Robin Yassin-Kassab


with 6 comments

“Is the Prophet who is being insulted in Syria not the same Prophet who is being insulted in America?”

This video is not suitable for children nor for those of a nervous disposition. I include myself in the latter category. At first I couldn’t watch it, then I made myself do so in order to hear the words. Before the usual “Freedom? You want freedom?” the torturee is forced to declare that Bashaar al-Asad is his ‘lord’ (the Arabic word ‘rabb’, which means God). The violent (but very small) protests which have swept the Muslim world in response to a ridiculous low-budget smear of the Prophet Muhammad are in part the expression of a deeply humiliated people who remember Western support of Zionism and Muslim dictatorships, Western invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and so on. They are in part the result of the failure of Arab and Muslim dictatorships to build functioning education systems, and a symptom of a profound and generalised despair that requires wounded symbols through which to manifest itself. Most importantly, they are signals of an opportunistic power play by the extreme right-wing Salafist minority. It’s a case of extreme right-wing Islamophobes, Zionists, Coptic extremists and American Republicans on the one hand and extreme right-wing Islamists on the other, feeding off each other. The furore has made the ridiculous anti-Islam film a Youtube hit. Nobody would have heard of it had Egyptian Islamists not publicised it, and had the American ambassador to Libya, apparently a friend of the Arabs who was critical of US policy on Palestine, not been murdered. As with all the episodes in the ‘culture wars’, it’s an enormous diversion from the really serious issues. The torture video here was first pointed out by the Syrian activist Wissam Tarif. He asked a simple question. Where are the furious demonstrations against this blasphemy? Why have no Syrian embassies been burnt following the repeated bombing of mosques and churches, the murder, rape, torture and humiliation of tens of thousands of Syrian Muslims?

Here are some Syrian responses to the mess. Here’s Libyan novelist Hisham Matar on the violence in Benghazi. Here’s Matt Duss on the Islamophobic entertainment industry. And here’s Hamid Dabashi drawing lessons from the Iranian revolution. (The Syrian regime, meanwhile, organised its own small demonstration against the film. These people have been taking chutzpah lessons from Zionism).

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

September 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Islamophobia, Syria

6 Responses

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  1. I actually mentioned this film (and it isn’t the only one I saw where there were detainees forced to say Bashar was God – refusing to do so) yesterday and was wondering why it didn’t cause any outcry. More proof that the film getting all the attention was planted to incite those who know or care nothing about the people but will react to what they are expected to react to.


    September 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

  2. […] Qunfuz […]

  3. I disagree ONLY with the negative comments referring to involvement of American Republicans—that is unfair and unfounded…I am republican and certainly do NOT agree with or support those ideas.

    Beverly Harris

    September 16, 2012 at 5:52 am

    • I refer, Beverly, to Romney’s rather clumsy attempts to profit politically from this mess. I know the Republicans are a broad church. It does seem to me that the tea party tendency within the Republicans (the same ones who bang on about Obama supposedly being a Muslim) play on Islamophobia for political benefit, just as elements of both Conservative and Labour parties do so here in the UK

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      September 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

  4. Why are you lying Qunfuz? That and other videos in addition to the Assadi onslaught were condemned by Islamists, who were the first to protest against Bashar in the Arab world. It seems that you Syrian liberals are blinded by your biases, let charlatan hypocrites like Nabil Fayyad and Haytham al-Manna and their Jaysh Voltaire liberate you from Bashar. You accused me of sectarianism previously, and yet many of your kind have turned out to be just as sectarian, albeit in a different sense. Weren’t many secular(not just Islamist) Syrian and Libyan Sunnis condemning the Iraqi Shi’ites for collaborating with the Americans, and yet now you guys are and want to do the same thing. Wasn’t their an undertone of sectarianism in this even from non-Islamists like yourself?

    Abu Umar

    September 16, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    • I can’t remember our previous argument in which I accused you of sectarianism, Abu Omar, but in any case I think you misunderstand me somewhat here. I know very well that Islamists have condemned the Asad regime’s barbarism, and that they have been in the forefront of the revolution alongside leftists, liberals, and completely apolitical people. Although I wouldnt vote for the Muslim Brothers (and I wouldnt have the opportunity, because my nationality is British) I know they must play an important role in a future democratic Syria (insha’allah) because many Syrians support the MB. President Morsi in Egypt has impressed me greatly, especially his stance on Syria. In this piece I was complaining about the furore over a film which I think is disgusting but which I think would have been better ignored. The angry response gave the Islamophobic filmmakers exactly what they wanted, just as Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie’s book made Rushdie a millionaire. I criticise the Salafist extremists (and I recognise that not all Salafists are violent or sectarian) who expoited this episode, in my opinion for political reasons. I was trying to say too that such fury would be better directed at the barbarism being done to Muslims in Syria (and in Bahrain), and for that matter the barbarism affecting christians in pakistan and bahais in iran. that’s my opinion. The other point: I do not consider myself one of ‘you guys’ if you mean ‘syrian sunnis’. I do not support ‘collaborating with the americans.’ Personally, although i always opposed the american invasion and occupation of iraq, i always understood why some shia (and some sunnis) who had been so horribly persecuted by saddam were happy when the americans arrived. in syria there is a popular revolution (there was in iraq in 91 but not in 2003 when the americans arrived) and a terrible repression. a very few syrians seem to want anybody at all to come in and rescue them – the turks, the europeans, the americans. i disagree, but i understand why these poor people feel this way. a lot of syrians want someone to provide them with effective weaponry so they can defend themselves from shelling and bring down the murderous regime. I agree with these syrians. sadly, apart from a few weapons from saudi and qatar and turkey, not enough to make a difference, they are being left on their own.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      September 16, 2012 at 9:36 pm

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