The tragic events that unfolded on Tuesday in Egypt and Libya perfectly illustrate the ongoing stalemate between the West and much of the Middle East. The stark reaction to an anti-Islam film that was produced and shot in America led to violent protests and the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Now, conservative Muslims here in America are responding -- and very vocally -- to the events that unfolded.
TheBlaze spoke with Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, author and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and Manda Zand Ervin, president of Alliance of Iranian Women. Both individuals expressed their dismay at the violent actions taken and called upon politicians and Muslims, alike, to step up to prevent such behaviors from unfolding in the future.
Earlier today, TheBlaze also provided in-depth analysis about the film that sparked the Middle Eastern rampages. Despite claims that the movie led to the violence, some officials suspect that the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks was chosen well before the violence unfolded. Regardless, an anti-Muhammad and anti-Islam film called "Innocence of Muslims" -- a project that was written and directed by a U.S. real estate developer named Sam Bacile -- is being dubbed the catalyst for the attacks.
While Jasser hadn't yet watched the film's 13-minute trailer when we interviewed him, Ervin finished viewing it just moments before we spoke. The Muslim-American admitted that it was certainly poking fun at Islam, but she dismissed it as mere comedy. She told TheBlaze that we live in the 21st century and that people need to realize that, with free speech sometimes comes unpleasant commentary.
"The way I looked at it -- it was a comedy. It didn't make any sense and so what," she said of the movie in question. "I am a Muslim, but I am also an American and I have come to this country because of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly -- all the freedoms that the 21st century is providing. Especially in this country."
Modernity was a theme throughout her commentary, particularly when it came to the violent Middle Eastern response. Ervin lambasted the actions taken oversees and said that it showcases how the West is "failing to bring the Islamic world into the 21st century by catering to the lowest denomination."
"I call it 'cultural imperialism' -- that many, especially the left in this country, are catering to the lowest denomination," she said, going on to claim that liberals don't expect Muslims to understand free speech, so they end up protecting extremists and allowing the backwardness to continue.
"I think the attitude needs to be changed," she added, giving her views on how to fix the situation. "Not catering to the worst, but helping and supporting the best -- like us, the ones who are saying, 'My religion is my religion, but I'm living in the 21st century.'"
Jasser shared similar views, seemingly agreeing with some officials' statements that these protesters were looking for an opportunity to lash out -- and that this film merely gave them an excuse.
"They're looking for reason to have riots," he said, also highlighting the fact that Islamists may be teaming up with old forces in the Libyan regime. "There's a lot of evidence that the Libyan riots were stoked by former Gaddafi loyalists [and that the Egyptian media stoked tensions too]. What Americans need to realize -- even though Islamists have been at odds at Gaddafi types and secular fascists -- Gaddafi was very closely involved in the Pan Am bombing and other acts of terror."
Jasser distinguished the violent interpretation of Islam that has become so pervasive with the peaceful one he was brought up with. He told TheBlaze that he was taught about a Muhammad who would never use violence to spread his message. Jasser then called for an era of modernization for Muslims.
"As much as I believe my family and so many who escaped the Middle East -- as much as I believe we escaped it -- Muslims have not gone through reform and modernization," he explained. "You're dealing with a population that has 50 percent illiteracy. They use religion because it's a very easy visceral tool to use."
Jasser called the battle one that is for the very soul of Islam. Considering the reaction to the film, sadly, he didn't seem surprised. "It's not too hard to make a bunch of Islamists upset and radicalize," he contended.
The continued theme of pushing the religion into modernity, though, was present throughout his words as well. "Islam needs to come into modernity," he told TheBlaze.
"Muslims need to realize that we have a responsibility to not only say that our Islam is peaceful, but to dissect why the Islam of Salifisiam and Wahhabism is wrong...that's what's not happening," Jasser proclaimed. "So many of the Islam groups in America are in denial and preaching apologetics."
We'll leave you with the full statement that Jasser's organization put out about the incident following our interview:
“The American Islamic Forum for Democracy sends its prayers and condolences to the families of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and those who lost their lives in this senseless and brutal attack on the United States. Our prayers are also with their colleagues in the Department of State who by all accounts have lost an ardent defender of freedom and human rights in the Middle East.
The actions of the mob in Libya and the clear interventions of the former regime are nothing short of pure evil and in no way representative of the teachings and practices of the faith of Islam.
At this time of grief it is important that we steel our resolve against this evil. We must not blink in the face of this irrational reaction to the mere words of a little known filmmaker. Apologies from our government to this absurd mob are ridiculous and counterproductive to establishment of true human rights within this region.
It is clear that Islamist leadership in Egypt and the remnants of the fascistic Gaddafi regime in Libya are using this movie as a tool for their own agenda as they have done countless times before.
We need a bold strategy in this region to foster the liberty minded Muslims in these countries to work against these elements of hate and anti-Americanism. We need to help the people of these countries to go through a reformation and step into modernity and away from these irrational actions.
That process begins today by our government stepping away from the typical politically correct language that forgives these attacks and justifies their cause by condemning the free speech of the moviemaker. There is no justification for the actions of this mob. Any act of contrition on our part is essentially an acceptance of the OIC’s “insult to heavenly religions” and an affront to the principles that built the United States.”
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