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Both film and extremists to blame

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Would you be willing to kill for your beliefs? A portion of us may be able to profess our willingness to die for what we hold most dear, but taking the life of another doesn’t often factor into our thought processes. Yet there are those who seem to be on the offensive in being offended, taking even the smallest slight against their ideas as a declaration of war.

Recently Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, under the assumed name of Sam Bacile, released a film titled Innocence of Muslims. The film depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a child abuser, womanizer, and homosexual. Needless to say, such a portrayal of the figure — who, in the Islamic faith, is not meant to be depicted at all — stirred up quite the controversy.

In the days after the film’s translation into Arabic, there were mass riots outside various Western embassies. Flags were burned, threats were issued, and many were injured; some even died.

Unfortunately, such a turn of events should come as no surprise considering the 2005 controversy of a Danish cartoon’s depiction of Muhammad, as well as various other examples that have made headlines in the past decade.

Nakoula was well aware of the response his film would elicit, and probably counted on it. He deceived those he worked with in the production of the film — he pretended to be a Jewish Israeli, when in fact he is an Egyptian Coptic Christian. More importantly, an actor from the film, Miles Crawley, revealed to the Los Angeles Times that Nakoula duped the film’s actors into thinking they were in a Biblical-era reenactment and proceeded to overdub a portion of their lines with references to Muhammad and the Quran.

There is no question that the actions taken by Nakoula were wrong, and they should in no way be excused.

The film itself is extremely offensive not just to Muslims, but also to the sensibilities of most people. That being said, it speaks of a more dire problem that approximately 14 minutes of a YouTube video can spark global violence.

South Park, Family Guy, and other such programs have made far more offensive material directed at Christians in the past, and even the most Bible-thumping of the evangelicals have done little more than express their typical canned response involving their being “oppressed.”

How is it that, in this day and age, there are still ideas that are unassailable? It is depressing if one cannot express criticism without the fear of death. Such an extremist, fundamentalist, and distorted view of the ideology attempts to destroy any and all opposition to it, instead of discussing the problems raised in a levelheaded and rational matter.

There may not be a solution to this problem, other than perhaps waiting several more generations for the most fervent adherents to disappear.

But such a solution is not an adequate response to what appears to be one of the most grave matters of our time. Coupled with the proliferation of nuclear weapons and our continued misuse of natural resources, I shudder to think what future we will be left to inherit, if any at all.

One can only hope that there can be an awakening of skepticism and free thinking on a level far greater than the recent reactionary measures taken throughout the world. I wrote last week that maybe creationism was finally in its death throes, but it would appear that fundamentalism of a different flavor will put up a much greater fight.

I will question everything, and never become so steadfast or confident in my worldview so as to inflict harm upon those who dissent.
I encourage you to do the same, but I won’t threaten violence if you don’t.