Originally appeared in UL Lafayette’s Student Newspaper The Vermilion on Sept. 19, 2012. Special thanks to The Vermilion for granting permission to publish this. Reposted to IslamicLafayette.com to illustrate the perspective of a Non-Muslim Student at UL Lafayette.
by Scott Broussard
I was set to write an article about the First Amendment for Constitution Day when the Middle East exploded. Some crazy anti-Islam film called “The Innocence of Muslims” (which may not really exist) was funded by Jewish investors (who might really be Coptic Christians) and previewed on YouTube. The ensuing riots across the Middle East resulted so far in several attacked American embassies and four dead Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
First off, I am a First Amendment absolutist. As hateful as this film is, I support the filmmakers’ right to make it. Freedom of speech means unpopular speech, too, however bigoted it is. I do not have to agree with the speech to defend it. People calling for the punishment of the filmmakers are betraying core American values.
The attacks themselves are indefensible, though. They are brazen acts of murder, some of which might have even been aided by al-Qaida. However, while protests against this film are worldwide, only the Middle East has violent riots, which is my key point: This is not about Muslims — this is about extremism.
For all his faults, President George W. Bush was very clear about this — he repeatedly said we were at war with terrorists, not Islam itself. Many Americans never understood this difference and assumed all Muslims must be evil. Nonsense! What if all Catholics were judged by the Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary group fighting for a united Ireland, killing almost 2,000 people? Or fundamentalists who kill abortion doctors? Surely that must be a terrorist religion, too! But we don’t say that; instead, we make distinctions. Give that benefit to Muslims.
Every ideology has the potential for extremists because people are passionate animals. There are extremist Muslims and tolerant Muslims, just as there are extremist Christians and tolerant Christians. I understand the problems Muslims have with physical depictions of Muhammad (also see South Park and the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, both of which I support their freedom of speech to show him), but many Muslims also know that responding violently is also wrong and counter-productive.
Look at the protests around the Islamic world that are condemning the violence. They are apologizing for their fellow Muslims. These are the good people with whom our country can and should work. Demonizing one-quarter of the world because of an extremist minority is ignorant. I’m friends with Muslims who have experienced firsthand prejudice in Lafayette because of their faith, yet they’ve done nothing wrong. By all means, fight the dangerous ones, but leave the good ones alone.
Islam had far more than its fair share of radicals, and I have no idea why. Other gods’ followers don’t react violently to blasphemy anymore, so why the Middle East? What set of circumstances allows it to flourish? The answer is is far too complex for my few hundred words. But just because the violent ones get the most coverage doesn’t mean most Muslims aren’t good people. We don’t define Christianity by its worst elements, and we should treat Islam similarly. Do unto others, after all.