My country is facing political and economical sanctions from a growing number of Islamic countries in the Middle East. A Danish Newspaper chose to publish an article containing 12 handdrawn more or less satirical sketches of the Prophet Muhammed, despite it being forbidden to reproduce His image. Forbidden that is to “good faithful Muslims”. Just as it is unthinkable that “good faithful Christians” would burn pictures of Jesus or wooden crosses. And despite the clumsy provocation of this article… I personally would like to be of the belief that both (and all other) religious groups could co-exist without the need or wish to deliberately disrespect each other.
But the fact is that the Islamic world has gained a bad rep for not respecting western (read: Christian) religion and culture, and vice versa. The sad thing is that in both cases for a very large majority of the people concerned it is an unfair stereotype, validated only by a small percentage of the most extreme or prominent followers…. and fuelled by too much stubborn ignorance on both sides ..
I don’t as such agree with the Newpaper on the decision to print those drawings. But I do support their right to do it. They publish in a Christian society with the rights and freedoms secured by modern Western democracy, and so are not required legally to obtain reverance towards a foreign culture. Morally and ethically, now that’s an entirely different story.
I think it was more than poor judgment to portray an entire culture and its most important icon in a way that was so blatantly coloured by the current political events taking place in the world. In my opinion, religion and politics do not belong in the same slot and should as much as possible be kept separate. But that said, I also find it hard to take seriously the offense claimed by the Islamic people at seeing their religious figure “disgraced” in such a way… when their own “interpretation” of the Islamic faith justifies honour killings, kidnapping of little children, suicide bombings and terror attacks as a means of imposing their own position and culture upon the rest of the world… all in the name of Faith and religion.
I suppose, if one were being sarcastic or an advocate of these prejudiced views then one should praise them for “only” resorting to diplomatic sanctions… such as closing embassies and withdrawing Ambassadors and boycutting Danish export and businesses… and be grateful that so far “only” a few innocent civilians have been beaten up because a Newspaper in their country printed such an article.
Representatives of the Islamic world HAVE sought to resolve this in a more diplomatic manner by demanding that the Prime Minister dictate to the Paper to apologize… or that he himself apologize on the behalf of the Danish Government for such blasphemy. And while I do agree that the Prime Minister could and should have been more diplomatic in refuting the need for such deliberate provocation… I on the other hand support the democracy in ensuring freedom of speech for everyone. And I don’t see the Islamic world condemning newpapers or religious speakers for disrespecting Western religion and culture. I don’t see the Western world severing political ties with the Middle East for all the religiously and politically disrespectful acts Muslims have committed at home in their own countries.
In fact, I see quite the opposite happening. I see Western culture adapting and accepting the differences between cultures and allowing them to influence their own in the heart of their own Christian nations. I see Christian schools allowing for Friday Prayer. And businesses re-writing their staff policies and staff dress code to accommodate traditional Muslim clothing, and sports clubs challenging existing rules on player dress codes to redesign and accommodate gear that will allow Muslims to safely partake in the sport, wearing their traditional head scarf. I see Islamic immigrants enjoying the benefits and opportunities of the Western welfare – and good for them – and working politically and socially within a society where disputes and freedom of speech do not lead to random violence, road blocks and killings, even if it does contradict the religious values of the country they have taken residence in.
What started out as a Newpaper seeking to stir and provoke public attention has now four months later escalated to being a diplomatic and political situation between Denmark and the Islamic world. It now justifies random violence against Danes working abroad in Islamic countries, and the burning of Danish flags.
It is no longer about the drawings. It is no longer about freedom of speech vs. morals and courtesy towards others. It is no longer about opposing what one Newspaper did, but of opposing an entire Nation. It is a matter of principle. And no one is willing to back down. And meanwhile civilians suffer, businesses face sanctions, otherwise healthy and stable diplomatic ties are severely strained.
I don’t personally like any influence that segregate one part of a population or region of the world from another with the purpose of targeting them for bad publicity. I don’t believe it can be done fairly, because such a division can only be made based on steroetyping, which in no way considers the often overheard majority who do not support either extreme. And in a case such as this all the good that has been done and shared is brushed aside and made void for the purpose of underlining a principle. Even if the political, economical and diplomatic pressure exerted by the Islamic demands forced the desired result; recognition of and respect for the Prophet and the Islamic religion… then because of the way it has been achieved… it would come at the price of an increased public hostility and intolerance. And whom does that benefit? It is doomed to be a battle with no winners…
Don’t we already have enough issues to deal with as a global community to need to fuel the flames in this way?? Seriously… get over yourselves, people… all of you!