Jobs @ MG
Posted Online on Sunday 12,
February 2006 01:45 IST
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
12 February 2006
The detestable cartoon portrayals of Muhammad , Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) by Danish and later by Norwegian, French, German and many other European newspapers is nothing less than emotional torture and intellectual terrorism.
In the name of freedom of speech, the most sophisticated professional class of European print media organizations are revealing their centuries old hatred and intolerance towards Islam and Muslims.
In universities, European and American journalists are often taught that freedom of speech ends where the sensitivities of people begin. Seemingly, they have failed to implement this most ethical and moral lesson. A newspaper, whether Danish or Portuguese, that indulges in opinionated reporting by making fun of a major religious figure revered by a global community is an exercise in emotional torture.
Showing solidarity with those who promote such kind of propaganda does not promote "free speech" but in fact promotes intolerance and violence that hurts innocent people all over the word. However, this is not a new phenomenon. Many European and American scholars, academics and intellectuals as well as public officials have remained engaged from seventh century onwards in anti-Islam, anti-Muslim and anti-Prophet Muhammad campaigns.
They have refused to show civility in dealing with issues pertaining to the second largest religion in the world. After all, it was Martin Luther, the great Christian reformer to whom almost every Christian Protestant group owes its origin produced the worst writings against Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
Those who are unable to overcome their hatred and ignorance of Islam will not stop from promoting their agenda. To expect otherwise from such intolerant people would be futile. However, what was surprising was the silence of Christian and Jewish community and religious leaders on this issue. Through their interfaith dialogue with Muslims they must have realized the sanctity and sacredness Muslims attach to their religious values.
We are brothers and sisters in humanity and all of us should share a common goal of eradicating intolerance of any kind by speaking out against it. Whether it is a Jew or a Gypsy, we should not tolerate such hateful rhetoric. Yet, only a handful of community and religious leaders spoke out.
What was even more disturbing was the response of Muslims. Boycotting Danish products, closing down the offices of European diplomatic offices and the beating of Dane's working in the Gulf were measures that did not suit a community whose Prophet is described in the divine scriptures as a Mercy to Humankind.
Immediately, after the battle of Badr, Omar ibn al Khattab, one of the most celebrated companions of Prophet sought the permission of the Prophet to punish Suhail ibn 'Amr, a prisoner of war notorious for his anti-Prophet propaganda in Makkah. Suhail was known for his abusive language and insulting attitude towards the Prophet. Prophet Muhammad, as the ruler of the newly formed Islamic State, strictly prohibited his companions from punishing or torturing any prisoner of war on account of their past hostilities. He admonished Omar ibn al-Khattab for seeking retribution. After all, the Prophet had endured all the possible humiliation at the hands of the elites of Makkah and their supporters without asking any of his supporters to silence his opponents.
Islam recognizes the dissent to its teachings and appeals to its adherents to deal with it in a civil manner. Islam promotes the idea that a polite response and a decent rebuttal are powerful enough in changing the worst enemy into a friend. Islam does not seek revenge of those who indulge in anti-Islam, anti-God or anti-Prophet abuses. Furthermore, Islam prohibits the use of pressure and intimidation for changing the hearts of people.
Islam teaches us that coercion is incapable of bringing a change in the attitude of people. Intimidation might make others change their immediate reaction to Islam but ultimately it is futile because every individual has to make a conscious decision about his or her relations with God and His creation.
The provocation of Danish and other European newspapers was foolish and full of hatred. There is no need for such provocation in a world that is fast becoming cosmopolitan in all its dimensions. The freedom of speech cannot be used as an excuse to hurt or insult others. Moreover, there exists double standards in this matter among most European and American journalists working for big media corporations. Most of these advocates of freedom of speech do not dare write against the foul practices of multinational corporations that often provide bread and butter to most working journalists. Most of them do not dare to expose the dirty trade practices, excessive exploitation and other violation of human rights of people working in such corporations. Most of them would not even touch the so-called issues of "national security" even if the position of the power elite is against national interests. A case in point is the current war in Iraq.
The majority of the European and American journalists working for big corporation-controlled media have not questioned the rationale behind going to war in Iraq.
In fact, their anti-Islamic writings betray their loyalty to the power elites who are keen in promoting a hateful agenda against Muslims. Muslims ought to be cognizant of these facts. Our response to such insults and humiliation should be based on the divine teachings and the lifestyle of our Prophet. We must not give in to our emotions.
We could have done much better if our response was controlled by the Divine teachings. We could have asked the Danish and other newspapers to allow us to introduce our Prophet to their audience the way we see him. We should have engaged the Dane's and others in a meaningful dialogue and discussion on the true nature of our faith and the true personality of our Prophet.
We should rise above our emotions to use this moment to educate others about Islam in an objective manner. It is the responsibility of our religious and intellectual leaders to direct our masses in developing a meaningful response to incidents of hate and racial bigotry.
No doubt, each of us feels hurt when we see an offensive depiction of our faith or our Prophet. However, rather than reacting in an emotional manner, we should use the opportunity to demonstrate true Islamic values of patience and persuasion. We showed our weakness in controlling our emotions when Salman Rushdie insulted our Prophet. We have repeated the same mistake. By now we should have learned about the teachings of our prophet in dealing with such cases. Perhaps we need to go back to study the life of our Prophet in more detail to develop a better understanding of his character and teachings as well as his mission in the world. After all, we accept him as a Mercy to Humankind that includes Dane's, Norwegian, French, Germans, Jews, Christians and every human being that exists or will exist in our universe.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer and the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada as well as the director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America.