“Innocence of Muslim” - the video managed to do what the Arab Spring did against corrupt regimes. It spoke out in a loud, distinct voice about how Muslims have been subjected to inhuman labelling in the Western world. The movie was the centre stage for severe criticism from around the world, from among which many protests turned violent.
In June, the video was posted to YouTube by a man calling himself Sam Bacile, who later claimed to be an Israeli Jew. It turns out that Bacile is probably Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian, a convicted fraudster, and an alleged meth cooker. The little known movie gained massive recognition due to harsh portrayal of Prophet Muhammad as a drunk, a child molester, and a homosexual. The initial cost of the movie was sourced to about $5 million, but the video’s shabby production and poor camera work rarely highlights its cost. The film was screened to an audience of about 10 people, before the social media went haywire over it.
With Facebook, Twitter and Youtube being cornerstones of numerous revolts the past year in the Arab World, it wasn’t surprising that a similar buzz, if not less, was evoked when the content was heavily popularized through these medium. If it was conspiracy to inspire chaos, it worked well. As protests erupted amongst the Muslim community the world over, rioters target the US agenda of Muslim stereotyping. The “Innocence of Muslim” is also in question to have inspired the military-styled attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens to Libya and three other Americans. However the White House has denied the allegation and released a statement saying that the attack was pre-planned and not a responsive action.
Ripples of the protest were felt Indian shores too. Demonstrations were held in Srinagar, Kashmir, as local imams denounced the film and the heinous act aimed at hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. During a protest started on 14 September and continued for three days, US consulate at Chennai was pelted with stones breaking some window panes, allegedly by members from the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagam. As a result, issuing of Visa by the consulate was cancelled for two days.
The movie, however gruesomely stereotyped, was after all an amateur attempt to fuel hatred against a certain section of the world community. But if we remove the Arab and Islamic sentiments from the video, it represents, in metaphors, the general consensus of the average American youth. A recent survey by the PRRI showed that over 46 per cent saying they are uncomfortable with a mosque built near their home, 47 per cent saying Islam and American values are incompatible and 48 per cent saying they are uncomfortable with Muslim women wearing the burqa. Overall, 60 per cent of Americans agreed that too many Americans think that all Muslims are terrorists.
The video may in fact just be yet another viral video gone awry by an average American, like many of those who were surveyed. But the fire erupting from this stove might spread to the entire kitchen. The US administration has to react quickly and in a manner that doesn’t evoke further flak. Or else, they may soon run out of fire extinguishers.