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February 7, 2006

Danish Cartoon Controversy

By Khalid Saeed

Islam forbids any depiction of Muhammad or of Allah. Muslims all over  the world feel that publishing of Holy Prophet’s cartoon was NOT an issue of freedom of  expression, it was pure and simple a case of HATE SPEECH. Nazis cartoons to humiliate Jews or racist cartoons to degrade blacks, browns, yellow or any other race or color will never be printed in any mainstream and reputable media outlet under the guise of freedom of expression. Governments across Europe, the Middle East and Asia were reluctantly sucked into the

Danish cartoon row as hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets to protest. The newspaper insists on freedom of expression and says it has the right to print whatever words and pictures it chooses. But Jyllands - Posten published the cartoons depicting Islam’s most revered personality, the Prophet Muhammad, in a way that was inaccurate, derogatory and intentionally provocative. Other than demonstrating hatred toward Islam, the cartoons achieved little else.

It is at difficult times like this that we must learn and share the true teachings of Islam and Prophet Muhammad.  Also Muslims across the globe must follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and act with restraint in the face of defamatory attacks.

During his lifetime, Prophet Mohammed endured insults and ridicule on a daily basis. His opponents mocked his message and used physical violence to stop him from challenging the status quo. At no stage during this ordeal did the Prophet lose his temper or react to these provocations. Tradition has it that he would, instead, offer a prayer of forgiveness to those who showed contempt for him.

"You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness." Prophet Muhammad said.

Quran tells the prophet to "show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant." (7:199)

There can be no denying that freedom of expression was won in the West after bitter and long struggles against the religious establishment and the ruling classes’ proclivity to censor all criticism of their actions. Yet, writers and publishers do exercise discretion and today sensible and responsible people would not indulge in anti-Semitic jokes or employ racist humor to denigrate other people. Not that it does not happen, but such attitudes are generally considered fit only for uncultivated people.  The freedom of  expression should be exercised with greater sensitivity when it refers to founders of religion such as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Since Muslims do not accept that their Prophet should be presented in a pictorial form or in a caricature it would be wise to avoid doing so.

According to the U.S. State Department, the United States is playing an important role in the effort to contain and ultimately wipe out anti-Semitism. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sponsored conferences in Vienna and Berlin that recognized anti-Semitism as a fundamental violation of human rights.

The Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, signed by President Bush on October 2004, asks governments to take note of and respond to instances of anti-Jewish propaganda. These steps are indeed laudable. Why not broaden them to fight Islamophobia as well?

Not undertaking similar efforts to curb Islamophobia undermines U.S. and European credibility in the Muslim world, thereby fueling fear and mistrust. It is time for Europe and America to adopt the same zero-tolerance for Islamophobia as has quite rightly been adopted toward anti-Semitism.

At the end I will remind the readers that in April 2003 the same Danish newspaper refused to publish degrading cartoons about Jesus Christ by saying that they would provoke an outcry. That decision of the Jyllands-Posten Editor gives credence to the belief of many Muslims that the cartoons about the Prophet of Islam were published with malicious intentions in the smoke screen of the freedom of speech.

Khalid Saeed is National president of “American Muslim Voice”, an advocacy group. to protect and preserve civil liberties and constitutional rights for all and to bridge the gap between all communities.

February 6, 2006

Provocative Danish cartoons:
American Muslims reject violent response

American Muslim organizations, while vehemently condemning the recent offending Danish cartoons about the Prophet of Islam (which were later published by other European newspapers in the name of freedom of speech), rejected violence and called for a restraint response.

On February 5, the Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference in Washington, D.C., to express the U.S. Muslim community's rejection of violence in response to the defamatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The CAIR urged the American Muslim community and American media outlets to continue to show the restraint they have exhibited during this controversy.

It reiterated the Muslim community's strong belief that the controversy is not an issue of free speech, but is instead based on concerns over hate speech and incitement and condemned all violent actions by those who are protesting the cartoons. "Everyone has the right to peacefully protest defamatory attacks on their religious figures, but protestors should not reinforce existing stereotypes by resorting to violence or inflammatory rhetoric," CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

"Intentionally provocative attacks on Islam should be rejected in the same way that credible media outlets quite rightly decline to publish anti-Semitic materials," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "People of all faiths in the West and in the Muslim world should look for ways to turn this troubling episode into a positive learning experience."

The CAIR also detailed its educational initiatives in response to the defamatory attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. On February 3, CAIR distributed a syndicated editorial, titled "What Would Muhammad Do?" describing how the Prophet Muhammad himself refrained from violent reactions to personal attacks and abuse.

Also, CAIR
urged prayer leaders at mosques nationwide to defend the Prophet Muhammad's image through educational activities, the sharing of books and other materials with friends and colleagues of other faiths and through "personal example of good character as instructed by the Prophet Muhammad."

Read also:
North American Media Shy Away from Muslim Cartoons

The Muslim Public Affairs Council on February 6 called on American Muslims to demonstrate calm and restraint, following the violence and destruction in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, where protestors set a building housing the Danish Mission on fire and attacked a nearby church. The MPAC also called on Western media to feature American Muslim spokespeople urging calm and restraint in this deteriorating situation.

The world's leading Islamic body, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference, also condemned the violence, saying "Over-reactions surpassing the limits of peaceful democratic acts... are dangerous and detrimental to the efforts to defend the legitimate case of the Muslim world."

Much of the Muslim world has for months been a powder keg of pent-up anti-Western anger over the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the European publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad seems to have been the spark that lit the fuse. Islamic law forbids depictions of the Prophet. Many have viewed the cartoons as intentional provocation by conservative, anti-immigration forces in Europe, while others consider them an indicator of a broader perception of Islam and Muslims.

In Toronto, the Canadian Islamic Congress strongly rejected the violent protests against the publication of anti-Islam cartoons in a number of European newspapers. In a statement, the CIC said that "treating people as guilty-by-association is against Islamic teachings. Instead, those journalists -- whether cartoonists, commentators, or editors -- who show no respect for other religions or faiths, should themselves be treated no differently than Holocaust deniers. They should be legally challenged on that basis."

MPAC Bulletin - February 6, 2006

MPAC condemns Beirut riots,
calls for 'calm and restraint'

Washington, DC – February 6, 2006 -- The Muslim Public Affairs Council today called on American Muslims to demonstrate calm and restraint, following the deplorable violence and destruction in Beirut where protestors set a building housing the Danish Mission on fire and attacked a nearby church. MPAC also called on Western media to feature American Muslim spokespeople urging calm and restraint in this deteriorating situation.

The world's leading Islamic body, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Conference, also condemned the violence, saying "Over-reactions surpassing the limits of peaceful democratic acts... are dangerous and detrimental to the efforts to defend the legitimate case of the Muslim world."

Much of the Muslim world has for months been a powder keg of pent-up anti-Western anger over the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the European publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad seems to have been the spark that lit the fuse. Islamic law forbids depictions of the Prophet. Many have viewed the cartoons as intentional provocation by conservative, anti-immigration forces in Europe, while others consider them an indicator of a broader perception of Islam and Muslims.

"True Muslims feel ashamed of what happened today," Lebanese parliament's majority leader, Saad Hariri, said. "They went to a demonstration of peace, but some little-minded people and criminals caused the trouble. We will not let them do this again because we Muslims and Christians are one people and we will do everything to protect this country."

The protest in Beirut began peacefully yesterday; however, thick smoke filled the sky as it degenerated into rioting. One of the demonstrators who set the consulate building on fire was encircled by flames and died after jumping from the third floor, according to Reuters news agency. Syrian protestors set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies, damaged the Swedish Embassy, and tried to storm the French Embassy but were fended off by riot police. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities have yet to determine whether the murder of a Roman Catholic priest, who was shot dead in a church courtyard yesterday, was connected to the cartoon protests.

The current climate of extreme and reactionary hostility feeds into the terrorists desire to spark a full-fledged "clash of civilizations". Such growing animosity cannot only be combated by bridging communication gaps between cultures and eliminating the suffering of the people. American Muslims have a large role to play in demonstrating a tempered and mainstream response to both the cartoons and the outrage that has followed their repeated publication in European media.

We call on Muslim leaders worldwide to extinguish the flames of hate with showers of compassion. In the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, we should pray for God's mercy for all at this time, not for vengeance or harm to any human being.

The Qur'an states: "O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do" (5:8).

CIC - Bulletin - February 6, 2006

Canadian Islamic Congress rejects violent
response to anti-Islam cartoons

The Canadian Islamic Congress today issued a strong rejection of recent violent protests against the publication of anti-Islam cartoons in a number of European newspapers.

Responding especially to attacks on Danish and Norwegian embassies in some countries, the CIC said that "treating people as guilty-by-association is against Islamic teachings. Instead, those journalists -- whether cartoonists, commentators, or editors -- who show no respect for other religions or faiths, should themselves be treated no differently than Holocaust deniers. They should be legally challenged on that basis."

The statement went on to urge that offending journalists not be granted media visas, interview access, or other professional considerations, and that the publications they work for should be boycotted for disseminating hate literature.

"People of faith the world over should appeal to the professional ethics of the international media to stop the spread of hate, whenever and wherever it happens," the statement concluded. "Muslim minorities everywhere pay a heavy price for this kind of bigotry -- it is Muslims, not Islam, that need to be defended here."

The CIC sent today's statement to the embassies of both Denmark and Norway, as well as to those of Muslim countries in Ottawa.