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Karen Coleman: Obama was wrong to say sorry for anti-Islam video

The announcement by a Pakistan minister to award $100,000 to kill the maker of the anti-Islam film 'Innocence of Muslims' is a dangerous development that should be widely condemned by right-thinking Muslims.

Ghulam Ahmad Bilour's threat is like the 1989 Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his 'Satanic Verses' novel. Nothing can justify the minister's inflammatory statements that encourage the murder of a man who made a bad, amateurish video.

'Innocence of Muslims' is unquestionably insulting and there are suspicious circumstances behind its making that make this story more complicated. But firing off fatwas against the filmmaker is an outrageous act that Islamic leaders should staunchly denounce.

The offending film is a juvenile, amateurish piece of rubbish that is badly made and is peppered with suspect dubbing of actors' voices. Its clumsy portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed as a child-molesting, murdering womaniser is of course highly offensive to Muslims. But that doesn't justify the killing spree that Islamic radicals have embarked on following its release on YouTube.

In Pakistan at least 20 people have been killed over the last few days during protests against the video.

The recent murder of the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, along with his three colleagues, was a barbaric act. The suspicion is that al-Qa'ida had already planned to kill the diplomats before the offending film emerged but its broadcast on YouTube, dovetailed with their murderous agenda.

In the West, we simply don't take offence in the way Muslims do when our gods are blasphemed even though there is plenty of highly offensive material out there that ridicules Christian, Jewish and other faiths. Many of us have a hard time trying to understand why Muslims get so angry when their Prophet is insulted.

But does their disproportionate reaction justify a censoring of anti-Islamic content to appease their sensitivities?

Curbing freedom of expression to mollify Islamic fanatics is a dangerous compromise to make. I was appalled when I heard President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton apologise for the 'Innocence of Muslims' video. Their condemnations seemed like a sop to the zealots and a betrayal of America's revered First Amendment with its stated right to freedom of expression.

Ads are now being broadcast in Pakistan showing both Mr Obama and Ms Clinton slamming the video and saying the US government had nothing to do with it. But their apologies may be rooted in more complex reasons because there is certainly something suspicious about the video that raises questions about why it was made.

For starters, it is only a short trailer for a feature-length film that doesn't seem to exist and nobody seems to have seen. The man who allegedly made it in the US is a convicted fraudster who was out on probation and who has used several aliases in the past.

US media reports say he is a Coptic Christian from Egypt who now lives in California. He has been linked to right-wing Christian groups in the US and conspiracy theorists are alleging the video was funded by anti-Islamic trouble-makers.

Several actors in the film have also complained that they were duped into thinking they were working on a movie about an ancient desert adventure. They say they had no idea the film was about the Prophet Mohammed and inflammatory words have been dubbed over some of their original lines.

Last week one of the actresses tried to force YouTube and Google to remove the video on the basis that her life was in danger. These stories feed conspiracy theories that the intention of the video was to stoke up Muslim anger against the West and provoke the US into taking action against those engaged in violence against it.

If that is the case, that may explain why both Mr Obama and Ms Clinton are so vociferously condemning it. But if YouTube is forced to remove the offending video, should it also remove all of the anti-Christian, anti-Jewish material so widely available on the internet?

That's the danger with setting censorship precedents. Where do you draw the line? I would much prefer to live in a world where tolerance supersedes intolerance and where I can make my own decisions to watch and read what I choose and not what someone else decides.

There are other ways of expressing dissatisfaction over the publication of dodgy content. Take the photos of Kate Middleton's bare breasts.

Those of us who were offended by the invasion of her privacy didn't go around issuing fatwas against the photographer who took the pictures or indeed the editor of the 'Irish Daily Star' who foolishly published them in this country.

At least in a democracy we can show our discontent through our purses. If you strongly object to the invasion of Kate Middleton's privacy, then you can boycott the 'Star' until it apologises to the Duchess.

Policing dodgy content on the internet is a more complicated topic and there is a lot of awful stuff being said and published that is highly offensive. But we need to guard against widespread censorship to appease fanatics.

Irish Independent