Anti-Islam film and Salafist demonstrations: Hatred, obscurantism and media manipulation

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The film that appeared on Youtube on September 11, The Innocence of Muslims, is by all accounts a very poor and extremely stupid one, the product of a small-time Californian fraudster who claims to be a Coptic Christian. But for two weeks it was at the centre of the world’s attention. This denunciation of the prophet Mohammed and his followers, presented, among other caricatures, as immoral, brutal paedophiles, has provoked reactions throughout the Muslim world. Angry demonstrations have led to confrontations and violence aimed mainly at the USA, including the murder of the US ambassador to Libya.

These mobilisations, led by Salafist radicals, have been given a lot of coverage in the western media. But we are talking about a maximum of some tens of thousands of protesters scattered over a number of countries from Tunisia to Pakistan via Yemen. This isn’t really a lot when you consider that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims in the Arab countries alone, not counting the millions of Muslims who live in Europe or America.

It’s not a question of minimising the violence which took place, but these events have been deliberately played up to fuel the idea of the ‘Muslim danger’. In Germany Angela Merkal expressed her “great disquiet”, while in France Manuel Valls was shaken by “threat to the Republic” contained in the tiny demonstration at the Élysée which took place “without official permission”. In the US, we heard Hilary Clinton declare that “the Arab countries did not swap the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of the crowd”, referring to the “Arab revolutions” of spring 2011. And then we had the Pope calling for the eradication of fundamentalism (Muslim, obviously)!

In this concert of concern by the politicians, a few commentators did point out the evident ideological manipulation going on here, on both sides:

  • on the one hand, the fact that such a film[1] should come out in the context of growing war tensions with Syria and Iran, but also with the radical Islamists in Mali and the Sahel, and what’s more that it appeared on September 11, the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, which resulted in 4000 deaths and then the American invasion of Afghanistan, was clearly aimed at pointing the finger at ‘Islamic extremism’ around the world;
  • on the other hand, the Islamic extremists fell right into the trap, once again revealing their destructive potential and their determination to face up to America and the western powers in order to assert themselves over rival bourgeois cliques.

It’s clear that there was an escalation on both sides at a time when new military interventions and massacres are on the horizon. These kind of campaigns serve to prepare the ground on the ideological level.

The ruling class and all its fractions, whatever their religion, will use events like this to divide and intimidate the exploited. But above all, for all their hypocritical appeals for calm and reason, their aim is to justify new steps towards the barbarism of war.

Mulan 28/9/12

[1] We should reflect on the fact that this video was up for two days on Youtube, a branch of Google, whose charter says that “we will not authorise speech inciting hatred or which attacks or slanders a group on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, handicap, sex, age, veteran status or sexual identity”