Rioting? No Excuses Necessary!
September 24, 2012
Dr. David Lazerson
Imagine someone making an image of something really important to you and then sticking this creation into a bottle of urine. Now imagine that the image isn't of a close relative but of the spiritual entity that you worship and pray to. Then, to top it off, the perpetrator has the audacity to call this submerged creation a work of art! You'd probably be pretty ticked off and I sure don't think you'd pay 25 bucks to see it in some art museum or on display somewhere. You probably wouldn't go to the artist's reception if it was for open to the public and they served free sushi and wine.
But this is indeed what happened several years ago when Andres Serrano came up with his creation known as the Piss Christ. Although he claimed he was doing it to protest the supposed commercializing of Christian values and images in today's society, nonetheless, there were many hard-core critics of his work. Most felt it was in very poor taste. Others were downright incensed. And some, while not personally agreeing with Serrano, defended his right of free expression.
The point here is that while the Piss Christ made national and international news – if anything, it was instant fame (or infamy) for Serrano, we didn't find Christians running about up in arms, burning, looting, and worse, murdering people in the name of defending their religion. It seems that many Moslems throughout the world view the recent YouTube video piece "Innocence of Muslims" as their own version of the Piss Christ. First of all, the identity of the video producer is rather sketchy. The media, ever quick to jump on the bandwagon, of course blamed Israel and the Jews for putting the film together. These claims turned out to be false. Secondly, it matters little as to who the exact person was. An entire nation or culture cannot be held responsible for the actions of an individual. We might not like or agree at all with the message of the short movie, we might feel the producer is a complete jerk, but in a free and democratic society, this individual still has the right to express his or her views. As observers we can choose what we look at and what we call art.
The violent reactions that have spread throughout the Muslim countries are unjustified and should be completely condemned. My guess is that most of the folks doing the rioting, burning down the buildings - and even murdering the US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American citizens, probably never even saw the video at all. It seems as if no excuses are really necessary to start rioting against the US and western culture. Many eyewitnesses have claimed that the attacks at the American embassy in Libya were well orchestrated and prepared in advance of any Internet YouTube scandal. What needs to be confronted and condemned is not the ridiculous video piece but rather the horrific response by the Muslims that participated in the street violence – and, of course, the "religious" leaders who encouraged these behaviors.
There is another uncomfortable issue that must be mentioned. Suppose someone refers to a person as being uncivil and having anger management issues. Let's call him Johnny. Now Johnny has a whole repertoire of responses at his fingertips. He can laugh at these off-the-wall charges. He can turn and walk away. He could even write in a response to the local newspaper or put it up on a blog. But what if Johnny instead says something like, "how dare you!" and then proceeds to knock the accuser's lights out? In what seems like the theatre of the absurd, it would be like saying; "What? You call me violent? Now I will have to destroy you!"
There are many social scientists that claim that the growth of a civilization is having the ability to be self-critical. It reminds me of the famous line I hear in my own culture. It goes something like "if there's two Jews together then you automatically have three opinions." Thus, the real danger is when it becomes a crime to question authority, whether it's the government, the police, and especially the state sanctioned religion.
Most recently, several leaders from Muslim countries have called for the UN to make it illegal and an official hate crime to produce anti-Muslim media of any sort, be it YouTube movies or even blogs. And yet, what of the many anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti non-Muslim major media productions that run freely throughout the Arabic world? These are usually highly racist, bigoted, and very inflammatory pieces that are shown to the masses and thus, even the young ones are taught to hate non-Muslims and Infidels from an early age. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Cleaning up needs to start a lot closer to home for many Muslim lands.
Not too many folks have come out in support of the message of the "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube piece. It may have been in poor taste, (the real insult is probably referring to it as a legit "movie") but it's this individual's right to make it. If I had a nickel for every time someone spoke or printed or blogged or texted or posted or even YouTube'd something of an anti-Semitic nature, well, I'd be a wealthy man. I might not like it one iota but, at the same time, I'm not out on the streets burning cars, businesses, and killing people. I have all sorts of positive channels to fight this ignorant form of racism. The widespread violent response through many Muslim countries has only served to put this YouTube clip on the map. It has become a viral hit overnight. If, on the other hand, people hadn't over reacted and simply yawned, this short video, offensive to most perhaps, would have bit the dust. All civilized countries need to properly place the blame here and condemn in no uncertain terms the violence perpetrated by these so-called demonstrators.