The Innocence Of Muslims – Three Not So Random Thoughts

  1. Anti-semitism: As far as I know, when the Innocence of Muslims was shown on Egyptian television, the host of the program mentioned that it was a production by a Copt living in Egypt. When I learned about the film however sometime later most of the news outlets were talking about a Jewish, Zionist, Israeli-American. Or variants thereof. And with lots of money. Where did this story came from? And why was it so easily believed at first? Because it fits nice with some ancient stereotypes on Jews? Now it appears that the makers deliberately presented themselves as Jewish, Zionist, Israeli-Americans with lots of money. This isn’t an innocent way of drawing attention to the wrong people in order to protect yourself, it is a deliberate choice to put the blame on the Jews. I think that merits some attention and discussion.
  2. Politics of Aesthetics: Why does the idea that the film is of really poor quality matter in the discussion? One very often hears ‘Why are Muslims protesting over such a stupid movie?’ or ‘I don’t like the movie, it is poorly made, but Muslims should not use violence’. On what grounds is such an evaluation of the quality based? And if this was an Oscar winning movie (to mention just one contested standard of quality) would it then make sense to protest? Or if they won the Golden Calf (the Dutch film awards) violence is ok? What does an argument like that actually produce? It appears to allow people to distance themselves from both the filmmakers and Muslims. The former are provocateurs and amateurs with bad motives who don’t understand how to make a nice movie while the latter are irrational rioters who cannot distinguish between poor art and good art nor appreciate freedom of expression. What does that mean with regard to the type of art and protest that is expected, appreciated and allowed in particular societies (or circles within)? And what does that say about the people who use the argument; and yes I did as well in the beginning, but now it has started to bother me. It is like saying there are two aggressive irrational players fighting each other: the islamophobes vs. the Muslims and ‘we’ are the last refuge of the civilized world. Both groups are seen as to threaten modernity, peace and tolerance and just don’t have to qualities to appreciate the good life and share it with others? And instead of those Muslims and Islamophobes are we claiming to have the moral and aesthetic authority to be the Voice of ‘our’ moral community? And what is the role of the press in this?
  3. On Seeing: Ok, if Muslims don’t want to be offended, then don’t watch the film! How many times did we hear that? But also, ‘Really, you are protesting, but you haven’t even seen the film?!’ So, if people do see the film, it is their own fault they feel offended (so don’t protest it is your own fault). If they do not watch it, they should not protest. Well, apparently people can share particular feelings and ideas without actually seeing them first hand. Apparently, there is another mechanism at work here, but more important is that both arguments only work to convince Muslims they should not protest at all and, again, make them look irrational. And the combination of the two is a trap; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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