Thursday, February 02, 2006

Clash of Civilisations, or Clash of Civilities?

In my posting Danish newspaper offends Muslim Nations, an anonymous reader left a message:

“Let’s see, someone publish a cartoon that implied Muslims are terrorists and in retaliation Islamist gunmen seized an EU office and an insurgent group in Iraq called for attacks on Danish and Norwegian targets. Doesn’t that just reinforce people’s belief about Islam and terrorism?”

my underlining

Well, firstly, it’s not just Muslims but the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) so it’s fairly blasphemous, distressing and provocative to Muslims. I know that some Westerners make jokes of their God or saints but that’s entirely up to them. However, one shouldn’t make fun of others’ religion or religious figures.

That’s different to criticising or making fun of politicians who wear the mantle of the holy order like the ayatollahs or mullahs or Christian preachers but who have the brazenness and hypocrisy to tell their followers the shameless lies that God or Allah (swt) talks to them personally.

I recall during the American presidential elections, when the Brits made fun of George Bush as one hell of a joke of a presidential candidate, many Americans took umbrage. “How dare those Limeys tell us who to vote for, and how dare they criticise our presidential candidate!”

If some Americans could feel hurt or angry when foreigners teased them about Bush, then what more for the Muslims with regards to caricatures depicting their most holy man (after God) as a cartoon-ish terrorist?

The Danish news paper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten
claimed it did so just to assess how far the Danish expression of free speech has been compromised, but it neglected to tell the world that it possessed a conservative rightwing pedigree, with a history of supporting facism in the 1920’s – 1930’s. That’s where it has come from! That's the hue of its pedigree!

Though it has apologised for its insult to Muslims, it maintains it has the right to print the cartoons (and whatever else it likes), and that Islamic fundamentalism cannot dictate what Danish newspapers are allowed to print.

But why choose an offensive insensitive issue, as if it didn’t know that the cartoons would be highly blasphemous, distressing, insulting and provocative to Muslims throughout the world? But in reality, it did (know) because it admitted it was testing to see how Danish freedom of speech and expression had been curtailed?

With freedom there is always an associated responsibility. Did Jyllands-Posten exercise that responsibility when it tested its freedom? Why deliberately provoke Muslims to the extent that some extremists would resort to violence, a violence that is likely to be perpetrated on innocent Danes, Swedes and Norwegians, and perhaps even Finns and Icelanders?

Which brings us to the second point, namely Anonymous’ comments that the Muslim reactions seem to “… reinforce people’s belief about Islam and terrorism?”

I posted in reply the question of whether he (or she) has heard of Baruch Goldstein or Meir Kahane? (see photos from Wikipedia)

I also asked whether these two were representative of the Jewish people? I was of course making a rhetorical question only because the answer is a definitely 'No'!

Therefore, one ought not to be so ready to lump all Muslims or Arabs under one category, namely, as murderous terrorists. This stereotyping could easily be applied to the other side also, whether to Jews or Americans. Already many in the East and definitely most in the Middle East, including those so-called pro-American nations, dislike Americans immensely.

Would this attitude be fair, to perceive all Americans and all Jews as, respectively, evil trigger happy cowboys and rapacious Shylocks?

Then there was the case of Ayatollah Khomeini passing a fatwah of death on Salman Rushdie. But as Karen Armstrong
wrote in her introduction to the biography of the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh):

“… nobody in Britain wanted to hear that almost exactly a month after the fatwah, at a meeting of the Islamic Congress, 44 out of 45 member states condemned the Ayatollah’s ruling as unIslamic – leaving Iran out in the cold. Very few Western people were interested to hear that the Sheikhs of Saudi Arabia, the Holy Land of Islam, and the prestigious al-Azhar madrasah in Cairo had also declared that the fatwah contravened Islamic law.”

No indeed, why muddy a popular perception with inconvenient facts? Some Westerners would prefer to
laugh at, and crack jokes on the tragedy of Muslim pilgrims being crushed to death in a stampede.

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