Notes on the Journey

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 and the Practice of Tolerance

The above is a link to possibly the worst film ever made.  Just my opinion.  But, it is the film that supposedly caused the uproar in Cairo today that resulted in the storming of the U.S. Embassy there.  The demonstrators were protesting at the U.S. Embassy because their Mullahs told them to after seeing clips from the movie the link above will take you to on YouTube.  It's titled "Muhammad Movie Trailer" in case the link doesn't work.

It's difficult to understand why people could get so upset over a movie trailer, especially such a bad one.  But, in the movie in question, Muhammad is portrayed by an actor, and that is against Islamic law.  No image or portrayal of Muhammad is allowed.  It's blasphemous.  And so, the uproar.  But, not just an uproar over a movie, an uproar against the U.S. for being anti-Islamic.  The film was supposedly made by some Egyptian-American Coptic Christians.  I'm not sure why a protest of the film escalated into an attack against the U.S. in general, but it did.

I also don't understand why there is such outrage at the portrayal of Muhammad.  Since it was non-Muslims who made the movie, it isn't against their religion to portray Muhammad.  But, this is then the problem with people who expect everyone to follow their dogma and their rules.  What I believe, you must believe.  What I prohibit, you must prohibit.  What I consider blasphemous, you must recognize as blasphemous.  Expecting others to follow your dogma and your rules will always cause problems.

Tolerance is described in the dictionary as "allowing the existence, occurrence or practice of something you don't necessarily agree with."  This would include other religious beliefs and practices.  Why is the practice of tolerance so difficult?  Why is what someone else believes or doesn't believe so frightening?...especially if the opposing or differing belief isn't hurting anyone.  The harm is in trying to restrict belief, or in imposing belief onto another, or in punishing another for a differing belief system.  Live and let live, and do no harm.

I also find it difficult to understand how people react so strongly against something just because they're told to.  Have all the people who protested the movie that portrays Muhammad seen the movie?  I doubt it.  Have all the Mullahs who told the people to protest the anti-Islamic images in the movie seen the movie?  I doubt it.  The idea of what was considered a trespass was enough to incite a crowd of approximately two thousand people to storm the U.S. Embassy, which had nothing to do with the offending movie.  Huh?

But, what it shows us is that anti-U.S. sentiment in the Islamic world is very close to the surface.  The fact that today was the anniversary of 9/11 most certainly played into the protest that was staged in Cairo.  Our country definitely has its share of racists and bigots, but the majority of people in the U.S. are not racist or anti-Islamic.  And, these types of protests, such as what happened in Cairo today with the storming of the U.S. Embassy, do nothing to further understanding and tolerance between differing cultures and people of differing religious beliefs.

If the people who protested the film by storming the U.S. Embassy think that the film is representative of all U.S. citizens, then they have a very large gap in understanding what freedom of speech means and how it works.  The protesters said that they didn't believe this was a matter of freedom of speech.  They said it was about an insult to Muhammad and Islam.  Well, freedom of speech often manifests itself as what could be taken as an insult.  An insult, mind you, not slander or libel.  Freedom of speech supports differing opinions.  Freedom of speech is about being able to put your ideas and opinions forward without fear of retribution.  Our forefathers fought for religious freedom, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.  In our culture, these freedoms are sacred.

Our Western culture is open to differing opinions and supports debate and discussion in regard to anything and everything.  We might get into some pretty heated conversations while debating or discussing our differences of opinion, but the majority of us are able to disagree peacefully.  At least, I'd like to think that the majority of us can disagree peacefully.  We're taught to question and think for ourselves.  We're taught not to follow along blindly and to make our own decisions.  But, not everyone understands freedom in the way we live it, or the responsibility that comes along with it.

Mob mentality is very destructive and frightening.  The collective emotional frenzy that a mob creates causes people to do things they might not usually do, or wouldn't normally consider themselves capable of doing.  The demonstration in Cairo today might not have started out as emotionally charged as it ended up.  Most of the people in the crowd might not have been as fired up as a few very active and vocal people were, but got caught up in the moment.  This is the danger of the mob.  The energy and emotions of a few can ignite the group and then people get pulled into it.  The lucky thing today is that no one got hurt and no physical damage was done to the property.  The worst that happened was that a U.S. flag was taken down, stolen and burned; and, a black Islamic flag was put up in its place.  That was symbolically damaging, but no one was actually harmed.

The truth is that the majority of Muslims are not extremists, and the majority of U.S. citizens are not anti-Islamic.  But, these types of events, such as the one in Cairo today, raise questions in the minds of ignorant and fearful people.  The ignorant and fearful people who perpetrated the event, trigger a reaction in the minds of the ignorant and fearful people who witnessed it.  How different things would have been if the Mullahs would have encouraged tolerance over a badly made movie instead of inciting a protest.  Yes, the movie violated Islamic law, but the people who made it weren't Muslims.

We're a global society at this point.  Our transportation and communication continue to make the world a smaller and smaller place.  It's important that we strive to accept our differences and various cultures and belief systems, and learn to tolerate each other.  Believe what you want to believe, and as long as it doesn't restrict or harm others, then go for it.  Debate, discuss, converse, convert, disagree, agree, argue...but, ultimately, allow everyone the freedom of their beliefs and practices.  You want to make a controversial movie, go ahead.  I don't have to agree with it or watch it.  But, you certainly have the right to make it and put it out there.

I'm endlessly grateful to be a U.S. citizen and live in a country where our freedoms are established and protected by our Constitution.  And, I hope people who aren't used to having the freedom we have are able to understand it and accept it for themselves as quickly as possible.  The entire world is expanded as more and more people grow into freedom and responsibility.  The entire world benefits from acceptance and tolerance.  Be and let be.  Live and let live.  And, do no harm. 



  1. It should not matter that the film makers were Muslim or not, it is a matter of mutual respect and tolerance. A movie by a gentile of a private Jewish rite that is meant not be seen would be wrong. The freedom of speech we have in this country should not be regarded as carte blanche to justify disrespecting anothers beliefs.

    1. A reader named Lee Kabilyo made the following comment on the above post. I don't know why it didn't show up on the page, but here it is in its entirety: "It should not matter that the film makers were Muslim or not, it is a matter of mutual respect and tolerance. A movie by a gentile of a private Jewish rite that is meant not be seen would be wrong. The freedom of speech we have in this country should not be regarded as carte blanche to justify disrespecting anothers beliefs."

      In response, first, I'd like to say thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I understand that what someone might do or say in regard to another persons belief system or practices might seem disrespectful or insulting, but I still defend their right to have the freedom to express their differing opinion or idea, as long as no one is harmed in the process. When the Monty Python comedy group made the film, "Life of Brian," they received death threats. Their spoof of Jesus was taken as disrespectful and insulting by some people, and enjoyed as humorous satire by others. The argument that something should not be done out of respect to another persons beliefs is a slippery slope. And, what we need to remember, is that real truth is eternal and unaffected by human action or comment.

      Our ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, along with three other U.S. Embassy workers, have been killed in the line of duty to our country because people in Libya were offended by the same film those in Egypt reacted to. Chris Stevens had nothing to do with the film in question, and he's now dead because someone took offense to something they thought was disrespectful to their belief system. This is unacceptable and heinous behavior. Islam does not condone murder. The people who perpetrated this crime are using their religion to justify their irresponsible acts.