Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Clash of values? The Prophet Cartoons Issue

On September 30, 2005, a Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons centred on Prophet Muhammad. The paper itself termed them provocative - commissioned with the intent to explore the boundaries of free speech. These were supposedly following refusal of several cartoonists to take up the work for a children's magazine.

It is not clear whether the chosen cartoons were for the book. If yes, the question that arises here - given the cartoons' themes (Prophet as terrorist etc) - whether this is what Europe's children are learning now: Islamophobia. We have had preachings from the West in the past that children in the Muslim world are being brainwashed to hate the Western society and people. Look what they themselves are doing now?!

The issue has been simmering since October apparently and got bigger following the republication of the cartoons in a religous Norwegian magazine. Now - with the calls for boycotting Danish goods gaining ground - some other newspapers in Europe (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) have republished the cartoons in the spotlight.

As many muslims would point out, there are two different issues with the cartoons: One - there was a picture of prophet at all. Muslims abhor a picture being drawn of the Prophet - good or bad. Two - disrespecting, blaspheming the Prophet.

I believe the first of the issue is less serious than the second. Anybody who has a vague idea of Islam would clearly understand how important it is for muslims that no picture of Prophet is drawn. To non-muslims, however, it is just a borrowed knowledge. They intrinsically would never understand it as a serious, core issue for the muslims - lying at the heart of their religion. Given this, the effort of the Muslims should remain to educate those who are driven to draw harmless pictures of the Prophet to refrain from doing it. Some may listen, some may not. Our effort should continue on the line of educating.

The second issue - that of blaspheming the Prophet or any other religious character - is a different matter altogether. I would write about them in another posting.

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