So I've heard talk from some people about what's going on in the Arab world... a dead US Ambassador, an accusation of "hate speech" because of a film made (that's hardly worthy even of being called a "film"), how it all comes together and who or what is to blame. The talk goes something like this: Hate speech is bad... so bad, actually, that even if they aren't the ones who are committing acts of violence, they are (at least partially) to blame for any violence that ensues. Therefore, if we only stop the haters, everybody could just get along.
I have, to say the least, a few problems with this line of thinking. While the folks voicing these opinions certainly mean well, it seems a bit naive and one-sided.
First of all, the idea that the movie makers are the haters inciting violence and if they would just stop making movies the violence would stop is naive. The violence in the Muslim world started LOOOOOONNNG before that movie was even dreamt up by the producers. It could, in fact, be argued that the movie producers thought of the movie idea because of the violence perpetrated in the name of Islam -- if we wanted to argue in that fashion (which we really don't).
The idea is one-sided because this idea is not mentioned by the same people when, say, an abortion clinic is bombed (okay, not that this is really happening much anymore, but still -- roll with me on this). These same people wouldn't ever say that the doctor's actions (i.e., killing unborn children) incited the violence -- so don't they share the blame? Or, another example would be rape. Would these same people ever say that a woman who was scantily clad incited her rapist? Of course not. OR... what if some moron opened fire on some employees of Bill Maher, saying that his hate speech was just too much and they had to kill him? Could it be said that Bill Maher actually shares the blame for this action? I really don't think that they would argue such a thing.
The reason they wouldn't argue in that way is two-fold. First of all, they don't find Bill Maher's speech to be totally offensive. I happen to find the man repulsive and full of hate, but many people don't see him that way -- and that's okay. The other reason they wouldn't argue that way is because the argument makes no sense. Seriously. Nobody is responsible for my actions but me. Nobody can make me do something. I am a person who operates with my own free will. Likewise, nobody can make the Arab people do something stupid -- regardless of how stupid or offensive something is. And believe me, that movie was certainly offensive. I'm not anything close to a Muslim and I was offended by the preview. Of course, I'm also offended by the history of Islam -- which doesn't help.
Yes, I said it. I am offended by Islam. There you go. And not only that, but Islam is totally offended by me. I'm not a Muslim. They tend to find that offensive -- or they're supposed to, anyway. See, here's the thing. It doesn't matter that I'm offended. And it shouldn't matter that they're offended. Our western civilization demands that we play nice. In fact, some of us demand so strongly that they say it's our fault the other side is playing seriously dirty if we didn't play nicely enough. I don't buy it -- and here's why... the Arab "civilization" (I use the term loosely) doesn't demand any such thing. No playing nice, no respecting of differences, not even a "you deserve to exist, too." Uh-uh.
So... I can play nice - for the most part. But I can't pretend not to find Islam offensive. I just do. And I can't accept the idea that it's anybody's fault but the Arabs' that Arabs are running around killing people and burning down our embassies. I'm sorry -- but that's just not an idea to which I can subscribe.