By Ryan McAllister
By Ryan McAllister
Rabat, In April of 2011, ABC News’ Bill Weir interviewed Terry Jones. Jones was known, at that time, for having burned a copy of the Koran. The burning led to rioting in Afghanistan in which staffers from the United Nations were killed. Here is a brief excerpt from the interview:
Weir: When you got news of today’s deadly riots there in Afghanistan, what was the first thought that went through your head?
Jones: Yeah, yeah of course we were very saddened and devastated by that. It is of course a terrible thing anytime anyone is killed…I think it definitely does prove that there is a radical element of Islam…
Weir: Should you bear any responsibility for inciting today’s horrific actions?
Jones: We do not feel responsible — no. Um, we feel more that the Muslims and radical Islam uses that as an excuse.
It’s unsurprising that Jones would feel no responsibility or connection to the events. This is a ‘Pastor’ who doesn’t know the mission statement of his own ‘church’; a man who authored a book entitled ‘Islam is the Devil’ despite never having read the Koran or; a man who recently claimed that the video ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was ‘not intended to insult the Muslim community.’ Logic and honesty are not tools in his belt. It would be a waste of time to try to discredit Terry Jones as he is perfectly capable of doing that on his own. (And he has done so, repeatedly.)
Given Jones’ past, it should come as no surprise that the producers of the video ‘Innocence of Muslims’ asked for his help in publicizing the video. They are natural allies. These people, no doubt, fervently believe that hate and violence are inherent to the practice of Islam. Inconveniently, for them, the overwhelming majority of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims stubbornly insist upon practicing their religion peacefully. This makes them unlikely allies of the violent protesters in Libya, whose actions did more to support the claims of Jones and his ilk than any video ever could.
This is a point which has been made, many times over, on this website and others. It has been made to me, personally, in multiple conversations with Moroccans. However, it bears repeating: violent protests serve only to reinforce the negative stereotypes of Islam. Any attempt to legitimize that violence or equate an insulting video with the murder of innocent people is insanity. No video, or any form of speech, can ever justify attacks against innocent people. These protests strengthen people like Terry Jones and the makers of the recent video.
What’s more, protests against the American embassy are misdirected. The American government had nothing to do with the production of this video. The vast majority of American citizens find this kind of vile insult to another faith to be disgusting, undignified and pointless. This video, like the actions of Terry Jones, represents neither the policies of the United States nor the beliefs of the majority of its citizens. It represents only a few sad, insecure people who believe that building up their religion or country requires tearing down another. Protests at American embassies, especially violent ones, only empower these people.
This is a point which seems lost on the throngs of people around the globe who poured into the streets to protest American embassies. The people behind this video, who childishly insult the religion of 1.3 billion people, want nothing more than to see protesters in the streets. They want to see young, angry men throwing rocks, lighting fires and generally being destructive. In their eyes, it validates everything they say and do. All the hate they produce. It allows them to say to other Americans, ‘See. They hate us all.’ It can create the impression, in the minds of Americans, that our entire country and all of our citizens are hated or unwelcome. As an American living in Morocco, that has not been my experience but, these protests can create that perception.
A friend of mine works for an organization that brings American university students on tours of Morocco. They travel to different cities and villages, speaking with Moroccans, learning about Morocco and, of course, Islam. Most of them thoroughly enjoy the experience; some don’t. A few, inevitably, fall in love with Morocco and pledge to return, either for work or vacation. The organization was hit with a rash of cancellations in the wake of the recent protests. These students won’t be coming this Fall. They won’t be coming because the recent events have given them the impression that Morocco is unsafe for Americans. So, whose interest is being served by these protests?
In the days following the protests throughout the Muslim world, many writers, Muslim and non-Muslim, attempted to explain and contextualize the outrage. Most, including the writers here at Morocco World News, condemned the violence while offering an insight into the relationship that Muslims have with the Prophet (PBUH). This is a necessary, constructive process whereby those unfamiliar with Islam are able to gain a deeper understanding of a religion which is followed by 1.5 billion people. This process is the nightmare of both the people behind the ‘Innocence’ video and the people who stormed the embassy in Benghazi. It offers tolerance and understanding where they offer only ignorance and hate. It remains the most effective form of protest.
Ryan McAllister is an English teacher in Rabat. He received his bachelor’s degree in History from Penn State University. From 2008-2010 he served as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Mauritania and Rwanda. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, he has lived in Morocco since 2011.