Danish cartoons: enough is enough
By Zafarul-Islam Khan
Milli Gazette Online
8 February 2006
Muslim anger around the world against the outrageous, blasphemous and insulting cartoons published by Norwegian and Danish newspapers and later by a number of other European publications, was natural. Any sensitive editor should have anticipated this reaction. Arab and Muslim governments have spoken against these abusive cartoons, demonstrations have been held all over the world and statements have been issued by Muslim organisations and individuals everywhere. Some Muslims have even attacked Norwegian and Danish embassies while Danish products are being boycotted in some countries. A point has been made that this kind of irresponsible editorial licence hurts the religious sentiments of hundreds of millions of people.
It is clear that the cartoons were drawn and published in an environment which no longer holds anything sacred or divine unlike the Muslim communities all over the world which are deeply religious and hold Islamic symbols in very high regard. In other words, both sides are looking at the cartoons from a different perspective.
The original Norwegian publisher of the cartoons has withdrawn the drawings from the magazine's website while the subsequent Danish publisher has tendered an apology which does not satisfy Muslims but nonetheless it is an apology. Some western states, including the US, UK and Vatican, have taken exception to those offensive drawings, have conceded to the Muslim grievances and called for restraint by editors in such matters which touch upon the beliefs of millions of people. Non-Muslim public figures like Clinton have condemned the decision to publish such offensive material.
Unlike the west, Muslims are deeply religious and look at Prophet Muhammad as the ultimate embodiment of mercy and compassion, a fact proved by umpteen incidents in his long life. Islam prohibits making images of the Prophet or for that matter of any other divine messenger like Jesus or Moses or Abraham. And if the images are so outrageously wrong in their portrayal of a highly revered personality, Muslim outrage was only natural, and should have been anticipated by any intelligent and informed editor. The issue would have been quickly buried had the editor of the concerned Danish newspaper shown the moral courage to tender an unconditional apology.
But the Muslim expression at this mindless outrage seems to have now crossed all limits. Embassies have been attacked, Danish business interests have been harmed and the personal safety of some western citizens is at risk. This is sheer intolerance and represents inhuman behaviour. Islam does not permit us to punish people who are in no way responsible for a certain act or crime. Under Islam, only the perpetrator is responsible for his or her crime. Our reaction to this episode seems to substantiate the wrong notions in the heads of the artists who drew those erroneous images which were not based on history or facts but on the age-old western perception of Islam, especially since 9-11.
Throughout his life, the Prophet of Islam, described in the Quran as "Mercy to the Mankind," did not take any revenge for insults heaped on his person. An old lady in Mecca used to throw rubbish on him as a daily routine. When one morning she failed to do so, the Prophet enquired about her well-being and went to see her. The Prophet used to pray for such people saying, "God, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing." During his Mecca days, the Prophet went to preach in the nearby town of Taif where he was chased and stoned. Bleeding, he took shelter in an orchard. Archangel Gibrael came to him saying that if he wished, the people of Taif would be crushed between the mountains surrounding them. The Prophet refused, saying that better people would emerge from their forthcoming generations. After the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet pardoned thousands of Meccans who had been waging a relentless war against him for a decade after first driving him out of his native city. All his wars were fought totally in self-defence. The Quran commands us time and again to forgive our tormentors. It orders us that if one insists on exacting revenge, it should not exceed the initial damage done to him.
I sincerely believe that we, as Muslims, have crossed the limits laid down by Allah and His messenger. It is time this mindless protest should be stopped forthwith. The Danes and others have learnt their lessons the hard way and are much the wiser after this episode. Extremists from both sides are using this episode to widen the gulf between the west and Muslims.
Ending this matter now will be in our own best interests because we, as citizens of the globe, have to live side by side with others and work with them for a better tomorrow. This will be possible only if both sides show mercy, forgiveness, compassion and understanding of each other's points of view. In this case, it is now clearly our turn to show compassion and understanding.
The writer is director of the Delhi-based Institute of Islamic & Arab Studies and editor of the leading Indian Muslim newspaper,
The Milli Gazette. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org