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September 24, 2012 | by  | in News |
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World Watch


Violent protest spread across the Muslim world this past fortnight, notably resulting in the murder of the US Ambassador to Libya. The outrage has allegedly been the result of a single amateur film which mocks the Muslim prophet Mohammad. The affair has sparked familiar debate over religious freedom, censorship, and American-Islamic relations.

But why is everyone so wound up? Essentially, the low-budget production entitled Innocence of Muslims denigrates the prophet Mohammad, the central figure in Islam. With thick New York accents, Mohammad is depicted as a violent womaniser, paedophile, and likened to a donkey.

Though initially premiered to an empty cinema, it was the viral spread of the film online which sparked the outrage.

The US embassy in Benghazi, Libya was attacked after the film was broadcast on Egyptian TV channel Al-Nas by presenter Sheikh Khaland Abdalla. Including the ambassador, four Americans were killed.

Since then, other American Embassies have been ambushed, raising both the death toll and political stakes.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian has claimed responsibility for the film. Known on YouTube as “Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real-estate developer,” Nakoula once called Islam “a cancer,” and claims he raised $5 million from more than 100 Jewish donors to shoot the film in California last year.

The film’s actors claim they had no knowledge of the film’s anti-Islamic intentions.

One actress has sued Nakoula for fraud and slander, while Egypt’s general prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for the him and others linked with the films production.

Some speculate the film has merely been used as an excuse for the attacks, providing an immediate catalyst to unleash pent up, underlying hatred for the US.

Regardless, with only two months to go until election day, the film has left Obama tiptoeing around the Middle East and US relations. He has condemned both the Islamic attack on the American embassy and the actions of the US filmmaker.

He went as far to ask Google, the owners of YouTube, if they would reconsider censorship of the film in Western countries. Google declined, arguing such action would undermine their freedom of expression policy.

This debate isn’t new. In 2006, the publication of cartoons of Muhammad by a Danish paper received widespread criticism. Politicians and religious leaders were outraged, protests turned violent, and the media again claimed freedom of expression.

But unlike the 2006 cartoons, Innocence of Muslims has reached over 10 million YouTube hits. In a social networking age where Twitter and YouTube have been described as the new “weapons of mass destruction,” it has become clear that the actions of a mere handful of individuals can bring about global turmoil.

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