Letís not play pretend

It seems impossible to hash out a full understanding of all thatís happened in the Middle East over the short course of a week. That is to say, I think the general understanding of anyone trying to make sense of the deep-rooted and very complex situation of violence, hatred and our own religious intolerance toward that region of the world is muddy at best.

Contrary to the so-called expert opinions that have bombarded news media since the release of an amateurish anti-Muslim video portraying the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, thereís something askew about pinning the violence solely on the release of that movie. I can understand why Muslims are up in arms Ė itís the equivalent of offending Christians with a cheap movie that slanders Jesus in the same negative image; but to say the violent protests and riots that have claimed lives, including that of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, can be blamed on that alone just seems like a simple answer to a much more complex issue at hand.

To me, it seems this movie was just a trigger. It was merely the match that lit the fuse of explosives that have been piling in that region for years. To say it was the cause of recent attacks on Western Embassies in Muslim nations is nothing short of being ignorant to years of built-up tensions between the United States and the Arab world. Really, this hatred, fueled by religious intolerance, is something I wish I could completely understand; but even while foreign relations has suddenly jumped to center stage during an election year, I still canít wrap my head around such a complex issue. The catch is, riots in the Middle East now are being roused by a belief system Ė a religious belief system nonetheless Ė and unlike an idea which can be persuaded, people are willing to die to defend their belief.

Adding salt to an open wound on Wednesday, a French magazine allowed the publication of crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which I think proves to the rest of the world one of two things: Either people are open and willing to jeopardize human lives in separate parts of the Arab world for the sake of provocation; or that the human memory is incapable of recalling details from more than a week ago. No matter how you spin it, the release of the cartoon is in bad taste and clearly meant to be another slap in the face to an already irate region. Iím all for the freedom of expression but as I was taught in grade school, just because you can do something doesnít mean you should.

So I guess the questions to ask now are: How do we move forward in dealing with something thatís so tense, so personable and so convoluted that itís impossible for anyone to fully understand? When riots against American Embassies in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and surrounding Arab nations subside, does the U.S. keep pressing on, forgetting years from now that these attacks ever happened (as seems to be the case with riots around American Embassies)? Is it humanly possible to embrace freedom of expression while also embracing tolerance? And even if we do, what good is it? After all, tolerance itself doesnít mean I have to like someone or something (like a religious belief); it just means I canít do anything about it, therefore I find a way to deal with it.

Personally, I think the worst thing we can do from here on out is pretend that we understand whatís happening Ė that we know so much about this New Age like religious war and we understand the feelings from both sides. Itís a dangerous charade and while it might settle the newest wave of riots for the time being, this fake understanding can never be a permanent solution.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunshawn.

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