Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cartoonish, You Say?

What offended me was not that some Danish newspaper published a silly cartoon depicting prophet Mohammed, but rather that he was illustrated with a bomb on his head. This particular caricature carries a conscious and purposeful offense. Namely that 'Muslims are fundamentally wired to be terrorists'. That is what I find to be extremely hateful and offensive.

A proper analogy, here, would be if some newspaper published a cartoon of Jesus Christ molesting a child in the aftermath of the sexual abuse allegations involving a few Catholic priests. The implication of such caricature would be that "Christians are child molesters". This would be considered, and rightfully so, an assault on the dignity of the Christian faith. It would also, by the way, seriously offend Muslims who consider Jesus to be a prophet on equal footing with Mohammed.

Now, do people have the right in a free society to offend and hate? – Sure they do. But democracy has never been synonymous with anarchy and with freedom comes responsibility.

As such, governments have an obligation to protect the dignity of all their citizens and ensure their security against enemies both foreign and domestic - that is in fact an oath that U.S. government officials swear to before taking office. Democracies also enact laws and regulations to guard against excesses of freedom that threaten public safety and order: One does not have the freedom to yell fire in a crowded theatre nor does he or she have the freedom to urinate in a public space. Hateful propoganda dispensed for public consumption, one would argue, can be subject to the same limitations as litter laws that are in full force in the most democratic of democracies, including Danemark.

However, it is never excusable to condone violence no matter what the reason. Dr. King's civil rights movement is certainly a vivid example of how non-violent civil action can be effective even in the face of violent oppression. We now have a region where anger and resentment have been gathering for a long while, producing a collection of on-call hateful hooligans who come out shooting their guns at the slightest provocation. The violent protests we are seeing in places like Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, although all deeply troubled countries with a long history of conflict, are simply shameful. This is ultimately a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution. Muslims have a lot of house cleaning to do – there is no doubt about that. But, they do not need to be offended and humiliated into reform. Millions of Muslims are laboring to wrestle control of their faith from oppressive radical elements. They need to be supported, not offended.

Finally, beyond the headlines, the debate over the offensive caricatures has much to do with a few fundamental questions of vital importance to the future of the world:

(1) How will the Islamic world re-appraise its core values for a new revival? What will it take for it to dismantle religious monopoly, break old taboos and open new gates to independent thought?

(2) How will Western democracy cope with demographic and global change? How much will it resist the inevitability of change and how properly is it equipped to prevent the tyranny of its own majority?

(3) Is liberal democracy the exclusive partner of secularism or will mounting resistance to the latter thrust religion into a more expressed role in the shaping of the future countours of democracy?


Blogger Jallal said...

“A child molesting religion” vs. “A terrorist religion” is a fine analogy. If only the “west” understands that the most offending item here, is by far, portraying prophet Muhammad as a terrorist and not depicting him. Put another way, we would be equally offended if a newspaper WRITES or if TV host SAYS that Muhammad is a terrorist, without depicting or caricaturing him. Depiction of the Prophet, while deemed forbidden by most Muslims, is infinitely less offensive than describing him as a terrorist, the latter meaning basically that 1.3 billion of Muslims are terrorists. Unfortunately, this nuance is overlooked by many.

By tolerating the portrayal of the Prophet as a terrorist under the banner of freedom of expression, many western media are showing that they need, too, a deep house cleaning. And this is sad news for us who are recognizing that Muslims have a lot of house cleaning to do, as you said. Sad news because we thought that such media and governments officials, living in democracies, would be much more responsible. If only they were coherent, but they aren’t. On many occasions, freedom of expression was silenced, lawsuits were filled, people punished and new laws promulgated when some limits were crossed. But when they are dealing with Islam, they apply radically different standards.

February 07, 2006

Anonymous JS said...

Jawad - We found your blog via your moving post on Martin Luther King, Jr. But there is no contact information for you. Please see http://www.hamsaweb.org and contact us via info@hamsaweb.org.

February 08, 2006

Blogger tazart said...

u are reat,about what u said.
it is never excusable to condone violence no matter what the reason.
the Muslims must reorganised theme selfe.cause if the Islamic world are powrful noone can do like this.

February 09, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

following is my reaction to a question regarding the Cartoons of
the prophet of islam in 'The Arabic network for human righst
information". I hope to get your reactions
Thank you for raising such an important topic. I believe that the
main reason for the fiasco of the Cartoons and the reaction to it is
ignorance. It is the ignorance of our own people in the Arabic and
Islamic world. The ignorance of our people is because they are
proud Muslims. We learned when we were young that Islam has made us
the best Ommaha that was given to mankind. So if you are the BEST,
why then is the need for any improvement on the already thing we
have. NOTHING has destroyed people as this simple attitude of being
BORN to the best.

In a recent visit by a an American professor to the Al-Azher
University, he was told by one of its professor that when the West
was in the dark ages, the Muslims of the Middle east were busy
advancing science. He continues to tell him that the Arabic and the
Islamic culture is fare superior in comparison with the West. This
sad inferiority complex has been with us since the beginning of
Islam. The Arabs who carried the banner of Islam were illiterate
and unsophisticated compared to the Byzantines, the Persians, the
Egyptians and the Syrians. Yet, they were not without ambition.

I don't think that the American professor dares to ask the Egyptian
professor on why our countries and people are lacking in almost all
branches of science and civilization? How many Nobel prizes did the
Al-Azhar produce in its long history?, how many scholars, and how
many inventions? The answer is very simple, ZERO. Take that
example into the broader culture of the Middle East and examine our
history, our values, our progress, human right, freedom and you will
sadly shocked to realized that we never progress in the last

These Cartoons are a depiction of the impression of the West about
our culture. It is sickening to see people slaughtering others and
taking video of the agonizing death of a human being. In the West,
Human values are very high. It goes to more than three thousands
years ago to the words in the Jewish scriptures where it says "in
the beginning God created man in the His image and His likeness".
This was one of the greatest statements in history of man kind by
nomadic tribes of the Middle East. It emphasized the ONENESS and
the Universality of God and the greatness of His creation. Man was
so different from all creation and that God is so unique and so
different of all the gods of the nations and NOTHING is like Him.

Even with the rise of non-religious Europe, Man (woman) in the
western society is still the prime and Supreme Being of all
creations. Europeans see us as we are primitive and blood
suckers. They see immigrants as lazy people who live on welfare
systems. And with the rise of mass communication, they see our
violence and our barbaric treatment of one another and they wonder
why it is so hard for us to progress and to improve of our lives.
They see our treatment of women, and they think that we live in the
medieval world.

When they examin OUR actions and our lives and when they study our
history, they reach the simple conclusion that these actions must be
the results of our religion. They think these cartoons represent
us, and who else represents us better than our prophet Mohammed.

You might get angry, and you might wish me dead, but deep in your
souls you know that this is the truth. Most of the people in our
culture are uneducated (yes in math and science, not RELIGION), ill
informed and easily manipulated by politicians and fanatical
leaders. And until we put human values above all other values, we
have no chance of joining the civilized world.

Our culture is in decay for hundreds of years, but we still burying
our heads in the sand and repeating that we are the greatest Ommah
(community) that was given to mankind.
I wonder if we ever walk up from our bad dream.

Let us use the Cartoons to motivate our people to start the long
road to civilization with the attitude of "I think" instead of 'I
believe". When I think, I become rational and eventually,
responsible, and therefore CIVILIZED.

March 01, 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home