The first point to make is that I have not watched the entire film; I started but couldn’t finish, not because I was offended (though I somewhat was), but because it is quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen in every sense. There are YouTube videos made in back gardens, starring teenagers that have just bought their first camera (or discovered the one on their phone), that are better produced.
The acting is awful, the script is silly, the props are preposterous…I could go on to near-infinity. Childish, insulting and ignorant, its one aim is to offend and insult Muslims; it offers no deep message or moral, existing only to abase Muhammad. It is, essentially, the type of film that the general membership of the BNP would make were Nick Griffin forbidden to interfere and raise the tone even slightly.
I am not going to call for the film to be banned; I believe in freedom of speech, and freedom of political speech above all else, but this film is something which should concern us greatly. Not for any merit that the film possesses intrinsically, but as part of a larger pattern of behaviour that has emerged in recent years (the various threatened and occasionally actual desecrations of the Koran are another example).
The film is a successful attempt to create conflict between the Muslim and Christian-Secular world.
The concept is simple. An action is taken which so offends Muslims that they riot. Damage is done, people are injured and threats are made. The American government are forced to condemn the violence, as well as those who provoked the Muslims, but they must also recognise their right to freedom of speech. Both these things may then be spun by hostile media as an endorsement, tacit or explicit, of the offence given. No matter how nuanced, anything less than complete condemnation is portrayed as complicity. Each such action makes Muslims more alert for future offences and increases distrust of the West as a whole. On the Christian-Secular side, the riots are portrayed as an example of Muslim intolerance, and lack of willingness to coexist, increasing tensions further.
The idea is to create a cycle of escalation whereby it becomes politically untenable in either area of the world to take a moderate stance with respect to the other side. This is more pernicious than mere insult; a small group of radical Christians and Jews are deliberately taking advantage of the protections that exist for free speech in the secular world to provoke those in the Muslim world, in an attempt to create a more hostile global climate.
These various stunts must be viewed through a single lens and as a single phenomenon, and addressed as such. However, any action should not take the form of a bar on free speech – if Muhammad becomes legally untouchable by genuine satire, due to the threat of violence, then the use of violence becomes a legitimate tactic to limit free speech; one group should not be more protected than another simply because one is more willing to resort to savagery. The problem is, that without stepping on those rights that we hold dear, there are few ways that we can negate the impact of these projects.
One of the best ways that this could be done would be by educating Muslim countries about the West. In many Muslims countries, particularly ones like Egypt, there are few films, due mostly to funding issues, produced without some government involvement or sanction; in most of the Muslim world, there are would be no equivalent of Hollywood, which can mock the State and God freely, without any endorsement being implied. Similarly, most countries in the Muslim world have a much stricter control of their citizens and their lives than those governments in the West; for many, the idea that the State might be unable to prevent these actions, while still genuinely condemning them, would be implausible. A greater awareness of how the West functions, and the ideas that drive Christian-Secular countries, would make it easier to defuse these situations before large-scale violence occurs .
The problem with this is that many of the governments in the Muslim world are fundamentally autocratic – they do not want Western ideals to be understood, in case they might be adopted, and it is unlikely that any effective education could occur without the co-operation of the governments.
The core problem is that there are people on both sides of the divide who are deliberately pushing for, and attempting to foster a climate conducive to, war; it is unlikely that they will achieve this, but they may be able to create a state of permanent semi-conflict; once either side are made to tip irrevocably into a hostile attitude, it will be largely irrelevant why or how that attitude came to be; all that will matter in politics is that a leader is capable and willing to meet the threat. As further and further outrages are performed, it will become harder and harder for politicians to be seen as compromising and willing to negotiate.
The purposes of this conflict are manifold: a religious belief that Israel must be defended at all costs, a hated of Muslims, a need to create a replacement for the Soviet Union; the reasons are many and contradictory. What matters is that the these actions are seen and treated as what they are, and that plans are made to tackle them forthwith; as each successful provocation proves the effectiveness of the technique, and gives further incentive for further action.