Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Cartoon War: Moderate Muslim takes

One of the complaints stated by many Muslims over Western coverage of the violent reaction to the Danish Muhammad cartoons is the lack of coverage given to the moderate Muslim perspective. With a big hat tip to the worldwide web and Google, I found two very good posts on the topic.

The first comes from Amir Butler, a Muslim engineer and writer who blogs from Melbourne, Australia. Butler finds the cartoons offensive. However, instead of taking to the streets in mob fashion, he believes a statement of reasoned outrage by Danish Muslims would have suited the situation and would have relegated the cartoons to their fifteeen minutes of Warholian fame:

...by reacting in this fashion, the editors, newspaper and cartoonists have been transformed into martyrs for free speech — the Salman Rushdie effect — and will undoubtedly be feted by European talk shows and columnists for months to come. The cartoons, which might otherwise have been condemned to obscurity in a Danish newspaper, have been run by several other European publications and are now scattered across the internet. If the intent was to remove these offensive images from circulation then it has been a miserable failure — unless, of course, Muslims are prepared to boycott any country that ‘dares’ reproduce the pictures.

I found a second take written by Sheila Musaji at alt.muslim. She also finds the cartoons offensive, but condemns the reaction in the same light:

The cartoons are a repeat of old anti-Semitic drawings, complete with hooked noses and swarthy complexions. The cartoons ARE offensive - but the response by many Muslims is more than offensive. Death threats, armed men taking over offices, threats against places of worship, etc. ARE offensive, illegal, immoral, unjust, and against the very spirit of Islam. Threatening to blow up churches in Palestine because a newspaper in Denmark (which is a predominantly Christian country) ran offensive cartoons means that these clowns are saying that every Christian in the world is responsible for the actions of anyone in the Christian world. This is madness just as much as those who hold the same attitude towards Muslims and Islam.

I did find this take a bit naive:

In fact, if the goal was a discussion of free speech, why not commission cartoons attacking some cherished aspect of Christianity. Why not commission cartoons of Jesus? If they truly believed that "their" cherished value of free speech was being threatened by Muslim reactions to what Muslims considered blasphemy, what better way to show their own tolerance than by attacking their own religious beliefs. It is difficult to believe that they did not consider the possibility that in the current political climate these cartoons might be seen as a direct attack on the Prophet and on Islam, and that it might be an incitement to violence and an encouragement for a "clash of civilizations".

Unfortunately, I don't think there's enough repsect of Christianity left in Europe for protestors on its behalf to even create a ripple.

Overall, Musaji's article is very informative and even-handed. She also provides a list of good endnotes.

Butler and Musaji both represent Muslim opinion from a western perspective. I have not yet come across any similar writing within the Middle East. Maybe someone can help out on that one.

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