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MENAFN - Arab News - 18/09/2012

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(MENAFN - Arab News) It is utter madness that any hate-consumed or lunatic nonentity located anywhere in the world can turn the Muslim world into a seething cauldron of violence, negatively impacting geopolitical relations and economic outlooks.

Decades ago, a wise person I met in Jakarta imparted a lesson which has guided ever since. He said, nobody can hurt you with insult unless you hand over your power to that individual with anger, an emotional reaction that boomerangs back to you the source, inevitably harming you more than its intended target.

Don't permit anyone to gain control over your mood, he said. Don't be baited by harsh words to respond in kind. Meet aggression or insult with a smile while thinking to yourself 'you're a nasty piece of work, but that's your problem.' Once your adversary realizes that you are impervious, that you refuse to be a party to his power play, his game will consist of a single player and lose its luster. I couldn't help but ponder on that snippet of wisdom as I watched furious mobs attacking US, British and German diplomatic missions with devastating consequences in terms of human life, all because of a 14-minute amateurish production that would have remained buried in the bowels of YouTube unnoticed if a few emotive viewers hadn't predictably over-reacted.

The low-budget film "The Innocence of Muslims", made by a bunch of charlatans and crooks plus a purveyor of porn and designed to be controversial, has no artistic or historical merit. If it hadn't been inadvertently publicized by outraged Muslims, it would have been watched by a few bigots and racists whose narrow minds are already made-up on the topic of Islam. The collective mob mind may be devoid of intellect as ordinary people become consumed by momentary passion, but, surely, it is incumbent upon religious and political leaders to calm their followers down.

Why should anyone care what filth is spewed out by the likes of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (a.k.a. Sam Bacile), a felon on parole who has been convicted for drugs and fraud, and his cohort soft porn director Alan Roberts (a.k.a. Robert Brownell)? It is known that those two have links to Terry Jones, a so-called preacher from Florida who proceeded to make a bonfire of Qur'ans despite a personal plea from President Obama not to do so, an act that elicited terrible repercussions in Afghanistan.

Another associate of the gang is one of the film's consultants, an Evangelical Christian called Steve Klein who initially disseminated false information that its maker was a Jewish Israeli-American. Nakoula admitted his production was meant to be a provocative statement; in other words, he had a good idea what the outcome would be - and, sadly, Muslims in the Middle East and beyond responded as anticipated allowing their strings to be pulled like marionettes.

The only winners in all this mess are extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda, which are using the offending film as a recruitment tool. Anti-Western sentiment throughout the Muslim world has rarely been this virulent and the killing of a US envoy and three of his staff in Benghazi was no advert for Islam in the eyes of most American citizens. The incident is rightly perceived as a slap in the face by the mainstream US media that overwhelmingly supported their country's military intervention in Libya in support of the Libyan people's aspirations. Given the public mood, it's almost inconceivable that President Obama or any other Western leader will be tempted to rush to the aid of Syrian civilians at the mercy of a ruthless regime.

Tunisia and Egypt, struggling with less than healthy economies, could be punished for failing to protect embassies and consulates by a downturn in foreign tourism and overseas investment. Certainly, Obama's stance vis--vis Egypt has visibly cooled. When asked whether Egypt was a US ally, he announced that it could not be considered either ally or foe until the new Mursi-led government finds its way.

It seems to me that Muslim and Western leaderships should get together to discuss how this reoccurring problem, going way back to the publication of Salman Rushdie's yawn of a book "Satanic Verses" in 1988, can be prevented. If something isn't done, any imbecile on the planet can trigger death and destruction all over again. The reality is that however many embassies and US fast food chains in the capitals of predominantly Muslim nations are attacked won't stop Islamophobic fanatics from creating anti-Islamic books, cartoons or films. But in the great scheme of things does it really matter? Could they really do harm to the world's fastest-growing religion adhered to by up to a third of the world's population?

Such insensitive hate-filled material dreamed-up by sleazy self-promoting bigots deserves to be ignored - and, most of it would be if devout Muslims didn't run with it, placing it under a spotlight. While I can understand their hurt feelings, their violent response is not only misguided it reflects badly on the very faith they profess to defend when according to the Qur'an the killing of one innocent person is tantamount to the killing of all mankind.

Western democracies that have no qualms about passing laws against anti-Semitism also have an important role to play. Freedom of expression is worthy but should not be sacrosanct when it permits people like Nakoula, Roberts and Jones to walk free after they threw stones in a body of water with the pre-knowledge that ripples would turn into tsunamis. The fact that Terry Jones is not only unrepentant about those who were killed in Afghanistan subsequent to his setting fire to the copies of the Qur'an, he is planning to stoke violence by blaspheming the Prophet (peace be upon him). It's astonishing that the superpower is impotent to lock him up amid the absence of appropriate laws when it has no compunction about keeping foreigners in gulags without charge or trial in the name of national security.

If only common sense could prevail, the one planet we all share would be a far more peaceful and pleasanter place for all concerned!


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