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The Libyan Film Riots

September 14, 2012 | by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

If we take the wrong lesson, we're in serious trouble.

This week, the world became a more dangerous place.

Consider how one guy in California, with a small budget and a false name, made an outrageous anti-Muslim film that spread via YouTube to the entire planet.

The near-immediate result: riots throughout the Arab world resulting in the savage murder of four Americans in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It's insane the degree of power that the Internet has put into the hands of the irresponsible. Yet this is the reality of how our world works, 2012.

Initial news reports incorrectly tagged an "Israeli Jew" – funded by Jewish donors – as the maker of this film.

It is incredible how the world accepted this untruth so quickly.

It is irresponsible how the media rushed to cite this film as "another example of Jewish Hollywood pushing the Israel agenda with hate-filled documentaries."

So let's get down to the core question: Who is to blame for these tragic deaths?

Muhammad al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda's leader, says that "the filmmakers should be arrested and brought to trial."

These words are not surprising, coming from the freedom-hating purveyors of terror.

But we're hearing this same refrain in "sophisticated" circles as well. University of Pennsylvania Professor Anthea Butler tweeted:

"How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now. When Americans die because you are stupid…"

Everyone agrees that the film must be condemned in the strongest terms. But why is the target of our wrath directed not at the murderers, but instead at those exercising their First Amendment rights?

Consider evangelist Rev. Steven D. Martin, who writes:

"I have no sympathy for anyone who would assassinate a U.S. ambassador. But I have even less sympathy for filmmakers who spread hatred..."

Really?! Is expressing one's right to free speech – as vulgar, offensive and hateful as that may be – really worse than the assassination of a U.S. ambassador?

What's worse, this movie was not even the impetus for the violence, but rather an excuse. The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was planned for days, if not weeks, ahead of time. How clever of the Muslims to think they could pin their "spontaneous" outrage on some bush-league film that is truly irrelevant.

It seems we've gotten so accustomed to Islamist violence that we're willing to accept it as a matter of course. This is a dumbing down of the standards, refusing to hold all humanity to the basic standards of decency. It's what Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson calls "a soft bigotry of low expectations."

A decade ago, Robert Fisk, the London Independent's Mideast correspondent for 30 years, was beaten to a pulp by Taliban supporters in Afghanistan. Rather than issue a harsh denunciation, he sided with the attackers:

"I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find."

Once we start making excuses – justifying and accepting Islamist violence – we're falling into a dangerous trap. During World War II, when dictatorial madmen set out to conquer the world, the threat was so clear that no one had to analyze it or philosophize. Everyone knew that life and liberty was on the line, and they joined the cause – even journalists. As a pioneer of American media, Edward R. Murrow, said: "On some stories, there is no other side."

In our generation, as well, with radical Islam, the entire basis of our free society is being threatened. One week after the 9-11 attacks, Dan Rather declared: "[I'm] just one American, wherever [the president] wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll make the call."

The attacks in Benghazi occurred on September 11. If we are to take any lesson from that tragic day, it is fathoming what losing this war means. Radical Islam wants the West neutered and submissive.

There is no question that we must categorically condemn this senseless film. But we also need to get straight where the problem truly lies. Otherwise the free world is in for serious trouble.

HT: Matt Welch

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