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Columns

September 29, 2012

Violence over film goes much deeper than blasphemy

The amateurish film, “Innocence of Muslims,” posted on YouTube, angered many Muslims for its negative portrayal of Muhammad, and more than 50 people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been killed in the resulting violence.

It may be difficult today for Americans to understand how public criticism of a prophet or savior can lead to organized violence and murder. Even President Obama, speaking at the United Nations this week, challenged the world to seek out the root causes of the rage and violence.

But those issues shouldn’t be that elusive. The causes go far below the surface of protests, riots and deadly violence, and include religious tolerance and fundamentalism, the continued U.S. meddling in Middle East nations, and free speech.

The evidence of history shows that religions, and especially their fundamentalist adherents, have instigated as much of the world’s wars and violence as their secular counterpart, nationalism. When the two forces are linked by extremists, the results can be deadly. The horrific tragedy of 9/11 is a prime example.

But it wasn’t too many years ago that Christians in Northern Ireland were killing each other because of their Catholic and Protestant differences. And centuries earlier, you probably wouldn’t want to know how many so-called heretics were put to death for alleged blasphemy by Christian authorities.

Anybody can post a video to YouTube, and the fact that enraged Muslims linked it to the United States as a nation and government illustrates that, despite the Arab Spring changes, there continue to be fundamentalist factions that hate the West.

Today, Americans pride themselves for tolerance, though it may seem lacking in our everyday arguing about political and religious issues and especially with people like pastor Terry Jones and his “Burn a Quran Day.’’ That’s why President Obama, shortly after the Muslim protests over the video began and before they became deadly, reiterated religious tolerance as one of our values and condemned the film.

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