A Modest German Proposal: Debate, not Censor, Innocence of Muslims

Amidst continuing controversies and calls for censorship worldwide surrounding the trailer for Innocence of Muslims posted in the internet, a group of Germans has offered a modest proposal.  The German Freedom Party (Die Freiheit), a small political party founded in 2010 and emulating the well-known small government and Islam-critical themes of Dutch politician Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV), has proposed a screening of Innocence of Muslims in Berlin at the end October/beginning of November 2012.

As Die Freiheit's website declares, the screening event should investigate whether "what is shown in the film is much more harmless than the reality."  "Are Islam and its sources, like the Koran and numerous hadith," asks Die Freiheit, "much more brutal and horrible than the thematic scenes in the film?  Or is the film actually only a 'tasteless provocation'?"  "To get to the bottom" of this question the leadership of Die Freiheit wants to have a "discussion event" that will "take this film precisely under a microscope and discuss the content in a detailed and, above all, objective manner."

Die Freiheit's proposal is actually perfectly reasonable.  As this author has previously written, contrary to the understanding underlying the almost universal condemnation of the abysmally produced Innocence of Muslims, this film's contents are not a complete fabrication, but rather reference controversial episodes in the biography of Islam's prophet Muhammad recounted in canonical Muslim works.  Indeed, a more complete fact check of Innocence of Muslims (in English and German) at the conservative, Islam-critical German website Politically Incorrect (PI) documents in greater detail the historical Islamic sources underlying the film's plot.  Not surprisingly, one of PI's main contributors, Michael Stürzenberger, is also a member of Die Freiheit's leadership.  Speaking to the Berliner Morgenpost, Stürzenberger described Die Freiheit's "goal" as "enlightenment, not provocation."

Die Freiheit has invited various Muslim leaders in Germany to take part in the screening along with scholars like Dr. Armin Geus.  A German medical historian, Geus has written a book Die Krankheit des Propheten (The Sickness of the Prophet) presenting arguments often made by others that Islam's founder Muhammad was not a prophet but rather psychologically disturbed.  For his efforts, Geus is now facing charges under German laws against insulting religion and hate speech brought by the König Fahd Akademie in Bonn, a Saudi-founded secondary school condemned in the past for its extremist teachingsDie Freiheit would also like to invite to the event the film's Egyptian-American producer and convicted felon, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

Some question remains whether Die Freiheit will be able to implement their proposal.  A previous similar proposal by a similar German party, Pro Deutschland, prompted Germany's interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, to declare his willingness to use "all legally permissible means" to prevent Innocence of Muslim's showing.  Pro Deutschland's accompanying invitation to internationally known Koran burner Terry Jones to attend the planned screening in Berlin also met with an immediate German denial of entry into the country.

Yet principles of free intellectual inquiry at the heart of Western civilization would argue precisely for an objective analysis of Innocence of Muslims as advocated by Die Freiheit. Surely intellectual inquiry must not stop before religious faith, particularly as the cosmic significance of various contradictory religious beliefs demands that they have more credibility than literal blind faith.  The intellectual inquiry proposed by Die Freiheit in turn raises a provocative question for Muslims around the world.  If, as so many Muslims wish to proclaim, Islam is a benign "religion of peace" (as most recently suggested by the Christian Science Monitor), why not engage even the harshest critics of Islam in dialogue and debate. 

After all, the "prophets" of other faiths such as the Church of Latter Day Saints' (LDS) Joseph Smith have been subject to criticism, particularly in the free republic of the United States where the LDS came into existence.  Indeed, the LDS and Smith have throughout their history suffered negative comparisons with Islam and Muhammad as two faiths founded by false prophets.  Most recently, various African-American Christian pastors supportive of President Barack Obama's reelection have criticized the legacy of theological racism in the LDS to which Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney belongs.

Innocence of Muslims is not the first factually-based challenge to Islam, and this movie will not be the last.  As discussed in detail by his movie proposal website, the Canadian-Iranian Islam apostate-turned-condemnatory-critic Ali Sina announced in February 2012 his intention to produce a biographical picture concerning Muhammad, presumably having a higher production value than its controversial, often condemned predecessor.  Sina wants to expose thereby an individual whom Sina's in-depth studies have revealed as deeply disturbed, brutal, and fraudulent.  Unless authorities around the world are going to impose repeatedly sanctions upon Sina and any other like-minded individual, Muslims and others might as well get used to open debate and discussion concerning Islam now.

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