Why We Muslims Are Angry

You want to know why Muslims are so offended by the caricature of the Prophet? It boils down to respect--a lack of it.

BY: Hesham A. Hassaballa

 

Continued from page 1

Printing these cartoons once was bad enough, but Muslims protested and Denmark apologized. The whole thing might have ended there. But for other European newspapers to

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them just to say “We have the right to print these, and we will.”--that was the kicker. Freedom of expression is one thing, but to deliberately print something you know is offensive just to prove that you have the right to do so, that is cruel. The ensuing protests shouldn’t have surprised anyone--but the intensity of the protests, that’s another matter.

The Muslim reaction went way too far. Most definitely Muslims have a right to protest such an insulting and degrading depiction of their Prophet. But to torch a Danish embassy (Syria), throw eggs at a Danish embassy (Indonesia), take over a European Union office at gunpoint (Gaza), and even beat two employees of the Danish company Arla Foods (Saudi Arabia) is completely unnecessary and--dare I say it--barbaric. Moreover, it is totally insulting to the example and character of the very man these Muslims claim to be defending.

I thought the economic boycott of Danish goods was a much more effective way of registering Muslim protest. It is true that Arla Foods and its employees--along with the Danish government-- had nothing to do with the cartoon controversy. Nevertheless, publishing the offensive cartoons sent a message to Muslims worldwide: That Denmark does not respect Muslim religious sensibilities (though this probably isn’t true). Dubai resident Mohammad Danani summed up this sentiment when he told The New York Times, "I will cut them off 100 percent because there is no respect. It's no longer an issue of apologizing. Now, they have to learn their lesson."

Rather than expending their energy with violent protests, Muslims could take the publication of these offensive cartoons as an opportunity to educate others about the Prophet Muhammad: The man who always had a smile on his face, who never missed an opportunity to help those in need, who forgave his most bitter enemies, and who did not respond to the constant and vicious attacks against his person and character by his contemporaries.

In fact, Muslims should take the advice of cartoonist Signe Wilkinson: "Instead of threatening to draw blood, Muslims should pick up their pens and draw return cartoons instead."

This last recommendation, however, comes with a condition: While I think it was wrong for the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten to publish those cartoons, it cannot be denied that newspapers in Arab and Muslim countries have published cartoons that were offensive to non-Muslims, especially Jews. If it is offensive to Islam, it is also offensive to Christianity and Judaism.

Depicting the Prophet as a terrorist is not what is most sad about this latest incident. What is most sad is that this cartoon controversy has further widened the schism between the Western and Muslim worlds, and it couldn't have happened at a worse time. This entire incident has truly been offensive all the way around.

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