I find it very strange and coincidental that after Foreign Policy Week was held here at UT last week, we find our country and the rest of the world suddenly beset by a very critical event, and an important test for the foreign policies of President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney—the sudden surge of unrest in the Middle-East that occurred this past week.
Sometime last week, a video began circulating on the Internet, called the "Innocence of Muslims," which mocks the prophet Muhammad. However, it is generally accepted within Islam that any depiction of any prophet is prohibited and heavily looked down upon, and depicting Muhammad is even more derogatory and insulting. The two identified filmmakers, former porn producer Alan Roberts and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, are in hot water and have received heavy disdain from the international community, although no laws have actually been broken by the distribution of their film. Their shot at humorous satire instead caused heavy backlash not just toward them, but also towards the U.S., especially from Muslim extremists, who used the video as fodder to help instigate numerous riots and violence throughout Muslim countries and populations. U.S. embassies, schools and businesses have been attacked and looted in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, just to name a few countries. This brings us to a question: Who is at fault? The producers of the film or the extremists?
There is no doubt that the extremists are at fault. They, and any others, who assumed that the U.S. follows such perverse and intolerant ideologies about respect for other religions and groups is folly. By killing our Libyan ambassador, fellow U.S. service members and innocent civilians, they have used their own religion to deceive people into doing what they think is right, which is to destroy the United States, an apparent bastion of sinfulness. However, they do so in order to avoid revealing their own reserves of lust, corruption and wickedness.
What about the producers? Are they wrong for creating this film, which stoked the flames of these extremists? It's hard to say. People would agree that a person should be held accountable for his or her own actions—in this case, the extremists are mainly to blame, considering the usually sensitive and negative perception by some Muslims toward the U.S. However, one might be able to argue that the producers were wrong. A person could say that they were also wrong in causing the extremists to become violent, but that makes it sound like the extremists were justified in their actions—a very untrue statement. If I put blame on the producers for making their film, on the stance that they caused this unrest even though we knew it would cause violence due to the chaotic and violent nature of the extremists, it would mean that the extremists, however insane or irrational, are not fully responsible for what they do. A perfectly rational person could act irrationally and be exempt from fault. It would be difficult to discern if a rational person is acting irrationally, or if a person really is irrational. This results in a very fragile and badly-supported moral judgment. Why should a rational person have to compensate for the irrationality of these extremists, much less anyone else? Life is unfair, we know this—why make it more unfair to ourselves?
I could still say that what the producers did was wrong, but the use of "wrong" in this case would be different from the "wrong" that the extremists did.
I could say that he was wrong in completely deceiving the cast and crew involved in the production—he told them they were being casted in a fictional epic, but their lines and scenes were dubbed and cut in a manner to make the film anti-Muslim. To say that the producers directly caused the U.S. servicemen to die would be understating the "wrong" the extremists caused. It is important for people to remember that not all individuals of a population fit the stereotypes that other groups perceive them to have. In this case, the mistaken stereotype that all U.S. citizens are intolerant and anti-Muslim is something that must be corrected, by the insightful members of other groups, and ultimately by the U.S. as well. In the words of these extremists, "Ignorance is bliss."
— Jan Urbano is a junior in biochemistry and molecular biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.