I finally got around to watching the trailer to the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” movie (I don’t get the title). The filmmaker, apparently a scoundrel who deceived everyone involved, succeeded in making something as offensive as possible to Muslims. And cheesy, too. Junior-high calibre, at best.
I remember the controversy over Martin Scorcese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” That was certainly offensive to my faith. But despite the deserved public uproar, it didn’t go beyond that–no storming of Scorcese’s home, no rioting, etc. In America, we’ve learned to respond to offensive free speech with more free speech. Call it “yelling at each other.”
But that’s in America, where we’ve had nearly 250 years of practice with the “free speech” concept. It won’t catch on anytime soon in Arab countries. So this movie raises questions of a practical nature which go beyond our cherished First Amendment. Practical in the “Don’t yell FIRE in a crowded theater” sense.
We’re at the intersection of several things:
- Freedom of speech.
- Religious tolerance/bigotry.
- Public safety.
- International relations.
We know that depicting or demeaning Muhammed–forbidden by Islam–can inflame Muslim passions and endanger Americans abroad. So…what do we do? Allow it? Censor it?
Put aside the issue of what caused the initial attacks in Egypt and Libya–the movie, or the 9/11 anniversary (it was the anniversary). At the present time, a week after those events, the issue is definitely the movie.
Obviously, the Muslim reaction is wrong, period. But this is the world we live in. It is what it is.
The pragmatic reality is that such movies CAN put people’s lives and property at risk–American diplomats, missionaries, tourists, businesspersons. Such is our world. Is that a price we’re willing to pay for our values? I’m guessing it is, because the alternative is censorship. Nobody ever said freedom was free.
There is ample room for discussion. I lean toward allowing junk like this movie, and suffering the consequences…but with nagging reservations. I might feel differently if I were an American living overseas. What say you?