Everyone now knows the story. The cartoons satirized Muhammad which is blasphemous to all Muslims who do not believe in images of god and his messenger, Muhammad. Ever since the cartoons came out the Muslim world has seen violence which has resulted in 5 deaths (in Afghanistan) so far.
Should the cartoons be published here in Canada?
My first reaction was, of course not. I have spent a good part of my life with Muslims and I know how sensitive this issue is to them. Any pictorial depiction of Islam as a religion is a big NO and is considered an insult to Muslims. It’s that simple and straightforward. I have never really understood this but I will not question it and participate in any activity that would hurt my Muslim friends.
So, after seeing the messenger of god being depicted in cartoons (and NO, I will not provide the links) and that too being demonized, it’s not surprising to see the volatile reaction of the Muslims. Trust me, the cartoonists hold back no punches. One of the cartoons is quite nice : it depicts Muhammad as a simple man before he might have been declared a messenger from god. But the rest of the cartoons bring forth the cartoonists’ hatred for Islam and the average westerner’s typical bias against Muslims. Muhammad is depicted as a murderer, Satan, a suicide bomber, a woman hater and so on. If a western cartoonist were to do the same to the Hindu gods, I too would seethe with anger.
After seeing the issue in black and white for a few days, I started seeing the issue in shades of Grey.
My opinion changed after seeing the volatile reaction from the Muslim world. As I have said, I can understand their anger and initially did support the angry reactions from the Muslim world. I think the idea to boycott Danish products in Middle East was a great way to protest; hit them where it hurts. And to protest in front of the embassies was required. But lately I have become disillusioned with the way the anger is being channeled by the Muslim leaders. Burning, proclaiming murder, dying and attacking is not the way to protest.
I know I sound quite the idealist but the truth is that when the protests started, they were largely peaceful and they were probably supported by a large section of the world’s population. I think most of the people around the world understood that you don’t impinge your opinion on someone’s beliefs especially when you know that your opinions would not be taken lightly. This move by the editors across Europe was an insensitive move and came at the wrong time. The time right now is to heal the wounds caused by 9/11 and subsequent US actions. And to come out “in support” of the cartoons, editors of the newspapers in Europe have thrown gasoline in the fire. All in the name of Freedom Of Speech.
But here we arrive at the Grey area. Freedom of speech is one of the basic rights of an individual in a democracy and that is what the editors of the European newspapers were proclaiming. They had a right to print the cartoons AS MUCH AS THE MUSLIMS NOW HAVE THE RIGHT TO PROTEST. Isn’t that what’s happening in Europe? Yes, the protests have turned violent but are they not extremely violent in non democratic countries where the politicians are shamelessly cloaking their existing problems with this issue. In other parts of the world there are protests but they are by and large peaceful.
What about Canada? I think there should be no action against an editor who decides to print them. And the Muslims in Canada should protest at this depiction of Muhammad in poor light. That’s democracy. Bring forth the differences in opinion and discuss them out in the open. Having said that, we already know that Muslims feel they have been insulted by these cartoons. A smart editor would not try and test waters by printing the cartoons here in Canada. A smart editor would acknowledge his/her right to print the cartoons by NOT printing them. The editor should loudly claim that nothing is going to stop them from printing these cartoons but as a respect to our Muslims readers he/she will not do so.