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.