[Update: We now know that a) the producer of "Innocence of Muslims" is a Coptic Christian and b) the riot in Libya was actually a carefully coordinated terrorist attack.]
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “There they go again.” In the latest outburst of Muslim rioting, a mob in Libya murdered the US ambassador and three other people. The mob’s outrage was sparked–ostensibly–by “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Islamic movie made on a shoestring budget in the US by a shadowy character named Sam Bacile.
To call this movie obscure is the understatement of the year. According to Slate.com, it was screened only once in a single theatre, and all that’s available online is this 14-minute “trailer”:
If you’ve been able to sit through it, you’ll agree the film is offensive, extremely amateurish, and a bad idea all around. The fact that it was financed and produced by an Israeli Jew (who’s now in hiding) doesn’t help. Oh, and it’s been given a thumbs-up by amateur movie critic and professional handlebar mustache grower Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who has also sparked riots for burning Korans and other shenanigans.
We already know that you inflame Muslim sensibilities at your own peril. Muslims have no sense of humor (or tolerance) toward anything seen as insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. People have died over cartoons.
That said, Western leaders need to affirm–and affirm repeatedly–the Western ideal of free speech. It’s no contradiction to condemn Sam Bacile (if he even exists) for making an imbecilic movie with no redeeming social value, and in the same breath say that he will continue to enjoy his right to free speech, and that he will be defended (or avenged) for any violent retribution against him. President Obama should press Libya to find those responsible for the riots, and prosecute them for their crimes. He should keep the pressure on them and not let this outrage just blow over.