Making Sense of the Danish Cartoon Issue

By Maimoona Tariq

The issue has sparked a lot of debate, bitter feelings, protests and even violence. An obscure newspaper in Denmark has spread worldwide contention and acrimony leading to repercussions on the international politics. There is a need to come up with a peaceful resolution acceptable to all.

For the entire Muslim community, Prophet Muhammad (sa) is a role model and epitomizes the essence of Islam. It is obligatory on a Muslim to protest against those, who malign his name.

Those Muslims, who have resorted to violence, have only increased anger, hatred and embitterment. This method of protest is not supported either by the Quran or the Sunnah.

Ironically, this Danish cartoon publication and the response it caused manifest intense feelings of racism. The cartoons simply portray the Western perception of Muslims, while violence by Muslims reciprocates with a similar sentiment. There is no effort on either side to avoid causing offense to the other.

Activities of a few members of a religion cannot be used to generalize that this religion is preaching disorder. Instead of imposing their uninformed opinion about Prophet Muhammad (sa), Danish newspapers should have done their homework on the actual teachings of the Prophet (sa). Many non-Muslims have studied his life and have given a positive feedback. In his book on 100 the most influential people in history, Michael Harte has ranked the Prophet (sa) as the first!

Freedom of speech should not be used as a license to offend others or spread bigotry. It should be a tool for voicing the truth and speaking up against injustice. Muslim media does not malign venerated figures of other religions; thus, it has the right to protest against the humiliation of the Prophet (sa).

Although Western newspapers are publishing cartoons on Christianity, this practice should not be so easily applied to other religions. Muslims do not have pictures of the Prophet (sa), as Christians have of Christ. Muslims do not make movies about apostles and do not use their names in satire. Their respect is compulsory. Danish newspaper has not only crossed the boundaries of another religion, but also done something prohibited in that religion. The newspaper cartoons, which continued over a total of twelve issues, were a source of a tremendous heart sore for the entire Muslim community.

In Christian society, censorship still prevails; yet, the freedom of speech is lauded, as if it is the only concept defining the Western pattern of communication. “Da Vinci Code” and “Passion of Christ” were banned on religious and social issues. The same Danish newspaper, which published cartoons about the Prophet (sa), refused to publish drawings of Christ, as these were thought to be offensive to the readers. Wasn’t this issue also worth the same consideration? Or is this simply a way to express the Western supremacy?

I believe that the people involved owe an apology to the entire Muslim community. This issue has increased the gap between Muslims and the rest of the world. It has also given to hostile people, who call themselves Muslims, a reason to proliferate their objectionable activities.

Voicing discontent about cartoons also falls under the ambit of freedom of speech. Actually, the emphasis should not so much be on the freedom of speech, as on justice, logic, rights and equality. It is important to distinguish between right and wrong, rather than rationalize a wrongdoing. Muslims condemn all the un-Islamic actions done in the name of Islam. We would appreciate a similar response from the Western side for dissolving the racial bigotry.

It is better to conduct seminars for stimulating a worldwide dialogue on the interpretation of Islam. Islam is different from other religions and has a unique approach to life and humanity. It must be understood, rather than ridiculed on the pretext of freedom of speech.