For the most part, the West has been spared of the kind of turbulent protests rocking the Muslim world in recent days, but that soon could change as anti-Islam groups threaten to screen the film Innocence of Muslims in the U.S., Canada and Germany. In a strange jumble of events, the provocative idea appears to have originated from the German far-right political party Pro Deutschland, assisted by Florida pastor Terry Jones and taken up by a Canadian Hindu advocacy group, in a move that will likely test the respective countries' commitment to freedom of speech.
On Tuesday, Der Spiegel reported the Pro Deutschland party announced plans to screen the incendiary film in a Muslim neighborhood in Berlin later this year. "We plan to show the trailer of the film at a public screening in a mainly Muslim area of Berlin on the first or second weekend of November and then, in a nearby cinema or suitable venue, screen the entire movie,” said Lars Seidensticker, chairman of the party's state faction in Berlin. Fearing that such actions could incite riots, German authorities said they will take "all legal means" to prevent the screening. The threat has even drawn the attention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the film was in poor "taste."
It's not clear if the country will successfully bar Pro Deutschland from screening the film, but Der Spiegel reports that there is legal precedence for such a move in German criminal law, "which states that anyone who publicly 'insults the content of the religious or ideological views in a manner likely to disturb the public order, will be penalized with up to three years' imprisonment or fined." In a small world moment, Seidensticker told The Hollywood Reporter that he's been in contact with Florida pastor Terry Jones who will send him a full-length version of the film, something that hasn't been widely seen in public thus far. That pastor really knows how to navigate the global sewers of anti-Muslim society.
Meanwhile, in Canada, The Toronto Star reports that a self-described "grassroots Canadian organization" called Canadian Hindu Advocacy plans on arranging screenings of the film in cities across the country as well, and potentially in the U.S.:
Ron Banerjee of Canadian Hindu Advocacy said Canadians want to see Innocence of the Muslims ... Banerjee said his advocacy group — which he claims has "several hundred members and supporters across Canada'' — has received several inquiries about screening the movie in Canadian cities.
"We have got e-mails and phone calls from organizations in 13 different cities in both Canada and the U.S. that are interested in doing a simultaneous screening ... "We have the freedom to show a movie like that and we shouldn't succumb to threats of violence,” said Banjeree.
Banerjee's plans aren't as fleshed out as the Pro Deutschland party, however. Apparently, Banerjee doesn't have a certain Florida pastor in his rolodex, as he's been unable to locate the full-length copy of the film. "We are all trying to find the original copy of the film," he said. "That's a little difficult given the peculiar circumstances of the producer of the film.''
Regardless, taking the film and shoving it in the face of Muslims in the West seems needlessly confrontational, especially in light of the violence that has swept across the Middle East. That doesn't mean it should be banned (contrary to yesterday's ill-conceived Los Angeles Times column by Sarah Chayes) but discouraging its screening by social means seems appropriate. As Merkel said herself in response to questions about banning the film Monday, "He is allowed to do this."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.