"Innocence of Muslims" brings laughter at local Islamic center
A inside look at a day in the life of an Islamic woman
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 18:10
A 14-minute YouTube clip has been blamed for instigating a wave of violence and controversy throughout the Islamic world. The film, “Innocence of Muslims,” has been blamed for the Sept. 11 attack on the American embassy in Libya that claimed the lives of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Worldwide, over 51 people have been reported killed and dozens more injured as protests turn violent.
New media reports are suggesting the attacks on the U.S. embassy and other violent outbursts were not a spontaneous reaction to a movie, but rather a careful plan carried out by extremist groups like al-Qaeda. However, media depiction of outraged Muslims still proliferates in the press.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the Islamic world erupted in a frenzy of violence and protests, Raqiba Moya stood in the modest kitchen of a simple mosque, busily wiping down counters and preparing a large pot of seasoned beef.
“Excuse the mess, but today is our Holy Day, and I need to get this meal going,” said Moya as she added a liberal amount of pepper to the ground meat.
Moya wore a printed hijab, the traditional head covering worn by Muslim women to signify modesty and morality. She turned down the burner on the stove, instructed me to remove my shoes and gave me a tour.
The scent of the simmering beef blended with the distinct odor of burning incense, creating an exotic yet comforting aroma that wafted its way through the kitchen and up the narrow staircase of the Islamic Learning Center of Wilmington.
The main room of the mosque is downstairs, bare and devoid of furniture except for a couple bookcases filled with Islamic texts and children’s toys. On the floor, thick masking tape is placed in parallel lines, indicating the place where Muslims stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, foot-to-foot, during Salat, the daily prayers performed up to five times a day. No decoration or ornamentation adorns the walls.
More men attend mosque then women, Moya said, so the men get the entire main room downstairs. The top floor has two rooms, one for the men, should they need more room, and the other for the women, with curtains taking the place of doors.
At the conclusion of our short tour, Moya turned back to her cooking and invited me to return in an hour for the prayer service, or jum’ah.
The call to prayer sounded over a loudspeaker and the women trickled into the small upstairs room. A little boy with black curls bobbing paced around, pulling on purse straps and causing the mischief one expects of a toddler confined to a room and expected to be silent. The ladies settled onto the floor, chatting in low voices, their hijabs creating a rainbow of colors and textures as they adjusted their flowing garments.
They prayed, going through the traditional movements of standing and kneeling.
This tranquil scene contrasted deeply with the media portrayal of the Muslim community.
After the service, I finally had a chance to talk to a few of these women, so mysterious under their hijabs, and gauge their reaction to the violence that sprouted with the release of “Innocence of Muslims.”
The film mocks the Muslim prophet Muhammad, depicting him as a womanizer, pedophile and sadist.
Our discussion of current events transformed into a story about American Muslim women and their struggle with negative media portrayal of their religion.
Muslim women are the face of Islam, they told me. Muslim men blend in with the rest of society, but the women wear their faith. The distinctive religious garments, including mouth-covering veils, hijabs, and layers of skin-concealing fabric, make them stand out.
The first ladies I talked to were Safiya and Raiysa. They had to run to catch the bus, but they offered some insight into the ordeal before they left.
Safiya is a 25-year-old mother with a quick wit. She has seen the controversial YouTube clip. Her first impressions?
“It was funny,” Safiya said, shaking her head. “Low-budget. [The filmmaker] is insulting himself more than me.”
It has been reported that the film cost $5 million to produce, although production quality suggest more modest funds.
Her sister Raiysa, 23, told me she often feels like a protector of the Muslim faith. Raiysa says that the violence occurring at protests of the film “are not justifiable, Islamically.”
The ladies were quick to distinguish the difference between themselves and the protesters in the Middle East.
“We have freedom of speech," said Safiya. "Some people don’t understand that."
“If a Muslim smokes, all of a sudden [people think] all Muslims smoke,” said Raiysa.