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The Incredible Muslim Hulk proves to be no friend of Islam either

an interesting perspective from a local political analyst who writes for the Melbourne Age.

September 17, 2012

Waleed Aly
Protesters clash with Sydney police
Hundreds take part in an anti-Islam film protest in Sydney in front of the US consulate in Sydney on Saturday.

WHERE do I start? Perhaps with the viral image that will
come to define this episode: a child who'd be three or four hoisting a
sign triumphantly above his head blaring ''Behead all those who insult
the Prophet'' while a woman, presumably his mother, thinks this is cute
enough to capture on her smartphone. Alternatively, I could begin with
the observation that the trailer for the anti-Islamic film that
ostensibly started this all, Innocence of Muslims, is now a
blockbuster, with YouTube hits in the millions thanks largely to the
protesters around the world who think nobody should see it.

This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people:
swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow, somewhere,

No. Let's start with the fact that so few of the protesters
who descended on Sydney's CBD this weekend seem actually to have seen
the film that so gravely offends them. When asked by journalists, they
bluntly admit this, one even adding that she refuses to watch something
so offensive. It's almost impressive how cyclical this stupidity is. But
it's also instructive. In fact, this is the key to making sense of
something so gobsmackingly senseless. The protesters - at least the ones
quoted in news reports - know nothing except how offended they are.

That, you see, is all that matters. This isn't about a film.
It's about an excuse. We know because we've seen it all before, like
when Pakistani protesters vandalised American fast food outlets and
burnt effigies of President George W. Bush in response to the Danish

This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people:
swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow, somewhere,
anywhere. There's nothing strategic or calculated about this. It doesn't
matter that they are the film's most effective publicists. It doesn't
matter that they protest using offensive slogans and signs, while
protesting against people's right to offend. It doesn't matter that they
object to insulting people on the basis of their religion, while
declaring that Christians have no morals. This is baffling only until
you realise these protesters are not truly protesting to make a point.
The protest is the point.
It feels good. It feels powerful. This is why people yell
pointlessly or punch walls when frustrated. It's not instrumental. It
doesn't achieve anything directly. But it is catharsis. Outrage and
aggression is an intoxicating prospect for the powerless.

Accordingly, it is not an option to leave an insult unanswered because that is a sign of weakness, rather than transcendence.

The irony is that it grants an extraordinary level of power
to those doing the offending. It puts them constantly at the centre of
your world. That's why, when Gallup polled 35 Muslim majority countries,
it found that of all the gripes the Muslim world has against the West,
among the most pervasive is the West's ''disrespect for Islam''.

And it is this disrespect that is the overarching grievance
that subsumes others. Everything, global and local, can be thrown into
this vortex: Swiss minaret bans, French niqab bans, military invasions,
drone strikes, racist stereotyping, anti-immigrant politics, and yes,
even films so ridiculously bad that, left to their own devices, they
would simply lampoon themselves.

This is what gives Innocence of Muslims meaning: not
its content, but its context. It's a symbol of contempt, which is why
protests against it so quickly turn into an orgy of anti-Americanism.
So, ''Obama, Obama, we love Osama'' they scream, mainly because it's the
most offensive rhyme they can muster. Osama, too, is a symbol; the most
repugnant one in their arsenal. How better to prove you exist than to
say something outrageous?

That the Obama administration immediately condemned the film
in the strongest terms doesn't register. Nor that the White House took
the extraordinary (and ultimately unsuccessful) step of asking Google to
pull the video. This is invisible to an audience of humiliated souls
waiting desperately to be offended and conflate every grievance. Indeed,
they need the offence. It gives them the chance to assert themselves so
they can feel whole, righteous even. It's a shortcut to self-worth.

The trouble is that in our digital world, there is always
something to oblige. Anyone can Google their prejudices, and there is
always enraging news to share with others. Entire online communities
gather around the sharing of offensive material and subsequent communal
venting. Soon you have a subculture: a sub-community whose very cohesion
is based almost exclusively on shared grievance. Then you have an
identity that has nothing to say about itself; an identity that holds an
entirely impoverished position: that to be defiantly angry is to be.

Frankly, Muslims should find that prospect nothing short of
catastrophic. It renders Islamic identity entirely hollow. All pride,
all opposition, no substance. ''Like the Incredible Hulk,'' observes
Abdal Hakim Murad, a prominent British Islamic scholar, ''ineffectual
until provoked.''

Sometimes you need a scandal to demonstrate an underlying
disease. And that's the good news here. The vast bulk of Saturday's
protesters were peaceful, and Muslim community organisations are lining
up to condemn the outbreak of violence. But now a more serious
conversation is necessary. One that's not about how we should be
speaking out to defend our prophet and ourselves. One that's more about
whether we can speak about anything else.

Waleed Aly hosts the Drive program on ABC Radio National and is a lecturer in politics at Monash University.

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Added: Sep-17-2012 Occurred On: Sep-17-2012
By: fookalah
Tags: islam, protests, sydney
Location: Victoria, Australia (load item map)
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