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PV Vivekanand: Islam should not be the loser
September 20, 2012
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No one in the right mind wants to believe or even suggest that there is a planned campaign to provoke world Muslims by producing work, including films, that are offensive to Islam. But the mindset tends to shift when clear signs emerge in the West that there is indeed an anti-Islam approach that produces only Muslim unrest and related violence.

It is easy to say that we in this part of the world tend to blame Israel for everything, including even the marital problems of many. But, seen in a recent historical perspective, it is not very difficult to see an Israeli role in the anti-Islam hostility in the West.

Islam was never pitted against Christianity. Of course, there have been the recent Lebanese civil war between Muslims and Christians and faith-based violence in some other Middle Eastern and Asian countries. But there was never a serious faith-based crisis in the West over the decades. North Ireland was an perhaps an exception, but it did not involve two religions.

However, Islam became an easy target for those who wanted something to fight against following the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

Always waiting for an opportunity to let the rest of the world fight with each other while it builds itself and benefits from the chaos, Israel clearly exploited the situation and portrayed Muslims in a negative light.

It is no exaggeration that the “Islamophobia” that we witness in the West today is an Israeli creation, and one that was given regular boosts by a series of incidents that were clearly aimed at provoking and inciting violent responses in the Muslim World. And misguided Muslim groups helped the Israeli-fuelled process.

It is indeed ludicrous to suggest that Israel had anything to do with the creation of Muslim hard-line groups – except perhaps the Palestinian Hamas organisation which it saw as a convenient weapon to field Palestinian nationalists against Islamists. 

(True, Hamas now poses a major challenge to Israeli interests in Palestine, but that is one instance where Israeli plans went awry.)

It is not inconceivable that Israel’s agents and proxies are active among Muslim groups around the world to fuel anti-Islam sentiments at every given opportunity. That is the very way that Jews around the world have survived and thrived over the centuries to the point that today Israel wields enough political clout to start a third world war. But that is a different story.

In the immediate context, it does not matter whether the producers of the US-made film, The Innocence of Muslims, had any links with the French provocative weekly, Charlie Hebdo, which published crude caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).  In both cases, those behind the film and the French magazine should have but known in advance that they would be provoking world Muslims and inciting violence.

Reports say that the director and actors of the US film were not aware its producer planned to doctor the footage and turn it into an anti-Islam film. Then whoever was behind the doctoring knew well what they were doing but did not want others to know it beforehand. This clearly indicates that a conspiracy was hatched with the aim of inflaming Muslim passions.

Similarly, the publishers and editors of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo should have known of the predictable backlash from Muslims when the publication printed caricatures of the Prophet. It does not matter that the magazine suggests that the cartoons targeted the US film. The decision to publish the cartoons should not have been taken, given the awareness that publishing an image of the Prophet in whatever form or content is not acceptable to Muslims anywhere.

Charlie Hebdo has often drawn attention to itself for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet.

Its publishers could not have forgotten that the magazine office was firebombed last year after it released a special edition that it described as “guest edited” by the Prophet and took aim at what it called “radical Islam.”

What needs to be understood is that there is nothing called “radical” or “moderate” Islam, a religion that calls for tolerance and compassion. A tiny minority of Muslims have chosen to twist the Islamic teachings and way of life to suit their thinking. And the result is creation of militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Taiban and Boko Haram that could not be any farther than Islam itself.

In under-developed countries, Muslim religious sentiments run high and anything that is deemed to challenge or humiliate the faith or the Prophet provokes unrest that, more often that not, leads to violent expressions. They are doing Islam no service.

Those engaging in such actions are not aware that they are not serving the interests of Islam because they allow others to describe Muslims as “naturally and religiously” violent mobs.

The French government has ordered the  closure of its embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday because of fears of a hostile reaction to the publication of cartoons.

It has also banned a planned protest by people angry over the US-made film on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said security is being stepped up at some French diplomatic missions.

Authorities and Muslim leaders in France have called for calm in the country, which has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

The French government, or any other government for that matter, has the right to take whatever measures it finds fit to maintain law and order, but it cuts a sorry figure while it invokes free speech in the case of Charlie Hebdo.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault cited the freedom of expression in his country to defend Charlie Hebdo, but, as he himself added, this right “should be exercised with responsibility and respect.”

All the Muslims ask from world leaders like Ayrault and others is work on ensuring that their people, particularly the media, to act responsibly and respect the religious sensitivities of everyone. That is indeed a refreshing, albeit a too ambitious or wishful, thinking.

But most countries could start from having a closer look at how Israel is playing the game in undermining inter-faith understandings and interaction around the world.

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