Why Muslims are demonstrating against such a shoddy filmBy Dr Cathy Strong
New Zealanders may find it hard to comprehend why Muslims are demonstrating in the streets in 34 countries, and Middle East countries are protesting against westerners, all because of an amateur YouTube film.
The film is indeed shoddy, and would be embarrassingly-substandard work if done by any Kapiti secondary student. It is easily ignored — except it depicts the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, as a murderer, womaniser, and paedophile.
Muslims demand that the American government do something to the California film maker, or force YouTube to remove the film segments.
They want respect for the man who started their religion 1200 years ago.
You have to feel sorry for the people incensed by the insulting little film. They feel powerless, and not sure who to blame. So they hold protests, burn down American fast food outlets, scare western ex-pats, and make public demands.
The real culprit is the untethered internet. If American President Obama can’t do anything to control what sacrilege is on the net, what can individual Muslims scattered around the globe do?
The demands may seem perplexing for us Kiwis. We aren’t used to censorship, as we enjoy a vastly free media, one of the most free in the world. We enjoy media freer than even Great Britain and USA. We wouldn’t expect politicians to interfere with an amateur film.
But this isn’t the case in two-thirds of the world. Yes, indeed, two-thirds of the world do not have a free media.
The Middle East, where I have been living the past three years, have tight political control of the media. What the rulers say, the media obeys. The residents are used to their films, newspapers, and internet being censored. It is a model that sees media as a tool for national development.
So, of course, people in Islamic countries don’t understand why President Obama can’t just put the film maker in jail, or worse. They have been told media censorship is for their own good, and to protect their religion, culture, and leaders from crackpots.
You can log on YouTube now and see the 14-minute film clip (if you want to be bored). But those living in most of the Middle East don’t have the luxury. It will be blocked. And the population thinks that is only right.
Aren’t we lucky to live in a culture where free media is a given.