British Muslims Response to Anti-Islam Movie
Dr. Mozammel Haque
An anti-Islam movie, “Innocence of Muslims” produced and promoted by a collection of rightwing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Copt based in the United States, which crudely denigrates the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Since the subject was raised on the international level and the Muslims know about it everywhere and since some developments and actions have taken place in many Muslim countries, it is appropriate and timely to address this topic.
The 13-minute virulent Islamophobic, deeply hateful video, practically unwatchable production called “The Innocence of Muslims” that attack on the Prophet was uploaded on the YouTube in July. The amateurish film was created with the intention of both destabilizing the Muslim countries and provoking the religious feelings of Muslims by defaming the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned this anti-Islam film and called it a “disgusting, reprehensible and cynical” anti-Muslim film. She said, “To us, to me, personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”
This dirty, filthy anti-Islam film sparked protests worldwide. Saudi Arabia condemned the “violent reactions in several countries against US interests” and denounced “the production by an irresponsible group in the United States of a film insulting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
People of the Islamic faith provoked because their religion was trodden upon by concerted, evil attempts by some individuals to denigrate a sacred and holy faith. Muslims love their Prophet more than their parents, children and all the people. Love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a measure of one’s Imaan (faith and conviction). The Holy Qur’an says: “The Prophet is preferable for the believers even to their own selves.” (The Holy Qur’an 33:6).
Love of the Prophet is love of all the beauty and nobility of character, truthfulness, justness, humility and inner strength of which man is capable and which the Prophet as Perfect Man possessed on the utmost degree. On the other hand, the Prophet’s love was not limited just to the believers, in a way he loved all of God’s creation. Allah says in the Qur’an: “We have not sent you (O Prophet) but as Mercy to all the worlds.” (The Holy Qur’an 21:107).
Saudi Arabia condemned the film as “irresponsible” but it denounced violent anti-American protests and expressed condolences to the US over the killings in Benghazi. Muslim leaders and people worldwide reject and condemn violent protest and the unlawful acts of killing people and burning properties.
British Muslims Response
In order to find out the British Muslims response to this anti-Islam movie, I have conducted an interview with Muslim community leaders, Muslim parliamentarians and went to take note of the Friday sermon by Imams at Mosque. Last Friday, Imams and Khatibs of different Mosques in London, particularly, the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Regents Park Central London Mosque and the East London Mosque in Whitechapel delivered Khutba on the anti-Islam Movie.
Dr. Ahmad Saifuddin Turkistani, an University Professor and well-known Dawah worker and Imam, delivered Sermon (Khutba) at the Islamic Cultural Centre and Regents Park Central London Mosque on Friday, the 21st September, 2012 .
Friday Sermon at Islamic Cultural Centre &
Central London Mosque, London
In the khutba (Sermon) Dr. Turkistani first elaborated on the status of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) first by pointing out the great position of all Prophets of Allah and their high status in Islam and the need for their messages. Then he mentioned about the coming of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the master of all Prophets, though he said, “We do not want to differentiate among the Prophets.”
The next point which the Imam, Dr. Turkistani mentioned in his khutba, is about the message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which is highest and indeed to spread the message of peace, understanding and tranquillity among all peoples of the world and for that purpose he faced many challenges in his own time and many people in Makkah and Madina insulted him, accused him and even plotted to kill him and yet he kept going on delivering and conveying the message of Allah. For this reason, Allah said in the Qur’an about him, “We have sent you as Mercy to all the world”.
Then referring to the latest Californian movie, “Innocence of Muslims”, Dr. Turkistani said in his khutba, the latest film was very bad in taste, in language, in production, which made and try to demean, to attack or insult the person of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his message. But of course, in no way, the producer could not reach nor did it reach to any of his goals namely creating division among Muslims and Christians particularly in Egypt and over the Muslim world.
What the Imam, Dr. Turkistani, emphasized in the khutba was how to deal with such an attack. He said this is not the first and will not be the last attack to injure the honour of the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his message. “Therefore, unlike what they wanted to do, it provided an opportunity to create more interest in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the message of Islam. This means that many books and copies of the Qur’an and more literature on Islam will be sold and many Islamic websites will be visited by audiences in the West and throughout the world,” said Dr. Turkistani in his Friday sermon.
The Imam at the Regents Park Central London Mosque said in his Friday sermon, “The response of Muslims should not be to attack embassies or consulates or western people who live in the Muslim world or anywhere and is not to violently protest and prostrate in the street creating chaos and disorder.”
The Imam, Dr. Turkistani, said in his Friday Sermon, “What is needed is to be committed to the way of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to convey his message and to take all possible and legal means to defend his message and explain his biography with wisdom and evidence. It is an opportunity for Muslims at all levels to be active in promoting the message of Islam in the form of dawah with wisdom and good preaching as Allah commands.”
Sir Iqbal Sacranie
I had the opportunity to discuss with Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the founding Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the joint convenor of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs about the anti-Islam movie. Speaking about the movie, Sir Iqbal said, “First of all there is no doubt that Muslims, wherever they live, whatever background they come from, feel pain and deeply hurt at any insult on the personality of their beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). This pain and hurt is only natural and spontaneous but needs to be controlled.”
“What we must remember that this is not the first time that such abuse and insult is made on the very foundation of our faith. Throughout centuries, in fact, at the time of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him), there were elements in the society who not only threw verbal insults but caused physical pain to our noble Prophet (peace be upon him). Sadly, this irresponsible and reprehensible behaviour will continue for years to come as long as Islam continues to grow in strength and plays a very constructive role in the society,” mentioned Sir Iqbal.
Sir Iqbal also said, “There are mischievous and arrogant elements and Islamophobe in the society whose main role is to demonise Islam and create havoc. The question that needs to be asked is how should Muslims react to this abuse and insult carried out in the name of freedom of expression.”
Speaking about how Muslims should react to this type of abuse, Sir Iqbal mentioned, “First and foremost we should follow the example of how our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) responded to such attacks. He responded evil actions with good actions. He was brought in as Mercy to Mankind and his exemplary behaviour towards his adversaries is a shinning example of how we should react to such situation. We are living in a society where we have a right to express our views freely without fear of prosecution. Such abuse and insult should be challenged in a responsible manner. We need to assert the principle of civility in communication. We also need to assert that we are living in a civilised society where the society demands responsible journalism. There is no such thing as freedom of expression in its absolute sense. It only exists in a state of anarchy.”
In this connection, Sir Iqbal pointed out that in every civilised society, there are laws that curb freedom of expression such as laws of defamation, laws of censorship, and laws of treason. These laws are there to protect the society against mischief and commotion.
Sir Iqbal mentioned, “In nearly every country in the west, we have laws that protect the group of people because of their culture and religion such as Jews who have protection against anti-Semitism and denial of holocaust. The gay community is protected against discrimination and anyone who insults them can be prosecuted under the equality legislation as homophobic. We have laws of inciting religious hatred but unfortunately it is very narrow and does not protect faith communities against vilification of their faith. It is about time that the national and international laws give protection to faith communities against act of sacrilege and vilification.”
Talking about how to tackle this sort of vilification, Sir Iqbal mentioned about the historical resolution asking for the international convention on vilification, “It is now more than 20 years since the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs first presented resolution to the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) for the need of International Convention on Vilification. Since then the OIC has been working over the years with the United Nations to bring about such Convention. It is heartening to note today vast number of Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan among many, are strongly advocating for such convention which will send a powerful signal to the world community that vilification or demonization of any faith or religion is unacceptable in a civilised society.”
British Parliamentarian Khalid Mahmood,
MP for Perry Barr, Birmingham
I had the opportunity to talk to British Parliamentarian, Khalid Mahmood, Member of Parliament from Perry Barr, Birmingham and I enquired about the anti-Islam movie. Mr. Mahmood said, “The purpose of this type of anti-Islam movie is to antagonise the Muslim community. What is needed for us to do is that “We will have to rise above it and deal with it diplomatic and constructive way.”
“Rather than demonstration, we should have demand for state sanction against this issue,” said Mr. Mahmood.
Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn
I also met Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn and wanted to know his opinion about the Movie entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, Lord Patel said, “Publishers of that Film knew that Muslims throughout the world are going to oppose and going to give free publicity for them. So directly or indirectly we are fulfilling their objectives. For that particular reason we should totally keep quiet and should not give free publicity to them.”
Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham
I spoke to Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, the first Muslim Peer of the House of Lords and enquired his observation on the concerned movie, Lord Ahmed said, “When they attack black people, we call it “Racism”. When they attack Jewish people, we call it “Anti-Semitism”. When they attack women, we call it sexism and “Gender discrimination”. When they attack Homosexuality, we call it “homophobia and intolerance”. When they attack a religious sect, we call it “Hate speech”. But when they attack the dignity of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) they call it “Freedom of expression”. Why???”
Referring to the violent protest and demonstration, Lord Ahmed said, “Burning our own buildings and killing our own police officers is not an answer. An international law against incitement to religious hatred and rules for YouTube and Google is a must. Freedom of Expression balanced with responsibility.”
Lord Ahmed also mentioned, “This amateur abusive, insulting and filth film is not worthy of the reaction shown by Muslims. Certain leaders have used it for their own political power. It needs an intellectual response. Here are the great examples about our Prophet (peace be upon him).”
Lord Ahmed said, “Rational approach of all believing people at all times should be to present facts as they are. Truth always conquers falsehood - no matter what?”
Lord Ahmed mentioned what other believing people had to say about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)!
Alphonse de La Martaine in 'Historie
de la Turquie,' Paris, 1854
“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad?
"Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational beliefs.... The founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?"
Sir George Bernard Shaw in 'The Genuine
Islam,' Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936
“If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam." “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him - the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Savior of Humanity.”
“I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”
Michael Hart in 'The 100, A Ranking of the Most
Influential Persons In History,' New York, 1978
“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious level. ...It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity. ...It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
Rodwell in the Preface to his translation
of the Holy Qur'an
“Mohammad's career is a wonderful instance of the force and life that resides in him who possesses an intense faith in God and in the unseen world. He will always be regarded as one of those who have had that influence over the faith, morals and whole earthly life of their fellow men, which none but a really great man ever did, or can exercise; and whose efforts to propagate a great verity will prosper.”
W. Montgomery Watt in 'Muhammad at Mecca,'
“His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement - all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems that it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad.... Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all; if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past, we must not forget the conclusive proof is a much stricter requirement than a show of plausibility, and in a matter such as this only to be attained with difficulty.”