By Hamza S. Omar
The recent uprisings over the hateful film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” slandering the Prophet Muhammad, have resulted in violent demonstrations across the Muslim and Arab world.
Violence is never an excuse in any religion but let’s not forget that there are also many Muslims protesting peacefully. The voices of moderation and reason are being drowned out by the actions of thugs, hooligans and extremists.
The murder of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens is appalling and sad. Stevens spoke Arabic and French; he understood the region and genuinely wanted Libya to be a successful democracy. His murder is a great loss.
Extremists are capitalizing on this offensive video in order to spread havoc and destabilize their new governments. Terrorists, hard-liners and extremists are using this film to incite violence. The Arab Spring is now looking like a gloomy winter.
The film is beyond offensive and it contains hideous racial, cultural and religious slurs. The film has the same intended purpose that the infamous “The Birth of a Nation” propaganda film did in 1915. It incited violence against African-Americans. Similar propaganda films were produced by the Nazis to justify genocide of Jews.
The “Innocence of Muslims” film was produced by Nakoula Bassely. He served federal time for fraud and some of his associates have been connected to harassing Muslims in California. Nakoula is allegedly of Middle Eastern origin; he uses the pseudonym Sam Bacile. The actors whose voices were dubbed over have denounced the film.
The agenda for extremists from all sides is to ensure democracy fails. The extremists, terrorists and hard-liners are all, ironically, in bed together.
The violent protest sets the tone for public support for a U.S.-Israeli military strike on Iran. War is good for business; terrorists and hard-liners benefit if a U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran occurs. If the extremists succeed in destabilizing the Middle East, we all lose.
The path to democracy cannot be achieved overnight. The road to democracy in the Middle East will be tough but we must stay the course. The days of supporting dictators who suppress freedom and democracy are gone. In the past, flawed U.S. and European policy toward the Middle East backfired and led to the creation of political monsters such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Hafez al-Assad and Hosni Mubarak.
Part of the anger in the Arab and Muslim world now being expressed is from a population that is no longer restrained by the shackles of dictators. Responsibility and security must come with freedom but this works both ways.
The irresponsible release of the film to coincide with 9/11 has compromised U.S. security. Saying we disagree with the film is not enough. The militants responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens must be brought to justice, and so must Nakoula. Releasing this film in the Arab and Muslim world is like falsely yelling fire in a theater.
Peace and democracy in the Middle East are in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the Muslim and Arab world. It is important that the U.S. stay the course in supporting democracy in the Middle East but also send a strong message to terrorists. Peace can be achieved through the proper use of strength; however sometimes it takes more courage to show restraint. Now is not the time for cowboy diplomacy. It is time for restraint and the judicious use of American military might. The stakes are high. Peace and hope must win over fear and hatred.
Hamza S. Omar of Iowa City is a former U.S. service person and is a member of the Muslim community (319) 594-1816 Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org