There are a number of consecutive effects that the crisis of the Danish cartoons that defamed the honorable Prophet (PBUH) has had: demonstrations, arson, and tens of people killed and injured in Libya as well as a minister forced to resign in Libya and another in Italy. In Afghanistan, many were killed and in Nigeria, there were Muslim and Christian clashes. In Pakistan, violent demonstrations and riots in addition to worrisome indications of a potential war between the Gamaa Islamiya led by Qazi Hussein Ahmad, and Musharraf’s government. In India, the media mentioned that Qureshi, a Muslim Minister in the state of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, has set a reward of 11.5 million dollars for anyone who kills one of the cartoonists responsible for the cartoons of the Prophet. However, India’s Shariah Council which includes Muslim scholars, has announced that Qureshi’s offer goes against the principles of Islam. In Egypt, Bahrain, Iran there have been more and more demonstrations. To where is this all leading?
Muslims everywhere are angry. I completely recognize the level of insult caused by the cartoons; nevertheless, I have a number of questions. One important question is: what is the point of the Muslim rage campaign, and if the aim is achieved, will the protests end? Any protest should have a demand or else it is an aimless conflict. Have there been clear and applicable demands made?
Has the apology of the Danish government and the Danish newspaper been the only demand? If that is the case, what about the repeated apologies from several Danish state and societal authorities? The most recent apology came from the newspaper that published the cartoons. The apology was published on their website and featured on a full page in Asharq Al-Awsat, as well as other Arab publications in the Arabic language.
Some say that they insist on the issuing of a legislation that would prohibit the desecration of the Prophet (PBUH) who is the greatest religious symbol of Islam. This nevertheless, is the role of legislators not rioters, as the matter needs to be discussed by politicians. Some Muslim scholars such as the Saudi scholars Abdul Mohsen Al Obeikan and Abdul Aziz Al Qassem are satisfied with the apologies. However, many self-claimed linguistic and legal experts of European languages and legislation believe that the apologies are not enough. They became linguists who state that there is a difference between “regret” and “apology” They also became legal experts by asking, does apology diminish the original crime or not ?
To be honest, I feel that there are those who are keen to keep the crisis inflamed and to escalate it even more. We saw how the problem was localized in many Muslim states. In Nigeria for example, the crisis was used to revive sectarian violence that had begun long before the Danish cartoons. Local churches were burnt and a priest killed bringing the total number of those killed to 24. In Pakistan, the crisis revived clashes between the Islamists and Musharraf’s government. In Syria, the regime increased its faltering popularity by encouraging violence against embassies. There are many more examples but in one sentence, there seems to be an auction of anger taking place from these demonstrations.
Another question that should be asked: is it in the interest of Muslims to escalate the crisis, (I have realized that there are some non-Muslim Western fanatics who also want to escalate the crisis but I am rather concerned here with Muslims), and to weaken the ways of solving it? Are there those who want to escalate matters to the point of religious clashes? This would seem to be the case especially as there are some movements and trends in the Muslim world that cannot exist without religious tensions, upon which they thrive.
An intelligent person told me “What next? Is it not better for us Muslims to stop at the level of power that we have achieved so far? At the beginning of the crisis, we were in a position of ethical strength. After the violence and the unlimited escalation, it seems that this has been lost. It is very dangerous to exceed the limits of your power as this is when the influence of your power begins to lessen or turn against you.”
The most dangerous thing is to mobilize people by provoking religious feelings. In such a case, those who stir violence seek to eliminate any chances of reconciliation, just as when they tried to obscure the Danish newspaper’s apology. A top employee of a Danish firm that has offices in Saudi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the reason that these businesses placed the apology, which Jyllands Posten wrote was because many newspapers did not publish this apology, which the Danish paper issued on its website in Arabic almost three weeks ago.
Undoubtedly, the cartoons should be condemned outright as it was irresponsible to publish them. However, is it not also a necessity to condemn the vandalism and violence that has taken place recently in a number of countries? Especially that many prominent scholars such as Abdul Mohsen Al Obeikan, have clearly said that violence and arson are religiously prohibited. Some clearly expressed discomfort concerning the motives of such escalation that are not entirely free from political manipulation and exploitation of certain trends. Al Obeikan further believes that the continuation of such a campaign in such a way is harmful.
The cartoons are condemned as their absurdity understandably outraged Muslims. However, the way in which the whole matter has been managed by Muslims is also harmful to Islam and Muslims. What is required is some rationality and self-control, is this too much to ask for?