In the aftermath of the riots by Muslim extremists following the publishing of the “Innocence of Muslims” video on Youtube, one could see mixed reactions, on online networks and discussions.
While in Malta everyone condemned the violence, opinions still varied. On one side some implied the extremists’ responsibility was somewhat diminished because the video really was offensive and shouldn’t have been published. This was not only the reaction of the most vocal Imam in Malta but also that of non-Muslims who somewhat sympathized with these extremists because they would have opposed a publication that insulted their own beliefs. On the other side, some took the opportunity to blame Muslims in general and expected they should collectively be held responsible for the savage reaction of a tiny minority. A third view, held mostly by conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis blamed Israel, (though what they really meant was Jews – once again, collective responsibility) for deliberately provoking the Muslims for their own ends.
I find all these views worrying. I believe that everyone is responsible for his own actions and only his own actions. In other words, the savages who stormed the embassies have only themselves to blame. No one forced them to do it as much as a girl wearing a mini-skirt isn’t forcing anyone to rape her. His choice, his responsibility. At the same time, the responsibility should be held only by the extremists themselves, not all Muslims.
What I noticed during all this saga is that there are mainly three sides who are trying to take advantage of the situation. All of them extremists and happen to be much more similar to their opposing sides than they would like to admit. These are:
1) The Zionists, who are most powerful in the US and Israel
2) The Muslim extremists whose stronghold is the Arab countries
3) The far right whose power, albeit limited, is on the increase in Europe
All side use “the other” as an excuse for their own extremism. The Muslim extremists use Palestine as an excuse to hate Jews. The Zionists use Muslim extremists as an excuse to hate all Muslims and justify invading Iran. The far right on the other hand, usually forms temporary alliances with one side or the other, depending on what their pet hate is (for instance while Malta’s Norman Lowell frequently praises president Ahmadinejad of Iran for denying the Holocaust, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands calls Israel “a beacon of light in an area of darkness and tyranny”).
If you exclude these three groups, there are the rest of us. Decent people who may disagree on where of freedom of speech should be limited, but are not motivated by hatred for one side or another.
The problem is that the three categories are trying to polarize people to their side by spreading hatred and fear of “the other”. This is extremely dangerous especially at a time where nearly all the world is suffering economic turmoil. Also at a time when a war between Iran and Israel is looming, a war that as Ahmadinejad himself is already threatening, may trigger World War III.
When it comes to these extremists, our role, (us being those who cherish freedom and democracy), should take only one stand, that is refusing to be dragged into any of the three sides.
And if, God forbid, a war between Israel and Iran breaks out, our role as peace loving people, is to pressure our governments to keep out of it. It will be crazy fanatics fighting crazy fanatics, and irrespective of whoever wins, the whole world loses.