Freedom of Speech Justice

Notes & Comments: Cartoon Wars

2 The Review of Religions –February 2006 The recent furore over the cartoons depicting the prophet of Islam as a terrorist printed in many western newspapers illustrates nothing but the blind leading the blind on one side and hypocrisy on the other. prevalent on both sides of the argument. Seeing the daily burning of embassies by maddened crowds in Muslim countries on our television screens we can declare that these cartoons were anything but funny. Firstly, the Editor of the Danish Newspaper newspaper that published the cartoons has gone on record claiming that freedom of speech is paramount and should not be sacrificed for any reason, least of all not for the reason that it may offend people’s religious sensibilities. However, t h e G u a rd i a n (UK newspaper) revealed that the same newspaper had earlier refused to publish drawings defaming Jesus: Under the headline, Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons, Monday February 6, 2006, Gwladys Fouché reports: ‘Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today. The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny. In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unso- licited cartoons dealing with Co m m e n t s &Notes Cartoon Wars 3The Review of Religions – February 2006 the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten. Zieler received an email back from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands- Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.” . . . But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was “ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons. “In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That’s the difference,” he said.’ One can only laugh at the double standards in operation here. It is clear from the above that the editor knew that these cartoons would provoke an outcry. In a televised interview the editor refused to answer the Muslim advocate when asked if he would print a cartoon of a Jewish rabbi wearing a nazi uniform. It is clear to us that it would be totally unacceptable to print such a cartoon in a Western newspaper. It is ironic that only this month British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years imprisonment by a Vienna court after being found guilty denying the Holocaust of European Jewry. This was in spite of his having repented his mistake in denying that the gas chambers ever existed. Theand the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, also found himself on the wrong side of the law when he made a remark to a reporter that he was like a Nazi guard. This month he too was convicted, ordered to pay a fine and suspended from his post for some weekswere convicted for anti-Semitic remarks. It is clear that the West knows there are limits to free speech, but the law seems only to protect the sensibilities of some, while running rough-shod over those of o t h e r s . So the Muslims are justified in bringing to the fore the injustice of a this particular system of free speech which appears to protect the sensibilities of the Jews, but not those of other faiths. NOTES AND COMMENTS But in what manner should they protest? It is clear from these cartoons that Islamophobia is rife amongst certain elements of the Western media, but they are shrewd and make the most of such situations. Often the West is the oppressor yet they use the inappropriate reaction of some Muslims to depict them as the intimidators. How unfortunate it is for Muslims that they fall into the trap each time, like a fly caught in the web of deceit. The deplorable vision of Muslim masses in frenzied arson attacks on foreign embassies and even unrelated Western business premises highlights two aspects – the malicious and bellicose role of certain elements of the Muslim clergy and the ignorance of the hooligan element amongst the mass of Muslims about the teachings of their beloved prophet. In many respects the images of riots flashed across TV screens of the world have done far more damage than any cartoon could to the true face of Islam thus fulfilling the real aim of publishing the cartoons. The role of the group of certain Danish Imams in relation to inciting violence illustrates how low the Muslim clergy can stoop. For these so called learned men to use lies to inflame a situation amongst the Muslims is as deplorable, if not more so, as the publication of the propaganda lies in a foreign and unbelieving press. The 12 cartoons were first published on Sept. 30, 2005. Danish Muslims reacted with peaceful protests. In late October, a number of ambassadors of Muslim countries complained to the Danish prime minister and the Muslim society took the case to the law courts, claiming that the newspaper and cartoonists had violated the Danish law. Although Danish law protects free speech there is a prohibition against blasphemy and also a prohibition against expressions that threaten, deride or degrade on the grounds of race, colour, national or ethnic origin. The public prosecutor investigated the matter, but concluded that the cartoons did not violate the law. An Egyptian newspaper printed a number of these cartoons in an 4 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions –February 2006 article denouncing their use in the Western media. This in itself did not result in rioting amongst Egyptian Muslims and there was no visible reaction against the newspaper. Indeed this was the correct response. An attack by the pen requires a response by the pen. The situation changed completely and violence erupted in Muslim countries only after a group of Danish imams Imams had presented their 43 page dossier, seeking support at a meeting of Arab heads of state in December. The dossier contained three cartoons that were never published. Apparently, these were extremely offensive and incen- diary provocative. One shows Mohammed Muhammad ( s a ) as a paedophiliac demon. Another shows Muhammad(sa) Mohammed with a pig snout. The third shows a praying Muslim being raped by a d o g .1 It was only after this presentation that violence broke out across Muslim lands. One has to ask, what was the purpose of presenting material that had never been published? With these lies these imams Imams were blowing on embers in order to ignite a flame. Muslims, especially their leaders, should be wary that they do not come under the description given by the Holy prophet Prophet of Islam(sa) in the following hadith: A time will come when nothing will be left of Islam except its name. Nothing will be left of the Qur’an except its script. Mosques will be full of worshippers but they will have no fear of God and will be devoid of true guidance. Their ‘ulama [learned men] will be the worst creatures under the canopy of the heaven. Evil plots will originate from them and to them will be their return.2 It is high time that the Muslim masses freed themselves from the yolk of evil-minded mullahs. Frenzied violence can never be construed as love for the Holy Prophet of Islam ( s a ). True love could shouldwould be expressed if they took taketook the trouble to find out for themselves for what the Holy Prophet stood for for. How was he a mercy for mankind? How did he react in the face of abuse hurled at him? How did he 5 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – February 2006 expressed love towards those who hated him? Muslims can express true love for the founder of their faith by emulating his behaviour and by sending down blessings upon him and uttering prayers for his followers and all the followers of Abraham in their prayers, and. This love can not be expressed by following the examplethat of his enemies who lost control of their senses out of hate. The character of the Prophet( s a ) was the Qur’an. The appropriate reaction to propaganda against Islam is laid down clearly therein. True Muslims should read and act upon these verses, not the incitement of the mullahs who, by introducing lies into their testimony to the Arab nations, fell far short of the admonition of the Qur’an: O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just. That is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do. (Ch.5:V.9) The riots in Muslim countries no doubt were orchestrated by local mullahs (religious leaders). It is hard to imagine crowds coming out on the street without some organisation behind them. The Holy Prophet of Islam(sa) was very particular in observing protocol and preserving diplomatic immunity so much so that a representative who wished to become a Muslim was told to return to his country and return in a private capacity before he could be accepted as a Muslim. Thus burning down embassies and foreign flags and effigies are all un-Islamic acts. Again, the reaction is far removed from the dictates of the Qur’an. The Qur’an has given proper guidance to the Muslims on how they should react to profane or blasphemous pro- paganda in the following verses: And He has already revealed to you in the Book that when you hear the Signs of Allah being denied and mocked at, sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that; for in that case you would be like them. Surely Allah will assemble the hypocrites and 6 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions –February 2006 the disbelievers in Hell, all together. (Ch.4:V.141) And when you see those who trifle in our Signs, then turn thou away from them until they engage in a discourse other than that… (Ch.6:V.69) And in the like manner have We made for every Prophet an e n e m y, the evil ones fro m among men and jinn. They suggest one to another gilded speech in order to deceive. And if thy Lord had enforced His will, they would not have done it; so leave them alone with that which they fabricate. (Ch.6:V.113) Where has the Qur’an taught the Muslims to become inflamed with hate and carry out mindless acts of violence in response to nothing more than the profane or blasphemous speech, writing or pictures? It is clear from the above verses and many others also, that God and His Prophets are not dependent upon the protection of men. God can take care of such people himself. Nowhere in the Qur’an has God given the mandate to man to punish people for crimes against God and nowhere has He given man the right to respond to evil speech with violence. It is purely His prerogative to punish those who oppose God and His messengers. In his Friday sermon of 17th February, the head Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim, Community, discussing this issue, stated that the West, having forsaken religion, the West is destroying all moral values and thereby attracting to itself its own destruction. He stated that to continue with this stance wilfully is to incite the wrath of Allah. He also cautioned the world that natural disasters are not restricted for Asia and America alone, and reminded us the world of the words of the Promised Messiah, ‘O Europe you too are not safe, do not challenge the sense of honour of God’. On the other hand, society has been given the right to punish for crimes against humanity and whereas the rioting Muslims are falling foul of the laws of the land 7 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – February 2006 in this regard. The commands given to the Muslims, in the verses cited above, are: ‘sit not with them until they engage in a talk other than that,’ or ‘turn thou away from them until they engage in a discourse other than that,’ or ‘leave them alone with that which they fabricate.’ What a far cry is this from the violent response we have witnessed! The words of the Promised Messiah(as) ring true today as they did one hundred years ago when he made the observation that it was ironic that the Christians had erred in the matter of their obligation to the Creator, while Muslims had erred in matters relating to the creation. Though, with regard to the Christians, he referred to the Creator’s rights being trampled upon by the raising of a man to the position of God, today the inevitable consequence of such a belief is that many in the West have given up their faith and atheism reigns. The punishment of such errors is in the hands of God and God alone. However, t h e crime of the Muslims (of today) is that they offended mankind with their sword and named it Jihad.3 Muslims should ponder on how it was that the Messenger(sa) of Allah transformed the hatred of his enemies into such love that is unmatched among the followers of other prophets. It was his high moral example and his abounding love for humanity at large and his weeping before God for their guidance that created the transformation. Mass violent demonstrations led by a foul- mouthed clergy, or burning flags, buildings and cars will only earn derogation and aversion to Islam. Muslims need to rid themselves of the evil-minded men among their clergy who have little regard for the Qur’an and the example of Messenger of Allah(sa). Take heed of the Qur,’an instead, it is available to all. This is the message delivered by your Prophet(sa). And say to My servants that they should always speak what is best. Surely, Satan, stirs up discord among them. Surely, Satan is an open enemy to man. (Ch.17:V.54) 8 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions –February 2006 Satan is not only an enemy of Muslims but to the whole of mankind. Those who stir up discord are exhibiting a satanic nature. In contrast to these mullahs the example of the Prophet was in accord with the following verse: And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he, between whom and thyself was enmity, will become as though he were a warm friend. (Ch.41:V.35) The prayer of the followers of Hadhrat Ibrahim( a s ) ( A b r a h a m ) also provides a good example for the Muslims, as the Qur’an says: Our Lord, make us not a trial for those who disbelieve, and forgive us, our Lord; for, Thou alone art Mighty, the Wise. Surely, there is a good example in them for you – for all who have hope to see Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever turns away – truly, Allah is Self- Sufficient, Worthy of all praise. It may be that Allah will bring about love between you and those of them with whom you are now at enmity, and Allah is All-Powerful; and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merc i f u l . (Ch.60:V.6-8) It is unfortunate indeed that many religious leaders amongst the Muslims do not motivate their followers to exhibit the higher and noble attributes of human nature, the display of which might attract others to the truth of Islam. Instead, we often see them at the forefront, leading exhibitions of satanic behaviour and thus they become a stumbling block and a trial, not only for those who disbelieve, but also for the believers. God promises in the Holy Qur’an: He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of truth that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, even if those who associate partners with God hate it. (Ch.61:V.10) Will Muslims believe their God or will they continue to depend upon 9 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – February 2006 the Mullah to mislead them into further disorder? The religion of truth cannot be propagated with lies. Nor can its cause be advanced through mindless violence. History has proved that the Messengers of God always prevail and false ideologies always perish. The Muslims should first look towards ridding themselves of false ideologies that have no connection with the religion of truth propounded in the Qur’an. The war of slogans by angry mobs should now give way to the battle to win hearts through love and tolerance Basit Ahmad References 1 Information of above 3 paragraphs obtained from article posted on Alter Net Feb 14 2006, entitled The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship b y David Morris. 2 Mishkat ul-Masabih, Kitab ul- Ilm, Translation from Al Asr May/June 1999. 3 British Government and Jihad, published May 22nd 1900 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). 10 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions –February 2006 In this journal, for the ease of non-Muslim readers, ‘(sa)’ or ‘sa’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ which are words that a Muslim utters out of respect whenever he or she comes across that name. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahu Ta’ala anhu and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Finally, ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta ’ a l a means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him.