What Bush, Clinton, and Rice Have Said”
By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui
to R: Dr. Salam Al Marayati, Bishop Tom Thorkelson,
Atiya Niyazi and Dr. Farhana Khan
Lakewood, CA: Christians,
Muslims and Hindus gave a singular display of interfaith
harmony in Lakewood on Sunday, February 11, when they participated
in a peaceful protest meeting to express indignation on
the blasphemous cartoons in Danish newspapers that have
caused global stir in the last few weeks.
The meeting was organized by Friends of Pakistan, a new
organization founded by Sarfraz Khan, prominent community
activist and owner of Khan Construction Company, at the
Shahnawaz Restaurant. It was attended by community leaders.
The proceedings began with a recitation from the Holy Qur’an
by prominent community member Saghir Aslam. He was followed
by Bishop Tom Thorkelson, Director, Public Affairs, the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saint, who read out
a Christian prayer.
Ably emceed by Urdu Times Bureau Chief Zafar Abbas, the
meeting furnished the Islamic, Christian and Hindu perspective
on the sensitive issue of blasphemy. Suave and blend, Zafar
who has made his mark in the literary circles of Los Angeles,
spoke in fluent English to make a convincing point: “Intellectual
terrorism” should be dealt with an “intellectual
response” to stamp out misleading impressions of fabricated
news and distorted images on naive, innocent minds.
L to R: Zafar Abbas,
Sarfaraz Khan, Khalid Khwaja and Iqbal Ibrahim
The other speakers seemed
to support Zafar’s observation. Said Dr Farhana Khan,
“Westerners are ignorant but they are not against
Islam. We know this from our experience here. We have to
devise a strategy “ to dispel misperceptions about
Islam. Dr Farhana censured the Western media for presenting
a distorted perspective about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
and Islam and said that Muslims should act in a way that
they “are smarter than them.”
Atiya Niyazi of the Hum Log magazine urged the Muslims to
exercise forbearance and wisdom in reacting to the publication
of the blasphemous cartoons. “Don’t let the
intellectual terrorists control the Ummah,” she made
the incisive point.
L to R: Kevin Kaul,
Kewal Kanda and Asif Syed
Bishop Tom received
a big hand when he quoted from the Holy Qur’an and
made a stirring call for patience and self-restraint. “Let
the radical clerics – those who foster hate –
know that this kind” of behavior is hardly warranted.
He was overly critical of extremists on both sides of the
religious divide and urged the audience to “work for
the elimination of racism, bigotry and vice.” With
manifest firmness, the Bishop described the publication
of the cartoons as a “dumb, dumb, dumb” act.
He mentioned “wondrous quotes in the Qur’an”
and cited the Prophet Muhammad’s own example in forgiving
those who caused offence to his august person.
Mr Ahmed Ali, former President of the Council of Pakistan
American Affairs (COPAA), spelled out his organization’s
standpoint on the current blasphemy issue: COPAA condemns
the cartoons’ publication but can’t condone
the violent protests marking the Muslims’ response
in various capitals of the world. The violence is ill-conceived
and could make the situation worse.
Khalid Khwaja, well-known journalist and poet, aired the
sentiments of many in the gathering when he remarked in
an emotionally charged voice, “You can’t make
mockery of a Prophet” – one who was heads and
shoulder above the virtuous ones of his time and later.
Two speakers of Indian origin testifying to South Asian
cordiality and unity in LA –
Kewal Kanda , President, Federation of Indo-American Association,
and Kevin Kaul, President. Friends of Indo-American Community,
also spoke on the occasion. Mr Kanda remarked that “nobody
should disrespect other faiths.” He however felt that
violence was not the right way to express indignation and
a protest should be lodged in a peaceful manner. “Protest
in a way that they don’t do it again,” he advised.
According to Mr. Kevin Kaul, who followed Mr Kanda, the
world today is plagued with conflicts and is a scary place.
“We have to avoid events like this one if we have
to have peace in the world,” he observed.
Religion, according to Mr Sarfraz Khan, was no longer relevant
in Europe. The continent has no idea how offending such
cartoons can be in the God-fearing Muslim community for
whom Prophet Muhammad is “as sacred as Christ in the
Bible belt of the US.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Mr Waqar Ali Khan of
Safeerae Pakistan, and other prominent community members
including Mr.Iqbal Ibrahim and Mr Asif Syed.
A scintillating speech by Dr Salam Al-Marayati of MPAC was
the highlight of the meeting. “You can’t blaspheme
the Church in Europe,” he informed, adding, “anti-Muslim,
anti-Christian and anti-Jewish defamation is wrong.”
By such blasphemous attacks and anti-Islam campaigns the
Western media succeeds in dehumanizing Islam and Muslims.
This largely explains why anti-Semitism is forbidden.
“Let’s amplify what Bush, Clinton, and Rice
have said. These cartoons are offensive,” Dr Marayati
observed. There is arrogance in the Western world. Let’s
“struggle for a Western conscience” to stamp
out racism in our society.
Dr Marayati exhorted Muslims to “go to members of
the Congressional caucuses, interfaith groups, religious
leaders” to ensure that such torturous cartoons are
not published again.
A resolution condemning the publication of the blasphemous
cartoons was unanimously adopted by the various groups present
in the meeting. The meeting also condemned the publication
of paintings disparaging Hindu gods by artist Husain in