Idiocy Taken Seriously – What Reaction Represents

Peter Enger, Staff Writer


The Asian/Global Resource Center at NEIU featured a one-hour talk and discussion titled “When Idiocy Is Taken Seriously: The Case of Muslim Reaction to an Obtuse Film” given by Dr. Mateo M. Farzaneh on Tues, Sept. 25, 2012 from 3 to 4 pm.  Dr. Farzaneh has been at Northeastern (NEIU) for two years, and teaches history of the Islamic world and the modern Middle East. The Asian/Global Resource Center is located in the B-Wing on the east side of NEIU’s campus, just north of the Bernard Brommel Hall.

The Resource Center is located in a series of offices contained within the Pedroso  Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs. The Pedroso Center also houses the African/African American, the Women’s, the Latino and the LGBTQA Resource Centers. It is a very comfortable and colorful place for gatherings, meetings and events such as the talk given Tuesday.

The room slowly filled up until it was overflowing with more than one hundred people attending. It was a diverse mix of attendees of students and staff from young to old, all from many different nations and cultures. Dr. Mateo Farzaneh first launched into a little recent history of negative depictions of Mohammed and Islam in Western media, including the Danish cartoon of several years ago, which also led to protests in the Muslim world. He reminded the audience that depictions of religious figures and especially the Prophet Mohammed are strictly forbidden in Islam.

Following this introduction, Farzaneh mentioned the latest facts known about the creation of this video clip released on YouTube, “The Innocence of Muslims”; the producer, the director and some news about the actors in the film. The content of the film was also analyzed as to the possible intention of the creators.
Some of the main points that Farzaneh made are: Westerners wonder why Muslims get so worked up about cartoons and “idiotic films”. He pointed out that out of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, the protesters make up a “minuscule” fraction of the total. Most Muslims are silent and sit at home, “hurt and bewildered by the Western ignorance about this serious issue”. They come away from this developing the idea that the West has created this video to “show its power, its hatred for Muslims, and how it can ridicule and offend their sense of belief and culture because it is out to destroy both”.  He reminded the audience that the West has a “less than perfect history in its relations with less powerful regimes in the Mideast and North Africa”, and that people in those nations are well aware of how tyranny and violations of human rights in those areas have long been supported by Western countries, thus giving people many reasons “not to like what the West does or says.”
Farzaneh also touched on the issue of freedom of speech and the press, and how we all need to defend them, but cautioned that “wanting to show that I am free to do as I wish can hurt others”, and that “just as one should not yell fire in a movie theater….one should not turn an blind eye to values that others hold dear and near just because they can”.

There was a lively question and answer session for about 40 minutes after the talk, with the culmination being a letter that was read from a Professor of English from Egypt, Osama Madany, from the University of Menoufiya. The talk is the latest in a series of talks given at the Asian/Global Resource Center concerning an array of issues affecting Asians at Northeastern and around the world.  Last Spring Farzaneh gave a series of lectures about the modern Middle East, addressing current issues in Iran, Egypt and Iraq. There was some discussion at the end between Farzaneh and the Director of the Asian/Global Resource Center, Yasmin Ranney of creating a new series of talks around Muslim issues.