As the noise over the film died down, the furore also provoked deeper reflection about the issues of blasphemy, and of legal and cultural differences between Muslim countries and the West. The tenor of this more thoughtful response, in newspaper and internet commentary, has been sharply self-critical. “We Are All Khaled Said”, an Egyptian Facebook page with 2.4m followers that was instrumental in rallying last year’s revolution, posted a list of 12 truths regarding the allegedly blasphemous footage, such as the fact that before the protests erupted barely 500 people had watched it, a number that apparently rose to 30m a week later.
Writing in the London-based daily, al-Quds al-Arabi, Elias Khoury, a Lebanese novelist, was less circumspect. The “film”, he said, was in fact just a trailer. It is “us”, the Arabs, who are the spectacle. Mr Khoury ended by quoting al-Mutanabbi, a medieval poet who ridiculed religious excess with a gibe against men of his time who, in supposed imitation of the prophet, sported full beards with bare upper lips: “Is it the point of faith to shave your moustaches/ O people whose ignorance is the laughing stock of nations?”
Well worth a read.