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Rage: The Middle East Vs. Free Speech

Posted on the 21 September 2012 by Anthonyhymes @TheWrongWing

The amateur video that caught the world’s attention is leading to regional unrest in the Middle East that is igniting like kindling. More than a week after it reached international notoriety, the rage and protests show no sign of dwindling. But what is this video really? Was it actually a critique on the Islamic faith? Or was it just a plot designed to infuriate muslims? 

There are many more than two sides to this story, but the two main sides are as different as the United States and Pakistan. On the one side, American standards of free speech have dulled our sense as to what is offensive, and cartoons and caricatures of Jesus are so common that they don’t inspire much of a reaction anymore. But it is more than a desensitization, America is a much more liberal place than traditional muslim-dominated nations. We believe in what we believe in, and accept that which other people believe in. The right of the individual trumps all.

In the Middle East, the idea of free speech is not universal, and many of the places that are trying to move in that direction have only recently been freed from tyranny which oppressed and punished overt dissent. The Koran forbids the portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. The Bible does not forbid the portrayal of Jesus, as every single church in the world will reveal to an outside observer. Though we in the west deem free speech as an inalienable right, it is not viewed the same way in other places. This is a fundamental difference where America has a 270 year head start. It’s going to take some time before the idea that an individual can say whatever they want to say, even if it’s not true, spreads across the world (that is, if it even remains this way in America).

The true shame here is the lives that have been lost, and an opportunity has been lost too. The film took an extremely negative view of the prophet Mohammed, and mocked him and his followers for believing in him. If (and this is not likely considering how much of an attack it was) the film was meant to open a dialog about Islam and the way that it is interpreted today, it failed miserably. While there is a universal need for respect of all religions, there are also some aspects of civil rights under certain religions that are being ignored. The role of women in some muslim countries (like Saudi Arabia) is deplorable, and they are still centuries away from a society where a woman can have something even close to a “right.” Homosexual in Iran? Ha.

A square peg cannot be jammed into a circular hole unless parts break off. This is the case of the culture of the west and the culture of the Middle East. Each side sees the other through a lens of disdain, unwilling to work together but forced to by the globalization of technology. YouTube and the like are worldwide, therefore the American value of free speech is no longer limited by borders. Continuous violence spanning generations, suicide bombings, wars, everything that has happened in the Middle East has left a bitterness. So when a video like this comes out, it does nothing to help, it only piles a little more hatred atop the mountain that has already accumulated. Everyday that the situation doesn’t get better, it gets worse. Everyday that we go without addressing our fundamental differences in worldview in an open, positive, and constructive manner, is a step away from mutual respect and peace.

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