Media Must Take Lead in Dismantling the Falsehood that Anti-Muslim Film Was a Jewish Project By Rabbi Abraham Cooper Simon Wiesenthal Center
Published in Pakistan Link, Friday September 21, 2012
“Innocence of Muslims” is a poorly produced anti-Islam film that has been used to fuel protests and violence on American diplomatic postings in Libya, Egypt and Yemen, leaving our ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, dead. Protests and violence have now spread to Sudan, Tunisia, and across the Muslim world.
What was also clear — according to major media — for a number of news cycles — was that this hate film was produced by an American-Israeli businessman and its $5 million budget was raised by “100 American Jews”.
But two days later, the falsehood is revealed. It is confirmed that the filmmaker is an Egyptian, not an Israeli Jew. Thanks to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, and a few other reporters, we learn that Jews had nothing to do with the production or funding of this project. In fact, the key person in this undertaking is a Coptic Christian, whose co-religionists in Egypt have distanced themselves from this hateful film although the Coptic Christians in Egypt have faced heavy discrimination from extremists.
But these important facts are not reaching many of the very people who need to know the truth. Iran’s official media, outlets in Turkey, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s website and a leading Islamist online forum continue to falsely present “Innocence of Islam” as a Jewish and Israeli project.
Is this all no big deal? Think again.
This past spring, Mohamed Merah a French fanatic drove his motorcycle to the entrance of a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, killed a young rabbi and three little children on the school yard, including an eight-year-old girl he grabbed by the hair and executed with a bullet to her brain. Before being killed by police Merah explained that he viewed every Jew as an enemy in his war…
I just returned from two weeks visiting European capitals from Berlin to Oslo trying to thwart growing campaigns to ban a key religious rite of the Sons of Abraham—ritual circumcision of our boys or as we Jews call the “mitzvah”—brit milah.
Tragically, attitudes towards Jews have been poisoned by extremists in Europe: there has been precious little contact, let alone cooperation, on this assault on the basic religious rights of Jews and Muslims.
Now, Jewish communities begin to celebrate our New Year and High Holy Days. It is a time of prayers for peace for all G-d’s children.
The best way to counter hate and ignorance is knowledge. We shouldn’t let the Media and an extremist who made a film to encourage and promote hate that would divide Muslims and Jews over falsehoods. I invite you to visit a modest website that we have put together www.askmusa.org. It presents a very basic introduction into who we Jews are and what values our Torah and sages have taught us for thousands of years.
And we need help to debunk the canard that Innocents of Islam ema nated from our ranks. If not, this film will succeed drawing ever closer the distance between anti-Semitic hate and violent acts against innocents.
The biggest responsibility now lies with the media. To them, I would like to relate this story about a holy Jewish teacher:
Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan was an especially saintly man. His self-proclaimed mission in life was to get people to never repeat a lie or rumor, no matter how juicy or plausible.
One day, a tearful parishioner came to him to admit that despite all of his rabbi’s sermons, he had succumbed and repeated a juicy rumor about a neighbor, which turned out to be a lie. “What can I do to repent for my sin and rehabilitate my neighbor’s reputation?’ the distraught man asked the sage. “Go home, pluck the feathers from the chicken in your barn, draw a straight line to the door of the person your hurt and then back to my study”. Three hours later the man returned and breathlessly asked’ “Am I forgiven now”?
“Yes, my son, all is forgiven”, answered rabbi Kagan, “save one last thing — now gather the feathers”.
(Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center)