Is America trying to massage the Muslim ego?
Anti-US sentiment still flies high in Muslim majority countries following 'that' film
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This weekend, movie audiences in the Middle East took in the news that the producer of “Innocence of Muslims”, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, had been arrested by agents of the Federal government in the US, reportedly over tax offences. Some began to wonder out loud – was Obama coming round to their ‘side’?
By involving the Feds in the arrest of this man whose film trailer became the provocation for a chaotic Muslim backlash that directed its film-outrage at innocent American targets, it was clear that the government cared to been seen to be meting out punishment to the man that set-off a new ‘wave’ of Muslim hatred against the US. They had smoothly managed to secure the arrest of this dubious chracter on the count of violating his probation for bank fraud conviction dated 2010.
Just a day earlier, Obama raised the burning Muslim-US question at his UN address as a last-ditch attempt to put the demons of the USA-made video to rest, as far as one can quell residual global Muslim anger. He seemed to take pains to leave Muslims nicely outside of the ‘angry’ and ‘violent vengeful mob’ umbrella, where others may have been ready to consign them. So a "cruel and disgusting" video that understandably offended many Muslims did not reflect US values, said the President of a country known for the Public Displays of Religiosity of its political leadership. Obama managed balance the need not to inflame Muslim opinion with the need to protect the US First Amendment (the article in the US Constitution which prevents government from limiting speech).
First Amendment or otherwise, however, Obama also knew that he would have to do more to placate religious Muslims, particularly in those countries which had just emerged shakily from popular revolutions. Particularly now, public opinion would become an increasingly important factor in the relations between states. Given the importance of the price of oil and other financing arrangements to the US economy, throwing more ashes in Arab eyes would not help anybody.
What marks an important departure from previous practice, or US policy vis-a-vis Islam, is the way that somebody guilty of a form of “hate crime” against Muslims was finally brought to justice. As reports in the American media and from human rights organizations make clear, the climate in America since 9/11 was one where those accused of violating the sensitivities, or otherwise, of American Muslims, were a given a cloak of impunity, with law-enforcement authorities across the country reluctant to press charges against those who may have shared some of the collective responsibility for the attack on New York. A report carried in Veterans Today lists a number of incidents where Muslims were attacked with little or no recourse to the law.
This can't be an easy time for Obama. The Arab Spring originally brought with it a sense of optimism that Arab-American relations would be improved with the populations of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and other Arab centers coming around to the “American Way” of government. It was not long, however, before the protesters disavowed misty-eyed Americans of the their illusions, showing that in fact much of the anger sparking off the rebellions was born of US influence and collusion with dictatorial regimes. Quite soon post first wave of Arab-Spring, Islamist political parties have been making huge electoral inroads, in Tunisia and Egypt in particular.
These events brought to light a number of the inherent difficulties of the democratic system in its broadest form. Does the tyranny of the mob really stand in place of the tyranny of the dictator? Does the right to freedom of speech also grant the implicit right to offend? Or does the right to freedom of belief also protect those beliefs from unfair, excessive persecution?
With US forces bogged down in a number of conflagrations in Muslim-majority countries, and those countries being more and more sensitive to their populations' feelings; with the US Muslim population itself growing relative to others; and, with the need to assure White, Christian Americans that Apple Pie and the right to bear arms are not under threat, any government in Washington is going to have a tough time getting its priorities straight. It could also not have come at a worse time, with Obama facing the Ayn Rand-inspired Mitt Romney in only a matter of weeks.
Still, Muslims have a long way to go toward having their sensibilities secured State-Side. Fundamentalist Christian Pastor Terry Jones still has the right to burn the Quran and inflame passion when he feels like it, and it is unlikely that Muslims will turn a blind eye or the other cheek charitably in response. In the meantime, movie-goers will at least be spared the spectacle of another Nakoula Nakoula epic.
What do you think? Feel free to have your say on the US and its way with Islam, on the back of the whole anti-Prophet film saga. Is the US about to care more for Muslim public opinion? Perhaps, more so than liberal Europe who are happy to allow freedom of speech to trump all?
By Staff Writers
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