Shameful sacrilege

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Worse than Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Sam Bacile’s film on the Prophet, peace be on him, is a politically-inspired, Islamophobic venture to denigrate Islam.

This dossier tracks responses to the film and its consequences.

Tariq Ali in Radio Free Europe, 5th October 2012:

” The question you have to ask is why these cartoons and films are being made at this particular time. Why weren’t they made for most of the last century? The reasons these films are being made is precisely because of the occupation of the Muslim world by the United States and its allies, which have created an atmosphere of extreme Islamophobia….”


Aurelien Mondon in the Independent, 27th Sept 2012:

“In a style reminiscent of her father’s most conspiratorial tones, she [Marine Le Pen] declared that the ‘Innocence of Muslims affair’was ’eminently suspect’. She did not believe that chance was responsible for the release of the video on a ‘Salafist television channel’ just before 11 September.”


Mehdi Hasan in the New Statesman, 27th September 2012:

“Please do not misunderstand me: yes, you have every right to be angry. I have no time for those neoconservatives here in the west who airily dismiss “false grievances” in the Middle East and beyond. Muslims have much to be aggrieved over – from Bagram to Guantanamo Bay, from Abu Ghraib to Haditha, from US soldiers urinating on the Quran to the spate of racist films and cartoons depicting our beloved prophet as a terrorist/murderer/paedophile/rapist/ delete-as-applicable.

Anger, however, is not an excuse for extremism. Have you not read this saying by the Prophet? ‘The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger…’.”


Andrew March in the NYT, 25th Sept 2012:

“There is no question that many in the West today use speech about Muhammad and ‘Islam’ as cover for expressing hatred toward Muslims. They know that if they are talking about “religion” they can deny they are talking about persons. Many people doing this — from Geert Wilders to those behind ‘Innocence of Muslims’ — are indeed hate-mongers. But we should avoid the all-too-common conclusion that because much speech about Muhammad is de facto barely coded hate speech about Muslims (and much of it is), all such speech is. Many believers will in good faith testify that no one who expresses hatred for Islam’s doctrines and prophet can respect them as persons. I believe them. But from a secular moral perspective, there is no way to completely eliminate the gap between whatever qualities or value we imagine all humans to have and the many valuable attachments and beliefs actual humans are made of. After all, many religious thinkers will say that they despise secular materialism or atheism and yet still respect the misguided humans enslaved to those doctrines. I believe them then, too.


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent, 24th September 2012:

“Freedom of expression in the West is hokum, I say. It’s hypocrisy dressed up as high virtue. Worse still, it is now used as a missile aimed mainly at Muslims. Freedoms are sacred and easily snatched by the powerful and it is a blessing to live in a country where prime ministers and princes are berated with impunity. Authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and China and many others remain unenlightened because they suppress the human voice. But I also believe that freedom without responsibility and sensitivity amounts to anarchy.

As do those European nations which have collectively agreed that Holocaust denial is an offence, that minorities should be protected from hate speech, that individuals have the right to privacy and legal protection against libel, that big businesses must be allowed to keep information confidential, as can governments, defence companies and Nato. There are also the constraints that have crept in over the decades: Muslims thinking evil thoughts or reading about them are now tried and some are jailed; influential folk can buy silence about their affairs and journalists self-censor for an easy life. The Chief Whip, who allegedly called a police officer a “pleb”, is finding out he wasn’t really free to do that. Quite a list of limitations eh?”


Pankaj Mishra in NYT, 23rd September 2012:

“The violent protests provoked by the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ will soon subside, and American embassies will return to normal business. But the symbolic import of the violence, which included a Taliban assault on one of the most highly secured American bases in Afghanistan, is unmistakable. The drama of waning American power is being re-enacted in the Middle East and South Asia after two futile wars and the collapse or weakening of pro-American regimes.”


Khalid Baig 23rd September 2012:

“Muslim leaders in the US have taken the opportunity to condemn all protest, declaring it to be un-Islamic and a result of ignorance.”

See for example Hamza Yusuf.

This reaction finds a resonance among the Muslims born and raised here. It has the added advantage of driving a wedge between Muslims here and the Muslim lands over there. This is derivative colonialism creating a first world Islam (enlightened and educated and of course very civilized) and a third world Islam (uneducated, unenlightened and barbaric). This new construction of Islam may be more damaging for the future of Islam here as well as for the unity of the Ummah.

Instead of leading a campaign for international recognition of anti-Blasphemy laws, these first world Muslim leaders are leading an anti-protest campaign.

In the rush to judgment the truth of the events and the issues have been put on the side.

We are condemning the protesters for being violent. Then why among protests in all of Pakistan only Karachi (and to some extent Islamabad) saw the violent events? Are people in Lahore more enlightened than in Karachi? Or is it simply (as some reports also affirmed) that a peaceful protest was sabotaged by deliberate and planned efforts by the government and some other hired hands?

This is the time for pushing for international anti-Blasphemy laws. We must denounce and reject the notion that Freedom to Insult is a basic human freedom as many among the Western pundits keep on asserting. You cannot have peace in a home, school, business, or a village which insists on this “freedom” You cannot have peace in the global village with it either. Period. Peace in the global village can only be assured when we take actions to provide Freedom from Insults.

This should be our focus. If we turn to something else the saboteurs have won.


OIC, 20th September 2012:

“The Secretary General explained that he had sustained high-level contacts in order to secure a unified international response, and pointed out that he addressed a letter to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. He also contacted Dr. Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the Arab League, and Catherine Ashton, the EU Foreign Policy Chief to explore ways and means of putting an end to a recurrence of such acts of incitement and the ensuing cycles of violence.

For its part, the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) strongly denounced the release of the anti-Muslim film as a deliberate act of incitement, and considered it a misuse and irresponsible exercise of the right to freedom of expression, which implies duties and responsibilities, especially under the International Law of Human Rights, article (19) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”


 Myriam Francois-Cerrah in Huffington Post:

“If the Arab revolutions let the dictators know exactly how people felt about their repression, these demonstrations should be read as equally indicative of popular anguish with the US’s role in the region.

The film is merely the straw that broke the camel’s back – to stand in consternation at the fact a single straw could cripple such a sturdy beast is to be naïve or wilfully blind to the accumulated bales which made the straw so hard to carry.

This is not an attempt to minimise the offense caused by the film – Mohamed is a man whose status in the eyes of many Muslims, cannot be overstated. When your country has been bombed, you’ve lost friends and family, possibly your livelihood and home, dignity is pretty much all you have left….”


Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich in the Information Clearing House, 18th September 2012:

“There is a precedent to curbing free speech when deemed harmful. In a landmark Supreme Court hearing — Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), the actions of Schenck, an anti-war individual who had printed and distributed leaflets in order to discourage enlisting servicemen, was not afforded protection under the First Amendment….The desecration of the Koran in 2002 by Guantanamo prison guards revealed in 2005, caused riots globally and took the lives of 15 people. The lack of inaction by the authorities may have given Florida pastor Terry Jones reason to be encouraged and to burn a Koran on March 20, 2011. Pictures which were posted on his church’s website. Shortly thereafter, protests broke out in Afghanistan where a U.N. building was attacked and 12 people killed. The government inaction continued. As such, it did not come as a surprise that in February 2012, US forces in Afghanistan burnt copies of Korans at U.S. bases. Angry protests ensued resulting in 30 deaths. There were no criminal charges against the troops, only unspecified administrative punishment.

While the First Amendment enabled insults to be hurled at Moslems, Moslems living in the United States were deprived of “free speech”. Moslem students at California State University in Irvine (UCI) were suspended for a year for interrupting the speech of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. The same state allowed the censorship of professors who spoke out against the bombing of Gaza and slaughtering of the Palestinians …What is clear is that although the Moslem countries have been grossly violated, their cities bombed, their men, women, and children killed, their spirit has not been crushed. As was brilliantly depicted in a different kind of movie — Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 production of “The Battle of Algiers”, bombs and guns can crush a man’s frail body but not his resistant spirit; ideology will always prevail over bullets.”


Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times, 18th September 2012:

“If the mob has been enraged by US foreign policy (and that may be crediting the protests with a coherence they lack), the trigger seems more likely to be the death of Osama bin Laden, or Palestine, than American weakness.”


Twitter, 18th September 2012:

Hypocrisy Watch ‏@bigotry_watch – Criticize Israel and you are branded Anti-Semitic, or arrested. Insult & abuse Islam and it is promoted as free speech. #muslimrage
Newsweek hashtag


Ray McGoven in

“during a live interview on Al-Jazeera, I tried to inject some balance into the discussion. I noted that one key reason for the antipathy toward the U.S. among Muslims is the close identification of the U.S. with Israel and the widespread realization that support from Washington enables Israel’s policies of oppression and warmongering against the Palestinians and its regional neighbors….”


John Wight in Huffington Post, 14th September 2012:

The shock in Washington which has met the killing of the US ambassador to Libya along with members of his staff in Benghazi calls to mind the words of former US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who in response to the widespread looting and lawlessness that enveloped Iraq during the heady initial days of the US-led invasion, said: “”Stuff happens… and it’s untidy and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”


A policy of military and political intervention throughout the Arab and Muslim world, motivated not by a desire to spread freedom and democracy, or by the objective of upholding human rights, but by a desire and determination to retain an iron grip on the region’s natural resources and ensure strategic hegemony as part of an overarching global reach, has failed and will continue to fail to achieve anything other than instability and a growing reservoir of anger towards the West’s double standards, hypocrisy, and domination.


Associated Press, 15th September 2012:

The shared belief that radical Islam threatens the world brought together an ex-convict, an insurance salesman and a Christian charity in production of a crudely crafted film that ridicules Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad and has incited violent protests across the Middle East.

Media for Christ, a nonprofit that raised more than $1 million last year “to glow Jesus’ light” to the world, was listed as the production company for the film. Steve Klein, a California insurance salesman and Vietnam War veteran who has spent years protesting at mosques and espousing hatred of radical Muslims, acted as the film’s promoter.

And Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who authorities say has used multiple names and was convicted of bank fraud, says he managed logistics for the film…


Doha News, 14th September 2012:

Hundreds of Qatar residents marched toward the US Embassy in Doha after Friday prayer today, joining their voices with protesters from across the region against a YouTube video that disparages the Prophet Muhammad. Police estimated at least 2,000 people turned out for the tightly-controlled rally, which was called for by prominent Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, Muhammad is our prophet, Muhammad is our love,” was the initial chant as protesters marched from the Omar ibn Al-Khatab mosque alongside the Doha Expressway.But another chant taken up by some was more controversial: “Obama, Obama, we are all Osama,” in evident reference to Osama bin Laden…”

Shaikh Qaradawi in his address noted, “It’s unfair to put all the guilt on a full nation, they are few Americans and some Christian Egyptians who live in the US [that are responsible]…Going to the embassies and breaking it or throwing rocks at it or burning it is not the right solution. We need to ask the USA to have an official stand against such acts of insulting religions, like other European countries….”



Max Blumenthal in The Guardian, 13th September 2012:

Produced and promoted by a strange collection of rightwing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Copts, the trailer was created with the intention of both destabilizing post-Mubarak Egypt and roiling the US presidential election. As a consultant for the film named Steve Klein said: “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”


Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian, 12th September 2012

It is understandable that the senseless killing of an ambassador is bigger news than the senseless killing of an unknown, obscure Yemeni or Pakistani child. But it’s anything but understandable to regard the former as more tragic than the latter. Yet there’s no denying that the same people today most vocally condemning the Benghazi killings are quick and eager to find justification when the killing of innocents is done by their government, rather than aimed at it.

It’s as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans. The way in which that latter phrase is so often invoked, with such intensity, emotion and scorn, reveals that it is viewed as the supreme crime: this is not just the tragic deaths of individuals, but a blow against the Empire; it therefore sparks particular offense. It is redolent of those in conquered lands being told they will be severely punished because they have raised their hand against a citizen of Rome.



From the, 13th September 2012:

“‘Sam Bacile’ claims to have gone to ground but it is questionable whether he really exists or at least what he has said about himself is true…What can be proved is the involvement of two hardline Muslim haters with strong links to extremism and the far right. The first is Steve Klein, a Hemet, California based insurance salesman who claims to have led a ‘hunter-killer team’ in Vietnam and is known to have links to the extreme Christian right and the militia movement.

According to Max Blumenthal ‘Klein is also closely affiliated with the Christian right in California, organizing resentment against all the usual targets — Muslims, homosexuals, feminists, and even Mormons.’ He is a board member and founder of a group called Courageous Christians United, which promotes anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim literature (including the work of Robert Spencer) on its website. In 2002, Klein ran for the California Insurance Commissioner under the American Independent Party, an extremist fringe party linked to the militia movement, garnering a piddling 2 percent of the vote.

Klein is also linked in to the Counter-jihad world of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.” (


Statement of the Ikhwan, Egypt, 12th Sept 2012:

“…We denounce abuse of all Messengers of God, Prophets and Apostles, and condemn this heinous crime. We further call for criminalization of assaults on the sanctities of all heavenly religions. Otherwise, such acts will continue to cause devout Muslims across the world to suspect and even loathe the West, especially the USA, for allowing their citizens to violate the sanctity of what they hold dear and holy. Hence, we demand that all those involved in such crimes be urgently brought to trial….”


Andrew Brown in the Guardian, 12th Sept 2012:

“It’s a really nasty piece of lying propaganda: something which deserves to be called hate speech, since hatred is its wellspring and the propagation of hatred is its goal. It is – obviously – blasphemous to Muslims. Less obviously, it offends against the central values of liberal democracy. The justification of free speech put forward by John Stuart Mill is that the remedy for bad speech is better speech. But this presupposes an interest in truth, and perhaps some agreed means of deciding on it. It’s a system that breaks down when confronted with determined and malevolent liars”.


Statement of President Karzai, 13th September 2012,

reported by Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian: Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has condemned the film that sparked violence in Libya and Egypt as an abhorrence and insult to all Muslims, warning that it would damage inter-faith relations.


The story broke in the British media on 12th September 2012:

“An Israeli film-maker based in California has gone into hiding after his film attacking the prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims on US missions in Egypt and Libya, claiming the life of one American. Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, the writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, describing Islam as ‘a cancer”. The 56-year-old said he had intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.” [AP Report in the Guardian]

The same day Huffington Post also citing AP noted: “Further AP Report from Huffington Post: “The two-hour movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it….It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage”.