The mad wave of protests targeting not just American embassies and business, but also western diplomatic missions, is getting nastier by the day, while elected Islamists leaders in Cairo openly ask western democracies to change the law to criminalise expressions they see as critical of their interpretation of Islam.
An Iranian foundation, supposed to be a charity looking after the poor and orphaned muslim children, doubled the bounty offered on head of British Author Salman Rushdie. The justification of the foundation leaders Hassan Sanei was that had 1989 Khomoeni’s fataw to kill the British author for writing The Satanic Verses , “ others would have been deterred from criticising Islam.”
Worse, the reaction from Muslim leaders of countries supposed on the road to democracy shows something much deeper and more sinister than just a wide gap of misunderstanding between the two cultures.
Arab and Muslim intellectuals have always accused western media of holding a stereotype of romantic view of Arabia and Muslim world as claimed the late American Palestinian historian Professor Edward Said in his book Orientalism where he accused western scholars of habitually ignoring realities on the ground and imposing their exotic fantasies on the region ( certainly Lawrence Durrell Alexandria Quartet is case in point where many of events and personae don’t relate to facts on the ground ). stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims by such orientalists, make them perhaps a target of ridicule or, a good source for cartoonists , and stand-up comedians. Critics of western stereotyping of Muslims did not cite one single example of physical harm Muslims as a result.
Put the shoe on the other foot, the outcome is quite different and sometimes tragic. The western stereotype creators, like Oriental scholars criticised by Arab intellectuals have not just their counterpart in the Arab world who go beyond the stereotyping of western citizens into actually demonising them in a way that can endanger their lives. Mohammed Morsi, the first genuinely elected president of Egypt is a case in point of such group. In previous speeches, media interviews and discussions Mr Morsi expressed the belief that 9/11 attack was not carried by Muslim but it was the work of Israeli Mosad. He never publicly corrected this claim despite requests from his American friends. President Morsi has already been in the forefront of inciting the people to protest instead of calming down hot-headed young muslims. He did not did not publicly criticise the Cairo mob attack on the US embassy and its breach until two days after the event via his spokesman.
A leader with Morsi background should understand free expression as a basic component of western culture. Mr Morsi, has a good command in English, spent many years doing his postgraduate in California ( holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California) and was a lecturer at an American college while two of his children were born in the US and are entitled to American citizenship. When he told President Barak Obama how angry he was over the YouTube film, he must have been aware ( unless his aids didn’t inform him which was unlikely) that President Mr Obama had already made clear his revulsion over the video.
Does Mr Morsi actually believe that the US government had anything to do with the anti-Muslim video? Or does he think his American counterpart can be held responsible for the thoughts, works and actions of over 300 million Americans? Is it possible that a former lecturer at an American college doesn’t know that, in a free society, the president has no power over the way his citizens express themselves.
It beggars belief that Egypt’s government opted for asking Western leaders, including President Obama to deliver the impossible Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, openly asks western democracy to impose pro-Islamists censorship . He told the BBC that Western nations should revise their domestic laws to “ensure that insulting 1.5 billion people, their belief in their Prophet, should not happen and if it happens, then people should pay for what they do”.
Not only does the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt want to ban its own citizens from expressions not conforming to their interpretation of Islam, but also wants to ban the citizens of non-Muslim countries ( beyond their jurisdiction) from doing so.
This is something western leaders must not tolerate under any pretext.