OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines – Some 600 Maranaos angered by the “insulting depiction of Prophet Mohammad” in an American movie “Innocence of Muslims,” burned huge replicas of the American and Israeli flags during a rally at a public square in downtown Marawi City Monday morning.
The gesture represents a divide among local Muslims on how to appropriately respond to what they commonly view as an attack on the Islamic faith.
Abul Alibasa, chairman of the Network of Maranao Youth Leaders and Professionals, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that the rally was principally attended by youth and women “who vented their ire about the film’s degradation” of Mohammad whom Muslims revere.
“We are condemning neither the US nor the Americans but only the filmmaker, scriptwriter and supporter of the film,” Alibasa explained.
He added that the film smacked of being “anti-Islam, anti-religion and anti-humanity.”
But Alibasa would not say if his group organized Monday’s rally. He said it was a “spontaneous, multisectoral activity.”
Some activists, however, said some of the organizers regretted the burning of the American flag, with the US pouring in funds for development projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which included Marawi City.
Marawi City Councilor Abdani Alonto said the local legislators have been drafting a resolution condemning the film. The resolution, he added, would be sent to the US Embassy.
But other activists who were privy to the rally’s organization said many held the view the production of such an “incendiary film” was an “orchestration of Zionism and the US.”
“We are not terrorists or an angry mob. We are the voice of the oppressed Muslim Ummah (community) around the globe whose brothers in the occupied Palestine are suffering,” said one protester.
“We are the voice of Muslim believers whose religion is being ridiculed….We are the oppressed people defending what is left of us, our dignity,” the protester added.
In 2005, Maranaos also condemned during a huge rally two Danish journalists who authored the controversial Mohammad cartoons. They beheaded and then burned life-size replicas of the two media personalities.
Alibasa said most of them saw only the 13-minute trailer uploaded on YouTube and not the entire length of the two-hour film written and directed by California-based filmmaker Sam Bacile.
In interviews in the US media, Bacile, who claims to be an Israeli Jew, had claimed the film was financed by more than 100 Jewish donors. (Doubts have been aired about Bacile’s claims. Later, US authorities unmasked Bacile’s true identity as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. It turned out he was an immigrant from Egypt and a Coptic Christian residing in Cerritos, California. Reports showed that Nakoula was imprisoned in the 1990s for manufacturing drugs and was freed in June 2011. He said he wrote the script for the movie in prison and got money from his wife’s family in Egypt.)
The trailer, in its original English version, has been in YouTube since July but it caught widespread attention among Muslims more than a week ago with a version dubbed in Arabic.
It has since sparked violence in Libya and Egypt, mostly directed at US diplomatic missions.
Earlier, ARMM Acting governor Mujiv Hataman called on Muslims to be “more sensible instead of being sensitive” amid stirrings for more indignation rallies in other communities in the country.
Hataman has said the film’s controversial content and uploading in Youtube “could be a ploy to stir conflict that can push individuals to wrongdoing, which can generally be attributed to Muslims and destroy the image of Islam.”
In such situation, Hataman added, “some evil motives could prevail over good and obliterate peaceful coexistence among followers of the world’s great religions.”
Part of Bacile’s film tends to depict Mohammad as exploiting women.
“Muslim individuals should also be aware that it is not easy to destroy the image of Islam, by any form of media, unless Muslims themselves do wrong,” he emphasized.
“Even great Western thinkers, the likes of Thomas Carlyle, George Bernard Shaw and Napoleon Bonaparte, had left in history their kind words about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad,” Hataman added.
In a joint statement, ARMM regional legislators Majul Gandamra and Samira Gutoc-Tomawis said the “degrading imagery” of Mohammad “whose name always invokes prayers among the world’s 1.6 billion faithful is cause for concern (especially) when it provokes communities.”
They pointed to ignorance about Islam and Muslims as a driver of such productions as Bacile’s film.
“While we are aggrieved in the degrading imagery against the Prophet, let this be a time to also aggressively produce more multi-media materials about Islam and tell the world that indeed Nabi is a messenger of humanity…,” they said.
“Let YouTube be an instrument (for understanding), not an enemy,” they added.
Meanwhile, the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has called on Muslims “to stay calm.”
“If Muslims surrender to anger, they will achieve the satanic objectives of those who are behind the production of this offensive movie,” said Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the MILF Da’wah Committee.
Muntassir added that “condemning the movie and those behind it should be in accordance with the Holy Quran.”
He also urged countries “to criminalize anti-religious acts, be they against Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other recognized world religions.”
“Individual freedom does not warrant or justify the invasion of others’ freedom even in the name of freedom of speech,” explained Muntassir.
He added that governments should also “consider the rights especially the values, sensibilities, and beliefs of believers of other religions.”
First posted 2:01 pm | Monday, September 17th, 2012