Muslims mad at Denmark

This is a sensitive subject, so please know that I am not trying to be critical of anyone's beliefs. I am hoping to start a conversation where people will different views can respectfully explain why they feel like they do.

If you are reading this in the US, you probably aren't aware of the calls here in the Gulf Region for a boycott of Danish products because of some cartoons that were published in Denmark's most popular newspaper. There is now a move by the OIC and Arab League to have the UN issue a resolution on this matter.

Let me tell you what I understand and do not understand about this dispute.

I understand that Muslims in general believe that it is at the very least disrespectful to depict any of the prophets. Having seen a couple of these cartoons, I understand Muslims being upset about the disrespectful way in which the Prophet Mohammed was depicted. As a Christian, I feel the same way when Jesus is mocked or disrespected. I understand being angry at the newspaper and the cartoonists.

What I don't understand is the anger at the entire country of Denmark. And when I read things like "Muslims expect Danish apology" in the Gulf News, I wonder if I am living in some alternate reality.

Take the first two paragraph:

A few weeks ago, the entire Western world was up in arms over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks in which he raised some questions about the Holocaust.

OK, stop. Are you really going to say that if the president of a country says something outrageous, it is the same as when private citizens do? Well, let's continue and see:

Most Western countries, including Denmark, denounced the man for commenting on an issue that is increasingly becoming more sacred than religions. Even some Arab countries joined the wave of condemnation, out of concern that his comments may increase the Western-Islamic divide and inflame the civilisation clash that emerged after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Muslims are sensitive to others' beliefs. They respect other religions. And they expect others to do the same.

What the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten did by publishing 12 cartoons defaming the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is atrocious and cannot be justified. And more appalling is its refusal, and the refusal of the Danish government, to apologise to the more than one billion Muslims who felt deeply offended and abused by the insulting caricatures.

OK, I guess that is what you are saying. What exactly is the Danish government supposed to apologize for? Having freedom of the press? How is the Danish government responsible for what is published in a private newspaper? Isn't this like arguing that Sheikh Khalifa is responsible for everything that every Emirati says? Or like saying that President Bush is responsible for the anti-Bush speeches of Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore? Should he demand that he apologize to himself?

Muslim ambassadors in Copenhagen asked to see the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to discuss the issue, but he refused to meet them, arguing that Denmark "respects freedom of speech and freedom of the press". However, we would question that policy when the same Western governments disregard the very same principle to, for example, ban the Lebanese satellite channel Al Manar for allegedly being anti-Israel. It is obvious the Danish concept of freedom is a one-way street. It is only embraced and protected when it insults Muslims and their beliefs.

OK, but then aren't you arguing that you only embrace freedom of speech if you agree with what is being said? You are claiming that Danes are hypocrites for wanting to prevent the airing of viewpoints that they disagree with. What does that make you? Especially if you end with "[Denmark's] interests could be easily jeopardised if both the newspaper and the government do not apologise for the horrendous mishap and ensure it will not be repeated." The only way that the government could "ensure it will not be repeated" is to do the same thing as what Western governments did to Al Manar.

But the worst thing that could happen for Muslims would be to get their way. Suppose the Danish government gave in and passed a law making it illegal to insult any religion. What is stop Christian from complaining that Muslims in Denmark are demeaning Jesus by denying His divinity? Or Hindus, because Muslims deny that there is more than one god? Or atheists, because Muslims insist that there is a god?

It may be my culture biases, but this approach seems more likely to work in the long run:

"We [Muslims] need to counter [attacks on Islam] by our good deeds, action and work," he advised. [Shaikh Khalfan Bin Mohammad Al Esry, Islamic Scholar and Teacher of Theology and Human Development] wants measures to be taken to remove misconceptions about Islam in the West. "We must use print media, satellite television channels or hold conferences in places like Denmark to educate people about our religion and beliefs," he believes. He advised people in the Muslim world not to be reactionary. "Don't get emotional," he suggested and added that people should hold a dialogue with those responsible for such acts and educate them about Islam.


"Tell them Islam respects the prophets of other religions, so please respect Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)," he pointed out.


redstar said...

I heartily agree with your sentiments and those of the Sheikh you quote at the end.

What a fuss about nothing, with various governments and individuals ending up conforming the stereotypes the cartoons display.

Anonymous said...

The articles were published way back in september for the first time and I wonder how it can be that the reaction comes so suddenly over the course of the last couple of days.

Today I have read comments that the Danish government is behind this by issuing a "competition" to create the most insulting pictures of their prophet. There are even people complaining that the Danes serve grilled porkskin as snacks to their children.

As I see it, this was planned somehow by people wanting to take on and discredit a small western country - perhaps to move focus away from the fact that 370 people were trampled in Mecca recently.

I dont know, but in any case, it is ridiculous.

P-BS-Watcher said...

Thank you for posting on this topic. I have reposted the original 12 cartoons on my blog. I urge all bloggers who believe in free speech to do the same. Use the internet to keep theocracy from muzzling free speech. See Farenheit 451 Alert

Brn said...

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Anonymous 1:55, I know that The Religious Policeman blog (http://muttawa.blogspot.com/) has stated that he thinks that it is a plan of the Saudi government to distract attention from the tragedy in Makka. I have to say that when you read this article ("Denmark, Arab League resolve row over cartoons" http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060105/wl_mideast_afp/denmarkmediaislam_060105205349) from 5 January, you have to ask yourself, what has happened between that day and today that would cause the whole thing to blow up again.

P-BS-Watcher, while I heartily support your right to post the cartoons, I also do not think that because I have a right to free speach that it means that I have to post something that I know will offend someone.

Anonymous said...

O oh... I see another blog to be blocked anytime soon.

Farrukh said...

Anyone who knows even the very basic principles of Islam and a brief outline of Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) teachings would see that the cartoons do great injustice to both.

True, like the Sheikh says, more information needs to be disseminated about Islam apart from the press coverage of Muslims protesting.

The government may not issue an apology for an individual but can certainly hold its citizens to account for inciting mistrust and unnecessary provocation.

Brn said...

Thanks for your comment Farrukh.

I'm not sure what you mean by a government "hold[ing] its citizens to account for inciting mistrust and unnecessary provocation". Can you explain further?

The heart of the Western tradition of freedom of speech and freedom of the press includes the right to offend and provoke people. There really isn't a right to free speech if you can only say or print things that won't offend someone.

mohamed Elzubeir said...

The entity responsible for inciting hate is the one that dug up the cartoons and started this mad campaign that makes absolutely no sense.

Had it been an American paper, would anyone have dared to boycott their products? Puhllleease.. gimme a break. It was only easy cause the Danes produce a bunch of dairy products as far as we're concerned here.

I think the cartoons may have been tasteless to some, however, it obviously reflects public opinion in Europe, which should, instead, be a clear indication of the need to launch a PR campaign to improve the image, instead of a pathetic pointless one to re-enforce it.


Emiraty said...

this is my reply on a similar topic, sorry might not fit exactly with ur discussion.

why didn't u say so to European and american governments when they asked for Saudi's Islamic teaching to be changed ?! aren't they free to teach whatever they feel is right for them ?!

is whats happening to iraqi's prisoners in Basra and Abo guraib under the americans and british what u call civilised world ?

is ,what happened to the British author who was jailed in Austria because of his views on holocaust, what u call European Freedom of speech ?!
i cant understand westerners, especially british and Americans, when they claim they r very democratic and they live in a free world .... blah blah
haven't they heard of the "dodgy PhD used by Tony to justify the war " !, or the made up pictures of WMD " produced and edited by Colin Powell "!
what about the recently discovered memo by Channel 4 of the conversation between Blair and Bush before the war, when Bush offered to provoke sadam to bring down and American spy airplane coloured with UN colours !then Blair told him he is with him regardless !
what a democracy !
or Ian's issue, they say iran shouldn't develop nuclear weapons because it threatened to wipe another " country" off the map !, while this other "country" has already wiped a whole country off and displaced its population !

what ppl in the middle east dont like is the double standards of the west !.
they went to iraq to free iraqis from Sadam and they killed in 3 years more than what sadam did over 30 years !
they publish daily reports condemning human rights' violations in the world , and the humiliate and torture innocent civilians in iraq, afghanistan, Guantinamo ..etc everyday !

finally they defend freedom of press while no one can dare to deny the holocaust or even question the scale !
last week Americans were as usual defending this right, yesterday the pentagon and Bush's generals were outraged by a cartoon published in Washington post showing a limbless soldier with Rumsfeld as a doctor next to him !
May 2004, Several US newspapers refused to print a cartoon by Garry Trudeau, which was due to be published two weeks after US civilian Nicholas Berg was beheaded in Iraq. Then after the washigton post published it, it caused a lot of anger and he was forced to apologise ! (poor him, his right was taken from him ) !

in 1990 most ppl were pro westerns and loved the democracy and freedom of speech in the west, but look at them now ! most of them r disgusted by the very idea of democracy and human rights !