This is an article that one of my brothers forwarded to me on e-mail. As is obvious, it is by Robert Fisk and discusses the issue of the Danish newspaper and the caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed.
I generally respect what Robert Fisk has to say… and even though I do not agree with all his views in this article, I respect the fact that he went about writing it in what seemed to me to be a level-headed manner.
Here it is:
Robert Fisk: This Isn’t Islam Versus Secularism
We can exercise our own hypocrisy over religious feelings. I happen
to remember, more than a decade ago, a film called The Last Temptation
By Robert Fisk
So now it’s cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed with a bomb-shaped
turban. Ambassadors are withdrawn from Denmark , Gulf nations clear
their shelves of Danish produce, Gaza gunmen threaten the European
Union. In Denmark, Fleming Rose, the “culture” editor of the pip-squeak
newspaper which published these silly cartoons – last September, for
heaven’s sake – announces that we are witnessing a “clash of
civilizations” between secular Western democracies and Islamic
societies. This does prove, I suppose, that Danish journalists follow in
the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson. Oh lordy, lordy. What we’re
witnessing is the childishness of civilizations.
So let’s start off with the Department of Home Truths. This is not
an issue of secularism versus Islam. For Muslims, the Prophet is the man
who received divine words directly from God. We see our prophets as
faintly historical figures, at odds with our high-tech human rights,
almost caricatures of themselves. The fact is that Muslims live their
religion. We do not. They have kept their faith through innumerable
historical vicissitudes. We have lost our faith ever since Matthew
Arnold wrote about the sea’s “long, withdrawing roar”. That’s why we
talk about “the West versus Islam” rather than “Christians versus Islam”
– because there aren’t an awful lot of Christians left in Europe. There
is no way we can get round this by setting up all the other world
religions and asking why we are not allowed to make fun of Mohamed.
Besides, we can exercise our own hypocrisy over religious feelings.
I happen to remember how, more than a decade ago, a film called The Last
Temptation of Christ showed Jesus making love to a woman. In Paris,
someone set fire to the cinema showing the movie, killing a young man. I
also happen to remember a US university which invited me to give a
lecture three years ago. I did. It was entitled ” September 11, 2001 :
ask who did it but, for God’s sake, don’t ask why”. When I arrived, I
found that the university had deleted the phrase “for God’s sake”
because “we didn’t want to offend certain sensibilities”. Ah-ha, so we
have “sensibilities” too.
In other words, while we claim that Muslims must be good
secularists when it comes to free speech – or cheap cartoons – we can
worry about adherents to our own precious religion just as much. I also
enjoyed the pompous claims of European statesmen that they cannot
control free speech or newspapers. This is also nonsense. Had that
cartoon of the Prophet shown instead a chief rabbi with a bomb-shaped
hat, we would have had “anti-Semitism” screamed into our ears – and
rightly so – just as we often hear the Israelis complain about
anti-Semitic cartoons in Egyptian newspapers.
Furthermore, in some European nations – France is one, Germany and
Austria are among the others – it is forbidden by law to deny acts of
genocide. In France , for example, it is illegal to say that the Jewish
Holocaust or the Armenian Holocaust did not happen. So it is, in fact,
impermissable to make certain statements in European nations. I’m still
uncertain whether these laws attain their objectives; however much you
may prescribe Holocaust denial, anti-Semites will always try to find a
way round. We can hardly exercise our political restraints to prevent
Holocaust deniers and then start screaming about secularism when we find
that Muslims object to our provocative and insulting image of the Prophet.
For many Muslims, the “Islamic” reaction to this affair is an
embarrassment. There is good reason to believe that Muslims would like
to see some element of reform introduced to their religion. If this
cartoon had advanced the cause of those who want to debate this issue,
no-one would have minded. But it was clearly intended to be provocative.
It was so outrageous that it only caused reaction.
And this is not a great time to heat up the old Samuel Huntingdon
garbage about a “clash of civilizations”. Iran now has a clerical
government again. So, to all intents and purposes, does Iraq (which was
not supposed to end up with a democratically elected clerical
administration, but that’s what happens when you topple dictators). In
Egypt , the Muslim Brotherhood won 20 per cent of the seats in the
recent parliamentary elections. Now we have Hamas in charge of ”
Palestine”. There’s a message here, isn’t there? That America ‘s
policies – “regime change” in the Middle East – are not achieving their
ends. These millions of voters were preferring Islam to the corrupt
regimes which we imposed on them.
For the Danish cartoon to be dumped on top of this fire is
In any event, it’s not about whether the Prophet should be
pictured. The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet even though
millions of Muslims do. The problem is that these cartoons portrayed
Mohamed as a bin Laden-type image of violence. They portrayed Islam as a
violent religion. It is not. Or do we want to make it so?