The recent reaction of Muslim protesters to the Internet film mocking the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is, to many Muslims, as legitimate as USA’s reaction to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. Many in the West view the protests as a disproportionate response to an unfortunate exercise of free speech, whereas Muslims view it as just another example of daily discrimination and humiliation toward Muslims across the world, but mainly in the US.Although anti-discrimination laws exist to protect persons of different religions and national origins, these laws often conflict with freedom of speech in America. Many times, these laws are not enforced unless the hateful speech constitutes a “clear and present danger” to public security. One simply can cruise the Internet to see many examples of hateful and disrespectful speech against all ethnic groups. Even for black Americans, Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech calling for tolerance has not been realised in the 50 years since he uttered his famous words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Seeking to achieve this dream of tolerance and understanding among all peoples remains unfulfilled, but all of us must work toward the goal.We need to examine the issue of protesters and Embassy attacks, as these are symptoms of a clear pattern in the American media to discriminate against Muslims by highlighting radical groups that spew hatred against Islam. Simply reporting the activities of these groups is not enough; the media must condemn their activities in the strongest terms.I don’t think this issue will be solved completely, as President Barack Obama wisely is trying to do, by just bringing people to the US to stand trial for murdering the American Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. We still have no idea what prompted the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, but if it was stimulated by the Internet video, then the cause must be eradicated, not just the result.As every reasonable person knows, it is against Islam and the teaching of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to kill anyone. Islam is a peaceful religion, and violent protests are inconsistent with its teachings. We need to have tolerance, respect for each other, and above all respect for everyone, especially those who are different from us in religion, race, or culture. This foolish and offensive action by the maker of the Internet video and the subsequent reaction by the protesters require us to promote the basic issue of human equality and justice with appropriate action taken against all who have exploited this tragic situation.We are all guilty if we ignore hate and discrimination, because it will simply get worse and more explosive in the future. Today more than ever, our world urgently needs stability, ethics, tolerance and peace. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) taught the followers to be an example of love, not revenge! Events such as the burning of the copies of the Holy Quran in Florida and the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet (PBUH) are more than simply troublesome. They require condemnation, but not by violence against persons and property. This is not a freedom of speech issue at all! When such events occur, they cause dangerous consequences that must be addressed with tolerance and forgiveness. Current anti-discrimination laws must be better enforced so that those who spread their hateful lies will be brought to justice and held to account for violating basic human rights. Let us hope we can move past these protests in the streets and push for more legal protections for all those who are the victims of these hateful films and media broadcasts.
The writer is the chairman of the Board of Al-Sami Holding Group, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This article has been reproduced from the Arab News.