Walking into the Trap
By Maheen Nusrat

Humor is a great way of alleviating sometimes the worst of situations, as they say laughter is the best medicine. If we all learn to laugh at ourselves every now and then, it would bring refreshing moments into our lives.
Political cartoons have always been an immense source of satire and entertainment. They are an effective way of communication given their brevity and punch line factor.
Humor is better and more widely appreciated when a joke does not target a sensitive and potentially offensive subject matter. If people are hurt then it is not funny, rather a show of poor taste and complete disregard of decency and good manners. George Bernard Shaw said, “Without good manners human society is intolerable and impossible.”
The recent incident of the cartoon caricatures drawn and published by a Danish newspaper and then followed by other European newspaper has sent the Muslim world in a state of frenzy. Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets in protest, many Danish embassies have been torched; at least a dozen of protestors in Muslim countries have died because of riots. But the printing of the caricatures is being defended under the guise of freedom of the press.
There is a plethora of commentary available on the Internet and other media on this subject. There are those who are in absolute support of freedom of the press, and then there are those who are absolutely offended and are being reactionary to the situation. On the other hand, a few are trying to analyze the situation for what it is, and trying to involve people in an intellectual debate. The following few lines will outline the facts and the key players, to possibly dissect and try to reach out to the root of the issue.
At first, it was difficult for me to understand what exactly provoked the Muslims across the globe to react by burning embassies and flags. Was the Ummah angry that a pictorial depiction of the Prophet (SAW) was drawn or was the subject of the cartoons itself offensive? The original news reports failed to specify the content of the cartoons. The news neither was transparent nor was the underlying offence fully disclosed.  Upon finding the cartoons, which portrayed the Prophet (SAW) as a violent person, I had to curb my own anger to let sanity return to my senses and further think on the subject.
The Danish newspaper published the cartoons in an attempt at humor possibly not at the Prophet (SAW) himself but at the Muslim mindset and the abuse of the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) by his followers. Most of the cartoons depicted the Prophet as a violent person, who promoted bloodshed. One cartoon showed the Prophet (SAW) with a bomb in his turban, as someone who supported suicide bombings. Another cartoon mocked at the promise of the seventy virgins used to lure young Muslims to commit suicide bombings.
 Now that we have the facts in front of us, I would like to delve deeper into the matter and analyze the situation. If we are to give the Danish newspaper the benefit of the doubt, that the use of the Prophet’s caricature was not meant to be offensive to the Prophet (SAW) but rather to pinpoint the misinterpretation and misusage of his teachings by his followers; then the newspaper failed miserably!
If the purpose of the protests done by the Muslims was to show their dismay and disgust at the use of these cartoons, we may have succeeded. If by protesting aloud about these despicable cartoons, we wanted to halt the dissemination of these cartoons; then realize that our extreme reaction has only fuelled their popularity amongst the masses. If burning Danish flags and protesting at Danish embassies is our attempt to gain respect for our religion and our beloved Prophet PBUH, then we have failed even more miserably.
Let us now go back to the life of the Prophet (SAW) himself. During his lifetime, he had faced much insults, physical injury, mental and emotional abuse from his opponents. History is witness to the Prophet’s (SAW) forgiving and calm demeanor. When the people of Taif sent their children and vagabonds who pestered him by throwing stones at him, until his sandals were dripping with blood, Allah sent Angel Gabriel to Prophet Mohammed (SAW), who said; “Indeed people of this town are very cruel. If you like we can turn this town upside down and totally ruin it.” Prophet Mohammad (SAS) replied, “I have come as a mercy for the whole universe and not as a punishment. May be the future generation of this town will see the truth.”
Then there is the story of the woman who threw garbage on the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) everyday as he passed by her house. Then suddenly one day no one threw any garbage on him and he got concerned. Upon inquiring, he discovered that the woman was sick in bed. The Prophet (SAW) went to her house. He cleaned her house, fed her and took care of her. The woman was impressed by the kindness of the Prophet and accepted Islam.
There are countless other examples of how the Prophet (SAW) reacted to evildoers and those who insulted or harmed him. The Prophet (SAW) was sent as a mercy for the whole of mankind. He practiced what he preached. It was because of his wisdom and high moral character that Makkah was eventually conquered without bloodshed.
The logical, sane and wise reaction would have been to denounce these actions by word. Economic boycotts have always worked well as a form of punishment for offenders. Economic sanctions have been used by the West on many of the Eastern world as a way to teach them a lesson by way of hindrance.  Boycotting Danish products may have proven to be the only effective measure. Had it been coupled with a rationale and intellectual discourse, may be the error committed would have been realized.
By reacting with anger and violence, we have made a mockery of ourselves and provided a chance to the cartoonist and the rest of the Western world to continue disparaging us as violent and barbaric. Despite the fact that our actions were meant to curb the insults to our beloved Prophet Mohammed (SAW), but unfortunately, the result has been precisely the opposite.
Two wrongs do not make a right. Whereas it was wrong of the cartoonist to make this cartoon and for the Danish and other European newspapers to publish it without caring about the sentiments of the Muslim world, it was equally wrong for the Muslims to react violently in a manner most unbecoming of the nation of the Prophet of Peace, mercy and forgiveness.
Big fish eat small fish and bigger brains enjoy their feast of the smaller brains. The bigger brains, if any, behind the whole scenario wanted to portray the Prophet (SAW) and his followers as a violent and a ruthless nation. By our unwise reaction, we have walked right into the trap that was laid before us!




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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