Monday, February 13, 2006

Muslims speak out against anti-cartoon violence

I have written several articles in this blog decrying the lunatic response of a small fringe element of the Islamic world against the cartoons that were published in a Danish newspaper last fall. I want to underscore that the religious leaders inciting violence in the name of their Prophet do not represent the mainstream of the billion-plus Muslims in the world today.

Some Muslim leaders in Denmark have strongly condemned the violent reaction to the cartoons. In Lebanon, Ali Mahdi has questioned the extreme reaction to the cartoons, especially in contrast to the lack of protest over much greater threats to the Islamic world. Sherif Abdel Aziz, an Egyptian blogger and self-described Muslim fundamentalist, asks the pointed question, "Why did not we as Muslims rise in anger, when a faction of Muslims destroyed Buddha’s statue who is considered a god and a holy figure for a nation of more than half a billion people?"

لماذا لم نغضب مثلا عندما قامت مجموعة من المسلمين الذين دمروا تمثال بوذا رغم انه يعتبر الها ورمزا مقدسا لاكثر من نصف مليار شخص؟

Hvor kan det være at gjorde ikke vi nemlig Muslims rage op i vrede, hvor en kendsgerning i Muslims ødelagt Buddha's højde hvis vel overvejet en god og en hellig tal nemlig en nation i flere halv en milliard folk?

Saturday's (2006-02-11) San Francisco Chronicle ran a letter to the editor from a Muslim in Fremont:
Editor — As a Muslim, I may be saddened and shocked by some of the cartoons that appear about the prophet of Islam. But I am more disgusted by the reaction of fellow Muslims. These Muslims, though a minority, through their extreme and sometimes violent acts, appear to represent the majority of Muslims worldwide. The Quran instructs its reader to first examine all words, then follow the best. How can one examine all words if there is censorship by some? On the other hand, those who would like to use the unfortunate reaction of some Muslims to judge more than 1 billion followers worldwide accomplish nothing but to make a bad situation worse. — Shakira Karipineni
First of all, I think it is important to draw a distinction between ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad and ridiculing those who claim to follow him. A cartoon portraying Muhammad at the gates of heaven begging suicide bombers to stop because heaven is running out of virgins does not lampoon Muhammad so much as it ridicules the buffoons who believe that martyrs will be greeted by eager virgins when they ascend to heaven. Likewise, the image of Muhammad with a lit bomb in his turban most pointedly ridicules those who believe that Islam is about violence and killing, or who cast Islam in such terms in the eyes of the rest of the world. Perhaps that statement could have been made more clearly had the cartoons portrayed, for example, Satan wearing a mask, pretending to be Muhammad. It shows no disrespect for the Prophet to say that others will seek to twist his words into evil.

It also shows no disrespect for the Prophet to portray him weeping in anguish over the misguided actions of a few of his followers in this controversy.

I believe that the substantial majority of Muslims in the world today understand such distinctions and seek peaceful coexistence with people of other religious beliefs — as the Quran clearly instructs them to do. I am not a Muslim, nor am I a Christian or a Jew, but I do seek peaceful coexistence with people of all religious beliefs, including atheists, agnostics, heathens, apostates, gentiles, infidels, Mormons, and even Southern Baptists....