My most favourite firebrand Hindu; Ron Banerjee, a champion who will not kowtow to political correctness. I will certainly try to attend this screening!
Saying it is a necessary part of furthering religious tolerance in Canada, a Canadian Hindu organization is organizing a public screening of the film that enflamed deadly protests and growing anger abroad over its mockery of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
“It promotes tolerance of different ideas and different viewpoints within Canada,” Ron Banerjee, director of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy, said Thursday. “It shows the value of tolerance to Muslims and the Islamic community and teaches them, in Canada, we do have tolerance and diversity and they are simply going to have to tolerate diverse viewpoints and opinions without rioting and without going berserk.”
Mr. Banerjee said he is working with contacts in the United States, including a Christian Coptic group, to secure a full-length, professional print of the movie, The Innocence of Muslims, that is apparently two hours long.
“We are going to end up getting a copy, that is the least of our worries. The bigger concern is to find a location and provide security.”
That is not a small concern. A short trailer of the film that first appeared on YouTube caused outrage in Egypt and Libya after it was translated into Arabic.
During angry demonstrations at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, this week, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomatic officials were killed. Protests have since spread to other countries in the region.
Mr. Banerjee said the Toronto movie screening will be an inter-faith presentation and he is working with members of the Sikh, Jewish and Christian communities.
Maryam Dadabhoy, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the screening will bring needless hurt to Muslims and unnecessarily bring the controversy here.
“Everyone has a right to freedom of speech and can show whatever film they want but, at the same time, you should show respect to those around you,” Ms. Dadabhoy said.
“This just doesn’t make any sense. If they know it is only going to hurt people and incite more hatred, I don’t see how that fits in a multicultural community like Canada. By doing this it is only going to make things worse.
“Just because it is your right to do doesn’t mean you have to do it. The only purpose that comes to mind is inciting hate and upsetting Muslims. I don’t see the purpose of showing it here.”
The best approach would be for everyone to ignore it, she said.
“I hope our fellow Muslim-Canadian citizens here will take it as it is, it is just a viewing and keep their emotions under control. It is upsetting when I see people talk in such a way about our prophet and it also upsets me when people overreact.”
Show me an alternative approach that works. None of the other approaches have worked but they criticize mine
Despite the objections, Mr. Banerjee is unmoved. He has been behind other provocative actions that have upset Muslims in Toronto, including a planned “Walk Your Dog in Front of a Mosque” event scheduled for Friday.
He defends his aggressive approach, saying: “Show me an alternative approach that works. None of the other approaches have worked but they criticize mine.”
The issue of provocative films is one that resonates with the Hindu community and Mr. Banerjee said there is a double standard applied to the Hindu religion in Canada.
He pointed to Deepa Mehta, the Indian-Canadian filmmaker, who is fêted year after year at the Toronto International Film Festival despite protests over the depiction of Hindu culture in her cinematic trilogy Fire, Earth and Water. Mr. Banerjee said Hindu complaints against her films are ignored.
“As a minority community, we get victimized because we’re peaceful: We don’t behead people, we don’t blow up embassies. We are sick and tired of this moral inversion,” he said.
The message seems to be: You have won because you are violent
“Meanwhile, when it comes to Islam, there are these horrible, horrible reactions and, what’s almost worse, is the reaction of society — democratic societies — that seem to bow to it and apologize.
“The message seems to be: You have won because you are violent.”
Mr. Banerjee said he hopes the planned screening will not bring further violence or endanger Canadians here or abroad.
He said there are three or four organizations in the U.S. and one in Great Britain that are planning public screenings as well. He hopes to find strength in numbers.
“We have to remove the fear factor,” he said.