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Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in International, Law, Media, Religion | 2 comments

Anti-Islam Film, UN Human Rights and the Politics of Turmoil

Emad Hajjaj, Jordan

The bloody clashes and murder of American diplomats triggered by an anti-Islam film are the precursors of a grab for power in several Muslim countries by Salafi Islam, which is native to Saudi Arabia and rejects the democracy and freedom of speech promoted by US foreign policy.

The film, Innocence of Muslims, is crude travesty of freedom of speech, which is normally expected to end where incitement to religious hatred and violence begins. The film’s duplicity is demonstrated by the Reuters comment that it depicted the Prophet Muhammad “as a fool, a philanderer and a religious fake” and showed him having sex. NBC said it depicted the Prophet “as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.” These depictions are not supported by historical evidence or interpretations of the Prophet’s life by reputed historians and theologians.

In addition to bloodshed, the film has weakened the hands of a United Nations Human Rights Council where the US has been fighting to stop moves to make “blasphemy” a punishable crime. Angered by many perceived insults to Islam, some Muslim countries have pressed for years to require Western countries to make anti-Islamic statements punishable by law, ignoring freedom of expression.

The film has also boosted the politics of turmoil, under which social turmoil is exploited by religious fanatics to incite mobs to assault embassies and murder diplomats. Skilled terrorists work with expert rabble rousers to create mob frenzy used as cover to efficiently attack preplanned targets. This has happened recently in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and Sudan. The shaky governments in those countries would turn ordinary people against them if they used violence to stop the mobs. Thus, terrorists are enabled to use mobs as human shields to carry out attacks to make political gains from sudden opportunities like the film. Their goal is to seize power in Muslim countries that do not install Salafi beliefs and Salafi interpretations of Sharia law.

The puppeteers of trained terrorists use Islam as a cover for their political agenda. For them, the situation is win-win. They are able to exercise lethal violence while making other Muslims believe that the US and the West are enemies of Islam. They need to make Muslims fear and hate the US. Absent that fear, the Islamic extremists would be rejected en masse by mainstream Muslims whose belief systems are neither monolithic or unthinking.

Some 1.9 billion people on all continents follow the Islam of the Prophet Mohammed. Most live in low or middle-income developing countries and are not homogenous by any measure. Three quarters are not Arab and do not believe that Saudi Islam should be emulated just because the Prophet lived there.

Yet since 1973, when oil prices were quadrupled by cartelized producers, the Salafi sect has spread its tentacles in almost every Muslim community in poor countries. It includes a smaller more fundamentalist group called Wahhabi, which has strong influence over Saudi royalty.

The key Salafi and Wahhabi belief is that all Muslims anywhere in the world should live with the social structures and doctrinal purity used by the first three generations of Muslims. This narrow Salafi Islam is not accepted by most mainstream Muslim theologians outside Saudi Arabia but its influence is growing quickly in Africa and Asia because of generous funding by Saudi charities.

Some scholars say just 10 million out of 1.9 billion Muslims follow Salafi-inspired Jihad theology, which forbids democracy and insists on traditional Sharia law to organize society. Within this minority is a set of people, thought to be in the thousands, who believe in violence to establish Sharia law. A result is that the public image of non-violent mainstream Salafi beliefs is becoming linked around the world with Al Qaeda-style terrorism.

The economic uncertainties and weak law and order in countries turning towards democracy since the Arab Spring has created extraordinary opportunities for radical Salafi-Jihadi preachers. They are well funded and can combine their almost medieval sermons with social welfare handouts and proximity services since they live among the needy.

Every incident like the film allows them to orchestrate more anti-American violence and prevent Islam from entering the modern world. That backwardness is the fertile terrain they need to exploit democratic politics to seize power, now that the dictators who kept them at bay have fallen. Letting them continue could be the undoing of Saudi royalty as well, which has been in power only since 1932.

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