The fanatics have ignited a primitive hate. Now it's time to stop this nonsense

Recently the reciprocal dialogue between West and East has been replaced by mud-flinging

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gesturing with her arms and sobbing hard, a middle-aged Egyptian woman, among thousands of people surrounding the US embassy in Cairo on Tuesday evening, was condemning the anti-Prophet Mohamed film, which provoked wide protests in the Arab world. "He is the messenger of Allah. Why do they do this against him?" she implored.

This is not the right approach – even for those Muslims that feel deeply offended by the film. Muslims can rationally and quietly argue that the movie is also offensive because it does nothing to encourage the spirit of enlightenment which Islam has awakened. In fact, the resultant protests have provoked primitive and unnecessary hate against the West.

A deeper knowledge of Islam's past influence on the world would provoke a more subtle and articulate reaction against this dreadful film. Historically, Islamic scholars in fields of philosophy, medicine, mathematics, chemistry and astrology encouraged tolerance and debate, and helped sow the seeds of the enlightenment in Europe. Unfortunately these seeds didn't grow in our fertile culture.

In more recent times this reciprocal dialogue, based on genuine understanding between West and East, was replaced by mud-flinging based on declining knowledge and understanding and, of course, wars – such as the invasion of Iraq and the doggedly unresolved Palestine-Israel cause.

We in the media must accept some of the blame, offering superficial coverage of the current events, and devoting increasingly less time (or effort) to the job of delving deeper under the surface. Nobody, and at the same time, everybody is to blame; but the result is that we have become suckers for the propaganda and would rather digest it, shunning a more enlightened debate.

Knowledge of a historical context as well as the brutality of colonialism in the Middle East is a crucial point for understanding why angry masses in Cairo and other Arab cities have rushed into the streets attacking US embassies and why, for example, an Egyptian Islamic extremist spit on and burned a Bible.

But these narrow-minded masses cannot see that the movie-maker has the right to express his own views. And we need a break from this overwhelming bunkum – we need to stop the nonsense.

Said Ghazali is a Palestinian journalist and blogger