Sunday, February 05, 2006

Mahmood's Den on the cartoons

Mahmood, of Mahmood's Den, gives a very interesting response to the cartoons.
The main thing is the prohibition by Islam on representing the prophets graphically, possibly for fear of some people using that graphic as an idol, hence promoting idolatry practices rather than praying to Allah alone.

These cartoons not only represented the prophet, but made fun of, and denigrated him; that's double trouble.

As every Muslim is brought up to respect not only our prophet but also all those who have been sent by Allah to disperse His religions, and that we do not represent the prophet in any way, shape or form, they were insulted by the caricatures which were seen as the height of blasphemy.

Now as WE revere the prophet of Islam (pbuh) and do not represent him and hold him at the highest platform, and as we hold the other prophets at the same level of love and respect, we expect that everyone else in the world to hold our prophet in the same light. Reciprocal respect, if you like, was a "given" to us.

These cartoons shocked Muslims because we were slapped in the face. That respect, it was found, was not reciprocal at all, but one sided.

Now the way that Muslims went about dealing with this situation is, to me, farcical.

Yes, we should hold the prophet at the highest level of love and affection. Yes, we should defend him and his reputation, but the level that most of the protests I've seen, the worst of which was paradoxically in London, proves the point of those cartoons without a shadow of a doubt: Islam is a religion of hate and violence.

These protests and the way this situation was handled is completely wrong. We - continue to preach - that we have the higher moral hand, that our religion is the religion of peace, that our religion is the highest form of moral contract, yet, we go about the streets in droves holding up placards DEMANDING the death and torture of ANYONE who denigrates our religion and its symbols! Why should anyone respect us if this is the way we go about things?

These protests demanding violence, to me, is a complete moral bancruptcy of those taking part in those protests AND of their particular understanding of Islam.

I keep saying, so what if a dimwitted cartoonist, or Nazi or racist or a stupid person drew a cartoon or swore at our religious symbols or misrepresented them? Is that going to reduce our symbols' place in our and hundreds of millions of Muslims' hearts? Is that going to change their greatness? Of course not. So why was this situation blown up out of all rational repercussions?

I think this situation was used to divert the Muslim nation's attention from the real problems festering in its midst. And these things - a full 5 months after being published - were picked up and used, abused, to do just that.

Forget the festering corruption, negligible education, unemployment, squandering of opportunities, injustice, restriction of speech, restriction of expression, and the hundreds of other bad things we go through on a daily basis, and hang them all on a bunch of Danish cartoonists.

I don't buy it.

These cartoons or the hundreds of thousands of ones which probably have been drawn and are more offensive than the original 12 published because of the brouhaha we created will not negate nor lessen my love and respect for a great man sent by Allah as a saviour of the world.

What DOES offend me greatly however is the once again hijacking of my religion, this time universally by all sects, to show the world that it is ugly, intolerant, and violent.
I would like to make it clear that I don't endorse the sentiments reflected by some of the cartoons published by the Danish newspaper. (Some of them are actually poking fun at the newspaper itself). When I first read selections of the Qur'an as a graduate student in religion, I was very moved - the Qur'an retells many stories from the Hebrew Scriptures, and also refers to later rabbinic traditions (for example, the statement that "he who kills one person, it is as if he has destroyed an entire world").

There was something very similar religiously to what I was accustomed to finding in Judaism - concern for the weak and the poor, the necessity to seek justice, strict insistence on the oneness of God, and the importance of prophecy. The first part of the Muslim confession of faith - the shehadah - is something that Jews would have no problem saying: "There is no god but God." (Compare the sh'ma: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone").

The portrayal of Muhammed in the Qur'an bears striking similarities to the depiction of prophets in the Bible. I don't see any reason to mock or condemn the figure of Muhammed as he is known from the Qur'an, and it makes sense to me why Muslims revere him.

Like Mahmood with some of his fellow Muslims, I have been enraged and saddened when I feel that fellow Jews are trying to hijack my religion and turn it into an excuse for hatred and violence. A number of years ago, when I was living in Israel, one Shabbat afternoon I was visiting someone in the Old City of Jerusalem. The guests went up on to the roof, where we had a clear view of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount - the place sacred to Jews because it is where the Temple stood until it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. It is also a place holy to Muslims - the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located there. The Dome of the Rock may stand on the spot where the Temple once stood. If you have never seen it, it is a beautiful building, with a golden dome and tiled walls. I was standing next to a young religious Jewish man, an American who was studying in Jerusalem, and we were both looking at the Temple Mount. I said to him something like - isn't it a beautiful building? He pointed to the Dome of the Rock and made as if to shoot at it. He said that it would be good if it were destroyed, so that the Temple could be rebuilt on the spot. I said, but aren't they (Muslims) also human beings, made in the image of God (implying that many people would be killed if the mosques on the Temple Mount were destroyed)? He allowed as they might be, but my words clearly had no effect on his desire to destroy the Dome of the Rock.

I don't see that there's any place in Judaism for this kind of hatred and incitement to violence. Unfortunately not all Jews agree with me on this point.


  1. So it's ok under the guise of "freedom of speech" to depict the Prophet as a suicidal bomber, womanizer and terrorist?

    Picture this: A cartoon of Jesus, with his pants down, smiling, raping a little boy. The caption above it reads “Got Catholicism?” Or how about a picture of a Rabbi with blood dripping from his mouth after bludgeoning a small Palestinian boy with a knife shaped like the Star of David—the caption reads “The Devil’s Chosen Ones.”

    I wonder if people around the world would just consider this free speech?

  2. I do, actually, think that all of these depictions should be allowed under "freedom of speech." Certainly, in the United States, none of them would be banned. On the other hand, people are free to condemn them, picket the publications that print them, write letters to the editor attacking those who published them, mock those who drew them, etc. Why should religion get a free pass when nothing else does? I think that what we need to do here is exercise our right to free speech and denounce such cartoons if we object to them.

  3. Like Mahmood with some of his fellow Muslims, I have been enraged and saddened when I feel that fellow Jews are trying to hijack my religion and turn it into an excuse for hatred and violence.

    Well-said, Rebecca. I have felt similarly.

    Thanks for reprinting Mahmoud's post. You might also be heartened by Wondering how the Prophet might have responded to the cartoons, by Ahmed of 360 East. Smart, articulate, and wise.

  4. Thank you, Rachel.

    And Bruce786 - I wonder why you didn't cite the source of your comment - I just found it here in a column by Remi Kanazi. I don't particularly agree with Kenazi, but you should at least have credited him with his own words.

  5. I really was upset about the cartoons. Why make such cartoons when they are infactual and false?

    If people really read about the prophet peace be upon him they would realise he was a mercy to mankind.

    Moreover, as Muslims we aren't allowed to draw pictures of Prophets, furthermore, we aren't meant to disrespect someone elses religion. We respect all prophets, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, so why not respect our dear Prophet?

  6. muslim like most westeners I havent done a thing to disrespect your prophet or religion. The real disrespect is comming from those of your religion who yell god is great and blow themselves up causing those who have no respect to wonder if they should have any respect.


  7. woops strike out the word no