Hate speech has raised its ugly head again but with incomparable fallout. The low-budget, amateurishly-made film – Innocence of Muslims – re-ignited the flames of Islamophobia by mocking the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Within days, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published blasphemous cartoons of the holiest figure for the Muslims.

Muslims reacted in sync with the script, predicted by the Islamophobes in the West. As the Muslims protested on all of the six inhabited continents on the planet, extremist militants in Libya’s coastal town of Benghazi murdered the American ambassador besides his other colleagues. Though the Libyan government and the Muslim nations alike expressed shock and condemnation over heinous killing of an ambassador, Washington dispatched naval destroyers to Libya.

While spells of protests continue across the world, Pakistan’s government minister announced a bounty of $100,000 for the killer of the US citizen behind the production of the provocative film. The Pakistan government was quick to distance itself from its minister’s call while the United States branded his remarks as “inflammatory and inappropriate.”

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already termed as “offensive, disgusting, and reprehensible”. Meanwhile, film director Nakoula Basseley Nakoula remains in custody awaiting trial for breaching probation terms for a 2010 banking fraud.

Notwithstanding the credibility and integrity of the film producers, over 50 people have lost their lives in violent protests against what the Muslims consider to be a server act of blasphemy. Many governments of the Muslim countries like Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan blocked YouTube while Russian and Brazilian courts intervened by banning the divisive and provocative production.

Despite over a decade after 9/11, the world seemed devoid of effective institutions for dialogue on the most sensitive issues of cultural and religious discrimination. Muslim leaders as common people reacted as crudely as they did against the writing of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), an umbrella organization of 57 nations, released statements while a few could be found listening. Being on the receiving end since 2001, the Muslims should have been better prepared to react logically to any attacks against their religion and sacred figures. A bunch of hate-mongers based in the United States caught 1.6 billion Muslims off-guard!

Equally ironic is the fact that the United States which could spend an estimated $135 trillion on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq too had paid little attention addressing its own radical population, commonly known as Evangelical Christians. Much worrying is the trend of far-right political rhetoric gaining capital in Europe. The Norway’s mass killer was no lone wolf as were the financers and producer of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’.

Expression of ‘solidarity’ with Evangelical Christians of the United States by editors of France’s Charlie Hebdo points to an even bigger challenge to the world. Provocations can be multiplied across geographical or lingual divides.

Sooner than later, the United Nations would have to assume its responsibility of acting as an effective platform for dialogue between the marginalized and isolated hard-line Evangelicals in Christian and the Muslim world alike. The next anniversary of 9/11 should be marked as a day of dialogue and co-existence, for which work has to begin now.

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