Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Prominent Jewish leader condems the offensive caricatures about Prophet Muhammad

In today's issue of al-Hayat, an interesting article by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, about the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which appeared in a Danish newspaper a couple weeks ago. The caricatures had sparked outrage from the muslim community in Denmark as well as from muslims all over the world. In his article, Mr. Bronfman argues that freedom of expression should not be used in a malicious way to ridicule or insult the religious beliefs of others, especially when those targeted are in minority status. While I might disagree on Mr. Bronfman's position on the middle-east conflict, I think this article is a noble moral gesture of support for the muslims in these difficult times, and as such is worthy of respect.

34 comments:

AL Malih said...

Very commandable response! I have not seen any better response than this one...of course the boycott is a better response...and of course we know that the jewish leader is doing it primarily for his people, because he knows that Europe deep down is still very racist, and antisemitism can reappear at any moment...but still I agree with him on this 100%. And this could be a lesson for us on how to write a letter of protestation that a European can understand.

Jawad said...

I am glad that Edgar Bronfman wrote to condemn this absurdity. I just wish our Muslim leaders would condemn the equally outrageous anti-simetic bull manure that some Arab media prints and brodcasts.

A friend asked me yesterday why it is that the Muslim World is so outraged by the cartoons - here is a copy-paste of what I replied:

1. Most people in the West try to view Islam with Western lenses. Remember what I once told you that, unlike the West (especially secular European socities), Islam is not some seperate compartment that can be ignored or offended when it is convienient to do so - it is like a constant energy that flows throughout Muslim society. So, this situation offends the religious and secular Musilms alike. The responses will be vastly different - but the outrage is about the same.

2.In Islam it is a grave matter to portray the person of the prophet whether favorably or unfavorably. It’s a grave sign of disrespect. It was the wish of the prophet not to be (visually) portrayed in any way so as to prevent idolatry - Something, unfortunately, that Muslim leaders completely set aside for themselves (yes, you can say it - hypocrasy) because they make it a matter of policy to litter their countries with their pictures and statues.

3. The prohibition on depicting/illustrating the prophet has been respected by entire civilizations for centuries untill this Danish newspaper decided it did not apply anymore. So, this was like giving the middle finger to > 1 Billion Muslims.

4.Due to the prominence of Islam and the Middle East in today’s political discourse, you’ve got people in the West who are anxiously, yet blindly, walking into unfamiliar territory. They are provoking outrage for no value at all. They may want to force change - but that change, they shall know, will not come without fierce resistance, especially when the pushing comes from the "outside". Muslim societies do have to re-appraise their societal norms, but this will take lots of time.

5.The cartoons have a xenophobic and hateful message behind them. What is the message of the cartoon showing the prophet with a bomb strapped to his head?? Does it mean that Muslims are fundamentally wired to be terrorists??? What is the publication trying to convey - what's the message to its readers?

So that’s why Muslims are outraged – but it is an outrage that I don't expect the West to understand.

Karim said...

Al malih,
Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that we still have a lot to learn in terms of civic discourse. Let's hope that those younger muslims who are raised and educated in the West will be better advocates of islam than their parents were.

Jawad,
Why do you say that the West cannot understand the outrage felt by muslims? Your point number 5 is very compelling, and makes it obvious that the main reason muslims are so pissed off is that the Prophet was depicted in such a negative and degrading fashion. Even if your friend is unable to understand the other points you discussed, I think any fair minded person would have no problem understanding your last argument.

Jawad said...

Karim:

Because the current atmosphere favors confrontation rather than objective analysis. The air is full of dust - dust of mistrust - and people are looking for elements that reinforce their darkest fears about each other.

By the way, the reaction of some "Muslims" to this situation is shameful - we have a bunch of hateful hooligans who come out shooting their guns in the air at the slightest provocation - and the media loves it.

Leila M. said...

Glad he condemned it as well. Of course, now this Iranian newspaper is holding a contest encouraging people to send in holocaust-denial cartoons to their rag. I wouldn't exactly call that a reasonable or respectful response, either. In the end, there seems to be good and bad all over...

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