We don’t get it. Is it really that easy to manipulate the Islamic world? Where are the Islamic leaders saying, “this movie is a piece of garbage produced with the express purpose of riling us up—let’s not play into its hands.” Have any mainstream Muslim leaders said, “gee, guys, there is absolutely no reason to get angry over this trivial ‘film,’ and by doing so we are only confirming the stereotypes that the West has about us”?
We suppose that this type of sentiment is impossible for most Muslims to grasp. Islamic societies don’t have much of a track record on pluralism and tolerance. Islam, certainly in the Arab world, infantilizes its followers. Reading the English-language press in the region (e.g., Qatar [PDF]) illustrates that even mainstream imams don’t seem capable of considering that maybe societies that value free expression might be onto something. Of course, the Obama administration has never made this point, either, much less purported to summarily end any argument over this film by mentioning the sanctity of our country’s most important value.
This reminds us of our less mature days at university, where the conservative newspaper would deliberately print incendiary material to inflame racial tensions. It would work every time—we’d print an article, and black students would protest and burn copies of the paper on the quad, demand that the newspaper be banned, and threaten death to the authors. They never seemed to realize how much fun we had, though it became too easy after awhile.