Contemporary and Social Issues Featured Islam The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)

Cartoons and Controversy

On Thursday, 30th August, 2018 Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, who had called for a cartoon contest depicting the Holy Prophetsa, cancelled this hateful competition  after receiving death threats from some Muslim groups.

Dutch Parliament
Geert Wilders decided to cancel the cartoon contest, which was to be held in the Dutch parliament in November.

While some other Muslims reacted with violence and protests, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, inspired by the guidance of His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, responded by announcing the International #MuhammadSpeechContest, which it plans to continue.

No day passes by without someone misusing the name of Islam or its Prophet Muhammadsa for the advancement of one’s own vested political hateful agendas. Someone with a Muslim name commits an evil act; Islam and its Prophet start to get all the blame for it everywhere.

This vicious circle continues to create divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. And far-right anti-Muslim politicians such as Geert Wilders take advantage of this situation to sow further discord. Indeed, when Gilders announced the contest in June 2018, NCTV, the Dutch counter-terrorism agency approved the plan. The contest encouraged participants draw caricatures of the Prophetsa of Islam in whichever way they liked, showing no regard to the sentiments of billions of Muslims around the world.

Yet history shows that this kind of offensive incitement rarely brings about positive results. As expected, his announcement of the cartoon contest met with protests and threats from some Muslim groups. Un-Islamic edicts that called for the killing of Geert Wilders were made from pulpits of some mosques. And indeed, when Wilders cancelled the contest on Thursday, he cited these threats as the reason for it:

However, here it would be instructive to look at the reaction of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in deeper detail. Under the direct guidance and leadership of His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, worldwide head and 5th Khalifah of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we decided to respond in a way that would turn this hateful cartoon contest into a celebration of the blessed life of Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. As soon as he announced the contest, the Outreach Department of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK launched the International #MuhammadSpeechContest. Participants were asked to highlight aspects from the life of Holy Prophet Muhammadsa that particularly inspire them.


Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad
The Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaaba, in response to the cartoon contest initiated and announced #MuhammadSpeechContest.

This response was shaped by the guidance of His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, who has consistently advocated for a tempered, non-violent and peaceful response to insults to Islam. In 2015, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, he emphasized that protesting and violence was against the teachings of Islam. Instead, he emphasized peace and prayer:

‘Today, it is the duty of members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to pray for both sides to desist from excesses and cruelties. Similarly during these days, focus on reciting Durood [invoking blessings and salutations upon the Holy Prophetsa] abundantly. Those who can help to create a peaceful environment within their spheres of influence should make efforts towards doing so. May Allah the Almighty save the world from a state of anarchy and may the disorder and strife rapidly transform into a state of peace.’

Dozens of Muslims and non-Muslims from various parts of the globe have already taken part in the International #MuhammadSpeechContest. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response:

‘In its own small way, the Muhammad Speech Contest run by a group of British Muslims and open to everybody struck me as a prime example how resistance against hate – “counter speech” in a very literal way – can look: Creative, positive, inclusive and utterly peaceful. As I’m interested in the traditions of Islam and in the diversity and richness of religions in general, I happily participated.’

‘I believe that the more we know one another the more we can love one another. The more we love one another, the better society we are going to have. I am very aware that the “Muhammad” of the haters is so very different from Muhammad as understood by Muslims. To understand our Muslim neighbors, we need to understand their prophet as they see him. So why ME? Why should I teach about Muhammad. Ironically, seeing my unlikely face, the face of religious Jew, maybe people will listen out of curiosity and learn something in the process. I respect my Muslim neighbors and I respect their faith and I respect their prophet as they understand him, and I am proud to share my respect with others.’

In response to a question on how a Muslim should respond to such blasphemy against the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba at a recent press conference responded in the following words:

‘You see, our response is that we send more Durood [invocation of blessings upon the Holy Prophetsa] and salaam [peace] on Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. Apart from that, our Tabligh Department [outreach and public relations] has launched a speech contest program. In that, many non-Muslims are also participating. So in this way, people will know what is the true teaching of Islam and what is the true character of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam. So we should spread the true message of Islam and the true character of Holy Prophetsa. We are making effort in this [regard], and if the entire Muslim ummah [community] and all the Muslim scholars and the countries who have resources do the same, that would be much better!’

And while Geert Wilders has thankfully decided to cancel his contest for now, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community however plans to continue with our own Muhammadsa Speech Contest for the propagation of peace and enlightenment. Join us to be part of something that is bound to bring more positivity, unity and love between communities. That is the kind of peaceful world we all want to see, don’t we? Please contact us by email or twitter, if interested to participate.

Twitter: @True_IslamUK

The entries, some of which are below, spoke to the impact and influence of the Holy Prophetsa so many centuries after his passing, on both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.


More About the Author:

Bilal Mahmood is currently serving in the National Outreach and Public Relations department of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK. He can be reached @BilalMahmoodUK