Tuesday, September 18, 2012

RLPB 177. Film Riots: praying through the crisis

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 177 | Wed 19 Sep 2012


By Elizabeth Kendal

The current 'Film riots' bear many similarities to the 'Cartoon Intifada' of February 2006. The Danish cartoons had been published months earlier -- even republished in Cairo during Ramadan (Nov 2005) -- to no effect. Similarly, the offensive film, 'Innocence of Muslims', has been available on Youtube for many months. The 'Cartoon Intifada' was incited by Arab-Islamic leaders ahead of the scheduled April 2006 sitting of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). It was anticipated that at that sitting the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance would present his conclusion as to whether or not defamation of religion should be banned. Similarly, the 'Film riots' were initially incited (so it seems) by Islamists, as a cover for planned 9/11 'revenge' attacks on US embassies in Cairo and Benghazi. Because decades of radicalisation have created a tinderbox, Islamists only need to strike a spark to get the fire of arrogant, hateful rage burning. Fanned by social media, it spread quickly around the globe.

As with the cartoons, the film is far less offensive than much of the anti-Christian material that offends, hurts and sickens Christians -- who do not riot. Indeed, the internet is full of anti-Islamic material that is far more offensive than the Danish cartoons or 'Innocence of Muslims'. For rioters, this is less about offence and more about the fact that Islam demands universal respect and criminalises non-submission. Meanwhile fear motivates the appeasers.

In praying through this crisis, there are three things we should particularly remember.

As security is tightened around embassies and US economic interests, Islamists may well turn their anger to softer targets with perceived US ties and/or sympathies such as Christians and churches. The riots could evolve into a grinding, communal jihad or terror campaign. We must pray concerning Christian security in these times, especially in places where Christians are already a persecuted, vulnerable minority. The situation for the Copts, Egypt's indigenous Christians, is especially perilous.

Islam's totalitarian, apostaphobic, religious dictators live in constant fear that, given a chance, the masses will apostasise (leave Islam). These religious dictators will doubtless seek to exploit the crisis to advance their goal of having criticism of Islam criminalised internationally. As was done after the Cartoon Intifada, the riots are being put forward as the reason why criticism of Islam must be banned. Muslims should regard this as profoundly offensive as it implies that they are easily provoked and incapable of responding in a civilised manner. On the other hand, non-Muslims should regard this as an Islamic threat.

The Grand Sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar University, Professor Dr Ahmad at-Tayyib, has already released a statement calling on the UN to enact international laws that will punish those who insult or defame Islam. Egypt has issued arrest warrants for eight Americans (including seven Copts) who they charge have defamed Islam. They will be tried in absentia and may well be sentenced to death, possibly heralding a new wave of 'Salman Rushdies'. (On 16 September, Iran increased the bounty on Rushdie's head by half a million dollars to $US 3.3 million.) Egypt wants Interpol to issue wanted  notices [Red Notices] for the accused. Pakistan also has appealed to Interpol: for legislation that would ban 'sacrilegious [specifically anti-Islamic] materials' from the Internet. Pakistan aims to present draft legislation to the forthcoming UN General Assembly. We can also expect to see renewed efforts by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) for implementation of UN Resolution 16/18, 'Combating intolerance . .  . ', which equates 'defamation' with 'incitement'.

If the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 left many nominal Muslims profoundly confused and conflicted, the Cartoon Intifada of February 2006 compounded those feelings into deep disillusionment. So revolted and embarrassed were most nominal Muslims by the sanctimonious hysteria, barbarity and uncivilised behaviour of hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the world that the trend of apostasy increased markedly through 2007. (See Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008, 15 Feb 2008) We can pray for a similar awakening now.


* the Holy Spirit will draw vulnerable, threatened Christians to find shelter under the 'wings' of the LORD. ' . . .  in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.' (Psalm 57:1b ESV)

* God will use the struggle over free speech to expose hidden evil and awaken the world to the value of truth.  'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.' (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)

* the current crisis will serve to awaken many Muslims and further accelerate the exodus from Islam. 

'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest'. (Matthew 9:37,38 ESV)


Whilst the 'Film riots' may well have been incited by Islamists as a cover for planned 9/11 revenge attacks on US embassies in Cairo and Benghazi, they have spread around the world like 'fire'. For the rioters, this is less about offence and more about the fact that Islam demands universal respect and criminalises non-submission. Meanwhile fear motivates their appeasers. In this climate, Christian minorities are profoundly at risk. Freedom of speech is also at risk. We should expect to see efforts being made to punish those who have offended Islam, and to criminalise criticism of Islam internationally. Most critically, we must pray for an awakening amongst nominal Muslims who are appalled by the hysteria and uncivilised behaviour of hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the world.