While Muslims in the Middle East have reacted to the inflammatory film “The Innocence of Muslims” with riots, Muslims in the Tennessee Valley believe in a more peaceful response.
In an interview with Triangle on Sept. 28, Hammad El Ameen, president of the Dalton (Ga.) Islamic Center and spiritual leader at the Masjid Muhammad, Chattanooga’s principle Islamic place of worship, said that he, as well as members of his mosques, have no desire to be associated with the violence in the Middle East.
Throughout the history of Islam, Muhammad’s people have been ridiculed and even killed, and Ameen said this will not change. While the film was an evil thing, Muslim believers should not become violent because of it.
“The Innocence of Muslims” portrayed Muhammad as a puppet and pedophile and his claimed revelation from the angel Gabriel was simply by his whim and convenience.
“Freedom of speech, is, truly, too often exploited,” he said. “But that does not mean that the offender is free. There are consequences for every word said and action done. Inevitable consequences for the responsible party are what console the hearts of worshippers at Masjid Muhammad.”
September 9 marked the outbreak of anger in Libya and Egypt. The protests spread quickly, leading to additional riots in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Twelve protestors have been reported dead and at least four Americans have been attacked and killed while serving diplomatic posts in Egypt and Libya.
This video was made to directly “invite” people of the Islamic community to become outraged, according to Ameen. People responding to violence and is not in accordance with what Islam teaches.
“In our book, we are told that people who worship other gods will act against us,” Ameen said. “‘Be patient,’ it says, ‘persevere.’ Muslims should be smarter than that. Our example is Muhammad; he didn’t slaughter others. He won their hearts.”
Muslims also have a responsibility for what they say. He paraphrased the Quran: “Do not make fun of other people’s gods, because then others will make fun of Allah.”
The riots are proof that there are Muslims who have not acted as they should, Ameen said. They have attacked other religions and, in doing so, have departed from the commands of Allah. Therefore, they are being punished through the mocking of Muhammad.
When responding to why Muslims reacted violently toward the United States when they knew that this was their just punishment for mocking other religions, Ameen did make one generalization. He said, in large part, Muslims in the Middle East do not have a pleasant predisposition toward America, just as many Americans stereotype Muslims as terrorists.
There are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, according to the Pew Research Center. Of those who regularly attend the Masjid Muhammad, a large percentage is comprised of first generation immigrants, principally from Pakistan, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia.
In a study released last year, Pew found that 63 percent of Muslims in the United States are first generation immigrants.
Some members of the Chattanooga area mosques have family members who have participated in or have been affected by the riots. But, Ameen qualified, what is a big ordeal on television and in other media actually represents a really small portion of the reaction to the video.
Ameen distinguished true adherents to Islam from the protestors: “We can’t judge Christians based on the actions of the KKK. The media will always exploit discrepancies, so we have to make an effort to see the big picture.”