February 02, 2006

Does anyone really know what it's all about?

No doubt...No doubt, you have all heard and followed the debate about the cartoons published in Denmark in September last year.

Jyllands-Posten who printed them, and many other Europeans, majority of them having not even seen the cartoons, waved the flag of "freedom of speach", saying it was a challenge directed to the Muslim world's tendency to self-censureship (i.e not animating religious figures).

Muslims all over the world, 99% having most likely not even seen the pictures, feel hurt, upset, and some ready to boycott thinking that the debate is about forbidding western media to in general print pictures of Prophet Mohammad*.

  1. The debate is not about freedom of speach.
  2. The debate is not about wether or not media is allowed to print pictures of Prophets*.
So then what is it all about?

To know why the printing of those particular pictures was so distasteful and downright hateful, one will have to actually have seen the pictures, understand the context of the situation for Muslims in Denmark and Europe, but especially Denmark where Muslims truly are undergoing enormous pressures and political chastisement from certain extreme right parties in Denmark.

Muslims in the Arab world or Asia and even around Europe, and supporters of the publishing of the cartoons in the rest of the world have no idea what they are talking about and most likely majority of them like I said, have no understanding of the situation at hand, and why this debate is so important and why truly all Muslims and non-Muslims who do not want to have another Holocaust should be worried.

Part of the persecution of Jews before the Second World War consisted of similar cartoons published in newspapers. Anti-semitic, large crooked-nosed, dark eyes and hair, bushy beards depicted in a negative way, a way that we saw eventually led to a whole nation letting millions of Jews be killed infront of their noses for almost a decade.

When you look at the cartoons depicted in Jyllands-Posten, you find the same anti-semitic touch, large crooked noses, The Prophet with a turban carrying a bomb, bushy beards...

The question is, did freedom of speach, throughout history, ever become strengthened by a majority speaking out against an already kicked at, lying down, minority?

We Muslims cannot forbid any magazine in the world from drawing pictures of the Prophet* even though it is forbidden for us, even though deep inside we reject it, feel hurt and sad. No... that is not to be the basis of the debate because we can legally never defend our point. They draw Jesus* and God and so they will claim their right to draw our Prophet* as well.

The real issue is not that they drew him, it is in what way they drew him.

Did they simply draw him as a normal human being? No...

Why add the bombs, the veiled women, the violence, the prejudice, the Islamophobia, the hinting towards terrorism, extremism, why?

I won't get that answer from anyone it seems, Muslim or non-Muslim because everybody is busy discussing a totally different issue, trying to decide wether to boycott or not, wether to "let" Danish media print pictures of Prophet Mohammad* or not.

What we can demand as Muslims, Citizens of Europe, Taxpayers, Voters and contributors to our home countries in Europe, is to not be persecuted, kicked at while lying down, have the central figure of Muslims being depicted as a violent being, to collectively be named terrorist through racist, Islamophobic inciteful pictures such as those we have witnessed.

And until we all realise this, and come down from our "reactive high", Islamophobes around the world will seize this opportunity to fuel and sustain their wish to marginalize Muslims and reduce them to uncultivated beings who "don't understand our democratic way of life and cannot support our freedom of speach".

It's one large Islamophobe playing field and yet we constantly shoot the ball into our own goal...

*Peace and Blessings be upon them.


BuJ said...

Thorny issue. I've just written a post about this. In short let them publish what they want, but let the response be measured.

Also let us not quickly jump to conclusions. I think all this bad publicity eventually hits back at us Muslims.

On a different topic. By the way I hate advertising for an American AND a Jew, but do watch Munich! It's different but I think connected to this Danish pastry.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Well no, we can't let them publish what they want. there are laws regulating freedom of speach as in, racist remarks, anti semitism etc. So why is it all green lights publishing such pictures that imply muslims are terrorists.

Like I said, it is not the publication of pictures of the Prophet pbuh per se that is teh problem it is WHAT type of pictures.

You will never ever get to publish such pictures about jews. It would be deamed anti-semitism and we have strong laws in scandinavia regulating that. You would never ever be allowed to publish let's say, pictures of gypsy women hiding stuff they stole in teh shop under their large gypsy skirts ( it is unfortunately that picture many have of gypsies even though it is not true in general)...you just cannot do that because that is breaking other laws that everyone is legally bound too, and especially media.

And the publications of those pictures in my opinion and also the opinion of our chief of justice in Sweden, is that they border on hateful incitement.

So don't ignore the real issue. They are not allowed to publish what they want (danish laws), and it is not freedom of speach, and we cannot forbid printing pictures in general, however we can forbid or protest against pictures that break other laws. Nothing thorny about that. Clean cut simple. :)

jim said...

This is a new way of looking at it, though American media so far haven't published the cartoons and hopefully wont.

Elizabeth said...

Buj, what is your objection to advertising something by "An American and a Jew"?

The differences in culture and laws between the U.S. and Europe are interesting. We (Americans) have no anti-hate speech laws here; we have almost absolute freedom of the press. Yet, I have never seen anything so offensive in a U.S. newspaper as these Muhammad cartoons. I've seen offensive stuff here of course, but ridiculing and defaming a religious leader just wouldn't be tolerated by most U.S. newspapers. Plurality/diversity is part of our culture; also, freedom of religion is part of our culture, and religion is considered a private and personal matter. At the same time, Americans tend to be more religious than Europeans, which means that overall Americans have more respect for religion in general than Europeans do.

I find it ironic that these cartoons are being defended as "freedom of the press." The U.S. invented freedom of the press, and you just wouldn't see that s*** here.

DaveNC said...


I think you eloquently waxed the bigger picture of what is wrong with these cartoons. Unfortunately, there is an expectation of sacredness applied to depictions of Islamic symbols that isn't applied with respect to Arab/Islamic media, specifically the same stereotypical charactures of Jews (i.e the hooked nose) you find in, oh, say Saudi Arabia. There is no outrage by the broader Muslim community of how the Star of David is desecrated to make a point by a Muslim cartoonist. Nor do I think there should be. Something sacred to one group is meaningless to another. As a card carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union (the much reviled ACLU), I often have to defend the principals that go behind defending the rights of reprehensible groups and individuals because, as I place my faith in the Constitution rather than any religious text, I must recognize and protect the rights of my adversaries as diligently and as righteously as my allies. I understand that this may not be an applicable standard to European and Muslim laws and sensibilities but it is one of the principles I do stand behind. And, at risk of sounding like an Ugly American, it is one Europe and the Muslim world should adopt. Here on our shores, those of us who diametrically oppose everything our administration stands for is waging war on our civil liberties. As an outspoken critic and anti-Iraq war activist, I have had to withstand withering insults from friend and foe alike for my viewpoints Post- 9/11. It is only because my clarion calls have proven to be true that I am able to resume normal conversations with many of these people. There are many who called for people like me to be silenced, rounded up, tried and imprisoned for sedition, treason and giving "aid and comfort to the enemy" because we said all the pretexts for the War in Iraq were lies. I cannot count the number of death threats I received and how many times I just wanted to waive a white flag, retreat into the shadows and hope my name and viewpoints would be forgotten. But, those priniciples of free speech and the belief that our citizens have not on the right but the responsibilities to "redress the government for grievences" and to disagree when we think the masses are dead wrong, and the need to be an example to my daughters of the essential need to stand up for what you believe, made me get up everyday and stand my ground. While I fully appreciate your position, I can't agree that any law or limitations should be invoked to quash the printing of these incendiary cartoons. And, likewise, while I understand the anger of the Muslim world for these depictions I cannot give them any latitude or dismiss the violence now waging in Syria. To me, it is not a demonstration of devotion, it is a blatent example of childishness and fanaticism and should be condemned by every Muslim. Such violence only gives credence to those who despise your religion and, falsely, believe that extreme violence and control are the only way to deal with the people of the faith, particularly in the occupied territories. think about it. If the cartoons paint Muslims as violent reactionaries, doesn't the response we are seeing make their point?

moryarti said...

What many westerners fail to understand is that while the west revolted against religion a long time ago and drew very clear lines dividing religion from the state, religion in the Muslim world is still a part of everyday life.

It has never ever happened that a Saudi or any arab newspaper mocked or made fun of Moses or any of the prophets and i double and tipple dare anyone to prove me otherwise.

Yes, they do mock the 'politicalification' (if there is such a word) of Judaism by the Jewish state, but never the religion, its prophet or what it stands for.

it is much easier and less intimidating to understand a bit more about the Muslim world than to apply or force western values to it.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Indeed I see what you mean about sacredness not having to be generally applicable to teh masses. That is not the point of my post either. On the contrary...although drawing the prophet is a matter od sacredness for us, it cannot be applied on the media. However, he way in which some of the cartoons wer edrawn go against other laws and sentiments within the legal sphere her ein Scandinavia.

I think it's obvious that one condemns what's going on in Syria but we all know that the reasons for tehir display of anger has nothing or little to do with the cartoons but to do with other frustrations.

The climate in denmark for muslims in teh past years is nothing but disturbing and the cartoons with such implications of violence and terrorism and suicide bombing, need to be questioned for their purpose. I don't see them as falling under freedom of speach for we have something called "hets mot folkgrupp" which vbasically means "incitement against a people" (poorly translated), and that law usually takes precendence over freedom of speach such as laws on anti semitism and racism do. Islamophobia is as real and disturbing as anti-semitism.

Burning flags and embassies is just embarrasing and frustrating, but I ask myself why I as a muslim comfortable in the west don't react that way. I live in a country where more or less all my needs are met and I don't worry about food or work or providing. These factors also play a key role in how people deal with conflict.

That does not mean one excuses or condones what others are doing and the unproportionate reactions to what happened in Denmark. Much of the debate like I said, is about something other than teh core issue. But muslims are far from homogenous, and we all have different backgrounds, social, economic, cultural etc and with that, different ways to react and deal. Muslims in europe so far, have kept things to demonstrations alone...and that if anything, is a democratic tool and a justifiable "freedom of expression".

BuJ said...


I do not have anything against either Americans or Jews, but as a Palestinian Muslim I have not seen much good come out of either Americans or Jews and hence my comment. Moreover, the typical "Arab" in your average Hollywood movie is nothing to be proud of, and surprisingly this movie's depiction of Arabs does not match with previous feeble Hollywood attempts.

On a more positive tone, I reiterate that the movie Munch is an excellent movie and is well worth seeing.

Elizabeth said...


I still find your comment to be bigoted.

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