Terror attacks in France have sent shock waves across the world. That young men seething in rage over their “hurt sentiments” can go about beheading people in public places is an unimaginable act in any civilised society. And over what? Some cartoons of Prophet Mohammed?
This is not the first time that the self-appointed defenders of the Prophet and the faith have gone bonkers. There was the Danish newspaper episode 15 years ago. Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. There were deadly protests around the world as demonstrators burned Danish flags and torched diplomatic offices. The Danish cartoonist also survived several bids on his life. Then there was a YouTube video, again lampooning the Prophet. Then came the Charlie Hebdo episode where publication of Prophet’s cartoons led to the deadly attack on the magazine office in which 2 armed Muslim men killed 12 people, including a few cartoonists to “avenge insult to their Prophet”. While the protests over these distasteful portrayals of the Prophet (especially the YouTube video) are justified, the violence and attacks on institutions and individuals are plain criminal acts.
Before hurling stones or spraying bullets, these murderers who claim to be followers of the Prophet need to ask themselves a question. What has prompted these cartoons? Political cartoonists make fun of notorious, popular individuals, societies and institutions. No politician, group or individual has escaped the satirical stroke of the cartoonists. Even in case of Charlie Hebdo, all religions and their leaders, from Jesus to Muhammad, are painted with the same brutal brush.
Those angry at the Prophet’s cartoons need to ask themselves what turned their Prophet from messenger of peace to a “terrorist” in the imagination of the cartoonists? A cartoonist reacts to what’s happening around, what’s been talked about. Can’t expect everyone to read the life history of your Prophet and form an opinion for themselves. It’s the doings of the followers that give most people their impressions about a faith or any organisation. As Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmed Deedat rightly said: “The biggest enemy of Islam is the ignorant Muslim, whose ignorance leads him to intolerance, whose actions destroy the true image of Islam, and when the people look at him they think Islam is what he is.”
Muslim extremists need to ponder if they are blaming others for their own failings. Anyone mocking the Prophet or Islam is actually lampooning the followers and the image that they present of their messenger and religion.
Muslim societies have long abused the concept of blasphemy. It is widely believed that Islam only has one answer to a blasphemous act: Capital punishment. In true Islamic teaching, blasphemy is simply a case of misunderstanding. And response to it can only be ‘peaceful dialogue’. “So, [O Prophet] remind them: your task is only to remind, you are not over them a warden,” says the Quran (88:21-22).
The United Arab Emirates in 2019 joined a US-led call to prevent the abuse of blasphemy laws, which are on the books in much of the Islamic world. The call needs to be followed through even more rigorously today.
There is another important question that every Muslim must ask himself/herself in that moment of rage when he/she sees something as insulting to Muslims’ faith: ‘What Would Mohammed Do?’ Every Muslim is taught from the childhood how tolerant the Prophet was to criticism and abuse. Today, the crazy defenders of the Prophet are blinded by their rage.
Remember, your Prophet survived Dante’s Inferno, he will also survive a loose comment, a video clip or a cartoon.
The day Muslims stop reacting violently to the provocations in the name of the Prophet, such lunatic acts will lose traction. No one can offend a person who has decided not to take offense.
People who derive pleasure out of saying obnoxious things about your Prophet don’t deserve your protest. They just need to be ignored and pitied. Don’t defile your faith and your Prophet by running riot and killing in his name. If you know your Prophet well, he would say: “Not In My Name”.
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