Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Theologian’s Response To “Innocence Of Muslims”

Karen Leslie Hernandez writes,

As we are all aware, the recent outbreak of violence in many Arab-Muslim countries because of the film Innocence of Muslims, is on many people’s minds and hearts around the world.
With the deaths and injuries of several Americans since last week, and Al Qaeda using this film as an impetus for violence against Americans worldwide, it seems this crisis is far from over.

I am here to simply ask when this madness will stop—when is it enough? When do we stop killing each other? When every American is dead? When every Muslim is dead?

I am not denying that this film is incredibly blasphemous, and portrays the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in a less than favorable light. I am disgusted at the film maker’s message, which at the beginning of the film is sent with visionary images of Jesus situated in a humble, Christian home, as Muslims attack outside.

I am disgusted at the inaccurate use of scripture. I am disheartened at the incorrect, historical references to the Qur’an, to the downright wrong portrayal of historical events in Islamic exegesis. I am appalled that anyone would make such a film, with little regard about the group of people it is attacking.

As a Christian and as a Theologian, I condemn this film.

We have a lot of people here in the United States with this kind of agenda against Muslims.

Islamophobes who hold events such as Islamofacist Awareness Week, to books written by Americans entitled, Stop the Islamization of America, and much more. America is alive and well with fear and hate. However, what is important to note is that hate in America is not just directed at those who are Muslim.

Who faces hate, racism and intolerance here in the United States? Everyone! Who are the perpetrators of this intolerance? Everyone! This is to say that no one in America is capable of complete tolerance.

Complete tolerance of our fellow human beings is not something any human maintains, in any country, anywhere, because if we did have complete, even unconditional tolerance, we wouldn’t have war, poverty, and inequality worldwide.

Not Justified…

I must point out something to those who are enacting out their rage right now in Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Pakistan, and elsewhere. This film is atrocious, yes, but, in all sincerity, your actions are not justified.

For one, this film, if you have watched it, is so poorly made and acted, and the cinematography is that if a seven year old’s work. Two, this film is one of many that have depicted Islam and the Prophet in a negative light.

I understand how you must be insulted, but to hurt people, to pursue violence in the name of Islam, or to pursue violence in the name of any religion, is not condoned in any of our holy texts.

This brings me to my third point. In your religion of Islam, there are people who are considered Islamic extremists who have made other kinds of films which are just as derogatory and hurtful to people. Lest we not forget the film of Journalist, Danny Pearl, and his beheading, lest we also not forget the films made by other Islamic extremists such as Al Qaeda that illustrate hate and intolerance, and call for the death and destruction of Christians and Jews.

Extremism in All Religions

I also note here that there are religious extremists in every religion, whose agenda is to simply hurt people, in any way possible. No religion is immune from this type of ignorance and misunderstanding. This is important to recognize if we are ever going to coexist on this increasingly globalized planet of ours.

When I watched this film, I was also reminded that this type of rhetoric is not new. One can view films made by the Third Reich during World War II that illustrate the Jewish religion and those who practiced Judaism, as dirty and as rats. As well, during World War II, the United States put all Japanese Americans in internment camps—you can easily view photos online of how these American citizens were portrayed during that time in America.

It seems the film maker of Innocence of Muslims has not read his historical fact sheet on the Crusades, or the Rape of Nanking, or the Rwandan Genocide—all incidents of violence where women were mercilessly raped and millions were killed. It is a fact that in almost every war on our planet, religion and culture were the driving force.

My message here is simple. We must stop hating, because of hate. We must stop holding anger, because of anger. Have we not all had enough of this? Will inciting violence for violence solve these issues? Will making films such as Innocence of Muslims do any kind of good for our world? Will killing people because of an ignorantly made film, make anyone feel better?

What will, however, ease this sense of exclusivity, is a sense of viewing each other as humans first, with respect, wonder, and awe. Recognizing that we all are here on this planet, and we all must view each other through God’s lens and not our own lens, is imperative.

We must treat people as we want to be treated. The Golden Rule exists in almost every major faith in the world. 

In Judaism, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole of the Torah; all the rest of it is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat, 31a.

In Christianity, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12.

As well as in Islam, “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”  Prophet Muhammad said in a Hadit.  (An-Nawawi)

This is easy: love each other, as God loves us. All of us!

Again, as a Christian and as a Theologian, I condemn the film, Innocence of Muslims. However, I also condemn hatred, violence, intolerance, retaliation, and anything that harms any person.

As a fellow human being, I implore you to reach beyond your self-made boundaries and I hope, regardless of what religion you are, what the color of your skin is, and what country you are from, you join me, and condemn not only this film, but religious intolerance all together.

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a Theologian with a focus on Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism. She writes, teaches and lectures on Islam, Christian-Muslim relations worldwide (past and present), Jesus in the Qur’an, Al Qaeda, Islamophobia, and theological responses to terrorism.  Karen has a Master of Sacred Theology in Religion and Conflict Transformation, Boston University School of Theology; a Master of Theological Research in Christian-Muslim Understanding, Andover Newton Theological School; and a BA in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in Islam, Wellesley College.  

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