The film ”Innocence of Muslims,” which denigrates Islam's prophet Muhammad, has sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries.
Violent demonstrations initially erupted in Cairo followed by Libya where a U.S. ambassador was killed. Later on, the demonstrations spread globally.
This problem can affect future relations between the U.S. and some Muslim countries. Additionally, the angry Muslim reaction can affect the transfer of power in Afghanistan.
It is vital to understand the underlying causes that led to such an angry response and how to prevent future eruptions.
The following components played a role in creating such a reaction:
Mainstream sources of Islamic law establish the principle that anyone who insults the prophet Muhammad MUST be killed without even giving them a chance to repent. The existence of such laws creates a mindset among many Muslims that justifies the use of violence against those who are perceived as insulting the prophet.
The violence in such cases may not be limited to those who are directly engaged in the insult, but it also affects those who gave them the freedom to do so. The U.S. is seen by many Muslims as a co-conspirator to insulting the founder of Islam.
Love to the Prophet
According to traditional Islamic teaching in the Day of Judgment Allah will order Muslim sinners to hell.
One of the most respected collections of the sayings of Muhammad — the Hadith of al-Bukhari — Muslims will complain to the prophet Muhammad.
The prophet will perform an intercession (or ‘Shafaa’) to ask Allah to change his decision and allow them into paradise. Allah — according to teachings — will do this for the sake of Muhammad.
This creates unparalleled love for the prophet in the Muslim world and inspires many followers to defend him, or his name, with their lives. They feel that if they do not show anger toward those who insult the prophet they may not be worthy of his personal intercession.
The vivid depiction of hell in Islamic core texts also creates a level of fear that explains why Muslims would go to such great lengths to avoid going there.
Lack of Cognitive Associations:
Appeasement of the Islamists has impeded a cognitive process that is vital to prevent violent reactions.
If a student, who does not study for an exam, subsequently fails that exam, he or she will connect that failure to their own actions.
This may inspire the student to study harder in the future to avoid failing the next exam. If someone, however, persuades the student that the failure is not the result of his or her own negligence, but rather someone else's hatred toward them, the student will not develop an association between the lack of study and failure.
They will likely make the same mistake — and fail again. A similar problem exists in dealing with the Muslim world.
If Muslims understood that the negative image of Islam in the West is not the result of an unconditional hatred of Islam as so many think, but rather a consequence of violent deeds by radical Muslims, they would have been encouraged to fight radicalism and improve the image of Islam.
Apologetic attitudes toward radical Islam have actually made things worse.
As a result, the Muslim world keeps blaming the West, and the U.S. in particular, for the negative image of their religion instead of introducing reforms and, reducing or eliminating such violence, all of which would decrease the criticism of Islam.
Beliefs and Reality:
On one hand, many Muslims strongly believe that Muhammad is the best role model for mankind (Quran 33:21 There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often).
The film ”Innocence of Muslims” depicted these beliefs in a way that triggered a confrontation.
To a great extent, anti-Americanism in the Muslim world stems from the feelings of supremacy — that Islamists are the supreme power in the world.
These feelings of supremacy are fueled by the media as well as educators, and religious leaders throughout parts of the Islamic world.
The film provided an opportunity for Islamists to achieve a false feeling of “victory” over the U.S.
Some radical Muslims see it is a sign of victory (or superiority) over America to invade U.S. embassies and replace the U.S flag with an Islamic flag.
Some Islamists in Egypt even refer to the attack on the U.S. embassy as “Gazwat al-Sifara,” which means the Islamic raid of the (U.S.) embassy.
This description empowers Islamists to recapture the spirit of early Islamic conquests and victorious raids against “unbelievers.”
Understanding the factors that led Muslims to violence is vital to developing effective approaches to deal with such clashes in the future.
Apologies and appeasement do not work in the Middle East. The U.S. must stand by its core values of freedom and liberty, while working to develop a comprehensive strategy to confront the phenomenon of radical Islam.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.
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