Innocence of Muslims

The release of the controversial film Innocence of Muslims, which claims to depict the life of Muhammad, caused and outrage in the Muslim world, where thousands of angry men and women demonstrated and attacked US embassies.

Judging by the the thirteen minutes trailer on youtube, the film, which was apparently produced by an Israeli filmmaker,* is very discreditable and disgraceful. (It is shocking to me that it actually cost 5 million dollars, as it looks like a cheap low budget movie!) I worry that, to a certain degree, the film reveals how so many people in the West view Islam and the prophet Muhammad. It is a very condescending, arrogant, and unintelligent view that demonizes Islam and Muslims, and simply puts them all under one category as uncivilized and inhuman. Islam and Muslims, according to this view, are labeled as violent and sex driven creatures. No wonder that the West, and many Christians, still find it hard to understand and relate to Islam, let alone to build bridges with the Muslim world.

Dare I remind the Christian world that one day we were the ones with a record of violence and intolerance. We can simply point to the Crusades or the Inquisition. Didn't the Pope promise that whoever participates in the Crusades will be pardoned from his sins? What if others today judge our Christian faith by these actions? Or what if they judge us based on passages in the Old Testament where God calls for his people to kill the children and women in Canaan (Joshua 6)? I am not trying here to defend Islam, or to justify terrorism or violence. But instead of calling Islam a religion of violence, we must respect and encourage the attempts of many moderate Muslims who condemn violence and terrorism and try to portray a moderate view of Islam. In the words of Colin Chapman:

In this kind of situation Christians should be willing to support those Muslims who challenge the harsher Islamist interpretations of the Qur'an. Instead of suggesting that 'the Qur'an is essentially violent', Christians should listen to the internal debate between moderate and extremist Muslims and add whatever weight they can to support Muslims who challenge the more violent interpretations of the Qur'an, and who do so from within Islam 

The film also reveals the sad fact how few extremists can cause a lot noise and cause very unfortunate and tragic consequences. The makers of this film are just one example, and we can also think of the Quran burning pastor. Similarly, the same applies to the shameful reactions by those opposing the film in the Muslim world and the tragic death of the American ambassador in Libya. The attackers ironically feed the image the movie is trying to portray about Muslims. It was encouraging to see many in the Muslim world condemn the killing of the ambassador, and this went beyond the typical statements from the political leaders, as this time people went to the street to protest the violence.   Though one might argue that radical Islam is rising in numbers and influence, and this is indeed a worrying sign, we must not lose hope in our efforts of building bridges. Muslims are not all Bin Ladens.

Bottom line. We must as Christians continue to build bridges with the Muslim world. Our call is to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). We must break the common stereotype. The challenge ahead of us is to build relationships of mutual respect, without compromising the uniqueness of our faith and testimony, and without surrendering our values. We must treat others different than us with respect and dignity, embodying the Christ we preach in our values, respect and love.

* Since I wrote this blog, it was revealed that the alleged maker of the film is actually a fake person, and this was to conceal his real identity. True cowardliness.


Ulla-Stina Rask said…
Thanks so much for these reflections, Muther Isaac. So important these days - not least coming from Bethlehem! / Ulla in Sweden
Thank you Munther Isaac for giving permission to translate your text to Swedish. Your text is important

God bless you
Lari Launonen said…
Thanks for commenting, your words have weight.
Lari Launonen said…
I promised a friend to ask this from you: he thinks you are unclear on the point about blaming the film on "an Israeli filmaker", and not clearly enough saying this is not so in the footnote, and he suspects you do so in order to advance your anti-Zionist political agenda.
Munther Isaac said…
Thank you all for your comments. Thanks Lari for the question. I really cannot understand your friend. When I first wrote the article, the news was that it was an Israeli film maker. I did not make this up - I got it from an Israeli newspaper. I linked to it in the article. Even then, I wrote that it was APPARENTLY made by an Israeli film maker. And when I read else where that it was not an Israeli after all, I added the footnote. I prefer this than changing the blog. In the footnote, I also linked to haartez where it says that the film maker was not an Israeli. It seems your friend has preconceived ideas about Palestinians - that all we do or write is about being anti-Zionist. The irony is that the article is about changing preconceived ideas. Maybe he should read it again.
Lari Launonen said…
I would like to add that I recognize that the question is somewhat insulting, though I'm sure you get a lot of this kinds of accusations and are quite use to it... but again, I'm asking this just to clarify the point for a friends who thinks your text is not clear enough.
Lari Launonen said…
Thank you Munther for helping me and my friend in our discussion by answering my question! This is what I was trying to tell him.

I'm again and again surprised how much ideological baggage we carry behind our every-day hermeneutics. Especially when it comes to these issues we could sing in the tune of Billy Joel's "Honesty" the following:

"Dialogue is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so caught-up-in-their-own-interpretative-framework.
Dialogue is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you."
Myra Dumapias said…
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Myra Dumapias said…
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