Danish Cartoons -- Islam vs. Freedom of Expression? 1

Dan­ish Car­toons — Islam vs. Free­dom of Expression ?

Car­toons are doing what so many could not : Uni­fy­ing Mus­lims across the globe.

On the oth­er hand, a grow­ing num­ber of brave free­dom-fight­ers, led by jour­nal­ists, are stand­ing up to reaf­firm the prin­ci­ple of free expres­sion.” And non-Mus­lims are won­der­ing why this uni­fied out­rage is a no-show when it comes to seem­ing­ly more impor­tant issues such as behead­ings, hon­our killings, and sui­cide bombings.

As a Mus­lim jour­nal­ist, that puts me in a tough spot, does­n’t it ?

Well, not really.

Let’s get the facts straight. What exact­ly is the issue ?

The Dan­ish paper Jyl­lands-Posten print­ed a total of 12 car­toons of the Prophet Moham­mad(P) last Sep­tem­ber, one show­ing him wear­ing a head­dress shaped like a bomb with the kalimah inscribed on it, while anoth­er had him say­ing that par­adise is run­ning short of vir­gins for sui­cide bombers. A Nor­we­gian pub­li­ca­tion reprint­ed the car­i­ca­tures in Jan­u­ary and pub­li­ca­tions in at least four oth­er coun­tries jumped on the band­wag­on in the last cou­ple of days to express their sup­port for the prin­ci­ple of free expression.

Mus­lim out­rage has spurred protests, kid­nap­ping and death threats, boy­cotts of Dan­ish prod­ucts, and diplo­mat­ic spats. Dan­ish dairy firm Arla Foods has announced 125 lay­offs as a result of the boy­cott ; nation­al lead­ers have jumped into the for­ay, and even U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Kofi Annan has issued a state­ment in an attempt to cool the grow­ing cri­sis. Edi­tors have been sacked in what is seen to be an attack on edi­to­r­i­al independence.

Media reports are quick to point out that Islam­ic tra­di­tions ban depic­tions of the Prophet. Thus, the under­stand­ing is that the out­rage has been caused by the seem­ing­ly bla­tant dis­re­gard for this Islam­ic taboo” by the pub­li­ca­tions in ques­tion, which is why Reporters With­out Bor­ders and oth­er jour­nal­ists and non-jour­nal­ists alike are resist­ing, if not fight­ing, this wave of rage.

I am pret­ty sure many out­raged Mus­lims will also point to that as the source of their outrage.

But I ask : Would Mus­lims express an equal amount of out­rage had the Prophet been shown in a pos­i­tive light based on his teach­ings, per­haps instruct­ing a would-be ter­ror­ist not to kill innocents ?

Prob­a­bly not. Yes, there might have been some dis­ap­point­ment over the depic­tion of the Prophet(P), but it would not be any­where near what we are see­ing now.

Thus, the main issue here is not the depic­tion of the Prophet(P), but rather, the depic­tion of the Prophet(P) in an incor­rect and dis­hon­est manner.

As a jour­nal­ist, I tru­ly val­ue our free­dom of expres­sion and as my col­leagues on this mes­sage board know, I attempt to stand by that prin­ci­ple when­ev­er possible.

We all know that the right to free speech is an inte­gral ele­ment of a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety. Those of us liv­ing in demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­eties enjoy that right on a dai­ly basis.

How­ev­er, no right is absolute. There are always lim­i­ta­tions and exceptions.

I can express myself by scream­ing, for as long as I wish, but not to the detri­ment of my neigh­bours. Sim­i­lar­ly, I can pub­lish what­ev­er I want, as long as I do not tar­nish any­one’s rep­u­ta­tion by spread­ing lies or pro­mote hatred against anyone.

I can even pub­licly express dam­ag­ing, unflat­ter­ing com­ments about some­one, as long as they are in the pub­lic inter­est and I do not do it with malice.

The car­toons of the Prophet , espe­cial­ly the one with his head­dress shaped like a bomb, can be giv­en three gen­er­al inter­pre­ta­tions in today’s context :

    a) He was a terrorist.
    b) He sup­port­ed terrorism.
    c) Islam is a reli­gion of ter­ror­ism, since he sym­bol­izes the religion

Any­one who is famil­iar with the life and the teach­ings of the Prophet(P) knows that he was not a ter­ror­ist. There is no such thing as a ter­ror­ist Prophet and if there was, it would mean he and his fol­low­ers would live to ter­ror­ize oth­ers, which we know is cer­tain­ly not the case.

Yes, he did lead and fight in bat­tles. But since when did fight­ing wars become ter­ror­ism ? If that?s the case, any leader that takes his nation to war should be con­sid­ered a terrorist.

As for the sec­ond inter­pre­ta­tion, once again, any­one who is famil­iar with the teach­ings of the Prophet(P) knows that he did not sup­port ter­ror­ism. He for­bade the killing of inno­cents and even ordered his fol­low­ers not to kill birds and oth­er liv­ing crea­tures unnec­es­sar­i­ly. And even though the Makkans had ter­ror­ized him and his fol­low­ers, he did not retort with the same when he con­quered Makkah lat­er on, nor did he let any of the fol­low­ers ter­ror­ize any­one either, even as victors.

As for the last pos­si­ble inter­pre­ta­tion, once again, if any­one stud­ies the teach­ings of Allah(T) and the Prophet Moham­mad(P) in their entire­ty, they will know that Islam is not a reli­gion of ter­ror­ism. It’s just not true. Yes, there are groups and indi­vid­u­als who attempt to jus­ti­fy acts of ter­ror­ism through Islam, but that does not mean that Islam is a reli­gion of ter­ror­ism. If it was a reli­gion of ter­ror­ism, Mus­lims through­out his­to­ry would have been ter­ror­ists, which just is not the case.

There­fore, we can con­clude that if the car­toons are inter­pret­ed as a) and b), they are slan­der­ous and libelous, or if they are inter­pret­ed as c), they pro­mote hate by brand­ing all fol­low­ers of Islam as ter­ror­ists, and since no one likes ter­ror­ists, peo­ple will nat­u­ral­ly be led to hate Muslims.

This issue is not about Mus­lims hat­ing free­dom of expres­sion. Rather, it is about the abuse of the free­dom to spread hate and fuel stereotypes.

There is no doubt that the car­toons were orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished with mal­ice and spite, to spread stereo­types and pro­voke a group that has already been vic­tim­ized as a whole for the actions of a few. But that is not the only rea­son for the outrage.

The lev­el of love and sen­ti­men­tal attach­ment many Mus­lims have for and with Moham­mad is unpar­al­leled, and may in fact be very dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend for non-Mus­lims. Think of your dead par­ents or grand­par­ents that you loved dear­ly. If some­one were to slan­der them pub­licly and make a mock­ery of them, how would you feel ? Would you not react angri­ly and defend them ?

You prob­a­bly would, except the chances of any­one pay­ing atten­tion may be slim, since you would be alone, or per­haps have the sup­port of a dozen or two people.

For Mus­lims, their beloved prophet has been slan­dered and mocked. He is not here to defend him­self, so his fol­low­ers have tak­en on the task, out of their love and devo­tion to him. What we see now is the result of com­pound­ed anger, which isn?t always expressed in the wis­est man­ner, espe­cial­ly when emo­tions are run­ning high.

The issue of incor­rect attri­bu­tion is an impor­tant one. If Osama bin Laden was the sub­ject of the car­toons, hard­ly any­one would com­plain. Thus, it must be under­stood that Mus­lims are not attack­ing free­dom of expres­sion. Rather, they are react­ing to hate­ful, mean-spir­it­ed distortions.

As for the ques­tion about why Mus­lims are so sen­si­tive about car­toons while they do not speak out against oth­er seem­ing­ly impor­tant issues, the fact is that these car­toons of the Prophet(P) have struck a com­mon, emo­tion­al nerve across the Mus­lim world, while unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no unan­i­mous agree­ment on the oth­er issues, with which some Mus­lims obvi­ous­ly do not have a prob­lem since they take part in or sup­port those actions, such as behead­ings, hon­our killings and sui­cide bomb­ings. It does not make it right, but that is the rea­son behind the mut­ed or dis­joint­ed response.

Some have com­plained about the boy­cotts in response to the car­toons. What is wrong with Mus­lims exer­cis­ing their free­dom of choice ? Boy­cotting is a com­mon tac­tic for express­ing dis­plea­sure, even if it does­n’t direct­ly affect those at the root of the displeasure.

In fact, in 2004, a group of Amer­i­cans resid­ing across the bor­der from the Cana­di­an town of Nel­son, British Colum­bia threat­ened to boy­cott the town if it went ahead with the con­struc­tion of a mon­u­ment to U.S. Viet­nam War draft dodgers. The con­struc­tion of the mon­u­ment was a form of expres­sion, yet the town was threat­ened with severe eco­nom­ic reper­cus­sions if it had gone ahead with the con­struc­tion of the mon­u­ment. It did not.

Pub­lish­ing and protest­ing are both forms of expres­sion, and they must both be exer­cised with­in rea­son­able limits.

Mus­lims deserve an apol­o­gy. And they seri­ous­ly need to learn how to con­tain their emo­tions and express their dis­plea­sure using non-vio­lent means. But as long as the incor­rect analy­sis of the issue as a free­dom of expres­sion vs. Islam­ic stig­ma” bat­tle remains, I’m afraid the vicious cycle of pub­li­ca­tions and protests, and more protests and more pub­li­ca­tions, will continue. Danish Cartoons -- Islam vs. Freedom of Expression? 2

Tak­en from sun​ni​fo​rum​.com, pub­lished with permission.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Sikan­der Ziad Hash­mi, Dan­ish Car­toons — Islam vs. Free­dom of Expres­sion ?,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Feb­ru­ary 7, 2006, last accessed April 14, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​o​p​-​e​d​/​d​a​n​i​s​h​-​c​a​r​t​o​o​n​s​-​i​s​l​a​m​-​v​s​-​f​r​e​e​d​o​m​-​o​f​-​e​x​p​r​e​s​s​i​on/


One response to “Dan­ish Car­toons — Islam vs. Free­dom of Expression ?”

  1. shery Avatar

    Islam is the only reli­gion which opened the gates of civil­i­sa­tion to the dark ages in Europe. Renais­sance move­ment start­ed after the Cru­saders came into con­tact with Mus­lims (fol­low­ers of Islam) and Euro­pean were shocked to note that their sin’ of bathing (in mid­dle and dark ages it was a sin accord­ing to church to take a bath) was a reg­u­lar fea­ture of Mus­lims’ dai­ly life and that they did­n’t there­fore suf­fer from the Plague’s dis­as­ter with the same mag­ni­tude. Span­ish rule of Mus­lims ( 800 — 1492 AD) intro­duced Med­i­cine, Alge­bra, Maths, Phi­los­o­phy, Geog­ra­phy, Oceanog­ra­phy, Astron­o­my, Surgery, Chem­istry to the schol­ars of Italy, Ger­may, France and Brit­ian who flocked to Adu­la­sia (Ara­bic for Spain) to learn and grad­u­ate. Can­non (Qanu fil tibb) by Avi­cen­na was the stan­dard text book of med­i­cine in the med­ical schools of Europe for five cen­turies. The hatred has been his­tor­i­cal as the defeat in cru­sades have imprint­ed an impres­sion of bar­barism on the minds of Europe and their prej­u­dice grew with every defeat. Over the time Europe emerged as enl­ght­ened super pow­er and real­ized their bene­fac­tor’s place in his­to­ry. Things went well till Pres­i­dent Bush was has a rev­e­leation that Isalm is evil. Mod­ern media, under the strong lead­er­ship of Jews (no its not a myth) cashed that oppor­tu­ni­ty and a mod­ern day hatred start­ed. Isn’t it irnon­ic that even Laden has not been con­vict­ed in a court of law and the world opin­ion and West­ern media has suc­cess­ful­ly tried him and Tal­iban and Iraqis and Paleste­ni­ans, and con­vict­ed them on their own. Reports not the evi­dences have become the modus operandii for these mod­ern courts of jus­tice and Bush admin­is­tra­tion labels Lebanon as ter­ror­ist and cre­ates hatred among the West­ern hemi­sphere against Islam while con­ve­nient­ly omit­ting the naked aggres­sion by Israelis against Lebanon and 33 days of bomb­ing becomes jus­ti­fied. Dai­ly deaths of more than 50 Iraqi and Afghani/​Palesten­ian chil­dren and women donot find their place in the media hence they are not con­sid­ered human enough while a sin­gle episode of a mur­der by a Mus­lim finds place in the press and elec­tron­ic media as Islam­ic Jihad. Iron­i­cal­ly Adolf Hitler is nev­er termed as Chris­t­ian mon­ster or killer. So its not that peo­ple hate on their own, they are being made to hate Islam.
    Truth has lost its mean­ing and we are bomb­ing our own sus­pi­cions with­out even both­er­ing to find proof and show it to the world.

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