We're almost a week into it now, and what have we learned?
We've learned that just when we think we know how stupid people can be, we get proven wrong. Somebody wastes a few thousand dollars on a juvenile, cinematic mess. Somebody hounds an Egyptian journalist to write about it. And somebody manages to convince adherents of the religion it parodies to take it seriously.
Ostensibly, the video which languished on YouTube since July served as a trailer for a feature-length movie ridiculing Islam's prophet, Muhammad. But now, it appears no feature-length movie exists. We're still not even sure the name of the person who's responsible for the travesty of a quasi-animated, poorly-dubbed, and mindlessly scripted video that supposedly was a trailer. What is on YouTube is so hopelessly amateurish, it's hard to imagine anybody giving it any credibility.
True, Muslims rioted after a previously unknown Danish cartoonist crafted a drawing of a bearded man with a bomb in his turban. Muslims rioted when a previously unknown Florida self-aggrandizer who calls himself a preacher threatened to stage a Koran-burning.
Do you see a pattern here?
More Than a Culture Clash
Much has been pontificated during this past week about how Western cultures simply can't understand Muslim cultures, and vice-versa. Since many Muslims live in tyranny, they can't understand how the freedoms we take for granted in the West can allow for the type of speech that national governments can't regulate. Many right-wing Americans fear that our government is taking away our free speech rights, but let the right-wing zealots across the Muslim world tell you the type of punitive autocracies under which they survive, and you'll probably kiss the next Democrat you see.
So, in terms of causality, we've got political repression, and of course, religious and social repression, since even a cursory reading of Muslim holy texts proves how remarkably liberating the Christian Bible is by comparison.
We also have economic repression in many Islamic states, since it seems that too many Muslim countries put religion ahead of making a living. Which wouldn't be so bad if that happened in someplace like the United States, where most economic actors at least claim a modicum of allegiance to Christianity. Islam's adherents, unfortunately, are worshipping a false religion, a religion based not on opportunity or grace, but on fear, control, and relentless legalism.
It's easy to wonder why all of those self-righteous men rioting and burning - and grinning from ear to ear whilst doing so - aren't at work someplace, trying to provide for their large families, until you realize that unemployment is rampant across the Muslim world. Many of them are angry, restless, and poorly educated - the perfect recipe for religious leaders to mix in their warped ideologies and half-bake their listeners into misguided zealots.
After all, it's not like this newest video, the book-burning preacher man, or the Danish cartoon are the only examples of media with content Muslims could find objectionable. Indeed, some Majority World Muslims condemn our entire society and lifestyle here in America, but that must be too broad an accusation to sustain on its own, even among impoverished, envious Muslims. Still, there's obviously something peculiar about the way these select examples of objectionableness have exploded upon the Islamic consciousness. Perhaps it's their graphic content or the audacious attitudes behind the content. In the case of this latest video, however, the fact that it sat on YouTube for nearly two months before being publicized helps lend credence to the suspicion that some imams and other pro-violence Islamists hold more control over the extent to which vitriol is fomented than the actual items of objectionable content.
Charisma can be dangerous.
More's the Pity
Maybe it's un-American of me to admit this, but whenever I see the photos and videos of Muslim rioting, I quickly become sorry for all of those people. Not necessarily angry at them, but mournful. I mourn for their absent opportunities, for their being subjected to so much hateful rhetoric from their imams, for their inability to understand that no American president can - or should - control the few stupid Americans who make worthless drivel like this YouTube video. We're supposed to be the country of innovation, opportunity, and free speech. Yet all the makers of this video have done is proven that any good thing can be perverted. I feel sorry for the Muslim rioters, since they can't even understand this twisted reality of America.
Granted, most Muslims probably don't want my pity. Many of them probably wouldn't even want my money, or my freedom, if they could have my soul instead. After all, it's not Christianity that says I have to kill unbelievers to prove myself worthy before my god.
Here in the United States, I have a handful of Muslim acquaintances, and I don't think any of them want to kill me. But that's me hoping that's the case. On the other hand, I know many evangelical Christians, and even though a number of them don't agree with me politically, I'm absolutely confident in saying none of them will kill me to honor our God. Politics represents one of the most divisive arenas for evangelicals, and I spend a lot of time on this blog trying to reason with factions in evangelicalism who vote less on the Gospel and more on the GOP platform. Even though sometimes Christians joke about such things, left-wing liberals who profess to be complete, atheistic heathens also fail to muster murderous desires among evangelicals, some of whom simply figure Hell will be bulging at the seams with deserving Democrats.
I just like to remind us all that plenty of Republicans will be down there, too. And probably more Democrats up with us than we expect.
Meanwhile, practically the sum of international diplomacy these days gets easily consumed by Islamist violence. One of the really sad realities of all this involves the persistent claim by more moderate Muslims that theirs is actually a religion of peace.
Believers in Christ can have peace in the midst of political storms, and economic strife, and physical calamity. We can even have peace when others make fun of our faith, and our Savior - although sometimes, we avoid conflict by simply acting out of apathy, rather than faith.
With all of the reflexive animosity displayed towards nondescript, unofficial, and culturally insignificant statements about their religion, however, Muslims don't seem to understand that even as I pity them, their destructive indignation relative to its provocation threatens to engender more apathy than pity to their plight.
Not an apathy that will let them get away with whatever violence they want to perpetrate against Western interests, or even their own. But an apathy that further marginalizes whatever messages they want to send ordinary voters like me in the West. The irrationality of others has a way of eradicating their credibility.
What have we learned since last week's anniversary of 9/11?
Whatever it is, it's costing Muslims the very thing they claim to want from us: respect.