Recent protests against U.S. and European embassies in a number of countries in the Middle East and Muslim world have been linked to an Internet video containing strongly negative depictions of the prophet Muhammad. While many Muslims have quite legitimately taken offense at this movie, the various demonstrations and acts of violence we have seen of late cannot be explained exclusively in terms of a perceived slight against strongly held religious beliefs.
It is true that Islam has historically frowned upon visual depictions of Muhammad due to the religion’s strong aversion to idolatry, but in this case that particular factor is compounded–if not outweighed altogether–by the deeply offensive portrayal of Islam’s final prophet in the film in question. Muhammad is shown as an opportunistic womanizer and homosexual who connives in acts of pedophilia and murder. In this sense, the current video represents the latest installment in a chain of such depictions over the past 25 years–such as the Danish Cartoon Crisis of 2005 and the Satanic Verses Affair of 1988–that have given offense to Muslims.