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Sept. 26, 2012

"Innocence" video guilty of murder

by Grace Hill, Online Managing Editor
Earning over 14 million views and 110 thousand dislikes, the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" has done more than capture the Muslim population's attention - it has caused at least 30 deaths and riots in more than 40 countries. The blood on suspected filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's hands is made worse by the renewal of an anti-American sentiment in many Muslim nations. Rioters consider the film, which satirizes the Islamic prophet Muhammad and portrays him as a pedophile and fraud, blasphemous. The riots have included everything from Muslims setting movie theaters on fire in Pakistan to protesters and police throwing rocks and tear gas at one another in Egypt. Whether or not Nakoula is the film's producer, he is definitely not the only one to blame for the violence and the government must not prosecute him solely.

Muslim demonstrators protest the insulting message of an anti-Islam film in Kano, Nigeria. Courtesy of MSNBC News
Muslim demonstrators protest the insulting message of an anti-Islam film in Kano, Nigeria.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the film had relatively few views before Virginia extremist Morris Sadek and Florida pastor Terry Jones publicized it, stating their agreement with the filmmaker's views. The Islamophobic Sadek reportedly translated the film into Arabic and brought it to the attention of the Egyptian press, becoming infamous in the process.

The live-action film, which is 13 minutes in length and supposedly the trailer for a 74-minute movie, insults Muhammad and features Egyptian Muslims attacking Egyptian Christians while Muslim security forces do nothing. In one particular scene, Khadija, Muhammad's wife, suggests creating the Quran by mixing parts of the Torah and New Testament into false verse. Fox News reported that one actress in the film, Cindy Lee Garcia, claims that she had no knowledge of the anti-Islam message because the actors' lines were dubbed over during the editing process.

Nakoula, Sadek and Jones, as well as others involved in the creation and distribution of the film, must realize that their actions were not only immoral but also illegal. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental principles of democracy, yet the film is an example of abusing this right by purposefully provoking Muslims.Although it is a freedom that many advocates of democracy wish more Middle Eastern countries practiced, the United States and other democratic governments must continue to enforce restrictions on dangerous forms of speech.

"Innocence of Muslims" can be evaluated under two different Supreme Court standards. The 1919 case Schenck v. US provided a "clear and present danger" standard that equated dangerous speech with yelling "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater. Replaced in 1969 by Brandenburg v. Ohio, the current template states that the government cannot punish provocative speech unless it is linked to "imminent lawless action."

While "Innocence of Muslims" fulfills the original Schenck circumstances by providing a clear and present danger to Americans and others in close proximity to the riots, it also meets the Brandenburg standard through its indirect incitement of violence. The violent consequences manifested themselves on American soil, as well as in the extremely unstable Middle East. The filmmakers and advocates were obviously aiming to inflame the Western-Islam conflict, especially by bringing attention to the film around the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

This video demonstrates not only irresponsibility but also a complete disregard for human life. The United States government must apply the Brandenburg standard to "Innocence of Muslims" and prosecute the makers and distributors for its relationship to the imminent lawless action of viewers. Freedom of speech must be limited in this case because of the film's devastating consequences. If it is not, Americans will believe that hate speech is acceptable and will abuse the right to free speech.



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  • Silver Spring on September 27, 2012 at 12:47 PM
    This in incorrect. Please watch the news. This was a planned Al-Qaeda attack, having nothing to do with the video.
    • Junior on September 28, 2012 at 8:23 AM
      Umm, nope. Maybe you should try watching the news. Al-Qaeda couldn't start riots like that in so many countries, especially not when the riots are explicitly over the video.
  • I don't hate on September 27, 2012 at 10:02 PM
    Your interpretation of the cited court cases is quite erroneous. No one is forced to watch or listen to this video, unlike the yelling of "Fire!" in a theatre. Similarly, there is no incitement to violence in this puerile video. Sunlight is the ultimate disinfectant, and if this video is so abhorrant, then it should be open to public ridicule. If certain people choose to use it as an excuse to become violent, that cannot be prevented. Putting a Christian cross in urine has been judged to be art; by the same standard, this is protected speech.
    • Junior on September 28, 2012 at 8:37 AM
      Your comment has some merits, but, likewise, one is not forced to attend a theatre. However, that analogy is questionable anyway, so your milage may vary.

      One of the problems with the video is that the audience, in this case the arab world, quite possibly believes the video to be official, or in some way sanctified by America, due to the differences between the way our governments operate.

      However, I agree with you; the fact that many innocent people have been murdered over this video is disgusting, and I'm furious that these riots have gotten so out of hand. It's not fair to the Americans who happened to be there, who have been killed in senseless bloodlust. For all those the video offended, I'm sympathetic, but it's absurd that one ignorant video coming from an extremist group in its own right could ignite such violence, and it says something more important about the state we're in as a world.
    • Freedom and Justice on September 28, 2012 at 9:49 AM
      Any movie, especially documentary movies in nature offend some groups. When "Super Size Me" came out, it offended the fast food restaurants. There are numerous documentaries against North Korean government on the treatment of its people, and that offends that counrty's communist government. When documentary movies come out about school shootings, gun owners get offended.

      The fact is, no matter what movie, someone will be offended. This however, does not give ANYONE, the right to go and kill someone. Especially if that someone had nothing to do with the making of the movie, like the US ambassador.

      The truth is, some people are looking for whatever reasons to behave violently. A real sad truth. If indeed some people were extremely offended by it, why not seek legal actions to ban the movie? No one needs to resort to killing. To me, that is simply barbaric!
  • Junior on September 28, 2012 at 8:50 AM
    Frankly, the claim that 'free speech must be limited to avoid hate speech' is sophomoric and based on fear. I would hope that we could avoid hate speech with proper education.
    • Alumnus on October 6, 2012 at 9:51 PM
      It'll take more than proper education. Anyone who really thinks the violence is actually about this poor excuse for a video rather than much more real socioeconomic factors is kidding themselves. Religion provides a superb excuse for riots and violence, but it is rarely the actual underlying cause. It provided a spark, perhaps, but that doesn't do much without the fuel (and there are a *great many* sources of sparks).

      That said, free speech is clearly necessary to the proper function of our society and suggesting we cede that right by placing blame for unreasonable reactions to free speech (key word: unreasonable) on the perpetrators of the speech is suggesting that we remove the very basis of our ideological freedom.
  • Philby Jones (View Email) on February 28, 2013 at 11:28 PM
    Just wanted to point out that there's an error in the 4th paragraph, end of the second sentence.
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