Tag Archives: Middle East

Should Innocence of Muslims Be Banned?

As violent protests continue across the Middle East incited by the anti-Islamic film entitled Innocence of Muslims, many have questioned whether the film and makers should be censored along with other productions designed to incite hatred and offend others. Despite initial reports that the film was made by Zionist Jews who financially backed the project, the film was actually produced by a Coptic Christian amongst others who have made it clear that they were fully aware of the potential for the film to stir up violence in the Muslim world. However, despite the propensity of the film to cause violence and the disgusting aims of the producers, the question of whether the film should be banned is not the only issue. It is equally as important that we explore how to allow the Muslim world to vent their fury through means other than violence, particularly that which is shamefully aimed at westerners with no responsibility for the film.

The question of whether the film should be banned is one that I believe should be met with a resounding no, as a point of principle. Whilst I do not argue that the films contents and aims were despicable, and that everyone involved in the making of the film should be derided in the strongest terms, the hard-fought freedoms afforded to us in democratic countries such as the UK and the US must be both protected and extended so as to allow all opinions to be expressed, so long as they are only views expressed and not acted upon without democratic legitimacy. Peaceful protest, whether in the form of a march, film or piece of literature should always be seen as acceptable no matter what is being protested, including religions, the monarchy and politics. I no more accept Muslim calls for works such as Innocence of Muslims to be banned as I would were a communist to call for Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to be censored. The truth is that if someone or something protests against everything you believe in then the way to combat such insult is not through censorship.

In the face of the lack of censorship forthcoming from western governments and the internet, the Muslim world has reacted angrily to the film, leading to violent protests largely aimed at western embassies, attacks which led to the death of a US ambassador, Christopher Stevens in Libya. Like the film that instigated these protests, the violence that followed must be rebuked in the strongest possible terms. Particularly disgraceful is the manner in which retribution for the film has been handed to westerners who just happen to find themselves in turbulent areas, Christopher Stevens being a perfect example. These people had no role in the making of the film and therefore no protest, let alone violence, should be aimed at these people.

However, violent protests in the Muslim world appear to be becoming somewhat of a habit. We are ritually treated to a bout of rabble rousing, largely by Islamists, who then cause violence to spread and lead to human, material, cultural and political damage. This is a ritual that has to stop. The ritual violence appears to mirror the relations between the western and Muslim worlds: violence, intimidation, offence. It is an unhealthy relationship that has the capability to further destabilise the whole world and lead to sectarian problems in multicultural communities worldwide.

The truth is that the Muslim world, as well as feeling victimised by the west, also feels that the west has a monopoly over intellectual debate. Whereas the Muslim world was previously seen as a very spiritual, prosperous, warm region, there is a fear that the Middle East and Islam is viewed as backward and barbaric by westerners. As such, many feel their voices stifled and often see the resort to violence as a necessary step and the only step available. The Muslim world needs to be afforded the same options as those in the west to reply to offensive material such as the film in question. For the sake of harmony, the western world needs to open its mind to the views of those living in the Middle East. If the west was to allow the Middle East to engage with it on an intellectual level, the Muslim world (apart from a few extremists committed to violence and hate), would no longer feel the need to resort to violence to get their voices heard. The first signs of this shift came earlier in the year with the initial peaceful protest of the Arab Spring. If the west was willing to engage with the Muslim world on this same, peaceful level, I believe that we would see a massive decrease in the seemingly habitual violence that is inflicted on both the western and Muslim world and all its dire consequences.

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US drones in Yemen

It has recently been reported that the US has stepped up the number of drone attacks in Yemen as a method of eradicating the plague of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula from a severely unstable Yemeni state. Whilst most opinion, treating al-Qaida as the greatest threat to the western world, encourages the US in its global pursuit of terrorists, surely it is time that the UK, as one of America’s closest allies, took a long, hard look at what exactly it is supporting?

Ever since the Second World War, the US (too often accompanied by the UK) has seen itself as a ‘global policeman’; a benevolent superpower fighting threats to western civilisation from Communism in the form of the Soviet Union to Islamism in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Yemen. Accompanied by Britain of the Cold War right up to New Labour, it has become a readily accepted opinion amongst the British public that the US has some kind of divine right to this role, and is pursuing a moral course that only it can pursue by blindly bombing the Middle East and Africa hoping to kill as many al-Qaida members or affiliates as possible, and all too often actually killing innocent civilians.

Whilst it is undeniable that groups such as al-Qaida are evil and a serious threat to targets in the west – and indeed globally – it is important to question how the US goes about defending itself from al-Qaida and why it thinks it has the authority to do so.

Firstly, we cannot ignore the fact that, whilst pursuing al-Qaida and its affiliates across the globe, the US and their allies have brought about the deaths of countless innocent civilians. I believe that this so-called ‘collateral damage’ is not only under-reported in the west, but is also understated. As we read about the deaths of civilians thousands of miles away, we simply cannot comprehend the damage and destruction we inflict on a person, a family, a community and a country. Furthermore, every innocent death inflicted by the west is a huge propaganda coup for al-Qaida, and therefore is increasingly damaging to the west and its links to the Arab world.

The west’s new choice of weapon against Islamists worldwide is unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. These pilotless planes are often able to fly undetected sorties over foreign lands, seeking and destroying ‘targets’ at the whim of a controller sitting behind a TV screen thousands of miles away. This has been proven to lead to copious mistakes and tragic civilian casualties, which I think have the potential to make the use of drone attacks a potential war crime.

Furthermore, the US, as shown in Yemen, Pakistan and no doubt numerous other countries, have used these drones and their devestating firepower over countries whose governments have not permitted them to violate their national sovereignty and who the US is not at war with. Thus, every use of these drones over these territories is undoubtedly highly illegal and a potential act of war. I would certainly like to see how the US would react were Iranian authorities to use drones to attack anti-Iranian, Zionist Jews in Washington. The principle of a violation of national soverignty is similarly inadmissable and illegal, even if the metaphor isn’t exactly fitting.

In violating the national sovereignty of countries that the US knows cannot possibly stand up to what remains the world’s greatest superpower, the US is displaying an incredible arrogance as well as violating international laws. The US has no authority to act as the world’s policeman and never has done, yet she is allowed to continue to do so with impunity due to the obedience of her allies in the west, including in Britain. These abuses cannot be allowed to continue forever, and US politicians and military commanders who give orders to violate the national sovereignty of recognised nations, and whose actions end in the unlawful killing of civilians must be brought to account.

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