Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies members and professors at San Diego State analyzed the viral protests across the world against the amateur anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” that portrays and mocks the Prophet Muhammad.
SDSU professor Ahmet Kuru, an expert in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, said because Islam is against idolatry, visual depictions of human figures are often prohibited.
“The problem is not the portrayal of the prophet, but how he is portrayed,” Kuru said. “Although even a respectful portrayal of the prophet is inappropriate, it’s still not a big deal for mainstream Muslims.”
Kuru also explained Muslims who burn flags and attack U.S. Embassies do not represent the majority of the Muslims in the world.
“There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, so the radical protesters on the streets constitute a small minority,” he said. “An overwhelming majority of Muslims respond to Islamophobic propaganda material with calm and silence, although they’re offended by insulting depictions of their beloved prophet.”
SDSU professor Khaleel Mohammed, an expert in Islamic law and comparative religion, said the protests are not only a result of the anti- Islam film, but also of political and economic problems such as poverty, unemployment and lack of education affecting youth.
“In the Middle East, politics and religion are so intertwined that, for example, in places like Iraq and Lebanon, the term ‘Christian’ is not just a religious name but also a political statement,” Mohammed explained.
Mohammed said the protests, along with the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, which he said was plotted by Al Qaeda, had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with extremism and politics.
“The degree of sophistication would not be there. This was a specific attack, and they targeted someone. His killer was not a just normal killer,” Mohammed said about the assassination of the U.S. Consulate.
Mohammed also answered the question as to why the demonstrators hold the U.S. government responsible for the anti-Islamic film.
“In the U.S., most of our TV stations are privately owned. In the majority of Middle Eastern countries, the media is not privately owned, therefore there is no separation between what is government and what is private,” he concluded.
Mohammed said demonstrators think the U.S. government controls the media, including the anti-Islamic film’s production.