By Prof. Whitney S. Bodman
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Is it better to hate or to be hated? The unfolding story of the 14-minute pornographic collection of film clips about Muhammad raises this question. The film itself was represented as a trailer of a full-length feature film, though there may not ever have been more than what was posted on YouTube.
The first reporting, from the Wall Street Journal, was that the film was produced by “Sam Bacile,” an Israeli-American, supported by 100 Jews. Ah, so we can hate the Jews for producing a film so offensive to Muslims. Or at least Muslims can hate the Jews, who, of course, hate the Muslims. But then it was revealed that Steve Klein was involved in the film. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows hate groups in the United States, he is not Jewish, but a Christian white supremacist. Founder of Courageous Christians United in 1977, he believes that America is at war with Islam, “a cancer that WILL attack us and KILL as many as they can to further the Islamic doctrine of sharia” (his caps).
So it is not Jews who are to blame at all! It is a group of radical American Christians who want us to fear Islam and prepare for a holy war against Muslims who, in spite of being about 1% of the population, will somehow make us all subservient to sharia law. So Klein, along with a few other enthusiasts such as Robert Spencer, author of popular screeds against Islam and the Jihad Watch blog, and Pamela Geller, Atlas Shrugs blogger, peddle fear of Islam to us. They manufacture emails and claims about Islam that are distorted and often enough entirely fictional. Such myths of Muslim conspiracies inspired Anton Breivik’s massacre of 77 people in Norway, probably the murder of 6 Sikhs in Wisconsin, and numerous incidents of violence against Muslims and mosques across our nation.
But why make a film so clumsy and crudely done? It is not hard to guess. Such a film was bound to provoke reaction in the Muslim world. If you think that a holy war is coming, but somehow it fails to emerge, one can try to provoke it by whatever devious means one can dream up. If you can’t make enough of us hate them, you can inspire more of them to hate us. It serves the same end. The film is nothing but provocation.
But there is more. It has emerged that “Sam Bacile,” is actually Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Coptic Christian of many aliases and a history of fraud. He said that the film tries to expose the hypocrisies of Islam. It does nothing of the kind. It manufactures whole-cloth fictions that expose only the sick imagination of the director. It was he who tried to blame the Jews, an example of ‘let’s you and them hate.”
There are Muslims complicit in this effort. The film was first posted on YouTube early in the summer, but ignored. The outrage was kindled when Shaykh Khaled Abdallah broadcast a clip of the film on Egyptian television on September 8th. Abdallah has a regular CairoTV show on which he lambasts Christians, liberals and the West.
Why exacerbate tensions between Copts and Muslims in Egypt? And between Americans and Muslims and Jews? Perhaps because, if the fear is stoked enough, maybe the holy war that Nakoula and Klein and Geller and Spencer and Abdallah so ardently wish for may finally come about.
But it won’t.
For every Muslim who protests the film, there are a million who do not. They sit at home, shrugging the latest insult off, or grieving that there are those who want more hate and fear in the world, not less. For every Muslim in the street, there is a Muslim group or leader – including our local Muslim leaders – condemning not only the film, but the deadly violence against four Americans in Benghazi and the violence at American embassies in the Muslim world. For every American who succumbs to the fear-mongering, there are more who do not, and count Muslims among their friends.
There are those who will do anything to make us hate and fear. Thanks be to God for those Christians, Muslims, and Jews – people of every faith and people of no faith – who have the courage and wisdom to do neither.
Article provided by Professor Whitney S. Bodman, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.