Anti-West protests throughout many Muslim countries this last week or so have had a slight end of the world feel about them. The extremely tacky and distasteful “Innocence of Muslims”, a short film that was clearly made with the intent to antagonise Muslims the world round, has had it's desired effect. Although it would be accurate to state that it was only a fraction of the worlds Muslims who were out there protesting, and a even smaller number who turned to violence, I still felt disappointed and concerned at the reaction, especially considering these were largely grown men. The people responsible for this video are clearly contemptible, but why they would want to offend so many people in this way is unclear at this point. But, however distasteful or offensive we might find this video, we must defend freedom of speech at all costs. To have something banned simply because we don't agree with it's tone or message would be to regress as a society, possibly the start of a very slippery slope that leads to a less civilised world.
As a big fan and regular viewer of animated sitcoms such as Family Guy and South Park, I've seen numerous episodes where they poke fun at characters from the Christian faith, namely God and Jesus. I'm aware of some discontent from some faith groups, particularly in the US, but these sitcoms largely go about their business with little hassle and serious threats to their lives are pretty rare. So why do Christians in the West largely ignore what could be seen as an attack on their faith? And why is the reaction so different throughout the Muslim world? I don't see religion as a progressive force in society in general, but in the West Christian views seemed to have mellowed and have accepted that people are free to criticise whenever they see fit. Many Christians, I imagine, laugh along to the same episodes as I do, seeing no conflict in laughing at parts of their faith while still holding that faith strong and close to them.
Maybe the intensity of the protests throughout the Arab world can be partly blamed on the conditions they find themselves living in, using their religion as an outlet for dissatisfaction relating to the lack of democracy, lack of freedom of speech, lack of education and jobs, and so forth. Whatever the reasons for the violence it can never be justified. If religion is to be taken seriously in the 21st century then scenes like this need to be avoided. People like me who have no faith are prepared to accept and even respect other people's faith, but not when it acts in such a destructive and violent manner.