By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-Chief
Geert Wildersâ€™ ten-minute film attacking Prophet Muhammad (s) and the Quran has become the talk of Muslim circles. Some are suggesting an intellectual response and other are saying that a entire Friday Khutbah be dedicated to the subject to scientifically refute the allegations.
Wilder is a member of the Dutch parliament and a leader of a far right party that views in the growing hostility between Muslims and Christians in Europe an excellent opportunity for its success in the coming elections.
Wilderâ€™s accusations are not different than those raised by many Europeans backed by religious and political groups in the last five hundred years. What is new is the way Muslims have chosen to respond to the issue.
Europe has produced more than 10,000 anti-Islamic and anti-Quran books in its long relations with Muslims. One can at least count more than 131 movies produced by various European filmmakers ridiculing Islam and the Quran. The passion play in Spain mocking Muslims and celebrating the victory of Christians over Moors is an annual reality. Yet, Islam has survived all the negatives spreading over a few centuries. Islam can certainly survive this new 10 minute movie. Muslims must never consider that their religion is so weak that its foundations can be demolished by a hatemongerâ€™s 10 minute film.
How should Muslims respond to such provocations? The best response is silence. Ignore the movie and it would die on its own. The second best response is to produce films that highlight the true normative ethical framework of the Quranic teachings.
The third best response is to live the Quranic message of love and compassion where ever Muslims are. It is this response that can counter all the negatives produced by anti-Islamic forces.
We must realize that we have many people in the world who hate others for no reason. Donâ€™t some Muslims in different parts of the world hate Americans simply because they are Americans? Donâ€™t some Muslims hate Jews simply because they are Jews? Similarly, among Christians, Jews, Hindus, secularists are many who hate Muslims simply because they are Muslims. This does not mean that a majority of people belonging to different faiths have an inherent inclination to hate others. What is important is to realize that despite the hate mongers, people of different ethnic and religious and political groups have learned to live in peace and harmony with each other. The web of complex relations that exist among nations of the world in all aspects of life clearly demonstrate that.
Muslims should also realize that they do not enjoy a favorable reputation in most parts of the world. Because of the actions of a few, they are subject to all sorts of ridicule, biases and wrongs. Some among Muslims feel that by condemning anti-Muslim propaganda, they would win over the masses to their side. However, mere condemnation does not resolve any issue. What helps overcome the negatives is a consistent effort to change the perception by changing the reality.
If Muslims are seen by people around them as compassionate, kind and caring people, no matter how many films are released against the Quran, people would have a hard time to believe them. If Muslims are seen as part of campaigns to eliminate environmental hazards, nuclear arsenals, homelessness, poverty and other social ills of the society at all levels, there would not be many who would buy the anti-Quran propaganda. However if people find a different image of Muslims conforming to what they see in anti-Quran movies, they would not accept the Muslimsâ€™ claim that they are a kind and compassionate people.
There are several places in the United States and other parts of the world where Muslims have played into the hands of those who want to provoke them. For instance, the infighting among Muslims associated with in an Islamic center or mosque is a common scene in several mosques in the US. In other countries, of course, the murder of fellow Muslims inside mosques belonging to other sects (for instance in Pakistan and Iraq) is extremely bad. These and similar incidents may reconfirm some of the stereotypical images anti-Quran movies often tend to project.
The responsibility of improving their image lies upon Muslims and not others. Convincing themselves that they are a compassionate people is not enough to change the perceptions of others. Muslims have to speak with others and through action prove that their love and compassion are not confined to their religious texts but are reflected in their actions too. That is the only way through which films such as created by wilder will become meaningless.