Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Taking On The Wrong Enemy

Taking On The Wrong Enemy
Feb 07, 2006
By Ramzy Baroud

We remind our viewers that the opinions and points of view expressed in this article are those of the author and shall not be deemed to mean that they are necessarily those of Jihad Unspun, the publisher, editor, writers, contributors or staff.

Only an irresponsible and intellectually inept individual would sketch such insulting images as those depicting Prophet Mohamed by a cartoonist in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper. And no self-respecting newspaper would allow itself to run such filth. However, the backlash in the Muslim world highlights a much more serious issue.

Jyllands-Posten - and another newspaper in Norway that re-ran the offensive cartoons - is obviously neither self-respecting nor serious. What good will it do to depict a prophet revered by hundreds of millions all around the globe as a terrorist, carrying a bomb under his turban? Nothing at all. What it will do though, is intensify and cement the feelings of bitterness and humiliation experienced by millions of Muslims as they endure the wrath of US-led Western wars, with all of their tragedies and endless bloodshed.

Not even the handy excuse of freedom of the press is so reasonable a defence to the mockery. Such freedom should not be the kind of versatile pretext unleashed only to widen the divide between the West and the Muslim world. Moreover, why not admit that in most Western societies, there are many unquestionable values, ancient and recent, that are taboo, which few dare to approach, the Holocaust being one of them.

But it's not the Western media's inconsistencies that I wish to focus on here. What I wish to examine are the inconsistencies of the Arab and Muslim collective response to aggression, tangible or otherwise.

The anti-Danish movement managed to build up across Muslim countries at such an impressive speed: grassroots collective action and decisive political moves led by various governments -- with Libya and Saudi Arabia on the helm -- quickly turned into determined diplomatic efforts. Arab League missions in Denmark and across Europe united in one of the most coordinated campaigns organized by Arabs since the 1973 War, heaping even more pressure on both Denmark and Norway. Meanwhile, a serious economic boycott campaign is rapidly translating into empty shelves in grocery stores that once offered Danish products across Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, although he didn't apologize personally, commended Jyllands-Posten for offering a clear apology for offending Muslims and Muslim nations for its editorial decision to publish the cartoons. But that would not suffice in the face of the gathering storm, as Arab League representatives are surely taking the matter to the United Nations, with the hope of passing a UN resolution, backed by sanctions that would protect religion from insults, according to the BBC.

While one must commend such a unified Arab and Muslim stance -- hoping that it would remain confined to legitimate forms of protest -- one cannot help but wonder where was such collectiveness when it was needed the most?

This is not to suggest that transgression on a people's beliefs -- any people and any belief -- should be taken lightly. However, if Arabs can be so efficient in organizing such popular (and effective) campaigns that utilize economic, political and diplomatic leverage to extract concessions, then why the utter failure to carry out such campaigns protesting against the US war on Iraq, its unconditional support of Israel and its condescending foreign policy and grand democracy charades it wishes to impose on everyone?

Isn't it rather strange that cheap Israeli products are penetrating Arab markets from Morocco to Qatar in the most blatant of ways, despite the fact that Israel occupies land belonging to three Arab nations?

Isn't it peculiar that Muslim countries are shrewdly paving their way towards normalization with Israel -- some overtly like Pakistan, others sneakily like Malaysia -- despite the fact that Israel unabashedly moves forward with its policy of targeted assassination, killing hundreds of Palestinians?

And how belligerent could the Danish media be if compared to its counterparts in the United States and Britain? Nonetheless, is there one Arab household that lacks access to CNN, HBO and Fox?

It's rather ironic that many in the Arabic media discovered by total chance that 530 Danish soldiers are taking part in the illegitimate US war on Iraq, by way of the Danish newspaper controversy. Thus, it cannot even be claimed that popular response to the insulting comics was the culmination of years of resentment harbored towards Danish foreign policy, whether in Iraq or towards any other Arab or Muslim related issue.

This is neither an attempt to defend Denmark (or Norway) or its apparently selective "freedom of the press", but to highlight the misconstrued priorities inundating the Arab world today. During a decade of US-led UN sanctions in Iraq, neighboring Muslim and Arab countries were commended by the US, saying that their cooperation was vital to the success of the sanctions imposed on the stricken nation. According to the most modest and outdated UN reports, over 500,000 Iraqi children died as a result of the lack of medicine. Where was the popular uproar then, the diplomatic fury and the boycott campaign?

I am afraid that the Muslim and Arab-led anti- Danish campaign will widen a chasm separating both worlds, bolstering the Arabs' reputation of being intolerant while providing an unimportant cartoonist with the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance for martyrdom on behalf of freedom of the press and perhaps a book deal, and if lucky, a spot on the Oprah Winfrey show. But that's all that one should expect.

Prophet Mohamed is revered because of his daily-felt contribution to Muslim life everywhere. He needs not a Danish cartoonist to validate or nullify his relevance in the lives of millions. Of that Muslims are to be sure. However, it is discouraging that the collective energy of the Muslim world is consumed punishing a small European country over a drawing, while US military bases infest the heart of the Arab world, and American fast food restaurants crowd every street corner, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf, while few seem to notice or even care.

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist and the editor in chief of the Palestine Chronicle. He currently teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. He is the author of the forthcoming book: Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

5 Comments:

Anonymous tq said...

Salaams dude,

excellently written! what a shame that learned scholars such as the author are so rare!
These should be the type of minds and thoughts we should aim to develop, Insha-Allah! So when it comes our time to stand on the plate, we can make Islam shine!

February 9, 2006 at 11:58 PM  
Anonymous zm said...

Assalaamu alaykum warahmatullah

It should be noted that the Muslim outrage concerning these cartoons is not related simply to the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is depictured in these cartoons. Although Muslims would not draw pictures of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the essential problem with these cartoons is the defamation and ridicule of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This point is explicitly made because some news reports have presented the issue as if it were simply a matter of depicturing the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). …. Jamaal Zarabozo

February 10, 2006 at 12:00 AM  
Anonymous A Kathrada (Moulana) said...

Respected Brother in Islam

Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

The Iftaa Committee of the Jamiat has ruled that in the situation of printing and publishing cartoons of Rasulullah (sallallahu alyhi wasallam) and in view of the circumstances surrounding the matter, it is permissible to take part in the public protest march on condition there is no female participation and no violence.

Iftaa Committee - Jamiatul Ulama KZN
And Allah Ta'ala knows best.

Was salaam

February 10, 2006 at 12:02 AM  
Anonymous tq said...

Salaams dude,

I need to share something a friend of mine pointed out yesterday. She saw no reason to go march in South Africa because this government condemned the cartoons. It is a valid point and as SA. Muslims we should appreciate this. We should show our thanks and possibly (somehow) ask of other governments around to the world to take example!

But having said that, I think the marches, the cartoons and the Islam bashing is not about the enemy, the oppressors, the rulers! It is about us, to get us out of our beds of slumber. I've learnt that the only way to grow is through conflict. Unfortunately it is the only time we turn to Allah Ta'ala. And so as we face this attack on us, and i am sure its the start of many uglier ones to come, we should remember that we're not asking the questions about their oppression but rather they are doing us a favour (bitter medicine, I know), whether intentionally or not, by asking us the questions: do you really say what you mean? Are your fundamentals right? Do you feel what you seem to say,do, adorn? What do you really stand for? Cliche, but this is not a set back but an opportunity. An opportunity to liberate ourselves from the entrapments of our minds, and an opportunity for us to take ourselves out of our beds of comfort to stand up for the Islam. Not many get this chance, so we should accept it with open arms!

Another thing to note is what our "learned scholar" below has said. There cannot be any violence. This would not be Islamic. If you've seen the cartoons, you'll note how the caricature depicts the Prophet (SAW) as a man of violence. He is shown to be untidy, angry, agressive, linked to women! Now obviously the morons who drew these dont know anything about our Prophet (SAW), what he looked like, how he dressed like, what his character was, what he stood for. And so I ask the question: who fed the minds of these guys with such images? No matter how silly art is, it is an impression of the mind of the artist. And I propose to answer the question with more questions: who is it who tries to resemble the Prophet (SAW) today? Who is his mirror, his viziers to the modern world? Who tries to mirror him? Answer these and you'll see where these guys got the ideas from! It doesnt take any blame away from them, but it does ask a few questions!

However, the unavoidable is upon us, and its not all doom and gloom. Its an the biggest chance of our lives, as I see it. So lets get out there and grab it.

Islam is the future, and may Allah Ta'ala use us to make it happen!
Jummah Mubarak

February 10, 2006 at 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Bilal said...

Assalamu alaykum

Respected Moulana,

The Muslim Students Association is the only organisation behind the protest in Pretoria today. We have invited all Muslims, females included, to be part of this action. We feel that females know how to behave and have stressed that all Muslims attending, male and female, should be on their best behaviour.

Muslims are an integral part of the general South African community and inshaAllah we will all, in an appropriate manner, register our opposition to this offensive action. May Allah use this action to further enlighten others to the beauty of Islam…

Please remember us and the entire Ummah in your prayers.

Wasalaam

February 10, 2006 at 12:19 AM  

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