Sunday, September 23, 2012

Time to Move On

The events of the two weeks week have left me shaking my head in disgust. Apocalyptic right wing Christian zealots and a convicted felon, bent on igniting a culture war, strike the match by downloading their a repulsive video. On the receiving end, Salafis, eager to oblige, feign outrage and whisper into the ears of unemployed and underemployed youths on the Arab "street" resulting in predictable, pointless mayhem and destruction. And the juvenile political theater goes on, mostly for local consumption, as the rest of world looks on in puzzlement. The minister of railroads in Pakistan offers a bounty of 100,00 dollars for whoever kills Mr. Nakoula.  This, after 20  die needlessly around the country from protest turning into riots.  Hizbullah, rapidly loosing popularity and relevance puts on a carefully choreographed protest both to show that they are as pious as the Salafists and to contrast with the unruly Sunni rioters who torched a KFC in Tripoli, depriving many of their own brethren of their livelihood. Mr. Nakoula, or whatever his real name is, and reverend Jones must be exchanging high fives right about now as it is exactly the reaction that they wanted. They played the Muslim world like a marionette on a string.

That piece of trash of a video is not worth spending a second on, so why the disproportionate reaction? Many explanations reasonable explanations are given: that it is only a minority that rioted or became violent, that it is politically motivated and that there is a double standard in the west regarding protected speech and censorship.  These explanations are all valid to a degree. Beyond the riots and the angry young men of the Arab/Muslim street, however, many Muslims who ought to know better, seem disproportionately worked up about the video.  Some of it is certainly the perception of the continuing attack on their faith from the west both on the  political and cultural fronts that does not seem to have abated a decade after 9/11. The problem is that this perception clouds rational thinking as most of the most urgent problems in the Muslim world are not related to the culture war, but rather to the inept, autocratic governments, corruption, poverty, lack of education and the lack of employment.

There is plenty to be outraged about in our own backyards; just look at Syria.  It is time for us Muslims to move beyond the teenage temper tantrum and start addressing the real problems inflicting our societies. Mature, confident, successful societies would have been totally oblivious to such a video and would have thus made it completely irrelevant.

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