I was reading the latest post on a blog of my friend’s, whetstone, yesterday… she was talking about the whole cartoons issue, from a neutral point of view, she seemed to be against the rage of Muslims as a reaction to the issue, but also she was against the cartoons after realizing that Jylland-posten was not promoting for freedom of expression, since they had refused publishing cartoons about Jesus couple of years ago so as not to offend its readers.
I have a right to criticize the dress or lifestyle choices of my next-door neighbor, but[I’d] better have a damned good reason to do so beyond the desire to demonstrate my freedom of expression. If we’re going to violate the most deeply held sensitivities of a group of people, shouldn’t we be getting something of value out of it? Because after I've had my say, the next morning my neighbor is still going to be right next door.
This made me think of the two main points that caused this issue: the ‘freedom of expression’ label of the Danish newspaper, and the ‘uncivilized’ rage of the Muslim communities and minorities around the world as a reaction to that…now I am writing this as my personal opinion, but I am also quoting some parts from the Quran and some part from sayings of the prophet Mohammed, in order to base my argument on what all Muslims, at least, believe to be the indisputable truth.
To make the importance of this issue clearer, I must say. These two vague points might be the main reasons for the uprising of this issue. The first one is that an average Muslim (and in that I mean an Arab Muslim living in an Arab country all his/her life...) does not really understand what freedom of speech is. This is really not because it's not found in Islam or such. On the contrary, the prophet Mohammed always respected that right for everyone, and also many Muslim leaders who followed His path (however, that does not include any Arab or Muslim leader who ruled during the last 40 years, and that’s maybe the reason why Muslims were ‘made forget’ the meaning of freedom of expression), there had been always a certain respect for non-Muslim people in Islam, whether they were minorities in a Muslim state, or peoples of other states.
Islam commands Muslims to always act with good behavior and respond in a better way to everything; Quran taught Muslims to be merciful and forgiving before all:
“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! He; between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.”[Holy Quran, Fussilat: 34, Mohsin Khan Translation]
Islam asks for patience even when this freedom of expression reaches to extremist acts against Muslims. Although Islam allows Muslims to pay back if they were discriminated against or wronged, it still promotes forgiveness over revenge.
“Allah does not like that the evil should be uttered in public except by him who has been wronged. And Allah is Ever AllHearer, AllKnower. (148) Whether you (mankind) disclose (by good words of thanks) a good deed (done to you in the form of a favour by someone), or conceal it, or pardon an evil, verily! Allah is Ever OftPardoning, AllPowerful. (149)” [Holy Quran, An-nisaa’, Mohsin Khan Translation]
Like the story of the next-door Jew neighbor of the prophet who used throw his garbage everyday in front of the house of the prophet and the prophet would hop over it in his way in and out, until one day he did not find that garbage he went to visit his neighbor and check what happened [out of worry] and it turned out that the Jew was actually sick.
Islam respected freedom of belief of everyone, and set rules of treating people of different beliefs: for Christians and Jews there were so many rights for them in Islam –sometimes to the point that they are treated equally with Muslims in a Islamic community- for other peoples of different creeds, Islam had rules and regulations to give rights to those peoples too. The prophet Mohammed –May prayers be upon Him- says “He who hurt a follower of the scripture [Christian or Jew] is like he hurt me”. Also in Quran it is clearly stated:
“And insult not those whom they worship besides Allah, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fairseeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do.” [Holy Quran, Al-an’aam: 108, Mohsin Khan Translation].
After the death of prophet, people started finding it hard to spread Islam to other peoples, for that they were not able to persuade like the prophet himself used to do. At that point, Islamic philosophy started to grow, people needed to learn the methods of argument in order to persuade the other, instead of learning how to use the sword. Many stories tell about such arguments between Jews and Muslim about Islam or between atheists and Muslims. In that aspect, Muslims did give rights of freedom of expression to others and always left the doors of invitation to Islam open to anyone, either by persuasive arguments or by good morals, behavior and treatment to non-Muslims.
This is what Islam is truly about. However this doesn’t mean that Muslim countries is ruled with; this is rarely practiced in today’s Muslim world since all Arab, Kurdish (!), and non-Arab leaders of Muslim Countries, serve not their people as Muslim rulers of Islamic Countries based on the Politics of Islam. But rather serve a world power (that is the USA) based on the benefits of that power over their people, using dictatorial regimes to impose their authority, eliminating any true freedom of expression. These dictatorships now for a fact -and has been proven over and over-, that if democracy is used to rule people, the right-winged Muslim extremists will be in power (read about elections in Algeria, Palestine, Iraq and Iran for more details.) and so, the solution for the current dictators to leave people in an illusion of democracy, like in Jordan, where you have completely no censorship over media nor internet, but if you happen to burn the flag of the United States of America in public, you will be sentenced for 3 years in jail. (While it’s your true freedom of expression to burn the flag of the USA inside the USA!)
Let’s move to the second vague point, why Muslims were so raged about the cartoons?!
No really, I mean… the prophet has been dead for 1416 years already, why would ALL Muslims– like if they had planned it out long time before or something- get so raged and go all mad about it?
I’m not asking the question because I don’t know the answer to it (because I am about to answer, or at least suggest an answer), I’m just trying to sound like an ‘outside’ observer; someone who’s got nothing to do with this, living in the Bahamas [hey Chantez!] and watching the news in his PDA as he’s walking by the beach…
The point is, the prophet Mohammed is not like a God for Muslims or anything close to that, he was just an illiterate good man, who ,unlike his tribe and all the tribes around him, never worshipped idols, and believed that there’s a One God who created everything, who deserves to be worshipped… his meditations for over 20 years searching for that God eventually ended with God sending him an angel (Gabriel, that is, same angel that came down on Jesus, Mosses, and all the messengers before) and teaching him the Quran; which is a part of the scripture (just like the Torah and the Bible) and commanding him to deliver it to the entire humanity.
Through Quran, God taught Muslims the value of the prophet Mohammed, in so many different ways. One of the most important and relevant is the verse
“Say (O Mohammed, to the believers): If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight, are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqoon (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” [Holy Quran, At-tawbah: 24, Mohsin Khan Translation]
With that, it became a command on all Muslims, that loving the prophet is more precious than any of those, in saying and acting. Hence,offending the prophet is more offending to every and each Muslim, more than offending their own mothers, fathers, sons, family, homes, wealth and everything they posses…Imagine how
insulting that is!
In Arab countries, insulting one’s mother, sister, family, tribe, etc… is often referred to as ‘honor crime’. Even the constitutional law can’t solve these crimes. Even to the point that, for instance, a person kills someone for insulting his mother, will get a reduced sentence than of a person who just kills. And I mean reduced, as in, get 5 years instead of a lifer!
From the other hand, as Christians believe that Jesus sacrificed himself to hold the sins of Christians, and how this creates this ‘love’ or this ‘gratitude’ to Jesus for doing that for their sake. Muslims too are very ‘grateful’ to the prophet (albeit in a different way) and they have that ‘appreciation’ to him that he showed them the path to Islam [of course, the main gratitude goes to God himself for sending
Mohammed, and then to Mohammed because he was loyal to God and he delivered the message as requested.] this is due to realizing and acting upon what God said,
“Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him) from amongst yourselves (i.e. whom you know well). It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad, may prayers and peace be upon him) is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to Allah, and beg Him to pardon and forgive your sins, in order that you may enter Paradise and be saved from the punishment of the Hell-fire), for the believers (he, may prayers be upon him is) full of pity, kind, and merciful.” [Holy Quran, Al-Tawbah: 128, Mohsin Khan Translation]
this pity, kindness and mercy of the prophet exceeded the Muslim Nation, so he said “every monotheist will enter paradise, except he who would refuse” and his companions asked him “who would refuse, O apostle of Allah?” and He said “who follows my path [having known it] enters the paradise, and who does not follow my path [having known it] is the one who refuses [to go to paradise]”.
It’s an essential part of creed of a Muslim then, to follow, respect, and love, as well as cherish the prophet Mohammed more than any thing else in life. And sacrificing one’s soul for the protection of the prophet [from being offended, insulted or so] is just one thing a Muslim would do to pay back that gratitude.