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Archive for Saturday, February 25, 2006

What do you think of reactions to the cartoons of Muhammad?

February 25, 2006

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Violence not the sole reaction to cartoons

Mohammad Rahman, member, Muslim Student Association at Kansas University:

As a Muslim, with a firm belief in every teaching of the great religion of Islam, I am compelled to denounce all baseless acts of violence conducted in reaction to the cartoons.

But the question asked begs for a deeper response, as violence was not the sole reaction of Muslims, and Muslims were not the only ones to react.

Before tackling the spectrum of reactions, it would help to understand the Muslim sentiment about the cartoons. A faithful Muslim is hurt and angered when the Prophet Muhammad is defamed in any way. The Danish cartoons ridiculed the Prophet in a most shamefully disrespectful way. Not surprisingly, Muslims around the world perceived the cartoons to be offensive and acknowledged a sacred duty to protest.

On the KU campus, I have tried to do my part. When asked about my reaction, I explained my dismay and shared my condemnation. And I applauded similar peaceful protest efforts of millions of Muslims across the globe. The call for a boycott of Danish products by Muslim leaders followed by an apology from the Danish prime minister was a triumphant demonstration of achieving success through Islam (peace), and Islamic solidarity and discipline.

As a Muslim, I acknowledge that many different views exist. As a faithful individual, I am saddened that many supporters of the offensive cartoons are failing to understand the Muslim hurt, are falsely accusing Muslims of attacking free speech through intolerance, and are consequently calling for mass publishing of the cartoons. Saddened, because publishing the cartoons is both an exercise and a tragic abuse of the right to free speech.

Saddened, because the Prophet Muhammad's teaching of tolerance is overlooked, both by non-Muslims and Muslims. In his words, "the strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger." So while Muslims have every right to be angered by the cartoons, their faith binds them to exercise control.

- Send e-mail to Mohammad Rahman at rahman@ku.edu.

Images depict a global campaign against Islam

Moussa Elbayoumy, director, Islamic Center of Lawrence, 1917 Naismith Drive:

I believe that the reaction to these cartoons cannot be viewed or considered in isolation from the historical context of relations between Muslims and the non-Muslim, "Western" world - the unique place that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) occupies as a central and beloved figure at the core of the self-identity of all Muslims, and the global atmosphere surrounding Muslims in the world today, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001.

The cartoons themselves are offensive to every Muslim. They abused free speech which is valued by all, including Muslims, and used it as a tool to propagate hate, stereotyping and bigotry. Replace the word "Muslim" or "Muhammad" in some of today's commentaries with the word "Jew," and you find the statements almost identical to anti-Semitic statements prevalent in Europe in the 1930s, or with the word "black" and you find similarity to Ku Klux Klan statements in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s.

The cartoons themselves would not have caused the outrage the world has witnessed if they were not seen as a part of the global campaign against Islam and the wave of Islamophobia sweeping the western world.

What we witness today is a "global civil rights movement" for all Muslims demanding respect, acceptance and equal rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Not unlike other civil rights movements, this one has its legitimate concerns and principles, carried out by legitimate activists and leaders who pursue legal and peaceful means. It also has some on the fringe, possibly fueled by opportunist and oppressive governments who protest in ways denounced by the world, and by the majority of Muslims as a violation of the teachings of Islam.

We need to join together to condemn the violence, but we also need to open our hearts and our minds to the legitimate concerns of Muslims worldwide, if we are to avoid a Holocaust of Muslims. Let's drop the misguided notion of a clash of civilizations and work for global harmony, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence.

- Send e-mail to Moussa Elbayoumy at director@islamicsocietylawrence.org.

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