When his messenger to the king of Fars was mistreated, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was very upset. Messengers cannot be mistreated, let alone killed. This is a holy law which has been respected by nations and tribes since the dawn of civilization.
Diplomats today are representatives and messengers of other nations.
International law protects them to the extent that their embassies and consulates are to be treated as part of their own countries. They are guests of honor under the protection of the entire nation in which they reside, not just its government. Islam and all religions approve of this sanctuary. No messenger was ever mistreated in Muslim lands during the era of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Caliphates. There is no excuse whatsoever for abusing foreigners to make a point or to protest an action or a policy of their government.
In 1979, soon after the Islamic revolution in Iran, hundreds of students invaded the US embassy in Tehran. They held US diplomats hostage for 444 days. The revolutionary government encouraged this action, and, until today, no one has been found guilty or has paid for this crime. Some of those who were involved are in power now and are proud of what they did.
The anniversary of the storming of the embassy is celebrated every year, as if it was an achievement, not a savage crime.
Again and again, we have seen militants taking advantage of the lack of security during turmoil and revolutions to attack embassies and diplomats in the name of noble causes or religions. This is an insult to both, and to the civility of the nation. Those who called for, encouraged, helped or committed such horrendous acts are to be treated as enemies of Allah and the Ummah, and mercilessly hunted and executed.
As for the movie that caused all this anger and resulted in attacks on US and European diplomatic missions in Libya, Tunis, Egypt, Sudan and Yemen, there are legal ways of protesting its insults. It does not help humanity to tolerate hate speech in any form or with any excuse. Enough blood has been shed in the history of the world as a result of such intolerance.
Incitement leads to hate, and hate leads to conflict and war. Religious wars in Europe and the Middle East have cost millions of lives and much destruction and pain. Laws prohibiting hate speech were made to prevent the repetition of such human catastrophes.
The world should unite today to issue universal, thorough and strict laws against disrespect for religious beliefs and symbols, ethnic minorities, and sexual orientation, and incitement against others. We, Muslims, should lead the way by criminalizing hate speech. Sectarian hatred and violence have reached new highs in our world. Incendiary projects, like this movie, have agitated a world that is already on edge. Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt have been under attack by extremists of both sides. That fire could reach Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, where sizable Christian minorities reside.
Extremists are searching hard for an opening, an excuse, a reason to go back to their audience and say: “See? Haven’t I told you so?” This time it was the turn of Coptic Egyptians in the US with the help of an Israeli and the approval of an anti-Islam fanatical cleric, Terry Jones.
They decided to produce a blasphemous movie about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and since they live safely in the US, they care little about the fate of their fellow Copts in Egypt. This shows how ugly these bloodthirsty people can be.
I can only hope and pray that wisdom will prevail. Except for the opportunistic US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the US has shown its leadership credentials by acting in a responsible way. It condemned those involved in producing the film and refrained from taking any action which was aimed at winning votes in the upcoming elections.
The governments in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon and the rest of the region did the same, and provided more security for US missions while finding and prosecuting the attackers. They should not hesitate to allow more US marines to be stationed in US embassies in their countries.
Public opinion leaders are calling for calm and Muslim clerics are issuing fatwas prohibiting barbaric attacks on peaceful diplomats. Muslim and Christian organizations are calling for laws prohibiting religious hate speech. Google withdrew the offending movie from some servers, and hopefully will do so from all. If this positive trend continues, it may end up to be a blessing in disguise.