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Jammu, India: A protester burns a US flag during a demonstration

While Tony Blair was being interviewed about the unrest in the Middle East on the Today programme, I found it extraordinary that he should have referred to the film Innocents of Muslims as being "laughable" (Report, 18 September). If ever a film was made with the specific intention of provoking Muslims worldwide, this is it. Having viewed the trailer on YouTube, I believe it was absolutely predictable that the cruel and vulgar depiction of Muhammad would result in outrage among ordinary Muslims and violent reaction against the US and the west by Islamist extremists. Surely those who made and then distributed this disgusting – not laughable – film, bear as much responsibility for the violence as those who are reacting against it.
Terence English Oxford

Tony Blair, for once, was right: Innocence of Muslims is laughable in the sense of contemptible (for its poor artistic quality), though not at all laughable in the laugh-worthy sense of “Life of Brian” (which is surely one of the greatest satirical comedies ever produced, in any genre). But neither of those senses is the one intended by Terence English. He means that the reaction provoked by the film is too serious to be funny.  He is right that the film is “disgusting”, but not because it offends Muslims. It is just a dreadful film – laughable in Tony Blair’s sense.

Terence English makes the all too common liberal error of patronising Muslims by assuming that their bigoted intransigence is a fixed fact of life which cannot be criticised, but must be accommodated like the laws of physics. It is a dubious application, not to say misapplication, of the classic limitation on free speech where “It’s like shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre.” Well yes, I see the point but no, there is an important difference. Fire is a chemical reaction that presents huge danger to everybody in a crowded theatre. That danger follows inevitaby from the laws of physics. The danger from Muslim over-reaction to trivial slights to their prophet is entirely man-made and inexcusable.  As Nick Cohen points out, in You Can’t Read this Book, the real offence is to assume that Muslims are incapable of civilised behaviour. This patronises and insults Muslims in ways that – if the liberal apologists would only think it through – goes right against their deepest liberal convictions: “Poor dears, they don’t have civilised ways like us, it’s part of their culture.” That’s the ignominiously coded meaning of “respect” in this case.

Having said that, there is a sense in which Muslim intransigence is an obvious fact of life today, and a realist must reluctantly admit that the parallel to shouting “Fire” has a certain pragmatic merit. While anybody has a perfect right to say what they like about any dead prophet, in this case you kind of wish they wouldn’t. What has no merit whatsoever, however, is Terence English’s conclusion that those who made and distributed the film “bear as much responsibility for the violence as those who are reacting against it.” No they don’t. That way madness lies.

Life of Brian reminds us of the contrast between Christian and Muslim reactions to offence. Christians were furious about that sublimely brilliant film, and they blathered and pontificated pathetically (in notorious cases never having seen it), but they stopped short of murder and arson. It would be completely impossible for the Monty Python team to get funding to make a comparable film about Mohammed. An additional consequence of Muslim intransigence and violence, then, is that high quality, sharply satirical movies about Mohammed cannot be made. With the exception of Theo van Gogh’s beautiful film Submission,  the only anti-Islamic output that slips through the net is rubbish like Innocence of Muslims, and that is artistically regrettable.

Today’s newspapers also bring us the story of an American actor in the same infamous film, who is trying to  get Innocence of Muslims suppressed, on the grounds that she was deceived into taking part. Nobody told her it was a film about Mohammed. She answered an advertisement describing it as a “historical Arabian Desert adventure film” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/20/anti-muslim-clip-youtube-innocence?INTCMP=SRCH) The Islamic references were all, according to her, dubbed in later. The judge has rejected her request because of a technicality.

I have sympathy for her, having been deceived myself into taking part in more than one film which turned out to be other than it was portrayed.  And she seems to have come up with the only good grounds for suppressing Innocence of Muslims. It should certainly not be suppressed because of the alleged “offence” to a lot of paranoid Islamists, for whom being offended has become more or less their only occupation – perhaps they have nothing better to do.  But if she is telling the truth, the film should be suppressed because it was made under false pretences, deceiving the actors who, in good faith, took part in it and now find their professional reputations, not to mention their lives, at risk. That really is a good reason for pulling the film off YouTube, and I would not be sorry if the US authorities acted to do so. Moreover, if the makers of the film are to be punished, it should be for recruiting actors under false pretences, not for insulting the prophet of Islam.

Niewinność muzułmanów?

Autor tekstu: Richard Dawkins

Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

 

List w dzisiejszym "Guardianie jest ucieleśnieniem wszystkiego, co błędne w liberalnej apologii dla islamskiej przemocy.

Tony Blair udzielał dzisiaj wywiadu w sprawie niepokoju na Bliskim Wschodzie w programie Today: dla mnie zdumiewające było, że mówił o filmie „Innocence of Muslims" jako „śmiechu wartym" (Report, 18 września). Jeśli kiedykolwiek zrobiono film z zamiarem sprowokowania muzułmanów na całym świecie, to ten właśnie. Obejrzawszy zwiastuna na YouTube sądzę, że było całkowicie do przewidzenia, że to okrutne i wulgarne przedstawienie Mahometa spowoduje oburzenie wśród zwykłych muzułmanów i gwałtowne reakcje ekstremistów islamskich przeciwko USA i Zachodowi. Z pewnością ci, którzy wyprodukowali i dystrybuowali ten odrażający — nie zaś śmiechu wart — film ponoszą równą odpowiedzialność za przemoc, jak ci, którzy nań reagowali. 
Terence English, Oxford

Tony Blair, tym razem, miał rację: „Innocence of Muslims" jest „śmiechu wart" w rozumieniu godny pogardy (z powodu swojej mizernej jakości artystycznej), choć zupełnie nie śmiechu wart w tym sensie, w jakim był wart śmiechu film „Życie Briana" (który z pewnością jest jedną z najwspanialszych komedii satyrycznych kiedykolwiek wyprodukowanych). Żadnego jednak z tych sensów nie miał na myśli Terrence English. Chodzi mu o to, że reakcja sprowokowana przez ten film jest zbyt poważna, by być śmieszna. Ma rację, że film jest „odrażający", ale nie dlatego, że obraża muzułmanów. To po prostu jest okropny film — śmiechu wart  w rozumieniu użytym przez Tony’ego Blaira.

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