The “Innocence of Muslims,” the film that has spurred anti-American protests in large parts of the world, is by all accounts a low-budget film produced by a disreputable character in California. Some of the little-known actors who appear in it claim that the aspects allegedly insulting to Islam's Prophet were reportedly dubbed by the filmmaker himself. The film actually merits no attention. It is the type of movie that few would have seen or paid much attention to ~ just another poorly made work of fiction created by some crackpot with a religious hang-up.
The manner in which protests have been triggered worldwide has not only fuelled interest in the film among the public but millions of internet users have accessed it online. It is unfortunate that affected groups have refused to learn lessons from the past ~ that violence over such material, considered blasphemous by them, only generates further curiosity.
The violent reactions ~ which is different from peaceful protests, to which all have a right in democratic societies ~ against Salman Rushdie for the "Satanic Verses" and the caricature of Prophet Mohammed in a Dutch daily are examples of the intolerance amongst segments of Muslim societies. While one may have anticipated the ferocity of reaction in an increasingly radicalized and Islamist Pakistan, the violence in Chennai against the United State Consulate ought to be a wake-up call for those in the Indian establishment who would deny that the issue of intolerance in minority communities needs to be addressed just as vitally as that in the majority community.
There have been similar films and books which have allegedly projected Jesus Christ in a poor light. "The Da Vinci Code" is a classic example and then there are several Hindi films which Christians believe have denigrated the Catholic faith. Images of Hindu gods printed on underclothing or footwear too have not escaped the charge of blasphemy. Broadway musicals which projected missionaries in an offensive manner have won accolades in the West.
Violence and killings in protest against a work of fiction, even if it claims to be a fact and has little or no artistic merit, are never justifiable. Such violence, experience has shown, does little to engender revulsion against the allegedly blasphemous act; on the contrary, the perpetuators of the violence rightly face opprobrium. It is also a fact that no government, especially in the West where the freedom of expression is taken very seriously, has anything to do with an individual's creative output, whether it is good, bad or ugly. It is, therefore, entirely illogical to target US representatives in various countries ~ a country cannot be held responsible for a film made by its citizen in his private capacity however abhorrent the content of the film may be to millions.
In Libya, the protest which resulted in the murder of the American envoy is a brutal crime, pure and simple, and only points to how convenient some nation-states find it not to carry out their basic duty, which is to protect the lives of those living within its borders, especially when those targeted are diplomats only doing their job.
Though Western diplomats and governments need to be, and in the main are, sensitive to the potential of works of art emanating from their soil offending others, they have their limitations. They cannot, for example, be held responsible for policing the internet for potentially offensive material, whether it deals with religious sensitivities, racism or other controversial topics.This is not just about freedom of speech, but the realities oftechnology.
A balance between freedom of speech and freedom of religion may be necessary, but the issue can't be forced by violence. It will, in the long run, prove entirely counter-productive.
Stakeholders must be taken seriously
John Eric Gomes
In Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, the height of dam is raised and villagers had been standing chest deep in the river for 17 days, with fish bites and flesh sores, in protest against raising dam level to wipe out their land without first re-locating them as ordered by the Supreme Court! The anti nuclear protests are going on in Haripur since 2006, Jitapur; since 2007, daily protests in Gorakhpur have completed two years and in Koodankulam protesters have been lati charged and thousands of people humiliated and falsely indicted for waging war against the state etc. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is under the Central Government control and even the jurors appointed recommendation for a moratorium on new nuclear projects, thorough review of all existing nuclear installations and going in for cheaper and renewable sources of power have fallen on deaf ears!
Take the compulsory wearing of Helmet for all two wheeler users. Imagine the unhygienic state of sweat and oil, lice and falling hair existing due daily use! The head is most vulnerabl,e but what about making me an invalid due broken limbs or damaged spine? I may not want to live with only my brains intact. Do I wear full armor and boots? And where do I store my helmet in the market place without it getting stolen? The other day my stepney cover was stolen when parked in the Panaji market area! Motor cycle pilots unique in Goa, will be worst hit. Giving them free 2 helmets is not the answer. Yes, helmet is important, but priority should FIRST be given to traffic rules enforcement, proper roads and infrastructure. Make properly designed effective helmets available at reasonable cost and let there be security for vehicle users. Prevention is better than cure. Stakeholders/ Users have a right to protest skewed priorities and legitimate grievances from their point of view! Surely a democratic and law abiding government does not want to drive the aam admi to violence?
Coalgate and Irongate are turning out to be two of the biggest scams in our country. Goa set the trend for the nation by being the first to lower petrol prices also boldly stopping all mining after the Shah Commission report. I hope all concerned realize that mining cannot continue forever. There must be a chapter in RP 2021considering phasing out mining after feedback from all the stakeholders.