The 'protests' which took place on Saturday in the city's CBD were an echo of worldwide events sparked by a film made by Californian man Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. The film, uploaded to YouTube but, of course, little seen by its critics, purportedly depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womaniser and child molester. In the eyes of the film's most deranged opponents, Nakoula is guilty of a crime worse than murder. Last week, the
US ambassador to Libya
and three other consulate officials were killed in an attack on the US consulate in . In Benghazi , the violence saw a spate of arrests,
violent assaults and attacks on police. One brave soul, heard to denounce the
use of religion as a justification for murder, had to be rescued by police from
an angry mob which pelted him with sticks and bottles. Sydney
Responses to the violence from world leaders, and here the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, came thick and fast and were predictably spineless. Why, for example, was it necessary for Barack Obama to preface his condemnation of the murders in
by saying that it is wrong for
people to 'denigrate' religion? To denounce both the criticism of religion and
murder in the same breath is to meaningfully equate the two. Nothing will give
greater succour to the lunatic Islamists who murdered Christopher Stevens, and
who will happily thrust placards calling for the death of unbelievers into the
hands of children. It is not enough to condemn the kind of violence and
hate-mongering seen in Benghazi
as though it has no cause or supposed justification; it is the poisonous
ideology of Islamic fascism which brought about the violence, and which ought
to have been attacked by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Sydney
The NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, was equally reticent to spell it out, defending the protestors' rights to speak freely, yet failing to point up the ludicrousness of the protest itself. It is, I think, worth dwelling on this point for a moment. Nobody in government, it seemed, had many qualms about writing off the significance of the Occupy protests which sprung up throughout the country earlier this year. Many commentators dismissed the 99% movement as a rabble without a cause. Cogent, and genuinely held, concerns about increasing inequality and the rise of an all-powerful financial and political elite were glibly derided by just anybody in a position of, well, financial and/or political power. In contrast, neither O'Farrell nor Gillard nor Abbott could bring themselves to state the bleeding obvious: that for an Islamist to 'protest', in
against a film made by a Coptic Christian American which in all likelihood they
have not watched and is freely available on the internet for anyone to view, is
surpassingly stupid. Australia
Overseas, responses to the protests have been even more tremulous. Most bizarre of all has been the reaction of the Coptic Christian Church which has sided with the bleaters and murderers by denouncing the film as 'part of a wicked campaign against religions, aimed at causing discord among people'. The Church has pledged solidarity with its 'brotherly Muslims'. It's a truly abhorrent coalition: two disparate churches united in their support of coldblooded killers, even as they decry societal disharmony. It's a very sick, and very unfunny joke.
If the only riposte 'free' Western nations can offer to militant Islamism is to say that it is wrong to criticise religion, but it is wrong to murder people too, then we are failing utterly in our duty to uphold and defend the civil liberties which we claim as our great gift to ourselves, and to the world. As Nick Cohen pointed out in You Can’t Read This Book, these freedoms are not in fact our gift but our inheritance; we can never stop fighting for them because the battle is always never quite won. It is a battle we stand no chance of winning if, every time Islamic fascists murder a diplomat or march through the streets of
we respond by somehow dignifying their insane justification for violence –
namely, that religion should not be allowed to be scrutinised by anyone, anywhere.
Even ABC News 24 ran reports of the protest in which it was uncritically stated that opponents of Nakoula’s film had claimed it 'insulted' Islam. No source was given. It should not need pointing out that it is both conceptually and semantically wrong to suggest a religion can be 'insulted'.
national broadcaster ought to know better. It is – in its small, pernicious way
– another victory for the maniacs and murderers who hold that human life is no
more valuable than a few minutes of film. Australia'
An even greater failure is continuing to take place within the mainstream media. Two days after the violence in
reports are focusing on the 'cause' of the protest – not militant Islamism, but
social media. A Google search reveals headlines in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age
and the Courier Mail like this: ' Sydney Sydney protest organised over social media'; 'Islamic
linked to SMS'. Bashing Facebook and Twitter, fast becoming a national sport,
wins out over proper analysis into the root causes of the violence. Sydney
It is not smart phones which empower Islamic militancy in this country, but our collective failure to identify and condemn it. Fear of the price of inaction against this militancy – and not that of upsetting a few 'moderate' Muslims – should govern our response to this sickness in our society which would have children call for murder, and censor not only our right to talk, to write and to create but even our right to think.