In the Name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful
The furor over the silly cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) does not want to die down. Despite appeals from Muslim leaders and apologies from the Danes, the protests continue. Now, some Danes have sought to retaliate against Muslim rage by desecrating Muslim graves.
This has gotten way out of hand. We have to look beyond this mess and try to find out what we can learn about each other and this episode, so that such furors do not occur in the future. Yet, I must pause and reflect about the publication of the cartoons in the first place.
They should never have been published.
Not because – if I may interject here – radical Muslim mutants will kill you if you do so. I am sick and tired of their using vicious violence to handle difference and dissent. I don’t know why the cartoonists drew the cartoons that they did, but I bet that part of their motivation was to stick it to the radicals. I think that the violence we have been witnessing will only encourage more defamatory depictions of the Prophet (pbuh) to be published in the future. That is why more violent protests are – not only wrong and un-Islamic – but totally counterproductive. It just cements the idea in the minds of many Westerners that Muslims are nothing but a bunch of bloodthirsty barbarians.
Nevertheless, the cartoons should never have been published in the first place. First of all, I am going to assume that the cartoonists had no malicious intent in publishing the cartoons; I am going to assume that they wanted to engage in an honest discussion about the perils of terror in the name of religion, which was – I believe – the underlying message of the cartoons. Inserting the Prophet (pbuh) into this discussion completely destroyed any chance of any Muslim actually receiving this message, a message which I think is completely legitimate. Rather, equating the Prophet (pbuh) with the sins of a tiny minority of his “followers” completely closed the minds of the intended audience and only hurt Muslim feelings and sensibilities.
Secondly, publishing the cartoons can only exacerbate Europe’s “Muslim problem.” There are millions of Muslim immigrants – and their European-born children – who continue to face discrimination, alienation, and isolation from greater European society. In some countries, such as France, Muslims are relegated to rundown ghettos where their problems continue to fester – away from the eyes of the rest of society. Occasionally, these problems bubble up to the surface in the form of riots, like the recent riots in France.
Still, European leaders are coming to terms with the fact that they need to deal head on with the problem of integrating European Muslims into mainstream European society. Now, integration goes both ways. European Muslims themselves have to be willing and ready to integrate into mainstream society, to accept the fact that their European and Muslim identities are neither mutually exclusive nor contradictory.
At the same time, however, mainstream European society must also make their Muslim compatriots feel welcome. Publishing – and then later republishing – those cartoons all across Europe sends the message to European Muslims that: “Europe hates your Prophet, your religion, and does not want you.” This will poison any attempt at trying to integrate European Muslims, especially the Muslim youth, into society and prevent them from being recruited by the radicals, who use alienation and isolation as the blood supply of their cancer of extremism.
Furthermore, these cartoons only increased the barriers of misunderstanding between the Western and Muslim worlds. Again, assuming that the cartoonists’ did not have any malicious intent in publishing the cartoons about the Prophet – a possibly fallacious assumption, I admit – then at a time when there are those in both the Western and Muslim worlds that will benefit from a “clash of civilizations” and point to this episode as their evidence, publishing these cartoons has been a total disaster. They should never have been published.
I hope and pray that the violence in reaction to this cartoon mess dies down and does so quickly. It is totally unbecoming of the very man these “devout Muslims” claim to be defending. Both the Western and Muslim worlds must look beyond this fiasco and seek out what can be learned from this unfortunate episode. Both the Western and Muslim worlds must seek to understand each other and open more avenues of dialogue. Both the Western and Muslim worlds must seek to work together for the greater good of the entire world. If this happens as a result of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, then the eternal words of God shall also apply to this case: “Perhaps you may hate a thing, and it turns out to be good for you” (2:216).