"What is the recent blasphemous film 'Innocence of Muslims'? Do they represent speech or ridicule and abuse? Making fun, using filthy language, mockery and ridicule, does it constitute speech? No, it does not, so the question of freedom does not arise in the first place. The United States by invoking freedom of speech, is actually advocating freedom to abuse, denigrate Islam, the values of Islam, its sanctities, and its noble personalities," Kashmiri author and political analyst Dr. Syed M. Inayatullah Andrabi said in an interview with Fars News Agency.
Dr. Syed M. Inayatullah Andrabi is a Muslim Kashmiri author and political analyst. He has been actively involved in speaking and writing about global politics and political issues. He completed his Ph.D in Linguistics in 1983 at the Centre of Advanced Study in Linguistics, Deccan College, University of Pune, India.
What follows is the text of Fars News Agency's interview with Dr. Andrabi about the anti-Islam movie "Innocence of Muslims," the rise of Islamophobia in the West and the efforts made by the Zionist lobby in the US and Europe to foment a clash of civilization between the Muslims and Christians.
Q: Dear Dr. Andrabi; the US government refused to order Youtube to remove the 14-minute trailer of the blasphemous movie "Innocence of Muslims" from the internet, citing its adherence to the principle of free speech as stipulated by the US Constitution. Was it really a logical justification to defend this insulting movie in terms of freedom of speech? Is freedom of speech tantamount to offending millions of people around the world?
A: There are two things involved here; one, the role of social media, namely, Google, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and two, the so-called issue of Freedom of Speech. Let us elaborate.
It has been noticed in the recent years that although social media claims to be very democratic and independent, yet it has a firm political orientation, and most of the times, works in favor of the global status-quo, i.e. the West/US dominated world order. China had recently issues with Google, and so had the Islamic Republic on Google's act of omitting the name "Persian Gulf" from Google maps. Also, one can recall how mischievous was the role of Facebook, Twitter in 2009 Presidential elections in Iran. The finer point that needs to be understood here is that the social media, for a variety of reasons, is inherently tilted in favor of the West.
As to the much hyped about issue of freedom of speech, we need to ask 'what is speech'? Talking rubbish is not, everyone agrees. Simply the act of moving our tongue and uttering words is not speech, so what is it then? A meaningful expression of something, some viewpoint, some argument through the medium of language, a God given gift to human beings, is what is called speech. We as rational beings think, need to express what is in our mind, and employ language as the tool for expression. In principle, it can happen that a person comes up with a thought which is different from, or in conflict with, what people hitherto had been thinking. Whether the West allows it or not, Islam fully allows it because it is somebody's voice of conscience, his genuine thinking. A normal person, as he does everything else in life sensibly, will likewise express his idea, howsoever ground-breaking or rebellious it is, most sensibly. This is simple common sense: we say things in a descent, sensible way taking into consideration our surroundings. What a husband can tell his wife in their private room, he cannot say in a busy market place or at a crowded bus stop. Invoking freedom of speech to justify blasphemy is the most stupid thing, and absolutely non-sense.
There are two stages here, first what one has to say, i.e. speech, second, the freedom to do that. The West's exercise of linking blasphemy with the freedom of speech is complete nonsense at the very first stage. What is Rushdie's novel Satanic Verses? What is the recent blasphemous film 'Innocence of Muslims'? Do they represent speech or ridicule and abuse? Making fun, using filthy language, mockery and ridicule, does it constitute speech? No, it does not, so the question of freedom does not arise in the first place. The United States by invoking freedom of speech, is actually advocating freedom to abuse, denigrate Islam, the values of Islam, its sanctities, and its noble personalities.
Q: There are rumors that a group of Israeli donors and sponsors contributed to the production of the anti-Islam movie. What do you think in this regard? In what ways does Israel benefit from the denigration of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the religious beliefs and sacred values of the Muslims?
A: There could be some truth in those rumors. The Zionist entity could have some objectives to achieve by supporting this film. First is their open hatred against Islam, second could be to influence the election scenario in US, and creating problems for Obama, who, of late, is not as popular with Zionists as is Mitt Romney. Another objective could be to draw a wedge between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt which would in turn create problems for President Mohammad Mursi.
Q: Some political commentators have argued that those behind the blasphemous movie intend to set off a clash of civilizations and pit the Muslims and Western people against each other, with the final objective of demonizing Muslims and portraying them as violent people. What's your take on that?
A: I believe the clash of civilizations, as propounded by Huntington, is more of a bogey rather than a real prospect. Civilizations are about life and future, they do not clash because that leads to death. They make adjustments, compromises, and try to co-exist. However, there is a good amount of truth in the proposition that those behind the blasphemous movie intended to set off a clash of civilizations and pit the Muslims and Western people against each other.
As we saw, the whole Muslim world got united on this issue, and the West's controlled media depicted the scenario as a clash between agitating, violent Muslims and the democratic West. By doing so, among other things, the West's establishment could project Islam and Muslim as their enemy, thus justifying wars and particularly war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Correspondingly this media projection depicted the Western world as a conflict-free monolith which in reality is not. There are well organized Occupy movements claiming, and rightly so, to represent 99% population. There are deep divisions in Europe with Germany once again aspiring to become Europe's super power, and so many other important things. But again, we must not lose sight of the fact that some sections of the Muslims, for example in Pakistan, did behave violently and that reinforced the propaganda of Muslims being a violent people.
Q: There are strict rules in certain European countries which forbid investigation into the Holocaust and questioning it. Everyone who dares to criticize the official accounts of the Holocaust will be first vilified as anti-Semitist and then sent to prison. But in terms of the sensitivities of the Muslims, they say that freedom of speech cannot be restricted. What do you say about these double standards?
A: To begin with, the Western civilization does not have any standards or values in the true sense of the term. It is a completely materialistic civilization where all thinking starts from and ends at economic growth, a perpetual, open-ended economic growth. Values and standards are invoked for convenience and usefulness, and that is why there are not just double standards but multiple standards. The Western governments decry dynastic kingdoms, and extol the virtues of democracy, yet they are the ardent supporters of such medieval regimes as the kingdom of Al-Saud. They support people's rights in Syria, and suppress the same in Bahrain. The list goes on, but the bottom line is, as mentioned above, that the West has no standards. No wonder then, that 'holocaust' which is a historical event is beyond scrutiny, whereas, religious values and sanctities which are a matter of belief are up for ridicule and fun making.
Q: How should the Muslims around the world, especially those living in the United States and European countries, promote the message of peace and friendship that Islam offers to the mankind, and correct the misconceptions of the Western citizens about their religion? How should they change the Western minds about Islam?
A: Muslims living in the West have a huge responsibility. They do not have to restrict Islam to mere identity. True, they should look as Muslims, properly dressed, women with hijab, but that is not the end of it. West prides itself on diversity, and if Islam is limited to mere identity, it will become a sub-culture, as are others like Hindu, Jewish, within the wider western civilization adding to its diversity. Muslims everywhere, and particularly in the West, must understand the fundamental difference between Islamic and non-Islamic civilizations. Islamic civilization emerges from the Monotheistic worldview which, while ensuring their material progress and welfare, aims at the spiritual growth of human beings and perfection of their human potential. Thus Muslims should not become victims of the global consumerist culture, where people are trapped in the vicious circle of living to earn and earning to live.
Muslims must not reduce Islam to a national religion, and Muslim Ummah to a mere nation, in the western sense of the term. They have to build up strong communities no doubt, but should interact with wider society (non-Muslim) on the basis of a common ground, i.e. 'kalimatin sawa' as the Noble Quran calls it (3:64). To begin with, Islam is not common between them, but core Islamic values like Justice, decency, moral uprightness, and honesty are, and Muslims can join hands with others in promoting these values. Islam stands for justice, but justice for all, not only for Muslims, in the same way if an act is unjust and oppressive, it has to be condemned whether the victim is a Muslim or non-Muslim.
Muslims should be seen as people standing for something, i.e. for justice and other such core values. This way they can build up bridges with the wider society, and here in Europe and America where there are big Christian populations, they should be seen as the true inheritors and flag bearers of the Prophetic legacy completed and perfected by the Noble Prophet, Mohammad (SAAW), and earlier represented by great prophets like Jesus and Moses. We recently had an international Nahjul-Balagha conference here in Peterborough, England, and one of the speakers, Professor Rodney Shakespeare, an expert in Binary Economics while speaking on 'Economic Justice, Zakah and Imam Ali' said that someone asked The Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (AS) if generosity was higher or justice, to which the Imam replied, justice, because justice creates a framework within which all the acts of generosity and charity can be properly carried out. This emphasis on justice must be reflected by the Muslim conduct here and everywhere else.
In the Conference it was also suggested that let every Muslim give a copy of Nahjul-Balagha to his/her non-Muslim neighbor not as a religious book, but as book of wisdom and wise quotes. People buy so many such books where they find pearls of wisdom, let them have Nahjul-Blagha also as one such book. This way meaningful communication can be developed with non-Muslims.
Q: It seems that the war on Islam is part of a broader plan to wage a war on spirituality and morality. The Western world wants to dissociate the Muslims from the values which have kept them resistant against the Western imperialism and its dominant ideology. What's your perspective on that?
A: The Ulema have said that historically there have been two types of Imamah, one the Imamah of Guidance, other, the Imamah of deviance & corruption; the former appeals to the spiritual essence of the human being nurturing the good within him/her, whereas the latter targets the sensual desires, promoting all the evil instincts. Religion, Islam being the final and perfect form of it, has been, right from the beginning, the source of guidance, of morality and spirituality. The west represents the Imamah of deviance and its survival and expansion depends on the spiritual and moral decay of human individuals and societies.
Historically the Western Civilization emerged as a result of rebellion against religion. Christianity, which had really become corrupt, became the first victim of this civilization, and gradually as it expended to non-Western geographic lands almost all religions conceded its supremacy. So many Muslim rulers and others claiming to be leaders, also embraced the Western paradigm that religion should be kept out of social and political affairs. However, Islam remained a major irritant for the global domination of the Western civilization, and it continued to form the bedrock of all the resistance movements launched by Muslims against the colonial powers like Britain, France and Italy in the last century and before. The Islamic Revolution of Iran led by Imam Khomeini (RA) was the most comprehensive challenge to the West's hegemony, and it confirmed the truth that the glamour of Western civilization proves completely ineffectual before the moral and spiritual prowess of believers.
Q: Certain Arab states have been completely silent about the sacrilegious movie, and about other attacks on Islam, Quran and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in the past. What's the reason in your view? Why some Muslim states have not shown a strong response and categorical reaction?
A: That is not surprising. As mentioned earlier, the present Muslim rulers are essentially a hangover from the colonial past. The real and comprehensive decolonization of Muslim lands has only started 33 years back with the advent of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The process, despite huge obstacles in its way, has since been moving ahead and we have been witnessing changes in Egypt and elsewhere, which, though not proper Islamic revolutions, are a step ahead in the same direction.
It is expected that as an outcome of this process Muslim masses and their rulers will share the same aspirations, unlike the present situation, where the foremost concern of the Muslim rulers, particularly those of the Arab Sheikhdoms, and most notably the Saudi Kingdom, is their power and their privileges which they safeguard by serving the interests of the enemies of Islam.
Interview by Kourosh Ziabari