BEIRUT: As the controversy continued to grow around a film produced in the U.S. about the Prophet Mohammad, members of the public expressed their dismay at the production and the violent reactions it has provoked.
The movie, “Innocence of the Muslims,” is only available as a trailer on YouTube and portrays the Prophet as devious and socially inept.
As news of the film spread, anti-American protests erupted in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, where protesters burned the U.S. consulate in Benghazi Wednesday, killing the ambassador and three other diplomatic staff.
“They have the right to take a stance against this film if it insults the Prophet and Islam generally, but not to express this through violence,” said Suhail, a 55-year-old publisher from Bhamdoun.
Suhail said he had not seen the trailer himself, but was opposed to both the idea behind it and the violent protests against it, saying that those offended should have voiced their anger “in a more civilized, peaceful way.”
Others also felt that the film should not have been allowed to be made in the first place: “Any insult to what is holy in any religion should be rejected,” Issam Ayad, a Hamra-based bookseller and writer said.
Ayad said that while he supported critical dialogue and condemned the violence in Libya, religion was too sensitive a topic to be treated lightly because of “the role of what is holy and its importance to the lives of all nations and peoples.”
Amid reports that two Egyptian Copts living in the United States provided funding for the film, Michel, a 44-year-old finance worker from Mount Lebanon who did not want to give his real name, told The Daily Star that, “I’m a Christian, but I’m against the film, of course.
“This film could provoke a reaction against Christians in the near East.”
Michel also suggested that extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda might benefit from the film, which is perceived by many as deeply insulting to Islam, and that the trailer should be removed from YouTube.
One businessman, who asked not to be named, criticized the film’s producers for failing to respect the beliefs of others, but condemned the protesters in Benghazi who attacked the American consulate.
“They are extreme people, their reaction was violence but we completely reject this. It is not in our religion. Our religion, Islam, is peace,” he said.
Some suggested that there ought to be limits on what people could say about religion.
Katya, 25, who is originally from the Bekaa, said that “freedom of expression should have its limits when it starts to cause trouble to other people.”
However, one retired shopkeeper in Hamra was adamant that people should be free to express themselves as they saw fit, but that they should use self-restraint when exercising their freedom of speech.
He rejected the idea that restrictions should be put in place on what people could say about religion: “I do not think that you can introduce rules, because they would affect lots of things ... It should be governed by common sense.”