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It’s been hard to keep track of all the rioting that’s taken place around the world lately, purportedly in response to the film The Innocence of Muslims, so it would be thoroughly understandable if you missed the news about the protests in Sydney on Saturday, September 15, at which participants carried signs reading “Behead all those who insult the prophet” and “Shariah will dominate the world.” Several police officers were injured and a number of arrests were made.
The rioting occurred exactly one day after Taji Mustafa, spokesman for the British branch of the Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, delivered a passionate, and at times fierce, sermon in Sydney about The Innocence of Muslims. Hizb ut-Tahrir, as you may know, is an international Islamist organization that is the largest group of its kind in Britain. It supports the goal of a caliphate and, by virtue of its continuing legality in that country (which has been frequently but unsuccessfully challenged), serves as a living symbol of the fecklessness of the British government in the face of jihadism. Mustafa is one of the most high-profile Islamist agitators on the scept’red isle, where, in 2006, participating in a TV debate about freedom of speech after the Pope’s Regensburg speech, he presented himself as reasonable and mild-mannered, insisting in a firm but relatively temperate tone that “in no civilized society should people accept the right to insult others” and that he “should not have to live in a society where my belief is insulted.”
On September 17, with the Sydney rioting still fresh in everyone’s memory, he gave an interview on Australian TV in which, again presenting himself as more or less reasonable and mild-mannered, he said that Australia, owing to its involvement in Afghanistan, “cannot preach to any Islamic government in the world about having a nonviolent foreign policy.” When confronted with a Hizb ut-Tahrir press release calling on “Muslim armies” to “teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons,” he denied any connection to it, whereupon the interviewer showed him a printout that included his organization’s web address. Liberal Party politician Scott Morrison noted in The Australian on September 21 that Hizb ut-Tahrir has in fact “condoned the killing of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and called for the military destruction of Israel.”
What, then, did Mustafa say to that Sydney congregation on the eve of the day when everyone went nuts? The answer is on YouTube. As it happens, his tone was, for the most part, not at all reasonable and mild-mannered. On the contrary, he delivered much of the sermon in a loud, angry, threatening voice. His subject: how to respond to this film that insults Muhammed so viciously? Muslims, he made clear, are obliged not to let such an affront go unanswered. After all, “we have emotions. We are human beings….We hold some things very dear to us. We love our mothers. We love our wives. And if somebody insulted them we would be upset. You’d want to do something. And I know many people frankly would want to smash in the face of someone who insulted their wife….A true Muslim loves the Prophet more than he loves himself.”
Mustafa observed that many non-Muslims call Muslims “touchy” because of their reactions to such provocations as The Innocence of Muslims. Why, he quoted those non-Muslims as asking, can’t you Muslims lighten up and take an insult just like everybody else? What’s more, he added, non-Muslims invariably invoke the concept of free speech. Mustafa asked his audience: “What is our response? What is our take as Muslims on this?” His answer, delivered in a menacing, increasingly loud voice: “Insulting the Prophet…is a red line. You cannot do it and not expect a reaction. You can’t smack a guy in the face and not expect a reaction….You can’t insult and spit on his wife and not expect a reaction!”
By this point, Mustafa was screaming in rage. “It is natural for Muslims to react, and the whole world should understand that!” If we react, he insisted, it is because “somebody provoked us!” He expressed outrage at the fact “that in Western societies it is permissible, it is allowable, to insult over a billion people….There is something wrong with the values in the West!” As for freedom of speech, “this Western idea…is crazy!” What of the public condemnations of the anti-Islam film by officials like Hillary Clinton? He rejected them entirely, pointing out that even though Hillary denounced the film, she refused to ban it, citing freedom of speech. “This means these governments support it!” thundered Mustafa, who reminded his audience that “freedom of speech means freedom to insult!”
Mustafa had no problem getting into Australia.
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