Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film – NYTimes.com

A  majority–including among Muslims–decry the violence.  But when different laws and cultural norms about free speech clash, the outcome can be tragic.

In a context where insults to religion are crimes and the state has tightly controlled almost all media, many in Egypt, like other Arab countries, sometimes find it hard to understand that the American government feels limited by its free speech rules from silencing even the most noxious religious bigot.

via Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film – NYTimes.com.

And now for something completely different, as they say…compare and contrast the Arab Street to the Mormon Pew, via Bret Stephens in WSJ:

And, finally, this: That the most “progressive” administration in recent U.S. history will make no principled defense of free speech to a Muslim world that could stand hearing such a defense. After the debut of “The Book of Mormon” musical, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded with this statement: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

That was it. The People’s Front for the Liberation of Provo will not be gunning for a theater near you. Is it asking too much of religious and political leaders in Muslim communities to adopt a similar attitude?

It needn’t be. A principled defense of free speech could start by quoting the Quran: “And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation.” In this light, the true test of religious conviction is indifference, not susceptibility, to mockery.

via Stephens: Muslims, Mormons and Liberals – WSJ.com.

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8 thoughts on “Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film – NYTimes.com

  1. I think that the issue really boils down to cultural differences. Wheres the Muslims have been raised in a restrictive society under an oppressive government, Americans have been socialized into a system that upholds values of democracy, egalitarianism, freedom of speech, etc. The Muslims simply do not understand how an American can behave so primitively and the government not be able to do anything about it. But the bottom line is, America upholds the freedom of speech as an inalienable right. Inevitably, people will abuse their right and may say inflammatory things but at the same time, people will capitalize on their freedom of speech to advocate the majority’s cause. Like the system of democracy, the right of freedom of speech can be compared to a double-edged sword.

    It is unfortunate that the Muslims have been so disrespected but what does the government do when this is a conflict of government systems and ideals? More frankly, what does America “have” to do? We live in a globalized society where America and Western culture is the dominant disseminator of information and ideals. Naturally, America has the upper hand in many of its dealings; this would probably be the cause of much grief for the not-so-fortunate less powerful countries.

    To quote a Pakistani professor, “There is only one war and you [Americans] won it!”
    Perhaps the war of culture and values, in which America has already won, is the basis for so much angst, fury, and rage that the Muslims are feeling.

    • emilylheath says:

      This controversy has brought up the serious challenge that the US faces in terms of how far to apply our personal rights and liberties. When do our liberties infringe on the rights of others? How do we monitor our rights and how far do those rights extend?

      It has always been interesting to me how subjective our Bill of Rights becomes when extended too far. For instance, we allow torture in the Guantanamo Bay prison, which is only possible because it is not on US soil. Additionally, our “inherent” rights as Americans do not extend to how we treat illegal immigrants or to all of our dealings in the international community. What is it about the American landmass that secures our liberties, and how is it that they’re so fleeting once we’ve left it.

      I especially enjoyed the forum address today by Judge Griffith about how many ways different laws and amendments can be interpreted. What should we do when Americans release controversial videos that end up threatening the lives of other Americans? Whose domain is social media? It’s amazing to see the different takes that so many constitutional scholars take on how the Constitution can stretch to include new frontiers. Judge Griffith’s message helped me to see how situations should made to fit the Constitution and not the other way around.

      http://byutv.org/watch/a7917a5a-872c-4085-b506-e26b8334dca5

  2. It’s important also to note the cultural differences that may not be understood from the arab side as a result of not having free speech. Sure, some arab nations see that Americans aren’t censoring what they would consider hate speech and blasphemy, but the issue in the eyes of the Arabs is much deeper than that. One has to understand that in such nations media is largely state controlled, and therefore the action of any outlet of media is the action of the state, or is condoned and accepted by the state. So if I am a Muslim in Cairo, to me this video isn’t a comedic film in poor taste, it’s America directly mocking Islam.

    The diplomatic question, is to what extent do we try and cater our media to the understanding of other nations? http://pandodaily.com/2012/09/15/the-slippery-definition-of-hate-speech-googles-great-youtube-hypocrisy/

  3. This article sheds some light on the importance of cultural understanding and sensitivity in international relations. I was particularly surprised to read this:

    “In the West, many may express astonishment that the murder of Muslims in hate crimes does not provoke the same level of global outrage as the video did. But even a day after the clashes in Cairo had subsided, many Egyptians argued that a slur against their faith was a greater offense than any attack on a living person.”

    That is something that may not have even crossed the minds of some. Freedom of speech is a right so deeply held by democratic countries, especially the United States, that we are conditioned to expect terribly base things to be said, written, and produced from time to time. The “clash” between Western and Middle Eastern cultures is not the only clash relevant to this subject. There also exists a clash within the same country, Egypt for example (the photos from the article were taken in Egypt), between hopes for democratic rule and deeply held religious convictions.

    I understand the importance of religious convictions, but is a country and a people who react in this way to disrespect for their religion ready for democracy that protects that disrespect?

  4. juliehansen says:

    Having the experience to live in a Middle Eastern country has given me a unique perspective on the effects of cultural differences. Living within a primarily Muslim culture has made me realize that while the citizens of these countries try desperately to cling to their own heritage and rich culture, they are also heavily influenced by the Western World. If fact, I have noticed that there is a clash between the older generations, who encourage traditional behaviors and customs, and the new generations which are encouraging and promoting an increasingly westernized state and way of life. In relation to this, I feel that the rest of the World, specifically Americans are quick to misrepresent and judge the Muslim and Middle-Eastern World. While countries such as Turkey and Iran do not have such a sophisticated way of life or abundance of natural resources as the United States, they are becoming increasingly more integrated into modern society. This anti-Muslim sentiment is not only unfounded, due to the fact that their are terrorists in nearly every country in the East including Europe, but also because it grossly misrepresents the innocent people who live there.

  5. mitchmender says:

    As i read this article all i could think about was another article i read that compared the book of mormon musical and this video that has come out and Hilary’s reaction to the two. I still don’t know where i stand on the issue of if they are two comparable instances but i think this instance goes to show the importance of global diplomacy. the wrong reaction from our political leaders could start an even more intense battle in the middle east. How exactly can the government state that it is separate from the video without offending our rights as Americans but also trying to promote peace where it is in danger because of the film. I think Garret asked an interesting question, “is a country and a people who react in this way to disrespect for their religion ready for democracy that protects that disrespect?” I don’t know if we can really come to a conclusion to that answer but my thought is the only way to tell in this case is to help them create a democracy and see how things play out for them.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/hillary_cheered_broadways_book_of_mormon_condemns_innocence_of_muslims.html

  6. n8hogan says:

    This issue brings to light the dilemma of whether or not the United States, because of its responsibility as the world’s premier power, should fit itself to the ideals and beliefs of the other nations it deals with. The article pointed out the interesting example of Google, and how the company had to make the difficult decision to censor the video in some countries based on their political or religious ideals because of its prominence as an international corporation. Should the United States have to do the same in its political dealings?

    The fact that these two basic cultural differences can cause such conflict and anger shows just the pressing need that in this day and age, we need to widen our national biases and perspectives into more global viewpoints. In this particular situation, neither side can be blamed; both are acting justly according to their beliefs and values. In order to ensure that conflicts like this don’t occur in the future, we as global citizens need to try and more fully understand people of other cultures, and the governments of different nations need to work together to coordinate a better understanding of their beliefs.

  7. Dylan Bates says:

    As the world becomes smaller and communication between cultures becomes easier, it is only natural that people are going to be offended. Growing up as a Mormon, I’ve become used to other people degrading things that I feel are sacred, and have learned how to respond appropriately. It seems like the Muslim world needs to learn this same lesson. People can pass laws and try and define freedom of speech how they like, but people are never going to stop being people. People insult each other. Humans have been provoking and mocking other humans for as long as history. Thanks to technology, people have more access to other people than in any other time throughout history. A natural outcome of that is that more people will be getting offended by other people than at any other time throughout history.
    How do you fix this problem? By banning Youtube and returning to the dark ages? In my opinion, the only way to fix the problem is for the people being offended to learn to react in a way that doesn’t involve violence. Insult should never be a reason for somebody else’s death, especially not an American ambassador who had no part in the making of the video. The greater crime here is on part of those who killed a man who made no offence.
    The following article explains a little bit about Russia’s reaction to the video. In my opinion, it is a step backwards.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/russia-youtube-ban-innocence-of-muslims_n_1894479.html?utm_hp_ref=technology

    This article explains why the video should not be covered under freedom of speech laws in the USA. Its a good argument. I do think that the film is wrong. I just think that the reaction to the film was more wrong.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chayes-innocence-of-muslims-first-amendment-20120918,0,3112718.story

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