Religion News Service: In-depth. Impartial. Engaged.

Blogs » Omid Safi - What Would Muhammad Do?

What Would Muhammad Do? has moved: Click here to read the latest posts

12 Essential points about the offensive film on the Prophet Muhammad, and the subsequent reactions in Libya & Egypt


The hateful piece of propaganda about the Prophet Muhammad, known as “Innocence of Muslims” continues to have repercussions around the world, due to the attacks on the US Embassy in Libya and Egypt.   There is no mistaking the offensive nature of the film, as it accusing the Prophet of having been a womanizer, a fool, a sexual pervert, and a homosexual (though that last “insult” plays into homophobia).  There is also no mistaking the fact that the murder of the four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens is cruel and barbaric by any measure.

  Here are twelve points to keep in mind, in an attempt to bring some sanity to a controversy that has already generated far more heat than light:


1)  This is not an issue of Freedom of Speech vs. religious sensitivity.
Every time that there is an offensive piece written to target Muslim sensitivities, there is the temptation to cast it as an issue of “freedom of speech”, held to be absolute, vs. the religious sensitivity of Muslims.    That framework is either unhelpful or at best only partially helpful.   In reality, pieces like the “Innocence of Muslims”  are best classified as hate speech, as they seem to be of the same genre as anti-Semitic films of the 1930’s or Birth of A Nation KKK movies.

The issue of freedom of speech vs. religious sensitivity also misses the point because it assumes—falsely—that Muslims are only capable of religious sensitivity.    Muslims, whether in relatively free societies like Turkey or under more oppressive regimes like Iran and Saudi Arabia have rich traditions of filmmaking, political cartoons, and satire.   Many journalists and satirists in these countries are actually paying a price for their upholding of freedom of speech.    Those are the people that are truly deserving of the spotlight, not the hate propaganda producers.

2)   Al-Qaeda, not Libyans, is behind the murder of the US ambassador
The assassination of the US ambassador is not the work of the Libyan people, or religious groups, but rather the operation of al-Qaeda.     The overlapping timing with the anniversary of 9/11 lends credit to this being an al-Qaeda plot that was pre-planned.   So does the heavy amount of weaponry carried to the assault on the US compound.   

3)  The Libyan authorities and religious scholars have condemned this attack.
  The Libyan President condemned the attacks in clear and unequivocal terms:

Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf stated:

"We refuse that our nation's lands be used for cowardice and revengeful acts. It is not a victory for God's Sharia or his prophet for such disgusting acts to take place….We apologize to the United States, the people of America, and the entire world. We and the American government are standing on the same side, we stand on the same side against outlaws."


4)  The Libyan people have demonstrated against the assassination of the ambassador.  
This is one of the more underreported aspects of this crisis so far, the fact that Libyan people’s own voice has not been heard from in the Western press.    Hopefully these pictures will go some ways towards addressing that.   (there are a few endearing spelling mistakes, like “Profit” for “Prophet”; “Pehavior” for “behavior”).

5)   The producers of the film openly admit to being Islam-haters.
The person originally identified as the producer, "Sam Bacile", is a shadowy, fictional figure.       Whoever the producer is, he has now gone into hiding, having achieving his insidious aim of throwing fuel on the flame.

If the initial reports on Wall St. Journal and the Guardian were to be believed, the “film” is produced by an Israeli real estate agent based in California who admits his hatred for Islam by confessing his view that “Islam is a cancer.”   Bacile reported to the Associated Press that he raised 5 million dollars reportedly from “100 American Jews.”    There is great reason to be suspicious about almost every aspect of the above.  In fact, the attribution of the "film"'s funding to "100 American Jews" may well be a bit of misdirection on behalf of the producer, an exercise in using anti-Semitism to cover his own tracks.   

The BBC reports:  “But extensive efforts by BBC reporters to trace Mr Bacile - through his credentials as a filmmaker or a real-estate agent - have so far proved fruitless.”  There are no known internet references to Sam Bacile except for the youtube account that was used to upload the “film.”

Furthermore, “Sam Bacile” doesn’t seem to be the name of any recognized California real estate personality.

The latest report by the AP suggest that “Sam Bacile” is in fact a fabricated identity by an American Coptic extremist, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who concocted the story of the Israeli real estate/filmmaker persona.   “Bacile”, might in fact be an alternate spelling of his own middle name, Basseley.

Nakoula is a convicted con-artist, who has gone to jail for financial fraud.    You can see the United States Court District court documents here.   He had invented 13 fictitious identities, including "P.J. Tobacco."   

There are also reports that tie the shadowy producer to a “Steve Klein”, who seems to be affiliated with a few Islamophobic groups and neo-Confederate rightwing militia, as well as endorsing anti-Mormon, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, and anti-Catholic policies.    He is also affiliated with the same network of Islamophobes such as Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes that inspired the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.  

Klein is also affiliated with Kaweah, which was identified as a hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center. 

6)   The producer—whoever he is—has the right to produce his propaganda, even if it is hateful speech.  
However, we do not have the obligation to provide him with a podium by offering him the very media access that he (like many other extremists) craves.   He confesses that he showed the film to a mostly empty movie theater in Hollywood over the summer.   This is a calculated and manipulated campaign to generate publicity by appealing to the most hateful of people in every faith community.

7)  The distribution of the film has benefited from Terry Jones, yes, the same idiotic Qur’an-burning pastor in Florida of whom the President Obama and General Petraeus have said that his reckless and hateful actions are endangering the lives of American citizens.  

8)   The youtube “film” was picked up by a fringe group of Coptic radicals.  Copts are indigenous Egyptian Christians who have at times had a tense relationship with the Muslim majority, although the majority of the Copts supported the overthrow of Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt.   Mainstream Coptic organizations in Egypt have already condemned this movie, and the “film” does not represent the views of Copts.

9)   American Muslim organizations have uniformly condemned the assassination of the American Ambassador.   
This includes Council for American Islamic Relation ; Islamic Society of North America; and Islamic Circle of North America.

10)   This violent response to assaults on the dignity of the Prophet is not the example of the Prophet himself.  
Simply put, this is not What Muhammad Would Do.
The Prophet Muhammad himself was repeatedly mocked, cursed, and even stoned during his life.   As I documented in my book, Memories of Muhammad, his enemies even paid to have children stone him, yet Muhammad refused to curse enemies, as he was sent as a “mercy to all the worlds” according to the words of the Qur’an.

Furthermore, the Qur’an lays out an ethical standard for how one is to respond to evil, and the command is clear: “Repel evil with something that is better, lovelier.”    It’s moments that like that people of faith, of all faith, any faith, including the Islamic faith, have to reach deep into their hearts and live out the true meanings of their creeds.

As the American Muslim playwright Wajahat Ali said: 

“By choosing violence as a response, the embassy attackers ironically & tragically betray the legacy, spirit & wisdom of the Prophet Muhammad - he who was repeatedly insulted, mocked, and pelted with trash and stones but chose to reply with patient etiquette and generosity. Extremism begets extremism. This tragedy in Libya calls for moderation & reconciliation. Voices of calm, understanding & peace must now rise and be heard. #benghazi”

11)  The producers of the film lied to their actors and crew about the content of the film.  
The crew of the film did not know that this was an anti-Muhammad film.  The producers went back and dubbed in the anti-Muhammad message into it post-production. 
In other words, the deception about the “film” is not just about the funders and producers, they even deceived the actors in the “film.”  See interview with one of the actresses here.

12)  We have a choice how to respond.
It is up to us, to each of us, to decide which path to pursue: each of us can choose to pursue the path of the extremists who funded the film, the extremists that spread the “film,” or the path of the extremists that reacted to the “film” with violence.

Or, we can respond to these catastrophes the way that President Obama reacted to the anniversary of 9/11 by reminding us that our fates are bound up together.    Obama said:  “There's no them and us - it's just us”

As Dr. King reminded us, we are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.  

We can find examples of this same ethical commitment in the Muslim community, such as the pictures of the courageous Libyans who shared their humanity, their grief, and their hearts with Americans. It is the pictures of these Libyans that grace this essay.

(This blogpost was edited to reflect current information on this issue.)

Tags: al-qaeda, american embassy, anti-muhammad, bacile, egypt, film, hate film, klein, libya, violence


  1. Wee said! Your twelve points offer a rational and very logical explanation of this whole ordeal that has grown way out of proportion. I hope that my fellow Muslims out there who think they are doing the right thing by their violent, irrational actions, reconsider their actions. Not only are we confirming to the world’s Islamophobes that they are right, but we are also offering free propaganda to a senseless, hateful film that is best ignored.

  2. Some good points but Point 8 is way off. First, Copts dont have “at times a tense relationship” Thats minimizing the ugly truth. Theyre a persecuted religious minority in their own country for decades. The idea that a majority of Copts supported Mubarak’s overthrow is a romantic fantasy. Copts mostly stayed on the sidelines not sure if overthrowing Mubarak would bring the worse Islamists (ironically, Copts were right in their prediction).

    Also Point 11, you probably based that on an article and not watching movie yourself, if you watch English version of movie actors clearly speaking very harsh stuff.


  3. Well said, my friend. I watched this 14 minute joke of a trailer, and it reminds me of the films L.Ron Hubbard produced in the 1970s to denigrate psychiatry. These bits of trashy video are so completely ludicrous, I can’t imagine anyone not laughing at them. Sad to see that the publicity only makes the “film” more marketable. At least “The Temptation of Christ” was well produced, well-acted, and thought provoking. This “Innocence of Muslims” is not even worthy of a cursory glance. Let the world forget it ever existed, and let “Sam Bacile” (aka: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) slink back into the cave out of which he came.

  4. Bob, you are misinformed.  Copts very much participated in the revolution and certainly can not be characterized as “sitting on the sidelines.”  I am currently in Egypt and most Copts I know (naturally) do not want to be associated with this film in any way.  You are painting a very stark and binary picture of the role of Copts in Egyptian society, one that suggests that you may not know the country very well and are perhaps repeating political rhetoric.

  5. The 12 points read like a manifesto for sanity, and also clarity,
    in the face of distortions - both by the participants and also by the
    perpetrators - of this heinous carnage in Libya, with related anti-
    US protests in Cairo and now Yemen and Iraq.

    The great difficulty is to have the mainstream press reflect this
    same balanced perspective, and also for the truly courageous
    reporters to advocate what is called here “an inescapable network
    of mutuality”, meaning recognition of a common humanity and
    obligation to respect others that goes to the heart of all the world’s
    great religions.

    Thanks for making 12 points that count for the good, and allow for
    a modicum of hope beyond the current headlines of death, despair,
    and ongoing confrontation, not least from one of the current presidential
    contenders in the US elections. “Shoot first, and aim later” Romney seems
    intent on making what is already bad even worse, not just for America’s
    enemies but also for its foreign service officers and those assisting them in
    parts of the world that Romney has never even visited.

  6. the media has already reported that this movie was NOT made by a Jew nor funded by Jew. Seems like it would be a good idea to mention that.

  7. Did you read point #5? Dr. Safi makes it very clear that early reports that the film’s creator was Jewish seem to be false.

  8. A voice of sanity. Thank you.

  9. Beautiful.  Thank you.

  10. Great article, Omid. Your #1 is really important—distinguishing freedom of speech from hate speech.

  11. Lets be clear. Freedom of speech allows idiots to show themselves to be just what they are - uncivilized and ignorant. The film appears to be meant to incite anger and it is clearly the parties being offended job to not just randomly kill people.  No government can police people’s actions unless it is totalitarian and isn’t that exactly what the Libyans had for decades?  Please two wrongs don’t make anything right and civilization should not cater to lowest common denominator.

    Education is the only way…otherwise the world is no better than hundreds of years ago but with global instantaneous rage.

  12. The portions of the film I saw were bizarre, incomprehensible and poorly executed. However its offensiveness does not justify the actions of the thousands of people who get violently offended every time the slightest insult to Islam spreads. If anything, the reaction to this obscure, basement-quality film shows how incredibly absurd the expectations of many Muslims can be. It’s a fringe opinion from a fringe of American society. Who cares if it offends you? Ignore it and move on there are plenty of more outrageous acts that can be perpetrated towards Islam. Portions of “Christianity” reacted in such a way for many centuries and frankly it’s childish.

  13. thank you for your very undrestandable article, you could talently separate real ıslam from conservatives .and could guid muslims toward peace and make them far from all wrong behaviours. I strongly believe that political islam is what puts the real islam, the religion of peace , into danger .and devides people into ” you” and “us ” .whereas unity is the great need of our world’s population.

  14. “Hate speech” and “freedom of speech” are not two separate and distinct things.  This “film,” disgusting, repulsive and ridiculously badly produced as it is, is protected under the 1st Amendment, just as Birth of a Nation and 1930s Nazi propaganda.  It would be nice if progressives like yourself familiarized yourself with 1st Amendment law before engaging in analysis.
    It would also be nice if you stopped talking out of both sides of your mouth and made absolutely clear in your remarks that (a) Sam Bacile is not an Israeli-American Jew, in fact he is not Sam Bacile, he is Nakoula Basseley, a American Coptic Christian (b) he is a fraud—literally so, having been convicted of that very federal felony in the past (c) his claims of being funded by “100 Jews” are likely false as well.  Yet, instead of putting the truth out front and center, you repeat these proven falsehoods and bury the truth toward the end.

  15. Hello Frequentwind.  Read Point #6, which makes my position quite clear, and in case you didn’t read it closely, re-read these sentences:  “There is great reason to be suspicious about almost every aspect of the above.  In fact, the attribution of the “film”‘s funding to “100 American Jews” may well be a bit of misdirection on behalf of the producers.

  16. Here is the truth of it, he is apparently an Egyptian Christian Copt living in Southern California, and tried to blame the Jews intentionally:

  17. thanks Irving.  As you’ll read above:  “There is great reason to be suspicious about almost every aspect of the above.  In fact, the attribution of the “film”‘s funding to “100 American Jews” may well be a bit of misdirection on behalf of the producers. “

  18. Professor Safi, I’ve been trying to figure something out for a long time, and it has occurred to me that I have never actually asked a Muslim the following question. While I haven’t seen the trailer to the film in question, and even if it were the worst piece of hate-filled trash every produced (which it may very well be)...

    ...why do Muslims react with violence?

    I’m not trying to inflame you or speak hatefully—I really want to understand, because the people I see on TV right now dancing on the roof of our embassy seem to me like petulant, bratty children who, en masse, are unable to live in the real world without throwing temper tantrums every time their feelings get hurt. It looks like mass immaturity, childishness, and woeful ignorance. It’s as if a whole culture were nothing more than infantile.

    In the real world, feelings get hurt, people do hateful things, mock others’ faiths, create works of art like “Piss Christ” (which tore at my heart because I love my Savior), depict Mohammed wrongly, and on it goes. And I’m thinking that if you can’t cope with that reality in healthy ways, you’ll never be able to embrace all the good in the world. And if people en masse are unable to control themselves without killing, they really ought to be spanked. But are there any adults in the room over there?

    This is not a gauntlet. It’s an invitation.

  19. Dear Sarah, I’m a Copt from Egypt. So I’m intimately aware of the reality in Egypt. The string of burned Coptic churches post Revolution. The blatant discrimination against Copts with regard to jobs, education, equal citizenship rights, church repair, etc. The inability for anyone to convert to Christianity in Egypt without harassment (or worse) while conversion from Christianity to Islam in Egypt is met with celebration. The weekly Friday sermons in mosques throughout Cairo denigrating Copts and our church.

    Some perspective please.


  20. I wouldn’t make too much of the SPLC calling anything a hate group. The political party of which I am registered is considered a hate group by them, too.

  21. Locke - the answer is in point 2.  It’s not “Muslims” - it’s groups who welcome the excuse to create violence.  Extremists, nutcases.

  22. Balmusico, but the common denominator in all this violence are people who have taken offense at some perceived slight on Islam. You don’t find similar riots or widespread violence among christian groups when slighted. it may no be all muslims, but these are muslims who are acting violently

  23. There can be no sanity or peace where there is religion. Religion is lethal and the world would be a much better palce without it, anywhere.

  24. There are many sides to the story of why, who and what. The problem is sorting through all the thousands of pieces of information for the truth. The question is asked why do Muslims react with violence. Why is there intolerance in the Middle East for Christian Minorities (e.g. the Copts). Why do these things happen. History is our teacher. Throughout the ages there have been revolts against various governments most of these have been violent. Throughout history one group of people has always tried to subjugate another group of people. Is there rhyme or reason to any of this, unfortunately there is just humanity creating the chaos it has always created regardless of race, religion or personal point of view. Unfortunately it is the ones that are the loudest that are heard which are usually the minority.

    Muslims are being their own worst enemies by allowing bigots and hatemongers control their actions. Violence of any kind is reprehensible when directed at the innocent.

    I do believe that any person (regardless of our freedom of speech laws), who spews hate speech or makes films that put lives at risks should be subjected to the closest scrutiny.

  25. I don’t know for sure why they react the way they do, but for decades only thing these kids have seen is war, poverty and violence with the brunt coming from either dictators supported by our government or directly through our weapons. What we are witnessing is a manifestation of the frustration and anger.
    Instead of a sane response we are now sending two ships to catch them.
    Our appetite for endless wars and military solution to everything is a reflection of the violence of our own government . Whether you kill by drones or by Ak 47 the end result is the same


  26. Locke,

    Perhaps we can turn your question around a bit to get at the real issue: Why do Christians (be they Copts or Protestants or Catholics) represent Muslims and Jews and other religious minorities with such hatred, violent speech and acts? The United States has a long history of violent religious intolerance, from anti-Catholic riots to the burning of Black churches to shooting Sikhs in their Temple.

    As for the free speech issue raised by frequentwind - perhaps you should familiarize yourself with rulings of the US Supreme Court on hate speech and the criminality to incite others to criminal action. There is absolutely no doubt the producer of this film made it with the intention to provoke a violent response by Muslims. He should be arrested for abetting murder - that is US law!

  27. Chris,
        The biggest difference is the American people, (Christians, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Sikhs, Buddist, Hindu’s and ever how many ethnic groups make their home here, etc.) tend to learn from their mistakes and at least tries to correct them.  It is apparent thru history over and over again for at least 4000 years that others do not.  And if you keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then we know what that is.

  28. I remember getting the same feeling I had when Oklahoma was bombed, to hear it was perpetuated on American soil by an American. These three cowards, were also instigators:Steven Klein, Bacile and Terry Jones, Jones for promoting the video on his site, and Klein for producing it. They’re trying to shift the blame to some made up guy. All conducted on our American soil. They just don’t want Americans to try to make peace, thinking we look week. How could they? Why aren’t they ashamed? Klein and Jones should also go into hiding, better yet give up your American citizenship and go somewhere else. See how many liberties they can take in another country. How far does freedom go when it’s hate-mongering? Just like the church group that attends soldier’s funerals with hateful posters. How can some Christian groups be so misguided, so hateful to think that our Lord would ever approve of their actions? I just wish a big lightning bolt would come out of the sky sometimes or the ground would open up. They have crossed a line—out of religion, and are a black mark on Christianity for not having the ethics/morals of love the neighbor, (OT and NT) no matter who it is. Notice how they also involved all 3 major religions, trying to bring the Jewish people into it as well. If anything they are egging on a third world war or a revolution. These people do not represent religion or Christianity rather their own messed up brand of politics. Sadly our 21st century America is so much more divided and hateful now with these groups. : God help us!  :-(

  29. This release of video at this crucial time in America with the elections coming up and the arab spring and the Iran nuclear weapon situation brings a very bad taste in my mouth.  Iam not a conspiracy theorist but do you really think that a shadowy figure some time ago planed and made a movie(if it can be called that), use prophet mohamad which is well known to fire up people in the islamic world and then say the jews paid for it??? come on people…  it sounds to me like the hostage crisis right before the election in 1979… I am a muslim and i could not be sadder than to see a bunch anti islamic reactionist who call themselves muslims fall for this kind of propaganda over and over again.  Wake up people, will you? you are from a religion of peace and love and unity and every thing we represent around the world shows other wise.  We as muslim first and foremost should condemn the acts of the so called muslim extremist instead of standing in the side lines and just watch.  And further instead of falling pray to these propaganda and opportunists over and over again, we should resolve the matter in a very peaceful way. 
    I want to know who would benefit from making and showing this video?  My r first thought was the Iranian government which for many years now have stirred up things all over not only in the muslim countries but around the world.  They know they are going to be ousted next and they are looking ways to stir up the world against america before this happens.
    My second thought right after Mr. Rmoney and his goonies started to react to the attacks on the embassy, by attacking obama by comparing obama to carter and try to score points on foreign policy while losing grounds and falling behind on the polls, sounded very fishy to me.  We all know that on this election cycle,  there are alot of very powerful people with alot of money who want obama out and they are willing to do anything for those tax cuts and another round of war. Because after all, as dick chaney and his halliburton friends know war is a very profitable business!
    Something to think about before jumping in the streets of cairo, libya and many other arab countries that may be just started to have a small taste of democracy.  We as true muslims can not afford to fall pray to these baits. At these times of trials instead of our traditional anger rampage, we should practice a bit of anger management and true meaning of Islam.

  30. dont watch it,dont get offended,dont protest..dont make the movie makers happy, then we can live happily every after:)

  31. Some valid thoughts here mixed in with some very invalid ones; namely your notion that the film in question is the “same” as Anti-Semitic propaganda films and/or “Birth of a Nation”.

    It is a patently FALSE and uninformed assertion to equate the innate attributes of race with something like religious or political convictions. Mockery or satirization of religious beliefs, whether presented artfully or not (and in the case of this film, clearly NOT, but that’s beside the point), is a right firmly upheld by our constitution and by other free societies around the globe.

  32. Islam is NOT the religion of violence. We as muslims need to prove that with our ACTIONS! Intelligent is the one who ignores these propogandas and not react with violence. These filmmakers are doing this on purpose because they know EXACTLY how we are going to react to this. It is really unfortunate that we cant prove them wrong :(

  33. Ana, I am so pleased to see your response, and this sane article, and the other sane responses, above. I am also very suspicious of the timing of this whole incident, down to the Romney smirk. As another commentator posted elsewhere, “Imagine if Mr. Romney had called President Obama, asked how he could be of assistance in this time of crisis, offered to appear at his side…to demonstrate that, when American lives are at risk, politics stops at the water’s edge.”  (Fred Kaplan, I’m also very grateful to the crowd in Libya who promptly posted the pictures (I posted them on my FB page yesterday, the minute I saw them) which accompany this article - reaching through the internet, people to people, to deny violence as any solution. I am constantly hoping that the internet will continue to be an instrument of peace, culture to culture.

  34. Great discussion!  I’d like to respond to Dr. Safi’s list item by item:

    1.  The distinction between “hate speech” and “free speech” is a false one, at least in the United States, where hate speech enjoys the protection of the First Amendment.

    2.  It has been *suggested* that al-Qaeda is behind the Libyan attacks, but this has yet to be proven.  Dr. Safi goes too far in asserting it as fact.

    3.  Dr. Safi claims that “Libyan authorities and religious scholars have condemned this attack”, yet he offers only one quotation in support of this.  He could have, and should have, cited more than one such statement.

    4.  “The Libyan people”, as a unit, haven’t done anything.  Remove the definite article and you can say that SOME Libyan people have condemned the violence, some have said nothing, some have supported it, some have participated, etc.

    5.  Grant that the filmmakers openly admit to hating Islam.  So what?  It doesn’t matter whether these guys are creeps or saints, the principles underlying this debate are the same. 

    6.  Here Dr. Safi advocates the appropriate rational response: ignore the film. But doesn’t this render the other eleven items on this list rather superfluous?

    7.  The sentiment expressed by President Obama and General Petraeus, that Terry Jones’s reckless and hateful actions are endangering the lives of American citizens, commits the same fallacy we are confronting in the present situation. The danger arises not from anything Jones did or said, but from the UNJUSTIFIABLE reaction to those words and deeds.  To blame Terry Jones is to let the actual perpetrators of violence off the hook by suggesting their response was to some extent justified.

    10.  Here we go again, another exciting round of “my scriptural authority trumps your scriptural authority”—a game with which we in the US are all too familiar these days.  The Koran, like the Bible, contains many fine and noble passages, but also undeniably offers clear pretexts for some pretty horrifying behavior.

    11.  So the producers lied to their actors and crew—again, so what?  The integrity or otherwise of the filmmakers is a red herring.  It doesn’t matter how sleazy these people are—again, the underlying principles do not change.

    12.  No argument on this one!

    I don’t think any reasonable person can fail to see that this film is an artless piece of hatemongering.  But that is completely beside the point.  It doesn’t matter how foul the “art” is, it simply isn’t an excuse for mob violence.  The more attention we focus on the film and its makers, the more that fundamental point is diluted.

  35. Hate speech or Free speech, satire or commentary does not make this film any less of an atrocity.  I condone political satire from around the world as it speaks to the struggles of understanding a nation’s leaders.  This film is NOT satire.  It is hate.  Built and based in hate it has created only more hate.  America’s Christian right has grabbed onto this film like a banner cause to hate Islam.  It is pathetic!  I completely appreciate these points made that place the responsibility of hate born dialogue to be that of the haters…not the majority.  Thank you for putting this out there as food for thought.

  36. I read it all. I, also, am trying to understand. But rational understanding is…impossible? Those “perfidious Jew” we Catholics (then) prayed for on Good Friday. Then, those Crusaders… Then Hitler’s extermination plans (with “assent” of [some] German bishops?) that the whole world was watching… And on and on and on…to 9/11? Let’s protest Chick-fil, and the Danish press—and remember those “French” fries and that “french” wine protest. And, yes, the bombing in Oklahoma—but, World, how about the bombing of churches—gasp—in the United States? Police dogs? Hangings of Negroes, no blacks, no Afrcan-Americans (oh, help here, NAAACP: “Colored People”). Politically correct? And to think, what about those Armenians that Turkey took care of. “Who remembers the Armenians?” Hitler said. Or maybe even the Greeks the Turks took care of after Kamal. Help me! So trying to understand…is difficult, at the least.  Posted on Facebook a few seconds ago

  37. All the Muslim commentators may talk here endlessly how good Islam is. Please invite your non Muslim friends here in Karachi, Pakistan in front of any Mosque for any discussion about Prophet Mohamad. If you go back home alive, you will be lucky.

  38. The article you linked says nothing about Daniel Pipes inspiring Brevik.

  39. @Sarah: You are the person trying to misinform the public. Copts are largely marginalized. That’s the issue on point. I’ve been in Egypt and know exactly what the people are passing through. How would you explain the exodus of Copts and Christians in general? Please, face the truth for what it is and stop shying away from such responsibility. The movie is to be condemned. But the one on the Copts, you are misinforming the public.

  40. This article has done nothing to help Islam.  Anyone who does not know Islam may as well go along and believe that the facts in that video are all true.  You say the Prophet was not a womanizer.  But you have provided no other facts that proved otherwise.  As far as me an outsider is concerned, all the facts of that video are correct about the fact of Islam but there is no other voice telling the world otherwise.  Know your own history and then speak the truth!

  41. Would a KKK film encite jews, catholics and people of color round the world to kill and stone embassies?  What if all black people offended by Arian Race fanatics decided to go on a killing spree?  Any port in a storm…. MUSLIM FANATICS ARE DANGEROUS CRIMINALS WHO BELIEVE THEY ARE EXEMPT FROM THE LAW.

  42. The recent violent protests by Muslims against an offending film is a very sad happening, in deed.  The movie is made, perhaps, by a handful of individuals while Muslims are taking their anger out on entire Europe and America; there is no justification for this.  The common person in Europe or America as well as the four diplomats killed in Libya have nothing to with it. Rumors had it that the film was put out by some Christian immigrants from Arab countries who had been carrying anti Islamic baggage with them. If so then, they have earned hatred of more than a billion Muslims against their own religion, a dis-sevice to their own religion, because hate begets hate. Not only that but they are creating a conflict between their kith and kin they left behind and Muslim communities there. A conflict between two communities living together is very harmful.  The handful provocateur must have been celebrating their success. A provocateur’s biggest success is in provoking irrational behavior among the victim, such as anger, fear, hate, protests or violence. Protests create controversies. Anger clouds human reason. Hate is the precursor of man’s cruelty to fellow man (evil).  Moreover hate begets hate and violence begets violence. If they wanted to be evil like the provocateurs then they could invent lies against personalities endeared and revered by those whose words are hurting them and make movies out of the lies. As Chinese say, poison as an antidote to poison and iron cuts iron, they could fight freedom of speech and freedom of expression with freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Lies need to be fought back with lies. Then, they could justify their evil as freedom of expression and freedom of speech too, even though doing some thing so offending to so many people is really evil, no matter even if it is celebrated as freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

  43. I am a pagan in my heart and soul
    I serve the sentence of life with conviction
    That my life on Earth
    Was bestowed on me not by the saints of heaven
    But by the love of my parents love
    Down here on Earth.
    I live my life without fear of sin
    I am concerned not that someone will judge me
    In the contest of
    Religious much ado
    My pagan instinct tells me that
    None of us should do.
    Fear of institutionalized Religious Authority
    for a pagan like me
    Is not apriority.
    I am the judge of my deeds
    I fear no God
    I have a built-in safety guard
    My swearing or lack of prayer
    Does not reach nor does offend God
    As a Pagan, I do neither of them
    I respect my neighbors and my fellow men
    I am not a sinning man.

  44. Firstly, my apology on my english, but i just wanna share what’s in my mind.

    Both, the filmmaker and the extremists, are stupid. Both are blinded by their anger.
    I’m a muslim, but my big family consists of: muslim, christian protestant, catholic, and traditional beliefs.
    It’s heart breaking to see those atrocities done ‘in the name of God’. It’s just sick. A couple decades ago it’s Salman Rushdie being threatened. Today, there are too many things that incite anger from some muslim communities. But they do not represent all of muslim. Unfortunately, the way most media portraying it, make it seems the whole muslim world is with the extremists. The credo bad news is a good news still very much well alive. Sadly, this happens both ways. The west (and modernization) often depicted as threat to traditional islamic values. It’s ironic, in times when information can be accesed easily, these people (extremists everywhere) just cannot open their mind. Maybe it’s true that people see/believe what they want to see/believe.
    As a muslim my self, i still don’t understand why some muslim are so tense and easily offended (and then burn things down like uncivilized person). They should learn from the christian in dealing with monty phyton. Maybe they should relax a little bit by reading jesus and mo, after the evening prayer. If they cannot stand it just dont watch/read it. Like it or not, we cannot control how and what other people think about islam and the prophet. Defend god and the prophet by defending the humanities, not destroying it.

    I wish those extremists read again the Qur’an verse 5:8 “o you who believe, be upright for God, bearers of witness with justice and let not hatred incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful (of your duty) to God; surely God is aware of what you do.”

  45. “I consider myself lucky to participate in this amazing period of change and hope in Libya… Chris Stevens”. Those was the last words of a great friend for Libyans Ambassador Chris Stevens, he was a friend more than just an ambassador.
    All Libyans felt grief on the tragedy to hear the death of Mr. Ambassador Chris Stevens; we condemn this barbaric action which does not represent us Libyans and Muslims. We send our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
    In the news of Mr. Ambassador Chris Stevens’s death, we Libyans awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger and anger to courage; now we are more determined to rebuild new civilized democratic Libya, we promise, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. This is the way real Libyans will pay you back Mr. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

  46. Why is there such focus on ‘the content of the film does not justify the reaction?”. No one is saying that. The issue is that it is hate. That is all. A hate film has a goal in get people to react a certain way. IF they don’t react with violence, that does NOT negate the message and purpose of the stimulus. IF reaction were the criteria of condemning something as hate, then we’d have no such legislation, as not all would react we see with this film. Reactions of masses are not something that can be predicted with standards of what we may term “norms”

  47. I remember the comment from somewhere that it is not supported by the First Amendment to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.  Knowing that some Muslims are likely to react as they have, without condoning that reaction, is not the production of this film (or piece of film, as the case may be) basically the same thing?

  48. I’ve watched the trailer of this film. I don’t understand why the producer misled the actors about who the movie was really about. Was the purpose of the film to make an irreverant statement(s) about some aspects of Muhammed’s life? The question is—was there any historical truth to these statements? Truth can be offensive.  Muslims appear to be taught that they cannot question what they are taught to believe, that Muhammed is beyond any form of reproach, regardless of what he actually did or did not do. Are we getting to a place where it is considered “sin ” or taboo to say anything critical of Muhammed, or Islam? It’s perfectly OK to depict art showing Jesus Christ in a vat of urine, or Virgin Mary with cow dung on her garments. Because we know Christians don’t do anything but “turn the other cheek.” I am not implying that Christians should start reacting with violence. Christians, Muslims better learn what they believe, and how to defend it without a—assertiveness—not aggressiveness. Muslims, someday, may “learn” that if they do not allow questions, their followers may conclude it’s because they don’t have the answers.

  49. If we see the events in strictly historical sense, we can asume that this is another point to break the peace between people. As we see in so many films: “the butler was the guilty one”, but later on we discover that the actual guilty person was not it,  somebody else gets benefits from all this caotic situation, who is it? History has the answer. Normally things are not what they appear, there are a lot of people and a huge system working on that, and they succeed. So maybe what we have off the top of our minds is not quite right, we should stop and “re-think” twice. And perhaps the third time we might get closer to the truth than ever.

  50. The last prophet, pbuh, who is a mercy to all the worlds, is a mirror in which everyone sees his own beauty or ugliness…

  51. Murder and hatred are evil and fly in the face of good. Righteous anger, if indeed righteous, does not commit the murder of innocents. As Southerners in the US, for decades we suffered a reputation by geographics that we did not deserve, due to the acts of violence, murder, prejudice committed by the evil KKK. As a Christian who loves the Nation of Isreal and holds the Jewish people world wide dear, it is difficult to not succomb to fear and hate. This is our challenge and we cannot mirror the evil and hate we are faced with as we are like them by doing so. I pray for the people who live in the Muslim countries that are not evil and themselves victimized and live in fear themselves of the radicals. I pray that all Mothers in these countries influence their children, both male and female, until they reach the age of accountability. Women of the third world countries in many cases are without human rights that are God given and taken away by man. I pray for their awareness, bravery, and determination to make a difference in their future generations by making a difference even at their own risk. I pray for all the Mothers in the US who have sons and daughters in the military and that their children come home heroes that are alive. For those that experience a loss of a child I pray for Gods healing. Prayer is an ultimate righteous weapon against evil and hatred. We cannot let ourselves succomb to hatred unless it is righteous. Otherwise, we are not soldiers of God and add to the evil in the world. Selah~

  52. This article is full of so many factual errors that I don’t even know where to begin. Firstly, the video is an expression of freedom of speech. The whole point of freedom of speech is that you can’t quash it no matter how offensive you find it. Otherwise next we’ll have the Christians asking for videos of evolution to be pulled and Life of Brian pulled from the video stores. You know how you mock Scientology and think Hubbard was trying to make money from his followers? Your belief system is the same to me, a non religious person, I think Mohammad was in it for the power and money and in retrospect he is painted as a Ghandisque figure even though all historical accounts differ - thank you to all my history classes in college. Should I consider you a hateful individual for mocking Scientology? Is it blasphemy to believe in evolution? It would be to a Christian. 400 years ago they murdered you for saying the Sun was the center of the solar system because Christians considered it Blasphemy.
    Lastly, to David, If person A said if anyone makes a movie about cars he’ll kill your entire family and person B made a movie about cars would you want person B to go to Jail? Yeah it is not the same thing as yelling fire. We should be hunting down murders, not telling people to keep shut just in case we provoke them.

  53. Hi Joe, speaking of being full of contradictions, not really sure where you are going with your post.  No one here said anything about Scientology.  As for the Sun being the center of the solar system, let me invite you to do a bit of research, and see that Muslim astronomers were actually aware of these facts, and it was medieval Christiandom not Islam that persecuted its scientists.  God bless.  omid

  54. @David muris:
    “Knowing that some Muslims are likely to react as they have, without condoning that reaction, is not the production of this film (or piece of film, as the case may be) basically the same thing?”

    That’s the same kind of logic used by men who justify beating their wives. Or bullies who intimidate their victims into silence: “If you didn’t want me to do X, then you shouldn’t have provoked me by doing Y”

    Part of free speech is that the answer to bad speech isn’t restrictions on speech, but more speech. The muslim world is completely free to refute and challenge the allegations made in the video. The violent reaction (including here in australia now) just cements the view of the west that islam is a bullying religion that tolerates no dissent or critical examination.

  55. The point is these deaths are a great tragedy and we all need to stop generalizing people. People abroad generalize Americans as…not peaceful. People at home generalize Muslims as…not peaceful. It takes better people and better leaders to be just, in thought, speech and actions no matter your beliefs. That is what I got from the article, and what i think the Ambassador stood for. I dont know how we get there but i think people are going to keep trying…i pray for the whole world.

  56. Mona: perhaps both are true. Americans in their foreign policy aren’t peaceful on the whole towards those who suppress freedom. Muslims (some at any rate) aren’t peaceful towards those who express a dislike for the beliefs of their religion.

    how many instances of violence by muslims when there is a perceived slight against their religion does it take before it stops being a generalisation, and starts being a characteristic of the religion that it brooks no dissent and reacts violently?

  57. Every year around 20 Copts are murdered in Egypt because they are Christian. Every year dozens of Churches are burned. Coptic women are raped because of their religion. Copts are discriminated against in every day life, employment, military, government.  This is what happens when you are a minority in a place that claims to have a peaceful religion - but where all the conflicts around the world centre around this religion, its teachings and interpreted rules. From Northern Africa, down across to SE asia covering 22 countries there is a battle being waged on behalf of this religion. The rest of the world is trying to modernize itself, whilst these places try to destroy themselves. China is an example of a place that does not encourage religion, but are moving over 700 milion peasants into the middle class. A true force of power - not this beheading rubbish.

  58. Nicely and concisely put Prof. Safi. Congratulations - a voice of reason in the chaos of religious fundamentalism. And I believe it’s fair to say every faith from pagans, to Christians, to Jews, to Muslims have suffered persecution at one point or another. Until the three Abrahamaic faiths realise they stem from the one source, and worship the same god (just with a different name) the insanity will continue.


  59. Can I just say how refreshing it is that, although we may differ on some points and perhaps even misunderstand each other, I haven’t found a single F-bomb or otherwise incendiary epithets in this whole string!

    I love you all just for that!

    Christ’s blessings on you all.

  60. Molly Melbourne,

    What’s your source? It seems to me that you confused Egypt with Bosnia, where Muslim Women were raped and murdered.  I grew up in Egypt and have family and contacts there. It is not true that some are murdered or raped because they are Christians.

    Christian Holidays are official Holidays in Egypt. Christians do not have to take vacation time to celebrate their holidays as minorities do in USA and other countries. Christians are appointed in the government Cabinet and other high ranking posts and also in policy making positions. There is great efforts to have Christians represented in all posts, even the one based on election and voting, in ratios reflecting their percentage in the population.

    I know Christians in high positions in all fields including business tycoons!  This does not mean that they are not minority, but statistically their presence conform or even higher than their actual percentage in the population.  In all societies, even in USA, there is always feelings that minorities are not getting what they deserve, and the government tries to make the balance!

    Violent acts against churches were staged by the corrupt Mubarak regime in order to have the Christian fearful and to blame Islamic groups and put both of them under control.  Actually one of the hired hands staged the explosion of the Alexandria Church during the New year Mass, fearing that he may be eliminated, requested asylum at the British embassy and gave the details.  Other minor incidents were also believed to be staged by the corrupt regime and not hate driven,

    Unfortunately politics, love of control, fear and suspicion spoils human relations.  However, Egyptians always stood together to face major issues.  It could be seen in the cooperation between Churches and Mosques and youth from both during the Revolution of January 25.  Currently, the Churches and Christians denounced the insult to the Prophet of Islam.  Similarly, few years ago, Muslims joined Christians to protest the Italian movie which was viewed as insulting to Jesus and Christianity.


  61. What happened is a great tragedy and we need to understand the many factors involved.  The article is well written and summarizes the major points. I also found the coverage by the NYTimes try to present the reaction of normal people and why.  There is a lot of anger for variety of reasons, however, it is quite obvious that certain groups took the opportunity to accelerate the events and staged criminal acts.
    It is not clear who staged the events but the motives are clear.  In Libya there were meetings with US companies to create businesses in Libya and Egypt.  Who will benefit from stopping these deals and also pressuring Obama to take a rough approach with these people,  All events, including the posting of the video work as a reminder of 9/11!

    These are some comments from: Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Angry at Online Video, NYT 9/16

    Even during the protests, some stone throwers stressed that the clash was not Muslim against Christian. Instead, they suggested that the traditionalism of people of both faiths in the region conflicted with Western individualism and secularism.

    Youssef Sidhom, the editor of the Coptic Christian newspaper Watani, said he objected only to the violence of the protests.

    Mr. Sidhom approvingly recalled the uproar among Egyptian Christians that greeted the 2006 film “The Da Vinci Code,” which was seen as an affront to aspects of traditional Christianity and the persona of Jesus. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries banned both the film and the book on which it was based. And in Egypt, where insulting any of the three Abrahamic religions is a crime, the police even arrested the head of a local film company for importing 2,000 copies of the DVD, according to news reports. ...many in Egypt, like other Arab countries, sometimes find it hard to understand that the American government feels limited by its free speech rules from silencing even the most noxious religious bigot.

    “We want these countries to understand that they need to take into consideration the people, and not just the governments,” said Ismail Mohamed, 42, a religious scholar who once was an imam in Germany. “We don’t think that depictions of the prophets are freedom of expression. We think it is an offense against our rights,” he said, adding, “The West has to understand the ideology of the people.”

    ““We never insult any prophet — not Moses, not Jesus — so why can’t we demand that Muhammad be respected?” Mr. Ali, a 39-year-old textile worker said”

    “When you hurt someone, you are just hurting one person,” said Ahmed Shobaky, 42, a jeweler. “But when you insult a faith like that, you are insulting a whole nation that feels the pain.”

    Mr. Mohamed, the religious scholar, justified it this way: “Our prophet is more dear to us than our family and our nation.”

    Others said that the outpouring of outrage against the video had built up over a long period of perceived denigrations of Muslims and their faith by the United States or its military, which are detailed extensively in the Arab news media: the invasion of Iraq on a discredited pretext; the images of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison; the burning or desecrations of the Koran by troops in Afghanistan and a pastor in Florida; detentions without trial at Guantánamo Bay; the denials of visas to prominent Muslim intellectuals; the deaths of Muslim civilians as collateral damage in drone strikes; even political campaigns against the specter of Islamic law inside the United States.

    “This is not the first time that Muslim beliefs are being insulted or Muslims humiliated,” said Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo.

    While he stressed that no one should ever condone violence against diplomats or embassies because of even the most offensive film, Mr. Shahin said it was easy to see why the protesters focused on the United States government’s outposts. “There is a war going on here,” he said. “This was a straw, if you will, that broke the camel’s back.

    “The message here is we don’t care about your beliefs — that because of our freedom of expression we can demean them and degrade them any time, and we do not care about your feelings.”

  62. Each day is a test in faith. Our actions more than words will be judged. Those who acted in hatred or reacted in violence will find themselves without mercy

  63. Once you begin an article with “What they did was bad, but…”, you automatically negate any point you intended to make. You are simply another in the already too-large cadre of apologists.

  64. tried to watch the film…can’t even finish it - it’s obviously rubbish….as one journalist in my country had pointed out: “...Muslims also have to understand and realize that we, non-Muslims, are not stupid to believe such crap.”....The Last Temptation Of Christ to me is even more dangerous- it was the work of an award winning director

  65. this film is offensive to muslims, but killing of innocents in syria, burma, palestine etc. isn’t? how many muslims have to die in order for people to protest and try to do something about it?

  66. First of all, thanks to the First Amendment , hate speech and freedom of expression are same in this country. THis is how we live and we have earned it and desire to preserve it in the memory of heretics burnt in medieval Europe. If some religious group /people dp not see it the same way, America is not responsible or apologetic for it. This is freedom that we cherish: Life or Brian or Prophet film. Any excuse to justify/condone violence because of “incitement to violence” or “insult to my God” is intellectual dishonesty.

  67. Sorry if this offends, but, last I heard, there’s still such a thing as freedom in America. I’m a Christian and it hurts like crazy to hear people mock my Savior. And to be honest, Mohammed wasn’t exactly the most moral guy out there.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

You also can sign in with Facebook or Twitter if you've connected your account to them.

Sign In Using Facebook

Sign In Using Twitter