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2012 Archives

Dean William Lawrence:
The religious aspects of violent demonstrations over anti-Islam film

September 20, 2012

SMU's Dean William Lawrence of Perkins School of Theology talked with the Valder Beebe Show on September 17, 2012, about religious tolerance and the recent outburst of violence in Libya and neighboring countries. The deadly demonstrations have been over an anti-Islam video made in the United States that portrays the Prophet Muhammad in a poor light.

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When the violence first occurred a few days earlier, on September 11, Dean Lawrence had said, "“American Muslims understand that built into the fabric of their religious convictions is the tenet that representing the Prophet Muhammad in any way would be abhorrent. Conversely, American Christians are very familiar and quite comfortable with depictions of Jesus dying on the cross. But it’s not the role of American Christians to tell others what the tenets of their religion should be simply because they don’t recognize them in their own religious traditions. So this should prompt an important discussion about why such a tenet is significant in Islam.

“In our society we have a very high level of commitment to freedom of speech, including the freedom to say something utterly reprehensible. But in many other parts of the world, that freedom isn’t constitutionally assured. In those societies, the actions of the U.S. film producers (behind ‘Innocence of Muslims’) just wouldn’t be tolerated.

“It has been interesting to see the U.S. Secretary of State and President Obama — as well as political leaders in Yemen, Egypt and Libya, whose political systems are still in development — condemn the content of the film while at the same time condemn the violence that has erupted over it. And it is encouraging to see the leaders of those countries say that the people of the United States aren’t to blame over the work of one person.”

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