BBC, CNN, Sky News, Fox News, MSNBC, Euro News and Al Jazeera all ran headline stories on the recent riots, violence and general mayhem seen across some of the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia and Australia after a former felon and obscure, unknown film maker produced a poorly made film insulting Islam and The Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him). It’s not difficult to assess genuine revulsion and authentic offence from the deliberate acts of cruelty and brutality perpetrated by opportunists who emerged out of the shadows of their own discontentment, to attack the West in general and the United States in particular, which in turn led to the tragic deaths of the US Ambassador to Libya and several of his diplomatic colleagues. Yet, what I find disappointing and irritating from the news coverage in the West is the lack of balance and recognition given to the voices of reason, and the excessive over-reporting of irrationality, bloodshed, social carnage and savagery associated with the aftermath of this little known flick.
For example none of the major news broadcasters in the West paid any attention to the clear voice of reason in the personage of Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh; the highest theological authority in the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia. He denounced the attacks, and the violence and brutality associated with them outright, and said that attacks on embassies, diplomatic missions and their personnel are un-Islamic. He said that while the film is “miserable and criminal” in its portrayal of Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) it “is forbidden to punish the innocent for the wicked crimes of the guilty, or to attack those who have been granted protection of their lives and property, or to expose public buildings to fire or destruction…these are distortions of the Islamic religion and are not accepted by God.”
Similarly was the lack of reports in the Western media of the reasonable words of the Grand Mufti of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim population Sheik Mohammad Rashid Qabbani. He reassured Pope Benedict XVl that “any attack on a Christian is an attack on all Muslims”. Sheik Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, told the Pontiff that the events rocking the world at the moment will “bring us Muslims and Christians a light which will shows us a path to a better tomorrow.” It is unfortunate that his words have since been undermined through the violent anti western hollow rhetoric of Hezbollah; who are so often out of step and out of touch with their own authentic spiritual tradition. Their call for more angry, violent protests teaches us that anger and hatred are not holy and have no place in any genuine 21st century spiritual or religious movement. It is interesting to note how yet again Hezbollah’s oratory of “loud gongs and clashing cymbals” made Western media news outlets; it seems that violence and the suppressed madness of sane men really does get better televsion ratings than messages of love, peace, hope, reason and peaceful co-existence.
Another voice of reason in amidst the chaos was that of Sheik Ahmed Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar. He called for an international resolution banning hatred towards Muslim religious symbols. Such a call is timely in an age of irrational fear towards Islam and religion in particular, along with the rise of islamaphobia in the world. I am sure too, that such a call if adopted would be extended too all religions along with the right and freedom to sacred, devout expression regardless of religion and one’s religious history. Sheik Ahmed also called on his country’s men and women to show wisdom and restraint in the face of adversity.
I’d really like Fox News, CNN and the like to pick up on some genuine rational discourse from the Middle East, rather than showing the bleak stereotyped conflict ridden region we have all become de-desensitized to in the last six decades. Today the front page of the Khaleej Times, a Duabi based regional newspaper, had a photo of young Muslims greeting Pope Benedict in Lebanon, along with pictures of an interdenominational meeting with the Pontiff, including leaders of the Muslim and Coptic communities. I haven’t seen this coverage on either Fox News or Sky News.
The world is in need of moral and spiritual leadership and guidance. This comes through voices of reason and hearts filled with compassion rather than hatred. There’s no doubt that this is where our attention should focus, not on the errant ways of misguided individuals who hide behind the ideal of freedom of expression, to offend, insult and hurt others.