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Islam cannot dictate what we can and cannot say

Reader comment on item: Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism

Submitted by Aidan Maconachy (Canada), Feb 10, 2006 at 16:47

I don't know if those who are so magnanimous and concerned about the sensitivities of Muslims re this particular issue have ever actually lived in an Islamic country. I spent the greater part of my school years in one such country (N.Nigeria), and "blasphemies" directed toward the person of the prophet were not treated as mere infractions or artistic excesses.

Muslim citizens do indeed suffer severe punishments for such "crimes" in those jurisdictions where Sharia law is practiced in its purest form - without deference to human rights concerns.

It is however one thing to subject the citizens of a Taliban-like state to the draconian rigors of Islamic justice, and quite another to attempt and export the same climate of threat and intimidation to Western countries under the guise of "righteous offence". In doing this, Islamic radicals seek to use our multi-cultural PC sensitivities against us and if that doesn't work there are always death threats and other types of intimidation.

There is nothing innocent about any of this; these taboos are deliberately evoked and used as a weapon to intimidate and silence.

Ironically (given that the issue of artistic rendering is central to this clash), there are quite a number of Islamic miniatures that portray a likeness of the prophet. Such representations are by no means unheard of.

This particular cartoon incident has been deliberately exploited as a political strategy in the struggle with the secular world. It is really only an early skirmish; the clash of values has just begun and those in the West who are already caving in and resorting to mealy mouthed rationales, simply don't get it.

It's not about being polite about the other guy's religion. Sure, if the other guy happens to be a mild mannered Buddhist, or any other believer whose religion is not being employed as an ideological weapon, I would agree that we should avoid giving unnecessary offence.

In the case of harder edged Islamic chauvinism with its characteristic insolence, it is naive to simply take the view that "we shouldn't offend". Excuse me - but when a Mullah in Iran issues a Fatwah on a Western based author, Rushdie, calling for his murder in a Western jurisdiction we know that it is about a heck of a lot more than wounded religious sensibilities.

When a Dutch film maker, Theo Van Gogh, is slaughtered in the street for the crime of exposing injustices experienced by Islamic women, its not merely about offended male pride.

When the Canadian refusenik Irshad Manji, has her life threatened for speaking about problems in her own religion, Islam, its not merely about offended orthodoxy. The impulse central to these protests is all about control and silencing any with the temerity to cross lines that have been have drawn for us, without even an attempt at polite consultation.

To simply say "we must not offend" is to be shockingly blind about what is actually going on here. Recently English Muslims were polled on the question of Sharia law, and close to 60% responded that they would like to see provisions from Sharia become a part of the English judicial system.

This is a very real fight, and those who blithely assume that we can afford to bend over backwards because our rights and freedoms in the West are immutable - or worse still - who argue for sub-clauses that designate "Muslim offence concerns" no-go areas, are in the business of selling out the very essence of what it means to be a free society.

I tip my hat to all those courageous editors in Europe - now also in the States and Canada - with the guts to do the right thing by publishing these cartoons.

The following comments are from a recent column by the Muslim refusnik Irshad Manji ...

"Muslims have little integrity demanding respect for our faith if they don't show it for others. When have we demonstrated against Saudi Arabia's policy to prevent Christians and Jews from stepping on the soil of Mecca? They may come for rare business trips, but nothing more. As long as Rome welcomes non-Christians and Jerusalem embraces non-Jews, we Muslims have more to protest than cartoons.

None of this is to dismiss the need to take my religion seriously. Hell, Muslims even take seriously the need to be serious: Islam has a teaching against "excessive laughter." I'm not joking. But does this mean that we should cry "blasphemy" over less-than-flattering depictions of the Prophet Muhammad? God no.

For one thing, the Koran itself points out that there will always be non-believers, and that it's for Allah, not Muslims, to deal with them. More than that, the Koran says there is "no compulsion in religion." Which suggests that nobody should be forced to treat Islamic norms as sacred.

Fine, many Muslims will retort, but we're talking about the Prophet Muhammad - Allah's final and therefore perfect messenger. However, Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet was a human being who made mistakes. It's precisely because he wasn't perfect that we know of the so-called Satanic Verses: a collection of passages that the Prophet reportedly included in the Koran. Only later did he realize that those verses glorified heathen idols rather than God. According to Islamic legend, he retracted the idolatrous passages, blaming them on a trick played by Satan.

When Muslims put the Prophet on a pedestal, we're engaging in idolatry of our own. The point of monotheism is to worship one God, not one of God's emissaries. Which is why humility requires people of faith to mock themselves - and each other - every once in a while."
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