prophet film diverts gaze from syria serves regime
Last Updated : GMT 02:22:24
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

Prophet film diverts gaze from Syria, serves regime

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today Prophet film diverts gaze from Syria, serves regime

Beirut - Arabstoday

For the embattled Syrian regime, the crudely produced film mocking Islam that has unleashed fury across the Muslim world could not have come at a better time. Images of furious protesters targeting Western diplomatic sites in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere have diverted the world’s gaze from the bloodstained streets of Syria, where President Bashar Assad is trying to crush an 18-month-old uprising. The crisis over the film also has reinvigorated militant rhetoric that the US and Israel are the real enemies of Muslims, taking the heat off of both Assad and his loyal and powerful ally in neighbouring Lebanon, the Shiite group Hizbollah. On Tuesday, Syria’s Cabinet condemned the movie, titled “Innocence of Muslims”. In its first official reaction, the Cabinet said the film about the Prophet Mohammad is “cheap and provocative”, adding that it’s “part of a Western project that aims to infringe upon the nation’s heritage and symbols ... as a prelude to control its potentials and wealth”. It remains to be seen whether the controversy will result in any lasting gains for Syria or for Hizbollah, whose reputation has suffered severely for siding with the Assad regime even after supporting revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Bahrain. The demonstrations over the film, while fervent, were relatively small to begin with, and they appear to be tapering off in the Arab world. Still, Hizbollah is determined to keep them going, which serves the interests of the Shiite group as well as Assad. Assad’s fall would be a nightmare scenario for Hizbollah. Any new regime led by Syria’s majority Sunni Muslims would likely be far less friendly — or even outright hostile — to Shiite Muslim Hizbollah. Iran remains the group’s most important patron, but Syria is a crucial supply route. Without it, Hizbollah will struggle to get money and weapons as easily. The Syrian conflict has descended into a civil war, with neither side able to strike a definitive blow against the other. The result is a murderous stalemate, with a growing sense of worldwide horror over violence that activists believe is responsible for killing 23,000 people. The prophet film, however, has exposed a well of deep anger and frustration directed far beyond Syria’s borders — and Syria and its allies are seizing on it. In his first public appearance since 2011, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told tens of thousands of rapturous supporters Monday that there must be sustained demonstrations against the film. There are four more rallies planned this week in Lebanon, starting Wednesday, as Hizbollah tries to redirect popular rage against the US, describing the film — which is amateurish and intentionally provocative — as an unprecedented attack on Islam. “The world should know that our anger is not a passing thing.... This is the start of a serious campaign that must continue all over the Muslim world in defence of the prophet of God,” said Nasrallah, who rarely appears in public for fear of assassination. “As long as there’s blood in us,” he added, “we will not remain silent over insults against our prophet.” Nasrallah has said he considers the film the worst insult to Islam mainly because it is available online and anyone can access it. “I think that this level of offence is very big, very grave and unprecedented,” he said in a televised speech recently. He said the film is more of an insult than the 2005 publication by a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the prophet, which unleashed a wave of violent protests by Muslims. Hizbollah is harnessing the outrage over the film, an apparent attempt to keep the issue alive and to bolster its standing a defender of Muslim dignity and a moral force in the Arab world. Many in the crowd Monday wore headbands of green and yellow — the colours of Hizbollah; others hoisted Syrian flags to show their allegiance to Assad, a sign of the strong links between Syria and H?zbollah. But the group also appeared to be trying to ensure the gatherings don’t descend into violence, planning them only in areas where Hizbollah has control. None of the rallies targets the heavily fortified US Embassy in the hills outside Beirut. The movie portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fraud, a womaniser and a child molester. Protesters have directed their anger at the US government, insisting it should do something to stop it, although the film was privately produced. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticised it as “an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with”. For the moment, the masses who have risen up against Assad appear to be drowned out by those chanting against more familiar enemies — the United States and Israel. “Death to America!” the crowds shouted Monday in Beirut. “America is the great Satan!” From JT

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