This week’s lesson was about what one lousy trailer can do to millions of hypersensitive people.
Though I’m an outsider in religious matters, I can see it is the sacrosanct core of many people’s identity. That therefore religion also is explosive material. Never strike a match whenever one is near. Or else.
Remember the excessive excitement when the short film “Submission” was released in August 2004?
Director Theo van Gogh did strike that match and got slaughtered a few months later. He made Ayaan Hirsi Ali‘ shocking statement on women’s complementary or even inferior position in parts of the Islam world. Though it was perhaps relevant, the movie first and foremost did provoke Muslims and turned out to be counter-productive. Believers proved to be too willing to get wildly provoked. It resulted in riots and violence. And the literal butchering of Van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri .
Now some guy named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula – an extremely non-Western name by the way- apparently used a flame-thrower. He allegedly made the irrelevant yet very provocative “Innocence of Muslims” . It, some people say, pictures the prophet as a violent and womanising man. As a consequence it set the world on fire this week. A minority of extremely radical Muslims all over the world appears to be up in arms against all organic and inorganic manifestations of the West. Which to bystanders is strange since their casus belli is just an insignificant short internet-video. And one which hardly anybody saw before diligent Islamic TV station Al-Nas in Egypt could put it on air. It must have taken a lot of time and effort and meticulously searching for offending material in the darkest crypts of internet.
Van Gogh’s colleague, Eddy Terstall , yesterday commented the violent, even lethal, reactions in North African and Arab countries, by saying that the film is utter professional rubbish. But he also wondered referring to the casualties - and I paraphrase – “When will the time come when a Christian in an Arab country is as safe as a Muslim living here today?”
Obviously different perspectives, very different emotions. It goes without saying the overwhelming majority of Europeans looks in bewilderment to the reactions to this insignificant sting of a fool by masses politically inspired believers . And at the same time enraged Muslims feel excessively hurt and angry about what they see as another terrible insult by Western infidels.
In Indonesia also emotions ran high. Yet taking that into account I think the Indonesian government did the right thing. It provided security to objects which could be targeted while Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told the press the problem doesn’t directly involve RI. Protests and demonstrations actually were relatively composed. Even MUI chairman Amidhan advised against rallies. The few hundred Hizb ut-Tahrir fundamentalists in front of the US Embassy in spite of them declaring war on the United States, didn’t really write history. And the president, showing understanding for and sharing the people’s indignation, called for restraint. Sometimes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shows a colour of a statesmanship. This week he and his government essentially kept their cool facing the probability of masses of overheated and angry emotions among groups of their compatriots. Kudos to them .
This week Indonesia stood out as the sensible moderate exception among Muslim countries.