Aya Saed | A silent victory in the face of violence


Seeds of Reason | What protests in Egypt, Libya can teach us about tolerance at Penn


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Aya Saed
Seeds of Reason

Photo by Aya Saed


One film. That’s all it took to spur thousands of protesters to take to the streets of Egypt and Libya, Armenia, Burundi, Kuwait, Sudan, Tunisia and Zambia. That’s all it took for a haunting group of armed men to kill the United States ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

What was so offensive about “Innocence of Muslims,” you may ask? Well, the film attempts to convince you that the illegitimate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his goonies were pedophiles. Oh, and that Muslims go around killing Christians for fun.

After watching the trailer (before it was taken down from YouTube) I’ve been convinced that the noxious plot and technically challenged special effects were modeled after “Star Wars.”

The film is offensive at best. At worst, it contains a disturbing lack of respect for humanity.

The movie was produced by an ambiguous figure claiming to be Israeli-American Sam Bacile and promoted by several American-Egyptian Copts, notably Morris Sadek and our favorite Islam crusader, Terry Jones. In case you forgot — Terry Jones is the same Florida preacher who found joy in the burning of the Quran.

After 2005, when shockingly violent protests burst across the world stage in response to similarly offensive Danish cartoons of Muhammad, the filmmakers should have known what was coming. But they still went ahead with it. Why?

One need not search long for answers. Tensions between Israel and U.S. have been rising over Obama’s reluctance to intervene militarily in Iran. Moreover, many in the West are threatened by Egypt’s election of the Muslim Brotherhood and there is growing confusion about the role of Islam in the political sphere among budding governments planted during the Arab Spring.

In short, one couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to spark a controversy.

The common populace was bound to react with hostile fervor, given that the film appealed to the most hateful and radical of all religious groups. Whether it be the Christian groups who helped to publicize it or the Muslims who reacted.

To clarify, only members of a radical fringe of al Qaeda reacted violently toward the film. There were several pro-U.S. rallies in Benghazi. Scores of people retaliated to the violence of a few with signs reading “Sorry People of America, This is not the Behavior of our Islam and Prophet,” “No, No to Al-Qaeda” and “Chris Stevens was a Friend to All Libyans.” Libya’s president also condemned the violence.

I cannot condemn anyone for producing a film. Everyone has the right to express their ideology. But like a majority of people in Libya and Egypt, I can’t help but feel that any violent reaction is unjustified.

This is a wake-up call for Penn students who operate on a politically charged campus. No matter how staunchly we stand behind our beliefs, we should establish a core of respect. Spitting in the face of another’s theology — while technically permissible — should be unacceptable.

By the same token, our negative reaction to each other’s actions should not be guided by raw anger, but a need to achieve a silent victory. A victory for those on the side of religious tolerance.

For at the end of the day, there is no “us versus them,” as President Obama emphasized. After all, I have more in common with a moderate Christian than any Muslim radical who proposes violence.

Instead, we should be focused on elevating the level of discourse. And the Quran has a lot to teach us in situations like this, after all “a good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend.” (Chapter 41, Verse 34)

Aya Saed is a College senior from Washington D.C. Her email address is saed.aya@gmail.com. “Seeds of Reason” appears every other Friday. Follow her on Twitter @_AyaS

Editor’s note: Erroneous information about the funding for “Innocence of Muslims” has been removed from this article. Please send your questions and concerns to letters@theDP.com.

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