006, when the extremists sought to prove that Islam is a religion of peace by killing a few Christians and burning churches, so again they prove their religious maturity by rioting.
The richest irony is that no one would have noticed this ham-fisted message of hate without the worldwide exposure given by those wanting to silence it. What has brought shame on Islam has been the ugliness of a few Muslims.
An equivalent would be me being angry at one of the hideous injustices under the Pakistan blasphemy laws, and expressing that by attacking the Indonesian and Moroccan embassies.
It’s new and disturbing to see this in Australia, though. The rage is clearly not really about the obviously silly film but wider resentments. The rioters ache to be provoked, to express their rage and humiliation. In chat rooms and social media they are alert for every slight.
In Australia, as Muslims integrate into mainstream society they learn to take the rough with the smooth – Christians and secularists are both used to vitriolic contempt from the far fringes of the other side – but there is no such impetus in Middle Eastern countries where the violence is really dangerous.
Nor is it all about religion, which is a convenient catch-all to express the various resentments — the context is far broader. The post-war pan-Arab movement was secular, but grew out of the same colonial humiliation; its failure and other historical developments, such as the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah in Iran in 1978, have led to religion replacing nationalism.
Another clue is that the reaction is so misdirected. Why attack Western embassies for the actions of a few individuals who happen to live in the US? An equivalent would be me being angry at one of the hideous injustices under the Pakistan blasphemy laws, and expressing that by attacking the Indonesian and Moroccan embassies. Logic doesn't play a role here.
In Australia, the vast majority of ordinary Muslims sigh and take a deep breath. They feel they shouldn’t even have to disown this fringe — again — but obviously they must, and Muslim leaders and organisations have lined up to do so.
And by extension people of all faiths get implicated, because those with anti-religion agendas seize the opportunity to broaden the agenda. For example, yesterday’s letters page showed that self-righteous disdain is not confined to religious people, though it may certainly be found there. What is one to make of the sheer lunacy of a call to categorise Christianity, Islam and Judaism ‘‘terrorist organisations’’ (even if the three monotheistic faiths were three organisations).
It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath and respond to what is actually happening, not their prejudices.
Over to you: Storm in a tea cup (at least within Australia)? Threat to our way of life? Where to from here?