To ordinary Muslims in the world today, the recent publication of the picture of
the Prophet of Islam by the Danish paper \u2018Jyllands-Posten\u2019 is seen as a calculated attempt
to vilify and slander him. To some Danish politicians and the press, this is a principled
case of free speech \u2013 a right enshrined within their law. And to make it clear beyond
doubt to the mass of one billion Muslims that there was such a base intention, other
European newspapers reprinted the images. It thus seems that the argument defending the
publication of such images is based on the right of freedom of __expression within legal
boundaries. In reality, however, the legal boundaries are unashamedly qualified to protect
other groups from their sensitivities, whilst Muslims are denied the same protection.
It does not end here. Muslim countries and their citizens will be expected to
accept such duplicitous standards if they wish to join the \u2018civilised world\u2019, a term that
resonates so passionately in the speeches given by many world leaders. The term
\u2018civilised world\u2019 is wholly constructed within a particular and inconsistent notion of
freedom and democracy bluntly presented to the Muslims as \u2018what values we have, you
Nations over nuclear power and the threat to stop monetary assistance by Israel,
European Union and the Unites States to Hamas are regarded by ordinary Muslims as
prime examples of this philosophy.
What has hurt the vast majority of Muslims throughout the world is the obnoxious
slandering of the Prophet of Islam - a decisive figure in the history of theistic religion.
This is then defended as freedom of speech by some politicians who call upon Muslims
to respect this gratuitous insult as a core democratic tradition.
The fact that Muslims jealously guard the reputation of their Prophet may look
odd to many who are brought up in a secular world that sees religion as a private affair
for the individual. In Islam, Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is held in the
highest esteem and mentioning his name will invoke invocation of Divine blessings. His
wives and family members are equally respected. Every Muslim child is taught to imitate
him daily in every aspect of his/her life and reminded that his authority over them is
greater than themselves. It is as if the Prophet is alive within one and revivifies daily. It is
therefore not surprising that the intellectual reaction from the majority of Muslims to the
cartoons is met with such an uncompromising opposition.
Such a firm, opposing attitude of Muslims regarding their Prophet is looked upon
by some quarters as backward-looking and oppressive since it goes against the freedom
of speech and has apparently escalated vengeful reaction. Whether this view is out of
ignorance or shows the general decline of tolerating the \u2018others\u2019, the point not to miss is
that we have one billion Muslims amongst us in this planet who also have their genuine
interest in guarding what they deem as significant and have something to say about issues
affecting them. Islam is a way of life throughout the world, animated by a common spirit
far more humane than most care to realize. If only one takes the trouble to understand the
real causes that lead to oppression and injustice within the world rather than take an easy
and convenient respite in the PR slogans that blame anything and everything on Islam.
Indeed, when a man is prone to quarrelling and fighting all his life, he is rendered
unsettled if the enemy ceases to exist. Then he tries to create another enemy, and if he
fails to find one, he fights his own shadow. This has been the case of the so-called world
leaders who manage the \u2018civilised world\u2019. Soon after the two World Wars, the Cold War
was initiated and when the polarisation ceased to exist after the dissolution of the Soviet
Union, an urgent need was felt to find a substitute. They found one in Islam. The
ascending power of Islam put their mind back to the days of the crusades. It was a
challenge with which they thought they must grapple and thus, a vehement propaganda
against the history and the truth of Islam was begun. Those individual Muslim scholars
and statesmen who agreed to play their tune and to compromise - they were handled with
velvet gloves. To those who remained firm and steadfast as practicing Muslims, a label of
fanaticism and fundamentalism was given. A third group which raised a whimper of
protest against inequity, exploitation and torment meted out to them and rose to defend
their rights \u2013 they were conveniently termed as terrorists. For Muslims, Islam is under
attack under the guise of the \u2018war on terror.\u2019
Furthermore, the controllers of media machinery have played their role. On the
one hand, they have helped to resurrect all the lies which were rampant against Islam
since the medieval times, now going as far as insulting the Prophet of Islam and on the
other, they have unashamedly attributed every major upheaval - be it murder, bomb
explosion or tragedy, to Islam. Even when the grass or the leaves rustle, the general
media would like the world to believe that a snake has been placed there by the Muslims.
The Muslim media continue to lament and complain. Take any Muslim monthly
magazine or a weekly article and you will find its major part devoted to the description of
instances of Muslim miseries and sufferings. This response, though useful and helpful,
has engendered fear and lack of confidence amongst Muslims.
In the midst of such uncertain and hostile surroundings, one has to maintain a
balance of mind and know what the right thing to do is. Knowing the right thing can be
challenging enough but today, the bigger challenge is to do the right thing. These will be
the occasions for being brave on behalf of others and standing by suffering of human
beings, Muslim or not, in challenging circumstances. Such is the road ahead, which will
require learning how to handle our own fear and building our confidence. Rudyard
Kipling said, \u201cIf you can keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs and
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?