Monday, October 15, 2012

Addicted to mockery

Addicted to mockery, incitement

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Paper Edition | Page: 7

This formula recurs repeatedly throughout Muslim countries blasphemy is always responded to with anger. For some Muslim groups, those who mock their sacred beliefs must be punished.

However, with no legal power to punish the mockers, rage is directed at whoever is considered as abetting in the mockery. The embassies of the US, Germany and UK in the Middle East, despite having nothing to do with the movie Innocence of Muslims, were attacked in the subsequent protests against it. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens along with another three US officials, entirely unconnected with the movie, were killed during an attack on a US consulate in Libya.

In many cases, from Benedict XVI’s speech in Germany, the Danish cartoons, to Geert Wilders’ movie Fitna, it was the face of violent outrage that represented Muslims across the world. This time Sam Bacile, the pseudonymous maker of Innocence of Muslims, reaped similar dramatic outrage from Muslim groups from Benghazi to Jakarta to previous cases of blasphemy.

Let us make the case simple. Do you not see what will happen when you continually show outrage at being mocked? People will think that their mockery works.

Rather than desisting from making fun of you, they will heap more ridicule on you.

Realizing that you are childish, having no ability to restrain yourself from fury, mockers will become more creative in their efforts to disparage you.

Indeed, mockers of Islam always get what they expect from their nasty ideas. They know that discrediting Islam — no matter how disreputable their sense of humor and artistic tastes are — is a risk worth taking. Upon hearing the death threats, the mockers go into hiding to attract more public attention. What is clear is that drawing cartoons and producing movies denigrating Islam and Muslims always yield more public outrage in the Muslim world than the mockers could ever hope for in their wildest imagination.

On the other hand, public anger can also serve as rhetoric and a method of political bargaining. Radicalism and conservatism find a medium by which Muslim solidarity can be roused.

As seen in various mass protests, self-victimization has indeed been an effective tool to produce a Muslim collective identity that had been marginalized during times of liberal democracy and free markets.

To put the point differently, amid the public outrage against the blasphemies committed by those want to take advantage of Muslim volatility, Islamism has gained a momentum to further agitate Muslim sentiment. The conspiracy theory suggesting that the West systematically weakens Islam is further borne out.

Imagine this. When a small child is faced with contempt from his bigger friend, the former shows anger in a rather unique way. The victim, who lacks the courage to face the bigger child, will throw a tantrum, during which the smaller child lashes out at other children of equal size. On the other hand, upon seeing the victim’s outrage and overreaction to mockery, the bigger child feels a sense of satisfaction.

Surprisingly, both the mocker and victim enjoy the mockery game. Both parties are addicted to mockery. Whenever the bigger child repeatedly mocks the small one, the latter runs amok. Whereas the mocker takes pleasure in seeing the victim’s delinquent violence, the victim also exercises his power over his friends.

In other words, the two sides reap benefits. Not only is the producer of Innocence of Muslims satisfied at seeing the reactions against his work, conservative and radical Islamists also seize the momentum. Showing anger publicly is also an exercise of power.

The ritual of mass rallies are re-enacted in various cities across the Muslim world. Although most never see the movie, they pretend to get angry. Of course, their protest does not always convey their religious feelings but rather political gamesmanship.

Nonetheless, in Jakarta, the movie has not brought forth significant fruit. The radical groups — the Islamic Community Forum (FUI), Indonesian Hisbut Tahrir (HTI) and FPI (Islam Defenders Front) — failed in their mission to exercise power in public.

As politics is always local, local issue dominate people’s priorities in the capital city. Jakarta’s gubernatorial election buried the radicals’ reactions against the movie. Poor Bacile. Poor FUI, HTI and FPI!

All in all, when you fall into bankruptcy, like the alleged moviemaker who was imprisoned due to bank fraud, you need an alternative career and committing blasphemy against Islamic symbols sounds promising. If you want to attract the world’s attention, so that major global news channels will mention your name, make a movie or draw a cartoon despising Muslims.

The writer is a lecturer at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.


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