There a a number of observations that are worth making about the trashy film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ that appears to have been made in the US by an obscure little group:
1. There is no question that the film – at least the 13 minutes extract that has been posted on YouTube – is disgusting and reprehensible. Whoever was responsible for it is an utter cretin.
2. Muslims everywhere have the right to protest against the film to make clear their denunciation of the film and those responsible for it.
3. There can be no excuse for attacking foreign Embassies as we saw in Libya, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. The murder of the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three of his colleagues was unacceptable and the Libyan authorities have a responsibility to bring all those involved to justice.
4. The Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan surely got the balance right when he clearly condemned those behind the film while also making clear that unlawful acts committed during protests were unacceptable.
5. It was important and right that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama both loudly condemned the film and made clear that the US government did not endorse it and indeed regarded it as reprehensible.
6. The US government is correct when it says that its laws on freedom of speech mean that idiots like those behind the film can unfortunately abuse those freedoms to denigrate others. We may not like the fact that the law can be abused in this way but the law is there for an important reason. Changing the law to prohibit ‘insults’ – as some Muslim groups appear to be calling for – is not the best way to proceed as it will do far greater harm than good. Remember that the Islamophobic Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, wants to introduce a ban on the Qur’an because he deems it ‘insulting’ to Jews and non-Muslims.
7. The film is only the latest in a series of very racist and Islamophobic incidents in the US recently. A recent advert that was published on buses by a group linked to the bigot Pamela Geller described opponents of Israel as ‘savages’. US government officials have a duty to challenge this bigotry just as they would challenge anti-semitism etc.