I was not aware of a film insulting to Islam until American embassies were attacked in Libya and Egypt. Thus, Muslim extremists managed, through the expedient of riot and rampage, to bring attention to the very thing they loathe, a thing which, but for their help, would have been little noticed. The irony of that likely goes over their heads like a jet plane.
"Innocence of Muslims" is said to have had a budget of $5 million. From the look of it, maybe 40 of those dollars made it to the screen - you'd see better production values in a porn video. Better acting and more natural dialogue, too. Of course, it's not the quality of the movie that's causing the problem.
Islam forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. "Innocence" not only depicts him, but also shows him as a philanderer, child molester, killer and feckless fop. The actor who plays him seems to be channeling John Ritter, circa "Three's Company."
So yes, "Innocence of Muslims" is, indeed, an insult to Islam. And to film. And to intelligence.
All that said, the greatest offense here is not this crude attempt at provocation. It is, rather, the mobs of Muslims storming the gates of American embassies in Egypt and Libya. In the former, they pulled down an American flag and replaced it with a black Islamist flag. In the latter, they killed four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. At this writing, protests are spreading across the region, with outbreaks in Iran, Iraq, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia, among others.
Not to trivialize a deadly situation, but in considering these would-be defenders of Islam, one is struck above all else by their childishness. I am thinking of a specific scenario familiar to any parent of two children or more:
The kids are in the back seat, and suddenly you hear the dreaded words: "He's touching me!" It is whined at a pitch of such fevered urgency that if you didn't know better, you'd swear one child was killing the other. But no, it's only that child number two has discovered she can, with little effort, drive child number one into spasms of apoplexy. So she keeps doing it till you hear yourself yelling, "Don't make me turn this car around!"
Yes, the second child has gone out of her way to needlessly provoke her sibling. But you are also irked at the sibling for being so easily provoked, for not understanding that if he simply stopped giving his sister the reaction she craves, she'd stop doing the stupid thing.
It is that dynamic we see play out repeatedly among Muslim extremists. We saw it in 2005 when riots erupted over a cartoon depicting Muhammad. ("He's touching me!) We saw it in 2011 when riots erupted after a Florida "preacher" burned a Quran. ("He's looking at me!") Now we see it in the uproar over this stupid film. ("Don't make me turn this planet around!")
What's next? Riots because some provocateur sculpts a face on a cucumber and calls it Muhammad? Murder because some moron draws a stick figure having sex and says it's Muhammad? There are 7 billion people on this planet and 6 billion of them are not Muslims. Do these geniuses propose to throw a tantrum every time one of those 6 billion goes online to insult Islam? Would you give that many people power and permission to make you crazy?
Children, at least, have the excuse of being children when they fail to understand how an over-the-top reaction only ensures further provocation. The hotbloods of Islamic fundamentalism are old enough to know better. They ought to grow up.
That must be the message they hear from the rest of the world and, in particular, from their co-religionists. Terrorism, intolerance and these repeated outbursts injure their faith more grievously than some obscure movie ever could.
They are angry it disrespects Islam. But they don't seem to respect Islam all that much themselves.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald.