Cathy and I had a short but passionate discussion on the anger of Muslims regarding the editorial cartoon published in a Danish newspaper and subsequently several other newspapers throughout Europe, which, recently had come to a head by the torching of the Danish embassy in Lebanon.
Meanwhile, cartoonists throughout the world defend their right to provoke. In the article, Epoque Weekly’s Hicheme Baba-Ahmed said “it is normal that non-Muslims should be able to draw Mohammed in the same way they do Jesus Christ.”
In general, Christianity is a forgiving religion. Save for the otherwise barbaric and misguided Crusades, Christians have espoused turning the other cheek and forgiving wrongdoings done to them, knowing that God was powerful enough to deal with the blasphemy on His time and in His own wisdom. Islam, on the other hand, condemns any form of interpretation of the prophet Mohammed, good or bad. Mr. Baba-Ahmed’s narrow-minded discourse only goes to underline how little he knows about Muslim sentiment: Muslims, moderate or otherwise, will defend their faith to the death.
People have died as a result of this otherwise avoidable incident; it has encouraged racial tension, rebuilt social walls that have taken decades to tear down, and set back the clock of tolerance a few hundred thousand years. I believe the right of free speech does not negate the right to life, and the very concept of satire – to lampoon the powerful – should not extend towards religious and racial sentiment that can fuel this kind of hatred.
Tony Benn puts it best in the Times of London’s At what price must free speech come article: “People’s faith should be respected. To say anything that offends against the faith of others is a real mistake. (The cartoons) have caused great offence at a very sensitive time. This is not a question of illegality; that is nonsense. You just do not insult people.”
The cartoon – that of Mohammed’s turban being a bomb – accomplishes nothing but anger Muslims and make us shudder at its repercussions. It is insulting, derogatory, and not at all satiric nor funny. Not all terrorists are Muslim, and not all Muslims are terrorists. To think a Danish Christian newspaper first published this terrible cartoon!
Don’t think all Christians are exempt from outrage at their God insulted: a Christian group recently managed to stonewall NBC from airing a Will and Grace episode where Britney Spears was to play a character hosting a cooking segment called Cruci-Fixin’s on Jack McFarland’s show, Out TV. If Christians insulted by how American television mocks the Center of their faith, and take certain actions, so can Muslims when the center of their faith is mocked.
I empathize with Muslims everywhere when they speak out angrily against this cartoon. I denounce this ambiguity of purpose and racial-religious slur in the guise of freedom of speech. However, we encourage Muslims everywhere to exercise caution in voicing out their anger in extremely violent ways, because in the end, we all lose when lives are lost, property is damaged, and the walls of cooperation and tolerance come down in an explosion of bloodshed and