A Film Trailer Gone Wrong

As the turmoil continues and the embassies prepare for extended chaos, I find myself in disbelief. In the short span of 96 hours, a U.S. Ambassador, two former Navy SEALS, two U.S. troops, seven reporters and various other protesters and civilians have all died due to the social unrest in the Middle East (NBC News, 2012). My mind scrambles and my heart hurts when the paths lead back to the origins of this turbulence. A film, a YouTube trailer directed by a ghost of a man who went by the name Sam Bacile was the spark that ignited this flame. This anti-Muslim film defies the Prophet Muhammad of the Muslim religion and depicts him engaging in sex acts (Carbone & Gray, 2012). Even though the film was released this year in July, it was uploaded and translated into Arabic the week leading up to the September 11 riots (Lovett, 2012). The simple act of uploading a film, an act that is performed continuously by millions of people using YouTube on a daily basis, had the highest degree of repercussions. Now we are left with heightened security, a film still visible on YouTube, strained foreign relations and families grieving planning funerals.

On Saturday, September 15, deputies in Cerritos, California escorted Nakoula Besseley Nakoula to the sheriff’s station for questioning. Mr. Nakoula was one of the men behind the production of the film. The sheriff’s department clearly stated that this interaction with federal probabtion officers was completely voluntary, he was not placed under arrest. Mr. Nakoula stressed he was behind managing the logistics for the film, not the director. The so-called Sam Bacile is said to be the director, however, Nakoula and many other actors involved have acknowledged knowing Bacile, but only from a few accounts with no one knowing his true identity. So this brings us to today. Today we have one man being questioned, a director without an identity, a country with flags at half staff and yet a video that is still able to be seen. 

Nakoula leaving his home on Sept. 15


I find it difficult to swallow that a man who has acknowledged to helping this video be produced is not being investigated for that fact, but rather due to suspicion that he may have broken his prior parole agreement. The fact that this video had devastating consequences and there are no terms to arrest this man is a hard concept to take in. The first amendment was put in place to protect our freedom of religion and expression. This insures that freedom of speech and press are not limited, which subsequently means we can use services such as YouTube in close to anyway we see fit (Cornell University Law School, n.d.). But what happens when these services are abused and people’s beliefs are openly degraded? What happens when the boundaries are stretched and people end up hurt? And the question that I have been pondering the hardest; where does pluralism fit in to this unfortunate turn of events?

According to Diana Eck (2012), pluralism is the engagement with diversity and the dynamic search to tolerate and understand differences amongst varying religions. There is no room for ignorance when two differing religions seek to educate themselves on the differences between them. The hopeful outcome of this knowledge will conclude at the least a minimal respect that enables both parties to coexist. As these terms resonate, I can not elude that pluralism would have prevented the current situation we find in the Middle East. I do, however, believe that the catalyst that ignited this flame was the product of an unworthy cause. People can believe in different values and hold varying beliefs without publically demeaning those that aren’t their own.

The guiding principles of the United State’s foreign policy is to ensure that America remains safe and strong (The White House, n.d.). In order to fulfill this policy, it is mandatory that the civilians within this country do not abuse the rights we were given. Rights granted to us to protect and empower, not destroy and conquer. I do not see it necessary to use the label ‘pluralism’ as part of the solution. However, I do find many of the underlying beliefs to be those of great value: mutual respect, knowledge gain, and the demolition of ignorance. As we carry forth from these events and continue to endure, how, as citizens of this country, will we better ourselves as a result?


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