The Hypocrisy of Cartoons Controversy
The publication of a number
of cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad by a Danish
newspaper have inflamed the Muslim world. There
have been violent protests in almost all Muslim
countries where a number of people have died. Danish
embassies in many countries have been torched and
most Muslim/Arab countries are boycotting Danish
goods. To add fuel to an already raging fire, newspapers
in many European countries including France, Spain
and Norway have also reprinted the offensive cartoons.
And all this in the name of the so-called freedom
Let me make it clear that there is absolutely no
justification for the violence carried out in the
name of Islam. Neither the Qur’an, the scared
book, nor the traditions of Prophet Muhammad allow
that. Instead the religion, selective and out-of-context
quotes aside, advocates compassion, mercy and forgiveness
when someone trespasses against a Muslim. The Prophet
himself forgave those who had heaped verbal and
physical abuse on him during his lifetime. If he
were present today he would be aghast at the magnitude
of violence being done in his name.
To a great majority of Muslims the cartoons are
offensive. These are the people who do not take
to the streets to protest and to destroy. But they
are offended just as deeply as the screaming masses
on the streets of Jakarta, Cairo, Dhaka or Baghdad.
In a simplistic deduction bordering on stupidity
the media lumps all Muslims together and using a
red-hot iron of freedom of speech brand them as
backward and intolerant.
A case in point is a cartoon published in the Blade
a week ago on Saturday February 4. It showed a Muslim
complaining to God that the cartoons are offensive.
The God answers that He is offended by radical Muslims
condoning suicide bombings in His name. Perhaps
in the mind of Kirk Walters, the cartoonist, there
is an equivalence between the two statements. For
the majority of Muslims, including this columnist,
there is none. It would be like blaming all Christians
for the killings of innocent men, women and children
in Northern Ireland, blaming all Jews for random
acts of violence against the Palestinians by a handful
of Jewish settlers or blaming the Hindu majority
for the atrocities committed against the minority
Muslims in Gujarat, India.
Muslims have the same reverence and love for Muhammad
as Christians hold for Jesus even though Muhammad
is not divine. Every child growing up in a Muslim
family learns to love, respect and to follow Muhammad’s
teachings. This relationship remains intact even
for those Muslims who do not follow the religion
strictly. So when Muhammad is insulted it affects
all Muslims to their very inner core.
Now let us consider the hypocrisy in selective application
of the freedom of speech. A few years ago the very
Danish newspaper, now in the center of the controversy,
had turned down a number of offensive cartoons about
Jesus. The reason? It would be insulting to Christians.
Like the Danish newspaper the press here in America
does exercise restraint over what it publishes.
They do not publish anything that could be offensive,
even remotely, to African Americans. You will be
hard pressed to find a frank criticism of Jews or
the state of Israel. The former will earn a well-meaning
journalist the title of bigotry and insensitivity
and the later the all-encompassing label of anti-Semitism.
How many times the editors and broadcasters have
yanked something out because it was just ‘too
sensitive’? Call it self-censorship due to
intimidation and political pressure but result is
the same. In seven West European countries including
France it is a crime to question the Holocaust.
When democratic countries start making laws to silence
dissenting voices, no mater how distasteful or offensive,
they forfeit their right to sit in judgment of others.
The freedom of press is a sacred privilege but it
comes with responsibility. The press in Western
countries does exercise restraint in general but
when it comes to Islam those restraints go out of
the window. Muslim bashing and denigrating of Islam
has become a favorite past time for some Christian
televangelists, talk show hosts and political commentators.
Their inability or deliberate unwillingness to distinguish
between the sacred and the profane leads them to
call the very religion profane. Some people just
cannot get out of the dark ages of their own making.
(Sayed Amjad Hussain writes on the op-ed pages of
the daily Toledo Blade. E-Mail: email@example.com)