Up until today I had only an academic sense of what the phrase "blood chilling" means.
Today I had a conversation with an educated, well-to-do Afghan regarding the riots around the world in response to this stupid movie. He was curious to hear why the US Government had allowed the film to be released. He was under the impression that films or books needed some kind of license or permit from the government.
This thought is very common in this part of the world. Such permits and reviews are required in many, if not most, countries here, and it is simply assumed that they are everywhere else. So, this alone is illuminating for people who struggle to understand the rage against entire nations when offensive material is published. It is assumed that the country itself issues a seal of approval.
Add to this that most people here have no idea that Innocence of Muslims was not a Hollywood blockbuster with a massive budget and huge theater releases, but in fact had the production values to be expected from a couple of jackoffs with rented amateur grade equipment, and you begin to see the reasoning, however flawed, for the reactions. I mean, I'm willing to make an educated guess and say that the number of protesters who actually saw the thing they're protesting is statistically zero, and the rest are operating on rumor and manufactured rage from religious authorities and peers. This, also, is common in situations like this.
I'm asked questions about America quite often, ranging from things like "What happens to a policeman in America who breaks the law?" to "Is it true that men in America are not allowed to have more than one wife no matter how rich they are?" so I'm used to going back to basics for many explanations.
His contention, even after I explained that no such permit is required, and that the movie was made by a small number of deceptive jackoffs, was that the US should restrict the release of any book, movie, cartoon, etc. whatsoever that has a high potential to incite violence. I was interested in his viewpoint, as it seemed to stem from a genuine desire to keep innocent people from getting hurt over dumb shit said by inciteful people who never intend to bear the consequences themselves.
I asked him why he thought it should be, for example, the US government's responsibility to stop people in other countries from committing acts of violence. He didn't quite dodge the question when he answered that it shouldn't just be the US, but any government, specifically "the Western governments that always cause these problems, like the Danish cartoons for example that you may remember from some years ago."
Freedom of speech a la the First Amendment, or, say, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (saving the infamous Article 29, put there for just this reason), is not popular in this part of the world for any number of reasons. But this was a pretty educated dude, having been to a few years of university and having lived abroad for a number of years, so I kept on that line of questioning out of curiosity alone.
I reiterated my question about why any government should restrict speech instead of, say, changing the attitude that violence is an acceptable answer to mere words. That his response was so completely matter-of-fact was the blood chilling part.
"Because if the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is insulted, the insulter must be killed. And if the insulter himself cannot be killed, those who permitted or facilitated the insult must be killed."
Further questions and answers revealed that he was willing to shrug off personal insults, as did the prophet himself in the famous story, found in most Seerah but not in the hadith, about the trash-throwing Jew.
That he unquestioningly believed in political solutions to national conflicts and that war was unjustified under any circumstance except self defense.
That he considered blood feuds, a staple of the Afghan socio-political climate, to be on the same deplorable level as, say, terrorism - or what he called "false Jihad".
All that being said, he also saw it as completely obvious and beyond debate that an insult to the Islamic faith or the prophet Muhammad should be punished by murder. Asking him anything about that particular point was like stopping an astrophysicist in the middle of a graduate level lecture and asking her why she put so much stock in gravity.
This is a man who wears a suit and tie, owns a successful business here in Kabul, and uses some of his profits to fund a girls' school. He wants reform, detests the Taliban as being "false Muslims", and fervently hopes for democracy to blossom. He has a profound respect for the Jewish and Christian faiths as fellow worshipers of the God of Abraham.
He accepts that it is not unreasonable for Jews or Christians to remain unconverted to Islam, partly because word never reached many of them during the prophet Muhammad's lifetime, and because those faiths warn specifically about false prophets, and the strength of their faith in the word of God may be keeping those without firsthand experience from converting.
He owns a bible, and reads it with an eye towards the similarities between the teachings of Jesus and the interpretations of the hadith that teach one to struggle against one's ego, to give to the poor, to accept the weakness of one's enemies, and to unconditionally strive to improve the human condition.
He also just happens to have an unshakable belief that an insult to the prophet is punishable only by death, and that all Muslims have a deeply seated duty to murder all apostates and heretics. Now, I can deal with, say, a dirt-poor, illiterate Pashtun hill savage whose only religious teachings come from political puppet mullahs and like-minded, third-generation Wahhabis. What curdles my guts is that someone with such a broader education, both secular and religious, can abhor violence of all sorts except for one.
Commentary on what "moderate" or "extreme" Islam are, from any source, will never again mean anything more to me than the front page of a checkout stand magazine. None of it means a damn thing but what will attract more eyeballs or what agenda is being pushed.