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February '06: The Cartoon Jihad


Individualland spotlight is a monthly monitor on political affairs printed on the 17th of every month by individualland.com. Individualland would welcome reproduction & dissemination of the contents of this report after proper acknowledgment.

The Cartoon Jihad
(February 2006)
This issue of individu-spotlight focuses on the protests and violence around the printing and re-printing of the cartoons of the Last Messenger of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) As liberal secularists, indiviudalland feels that the cartoons were politically incorrect and to an extent an unfortunate provocation in a world of communication gaps between the Muslims and non Muslims. However, through this individu-spotlight, individualland would also like to ask as to what lessons can be dawn from this incident? Isn't it time for Muslims to also engage in painful introspection and ponder over why increasingly Muslims are associated with violence?

It has been called by some circles as the cartoon jihad and by others as Tehrik Nifaz e Naboat i.e. Movement for the protection of the prophethood.The socio-political events of the last few days have been overshadowed by the controversy over the cartoons printed in a number of European newspapers. Street protests have taken place thought out the world including Pakistan with a majority of the protests becoming violent and causing loss of life and property. Practicing and non practicing Muslims alike have condemned the publication of these cartoons while the Western media declares that this is actually freedom of expression. There have also been reports of Muslim consumers boycotting Scandavian products. In Pakistan, a Norwegian phone company had to cover up its expensive marketing billboards from the protesters marking a new chapter in the history of marketing. While the crowds chant angry slogans outside, one would like to share a few thoughts with the readers' .Needless to say, feedback is most welcome.

The making and printing of the cartoons of the most venerated of the Muslim prophets, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) by the newspapers is condemnable. It is condemnable not only because it hurts the Muslim sentiments but it is the height of political incorrectedness that the modern world has cultivated after many decades of struggle. Just as it is politically incorrect to call someone a nigger or in the South Asian context achoot (untouchable) it is politically incorrect to visually depict the Prophet. There is no secret of the fact that Muslims do not appreciate the visual depiction of the Prophet just as they do not eat pork or believe in the multiplicity of Gods. Whether that makes sense to the non Muslims or not is beside the point. In a world where integration and co-existence is a major challenge post 9/11, the London bombing, Gutonama Bay ,Iraq and Afghanistan crisis, depiction of cartoons of the Prophet seems like a deliberate provocation .In local terms, one would call it a panga.

Thus, the cartoons are commendable, in poor taste, a deliberate provocation and politically incorrect. This is a message that should be heard and articulated to all and sundry clearly. However, has this be done? What are the lessons that Muslims can learn from this shameful incident?

The cartoons depict the Prophet as having a missile for a turban thus symbolizing violence and intolerance. However, as all Muslims know the Prophet was a man of peace and did not have an iota of violence in him. He even forgave his most bitter enemies and even looked after the old woman who used to throw waste on him every morning. However, is this lesson of tolerance and peace evident amongst his followers today? As crowds burn down hotels and lights in Lahore, as they charge onto the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, are these followers of the Man of peace? Television cameras beamed images all over the world of Muslim protesters in London holding placards declaring `` Death to the cartoonists" and ``Kill the Danish editor." Is this the message of Islam?

The cartoons made no difference between Al-Qaeda and the Last Messenger of Islam. In other words, Islam and the Prophet were incorrectly depicted as intolerant, regressive and repressive. Islamic history is full of stories of how the Prophet helped even his enemies, encouraged men and women to express their views and stressed the need for decisions made as result of consensus. Islamic history tell us that even before receiving the revelation, the Prophet as a young man was known for his honesty, integrity and peacefully ended disputes such as who would lay the stone for the construction of the Holy Kaba. The Prophet also abhorred tribalism and spoke out in favor of equality. However as one casts one's eye on his followers today from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, Syria and Pakistan, are his words being paid heed to? Do people living in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Pakistan enjoy equal rights? Are the lives and properties of citizens in these countries safe and respected? Do citizens have a chance to express themselves and do their governments really reflect their aspirations? The Holy Prophet (PBUH) repeatedly declared that the life and property of every individual should be respected. When the protesters burn down private banks killing two people, are they mindful of the Prophet's message of respect of property?

Are the Muslims paying heed to the message of peace, tolerance and egalitarianism that the Prophet brought with him? Or are these merely stories in history? For the point of view of a non- Muslim , one might say that the Muslims have had a glorious example before them but that example of respect, tolerance, honesty and integrity has been forgotten and is only history now.

It is very easy to take up a stick, roll up one's sleeves charge towards the nearest Embassy, private company or a traffic light, shout Allah O Akbar and burn it down. However, it needs a lot of introspection to ponder as to why the non Muslims almost Pavlolianly associate Muslims with violence and intolerance? It is easy to hold placards shouting Death to the cartoonist but it is difficult to ponder over whether or not there is some truth to the allegation of the present lot of Muslims being irrational and violent? It is easy to condemn the non Muslims for their bad taste in printing the cartoons but one should forget that such bad taste is displayed in our mosques every Friday when the mullah declares Death to the infidels ,death to the Hindus and death to the Jews. It is difficult to accept the Islam phobia of the non-Muslims but one should not forget that the non-Muslim phobia has existed in our textbooks for decades. It is difficult to digest the utter disrespect shown to the Prophet (PBUH) through these cartoons but one should also not forget that TV programs ridiculing the Jews form part of regular prime time TV in Saudia Arabia and Syria.

If we Muslims truly are passionate about the Tehrieek e-Nifaz-e Naboot (Movement for the Protection of Prophet hood) then it is time for introspection. It is time to condemn the cartoon incident but also ask: What have we Muslims done through our actions for the protection of the message of the Prophet? (Peace be Upon Him).If we Muslims truly are passionate about the cartoon jehad than we need to ask ourselves: Have we waged jehad for truth, peace and tolerance? If we Muslims don't want to be a laughing stock of the world, it is time that we stop kidding ourselves and face the painful truth that we need to evolve rather than being stuck in the past.
 

 

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