On September 17, 2012, Zaytuna College hosted the event Between Militarism and Extremism: The Excluded Middle, which focused on the recent wave of unrest set off in Libya, Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world due to the posting of the video maligning the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Before a full audience, in house and online, scholars and academics including Hatem Bazian, James Donahue, Munir Jiwa, Zaid Shakir and Hamza Yusuf, sat down with journalist and professor Sandy Tolan to discuss their perspectives on the situation and to contribute, from their points of expertise, to presenting a more nuanced picture of these unsettling events.
The production of the film The Innocence of Muslims was explored through the lens of Islamophobia, illustrating how its goal was to foment unrest during this election season thereby creating a wedge issue with which to win seats of power. The speakers also addressed the violent responses of some Muslims, contextualizing them within the framework of religious belief where the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) occupies such a station that an attack on him becomes an attack on one's self or one's family and within the Middle East's shifting and complex political climate as new democratically elected leadership attempts to overcome entrenched government officials from old regimes.
Most importantly, the speakers included that often overlooked and excluded middle ground and made it manifest in the teachings of the Quran, which advise believers to pardon those who oppress them so that God will erase the enmity between them and make them friends, in the Prophet's example in which he honored ambassadors and pardoned those who had done the worse offenses against him, in the consideration of the limits and true meaning of free speech, and in the building of bridges of coalition, cooperation, and dialogue.