Dr Zain Ali writes in the NZ Herald:
Sam Becile’s recent “movie” depicts Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, as a buffoon, a womaniser and a child molester. The movie is far from a genuine attempt at social or theological criticism; rather, it comes across as a work created by a group of misinformed and bored misanthropes. Unfortunately, many in the Muslim world have taken the bait, and have responded with acts of brutal violence. The saddest moment in this outpouring of rage was the death of US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens (all this on the anniversary of 9/11).
The violent protests involve a cruel, and perhaps bitter, irony. The protesters believe Becile’s movie besmirches the honour of Muhammad, and this is because the movie depicts Muhammad as being a violent, bloodthirsty, womaniser. The irony is that the protesters have responded to this movie with acts of violence, all the while believing that Muhammad was a peace loving and virtuous person.
It is sad and ironic.
I believe the tradition of Islam represents a spectrum of views, and there is a centre made up of those who welcome intellectual honesty, equality, secularism and pluralism. The problem is not that Islam lacks a centre, but that mainstream Muslims are being out-manoeuvred by the violent and irrational fringe. This fringe dominates the headlines and shapes the public view of Islam and Muslims.
The person of Muhammad is dear to the heart of Muslims, and the reason for this is that Muhammad represents an important, and challenging, ideal. Prior to Islam, there existed tribes, some of whom had hated each other for generations. Muhammad was able to transform hate and distrust into genuine love and trust. Muslims love Muhammad because he showed it was possible to love each other while being at peace with ourselves.
Given what Muhammad represents, we can argue it is the perpetrators of violence who are the ones who have besmirched and dishonoured Muhammad. After all, Muhammad is reported to have said that, “the strong are not the ones who overcome others by force, but the strong are the ones who control themselves while in anger”.
Most Muslims are “moderate”, tolerant and respectful. New Zealand’s Muslim community for one is a good example of that.
All religions have extremists, and violent fanatics. However it is fair to say that a far greater proportion of Islamic adherents are extremists than with other religions. I believe this is partly because the religion has no central authority that can unambiguously condemn violence in the name of religion – and also because Islam has no ability to modernise its beliefs (due to the lack of central authority).