Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Religious respect cannot be earned through brute force

I’ve watched a 14-minute clip of Sam Bacile’s Muhammad film and it’s enough to convince me that it is gratuitous, name-calling rubbish.

I’d hardly have watched it if Islamic extremists hadn’t stormed the US consulates in Benghazi and Cairo, killing Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three others.

It was the same with the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet and Salman Rushdie's Satanic verses; my attention was attracted by the uncontrolled violence of some followers of what is said to be a religion of compassion and self-discipline. Bacile’s movie depicts the suppression of Coptic Christians in Egypt, but quickly lapses into an insulting and unconvincing portrayal of the prophet.

Clips were repeatedly played on Egyptian TV and denounced by hardline mullahs until passions reached boiling point. We now need other voices from the Islamic world; we need to hear that, no matter how offended we may be by a work of fiction, it does not justify physical violence — particularly against people who had no hand in producing it.

Non-believers will judge Islam more by the actions of their followers than the words of declared opponents like Mr Bacile.

No religion or ideology can hope to command respect by brute force — respect is gained, or lost, by the behaviour of its followers in the face of testing circumstances.

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