MANILA, Philippines - The trailer of the controversial American film that sparked massive violent protests across the Middle East and other countries due to its "anti-Islamic" contents will be shown on Friday at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.
This developed as Muslim lawmakers urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to ban in the country the anti-Islam video "The Innocence of Muslims" and address the growing outrage of Filipino Muslims that may provoke violent protests.
Sulu Rep. Tupay T. Loong said Aquino should be sensitive to the feelings of Filipino Muslims by giving in to their appeal for government to prohibit access to the film that had been uploaded in the YouTube Internet site.
The trailer of the "Innocence of Muslims" will be screened "as part of an open forum to discuss the scope and limitations of the freedom of expression." The open forum, to be hosted by UP law students, aims to "discuss freedom of expression so that participants will be more aware of the scope and limitations of freedom of expression, especially in a controversial case regarding a seemingly blasphemous film against Islam."
Videos of about 14 minutes in length that claimed to be a previews or "trailers" of a longer film were uploaded to YouTube last July by a user named "Sam Bacile" under the titles "The Real Life of Muhammad," and "Muhammad Movie Trailer."
Trailers dubbed in the Arabic language were uploaded earlier this month and spread by an Egyptian-American blogger.
During the UP forum, proponents of the freedom of expression will argue that the film, which purports that the Prophet Muhammad led an immoral life, is still part of protected speech guaranteed by the universal right of freedom of speech and of expression.
They will point out that the attacks against innocent civilians allegedly in retaliation for the production of the film should not have happened if all the members of society consider that there are some views that might not conform to the standards of the majority but which are still covered by the rights of freedom of speech and expression.
In a privilege speech, Loong also asked the US government to punish the people behind the production of the video.
In a separate statement, Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong appealed to the Aquino administration to heed their appeal as he warned that the anti-Islam move could "spark outrage and can even be used maliciously and mischievously to provoke angry protests or goad private citizens to take matters into their own hands."
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma defended the government's stand not to pursue a ban on the video since there has been "no precedent" for a decision to prohibit it.
Government has also given emphasis on protection of freedom of expression in deciding not to ban the video.
"Such video, Secretary Coloma must understand, needs no precedent for Malacañang to take action to block it, because the world is already in chaos and in turmoil as a result of the showing of this video," said Loong.
Although Muslim Filipinos are equally angered by the contents of the video, Loong assured government that they will "not take the law into our hand" and sow violence on the streets.
"But, we, Filipino Muslims wish to appeal to the government of the United States and the Republic of the Philippines to take appropriate and immediate action to block this video so as not to further inflame the emotion of the Muslims, including Filipino Muslims," he said.
Loong lamented that government spokesmen are apparently unaware of the sensitivities of Muslims that insults against their religion could easily trigger a declaration of Jihad or religious war.
"I do not want the Muslims in the country to declare another jihand against the government for its irresponsibility and insensitivity," the Sulu solon stated.
Balindong said Filipinos, whether Muslims or Christians, should abhor the film.
"It is a blatant affront to religious sanctities, and offends and provokes the sensibilities of Muslim believers," the Lanao del Sur solon stressed.
A Muslim human rights lawyer Marohomsalic Nasser also called on the Aquino administration to ban the showing of the controversial movie.
"The 'Innocence of Muslims' should not be shown here in the country. The President should see to it that this film will not be shown here because the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, the provision in our Constitution do not allow them para alitin ang kapwa natin (to insult another person), or the other sector of the community in our society," said Nasser at the weekly Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino, San Juan City.
In Washington, the United States is taking "aggressive steps" to protect its embassies around the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday, denying the US had been warned of an attack in Libya.
"We had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent," Clinton told a press conference after State Department talks with Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa.
"We are taking aggressive steps to protect our staffs in embassies and consulates worldwide," Clinton said, amid a wave of anti-US protests around the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
Washington is also "reviewing our security posture at every post and augmenting it where necessary," she said, adding that the US was also working with host governments "to make sure they know what our security needs are." -with reports from Francis T. Wakefield and AFP