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Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:23AM
Interview with Zafar Bangash, director of Contemporary Islamic Thought Institute

Interview with Zafar Bangash, director of Contemporary Islamic Thought Institute

I think all US officials whether they are in the Congress or in the government or elsewhere are quite familiar and aware of the fact that the honor of the Prophet of Islam is a red line for Muslims and that insulting him is basically taking a stab at the very core belief of the Muslims and that this kind of blasphemous act should not be permitted.”
The wave of condemnations over the insulting US-made film about Islam and the Prophet Mohammed continues to reverberate around the world. In Libya, US ambassador to the North African country, along with three American staffers were killed when angry protesters attacked the US consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesay. Five protesters were also killed and dozens of others injured in Yemen in clashes with security forces outside the US embassy in the capital Sana’a on Thursday as anti-US sentiments once again flared in the impoverished country. Also in Egypt, peaceful protests at the place of the US diplomatic mission in Cairo turned violence when scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and police forces. Press TV has conducted an interview with Zafar Bangash, director of Contemporary Islamic Thought Institute from Toronto, to ask him about the reasons behind the anti-US protests, and whether there are ulterior motives behind the making of this movie. The video also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Assed Baig, a journalist and political commentator from London and Waleed el-Haddad who is with the Freedom and Justice Party from Cairo. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview. Press TV: This movie is in line with a string of anti-Islam acts made by Western countries. I am looking down a list here; the most recent one has occurred in the UK and which was aired on channel 4 there by the name of, ‘Islam: The Untold Story’. It brings about the question if there is a concerted effort to marginalize and demonize Islam and Muslims, and of course then associate it with violence. Bangash: Absolutely, I think there is no doubt that there is a concerted effort on the part of certain segments of the population in the US, in Britain, as well as in the larger European continent in order to demonize Islam, Islam’s revered personalities particularly the Prophet of Islam as well as desecrate the noble Qur’an. There have been a series of such incidents and each time it has been said in defense of such sacrilegious and blasphemous acts that this is freedom of speech; but obviously we know that there are limits to freedom of speech in every society. For instance, in the US or anywhere else, people cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater or in a shopping mall because that would lead to public disorder and chaos and yet when it comes to Islam and its revered personalities, unfortunately it appear to be a fair game and such activities and blasphemous acts are defended in the name of freedom of speech. Press TV: What is your reading on the reaction that has come from the US officials, in particular the US president and the US Secretary of State? She had a press conference yesterday; not a press conference, it was an aired statement made from her in which she accompanied the US president but today she finally came out and blasted the contents of this new movie. But it is more serious about bringing the perpetrators to justice. Isn’t that something that should be done? Why isn’t the US addressing that? Why isn’t it in a way showing sentiments and feelings towards Muslims? We are not really seeing a clear case of that, are we? I mean, why aren’t, for example, in the past people who have insulted Islam being brought to justice? It seems that is a big question which has been addressed by people around the world especially Muslims. Bangash: In the United States, they have this curious notion that people are free to express their opinions in whatever manner they like. This is what stated as an excuse for what these individuals have done and these excuses are obviously offered by US officials. But when we see other examples in which if, let’s say, Muslims were to express their opinions against certain acts or policies of the US, then those freedoms of expression evaporate. So it is clear to those of us that are following not only this but US policy for decades, we find this double standard that is applied constantly in terms of targeting Muslims and I think all US officials whether they are in the Congress or in the government or elsewhere are quite familiar and aware of the fact that the honor of the Prophet of Islam is a red line for Muslims and that insulting him is basically taking a stab at the very core belief of the Muslims and that this kind of blasphemous act should not be permitted and yet US officials advance this curious notion that people have the freedom of speech and expression. But I think we need to look at this whole situation in the context of US policies that it has pursued particularly against the Muslim world. I mean, as your other guest Assed Baig from London pointed out, when Muslims see US policies, they look at it in terms of the attacks and the massacres that have occurred in Iraq and in Afghanistan and the continuous suffering of the Palestinian people, these bombings in Somalia and these drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan and now threats against Iran, etc., so there is a whole litany of misdemeanors by successive US government against Muslims and the Muslim people around the world and all of these have accumulative effect on the Muslim minds with respect to how these sensitive issues then arise. But I also want to point out that you see ordinary Muslims can only express their anger; they do not make policy. I think policies have to be made Muslim governments and they need to take a firm stand. I mean it is interesting to note that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that held its meeting in Mecca on August of 15 and 16 to expel Syria from its ranks and yet it has not seen fit for instance to call a meeting to discuss this issue or to issue a statement from its secretariat expressing concern about such blasphemous acts, I mean after all this is not the first time. We had incidents of Qur’an burnings in 2003 in Guantanamo Bay; then we had the incidents of the Danish cartoons in 2005; then we had the desecration of Qur’an earlier this year at Bagram Airbase and now we have this movie; earlier on there was a Dutch movie and so on. There is a whole string of these acts that clearly would draw attention to the fact that there is a concerted campaign that is going on and that this needs to be brought to an end if there is going to be peace and security and justice in the world. But when it comes to these kinds of issues, I am afraid American officials are not prepared to take those steps in order to bring the situation to some kind of a normalcy and therefore allow for more reasonable heads to prevail. Press TV: I am confused and a lot of people I know are confused about the fact that for example you have this pastor Terry Jones who is reported to promote this movie; a pastor who is known for ‘Burn the Qur’an Day’. How is it that people in character and personality such as this particular gentleman are not prosecuted? I mean let’s be honest in terms of what effects such as burning the Qur’an is going to have which he did in terms of demonstrations that were held in various Muslim countries. Why has the US not made concerted efforts to prosecute people that have this tendency and this nature and running around free to repeat these acts again and again? Bangash: If we look at the US policy particularly since 9/11, I think there is a concerted effort and campaign to demonize Muslims in order to be able to justify these acts aggression that are being perpetrated in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in other places and unless and until the Muslims are demonized, these policies would not be sustainable and of course American people like any other people, if they interact with Muslims, they see that they are good neighbors; they are law abiding citizens. So they want to provoke the Muslims into these kinds of acts. I mean it is natural for Muslims to react when their most sacred personality that of the Prophet (PBUH) is vilified and targeted in this manner; similarly when copies of the Qur’an are desecrated or burned or flushed down the toilet, that this would definitely arouse the angers of the Muslim people. So when we consider that it has been stated an official US policy to demonize Muslims, to denigrate them and of course the policy of its Western allies in NATO, then it will go against their own policy if they were to prosecute people like Terry Jones who is essentially a nonentity, I mean, his whole parish has a total congregation of about 50 people but by indulging in these kinds of sacrilegious acts, he gets international publicity. And now we have this individual, as you mentioned, this murky individual, initially his name was given as Sam Bacile and later news was that he is apparently some Coptic Christian from Egypt who is also very anti-Muslim; his name is Nakula Basseley Nakula who was incidentally indicted for bank fraud and had to pay about 800 thousand dollars in restitution as well as spend 21 month in jail. It seems to me that this individual again perhaps his Zionist allies and Christian fundamentalists in the US who want to provoke the Muslims to create tension within the Muslim world particularly in Egypt because I think it is clear that because of the victory of Dr. Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt that Coptic Christians are displeased with that. MSK/MA
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