Mark 12: 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these.
The video Innocence of Muslims has provoked violent reactions by Muslims in many countries all over the world. Westerners typically cannot understand why Muslims are so upset. For example, if Jesus would be portrayed as a pedophile, many Christians might object, but most would not start riots and kill people in order to vent their outrage. For Christians in the West, especially in the US, free speech is a paramount right.
Unfortunately, this video does portray Muhammad as a pedophile and a womanizer, and that is blasphemy, according to Muslims. Blasphemy is a sin that must be punished. In much of the Muslim world, punishing blasphemy is more important than free speech.
A scene from the video -- Muslims find any portrayal of Muhammad offensive
This video, most Muslims agree, is so offensive that it does not deserve the right to use free speech as a defense. Many deplore the violence that it provoked, but they cannot accept the argument, at least in the West, that free speech justifies its production.
Even in the West, there are voices that insist that this video does not meet the standards for free speech as protected under the US constitution because it incites violence. There are limits to free speech, as the US Supreme Court has famously recognized.
Those who produced this video seem to be Christian extremists who intentionally wanted to provoke Muslim extremists. Both hate each other. Both are intent on destroying the other and the society that each represents.
What does all this have to do with the words of Christ that I just cited? Plenty! Christ demands that all those who call themselves by his name must live according to the commandments that he proclaimed, and not by the principles of the world.
Christians may not be able to persuade Muslims to forego violence. That is a job for other Muslims. But there is much that Christians can do to help defuse the crisis surrounding this video and its aftermath.
Christians should begin by recognizing Muslims as neighbors. A neighbor is someone we must love. As the parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates, our neighbors are those who take care of us and whom, in turn, we must care of. That is long list of people we are commanded to love.
Christians deplore this violence, but at the same time they need to acknowledge that Muslims have different views about what constitutes blasphemy and the role of free speech in society. This knowledge will help to reinforce their acceptance of Muslims. The ignorance of Christians and Muslims about each other is abysmal.
How many Christians can truthfully affirm their love for Muslims? If the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves means anything, we must love Muslims -- all Muslims, including the extremists.
Christ commands his followers to even love their enemies. More specifically, Christians must pray for them. We must pray that these extremists will stop their violent behavior. We must pray for peace throughout the Middle East, and indeed throughout the world. Peace is only possible when people love each other.
Loving Muslim extremists does not mean that we condone their behavior. We must condemn what they are doing, and at the same time support the efforts of moderate Muslims to control the extremism in the Muslim world. As widespread as these riots have been, those who perpetrate violence constitute only a tiny fraction of all Muslims, and the leaders who incite it are an even smaller group.
As an aside, let me add that I blame the media in part for publicizing the violence. Without such publicity, the whole affair might have died out long ago. Extremists of every stripe revel in publicity. That way they can justify their behavior not only to themselves but to their followers. Now the whole world becomes their stage.
I also blame YouTube for publishing this video and continuing to make it available. YouTube claims it does not want to censor any videos, but it already does so with pornographic material. YouTube should delete this video immediately, as they did in Egypt. Others, of course, may continue to disseminate this piece of trash, since once something is published on the Internet, it will never disappear entirely.
I especially blame those who produced the video. It was purposely intended to be provocative. Others have pointed out that the egregiousness of its smears, the apparent deception by the producers of the cast and crew as to its contents, and the deliberate effort to raise its profile in the Arab world a week before 9/11 by dubbing it in Egyptian Arabic, indicates that this was all done intentionally.
As Christians, we must condemn their behavior and should do what we can to prevent those who profess to be fellow believers from similar actions in the future. We must pray that they too will see the error of their ways and stop behaving in a manner that is contrary to the gospel.
Similarly, Muslims must speak out more loudly against Muslim extremist behavior. The voices that do that already -- and they are many -- are drowned out by the noise that the extremists are making. The media should allow these moderate voices to be heard instead. The world needs to hear good news, not the awful stuff that is published every day in newspapers and broadcast on radio and TV about what the extremists have done. But bad news sells, good news does not.
Loving our Muslim neighbor also means that we stop assuming that all Muslims are terrorists, or potentially so. We should do what we can to build bridges to the Islamic community so that Muslims realize that we are their allies, not their enemies.
Islam is a religion of peace, in spite of the practices of Muslim terrorists. This violence simply reinforces the belief of many Christians to the contrary.
Christians and Muslims worship the same God, albeit in different ways. Should we not acknowledge openly that we are brothers and sisters?
You may disagree with me, but if you do, please remember Christ's commands to love our neighbor, and even our enemies. Brothers and sisters may have disagreements at times, but they do not regard each other as enemies. Instead, they love each other.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.