It's hard for me to understand this kind of violent reaction over a couple of cartoons, of course. For the most part, we westerners are far more likely to riot and burn things down when our football team wins (or loses) the championship than because of some perceived religious slight.
So we'll once again scratch our heads in wonder, evacuate those in harm's way, and wait for the furor to blow itself out. And, quietly, we'll think to ourselves that perhaps Islam truly is incompatable with anything other than Islam... including the very tenets of modern democracy, such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship.
But, before we do, I think it would be worthwhile to listen to those small voices trying to be heard over the din of fundmentalist jihad. Sheila Musaji is one such voice. Writing in the online journal alt.muslim Ms. Musaji provides a cool-headed look at the Muslim reaction towards the 12 Danish cartoons that have sparked the latest round of Islamic outrage.
When honor killings, suicide bombings, attacks on Christian churches, destruction of Buddhist statues, insults towards other religions are carried out anywhere in the world by individuals claiming an Islamic justification for such acts - then as Muslims, we need to speak out just as strongly for justice.
When anyone, anywhere (whether Muslim or not) is treated unjustly because of their religion, race, sex, or ethnicity by anyone (whether Muslim or not) Muslims should be the first to speak out for justice. If any prophet is maligned, or any place of worship is profaned, if any scripture is treated disrespectfully, then Muslims should be the first to speak out in their defence.Ms. Musaji isn't proposing that the Muslim community let the latest (and truly stupid) insult from Europe go unanswered. Rather she is proposing that Muslims show their displeasure in the same manner as do other cultures - boycott them, and shame them. In short, respond righteously, but reasonably.
How is it possible that we can even consider exceeding the bounds of justice in response to such incidents as the Qur'an incident a few years ago, and this current incident of a few dumb cartoons in a relatively small newspaper in a country of only 5 million people. The excessive response is causing more harm to Islam and Muslim than the cartoons ever would have (and, in fact they would probably have gone unnoticed by the rest of the world if such attention had not been called to them).
The cartoons are a repeat of old anti-Semitic drawings, complete with hooked noses and swarthy complexions. The cartoons ARE offensive - but the response by many Muslims is more than offensive. Death threats, armed men taking over offices, threats against places of worship, etc. ARE offensive, illegal, immoral, unjust, and against the very spirit of Islam. Threatening to blow up churches in Palestine because a newspaper in Denmark (which is a predominantly Christian country) ran offensive cartoons means that these clowns are saying that every Christian in the world is responsible for the actions of anyone in the Christian world. This is madness just as much as those who hold the same attitude towards Muslims and Islam.
This sort of criminal, insane behavior plays right into the hands of the Islamaphobes and those who want to bring about a clash of civilizations. Even a just cause does not give anyone the right to use illegitimate means or deny others their rights.
There have been individual Muslims who have committed injustices against people of other faiths. There have been newspapers in Muslim countries that have carried offensive cartoons about Jews. There have been Muslims who have carried out violent acts against people of other faiths. As Muslims we need to be even more strong and outspoken in our objections to this perversion of Islam. We need to do everything we can do to reign in our own extremists.
If, as Muslims, we want to show respect for the Prophet, for the Qur'an, and for Islam, then we need to set a noble example of justice, tolerance, and respect. If we want respect from others we need to show them equal respect.
Take issues to court under the laws of the country in which you live - cancel your subscription - organize boycotts to exert economic pressure - send your message out peacefully - explain your position - lobby to enforce or change existing laws - take concerted action within the law - use legitimate, peaceful means - remain calm so that you can act and not simply react - get your own house in order - demand the same rights and privileges for ALL - engage in respectful dialogue.
This kind of responsible reaction would be welcomed in the West, I should think. But is any such dialog possible if the values Ms. Musaji espousees are not impressed upon young Muslims by their teachers and clergy? If all that is taught is the lesson of the sword, then our paths will wind inexorably deeper into the dark pit of cultural hatred.
"Muslims of the world, be reasonable," said the editor-in-chief of the weekly independent newspaper Al-Shihan in Jordan in an editorial alongside some of the cartoons, including the one showing the Muslim religion's founder wearing a bomb-shaped turban. "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?" wrote Jihad Momani.
You should read the whole of Ms. Massji's article. In fact, you should bookmark alt.muslim.
It may wind up being the last refuge for the "reasonable" Muslim in the whole Islamic world.