What would Muhammad do?
If the Prophet Muhammad himself were to see his image mocked by the European press, he would not react with any of the destruction, threats or vitriol currently rocking parts of the Islamic world.
“If you read the Koran, there is an incident in the life of the Prophet when he and his companions were being abused and persecuted,” said Dr. Husein Khimjee who teaches world religions and the history of Islam at McMaster and Sir Wilfrid Laurier universities.
“The injunction in the Koran is very clear—to be forgiving and to show compassion and to continue enjoining good,” the professor said.
That injunction is apparently waived in the case of cartoons. An Iranian cartoonist, now resident in Toronto, faced calls for his execution after drawing a crocodile with a name that rhymed with the name of an Iranian cleric:
“I denied any similarities between the crocodile and the cleric,” said Nik Kowsar, who now works for a news agency he prefers not to name. “But they were more powerful so I went to prison.”
Prison is the least of the problems facing Islam’s cartoon-publishing enemies:
Among demonstrations yesterday, 500 protesters gathered outside the Danish Embassy in West London after a two-hour march. Amid chants of “Denmark go to hell” and “Bomb, bomb Denmark”, protesters called for a jihad, or holy war.
Abu Ibrahwm, 26, of Luton, said: “The only solution is for those responsible to be killed. In Islam, the one who insults the messenger should be killed.”
Protesters yelled: “Denmark watch your back” and “You’ll pay with your blood”. Banners read: “Europe you will pay, your 9/11 is on its way”.
In Pakistan a Danish flag was burned at a demonstration in Lahore and there were other rallies in Islamabad and Karachi President Gen Pervez Musharraf said: “I have been hurt, grieved and I am angry.”
In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 150 Muslims stormed a building housing the Danish Embassy and tore down and burned the country’s white and red flag.
About 500 Bangladeshis protested in their capital Dhaka after prayers, chanting: “Apologise to Muslims!”
In Gaza, Palestine, militants threw a pipe bomb at a French cultural centre and shot at the building.
Thousands of Palestinian refugees marched through the streets of their camps in Lebanon, burning flags and urging Osama bin Laden to avenge Mohammad.
In the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm, more than 10,000 Palestinians burned Danish cheese.
The Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, “We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive.”
For once, the White House and the press are singing the same song:
Major American newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune, did not publish the caricatures. Representatives said the story could be told effectively without publishing images that many would find offensive …
Most television news executives made similar decisions. On Friday CNN ran a disguised version of a cartoon, and on an NBC News program on Thursday, the camera shot depicted only a fragment of the full cartoon. CBS banned the broadcast of the cartoons across the network, said Kelli Edwards, a spokeswoman for CBS News.
They won’t publish cartoons, but they will run anything they can get out of Abu Ghraib. Both sets of images provoke Islamic anger; note how the media behaves when that anger is directed at them. Meanwhile, the Danish Cartoon Twelve are in hiding:
A spokesman for the cartoonists said: “They are in hiding around Denmark. Some of them are really, really scared. They don’t want to see the pictures reprinted all over the world. We couldn’t stop it. We tried, but we couldn’t.”
Not unexpectedly, Michael Leunig misses the chance of a lifetime to stand up for his traumatised fellow scribblers.
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