February 22, 2006
A non-Muslim friend from my interfaith group has just left me a voice mail thanking me for guiding him to a seminar about the life of Mohammad, which was held in response to the cartoon controversy. Eric says "I found it enlightening and moving. This is a heavy time for you so keep your dignity and humour and you'll get through it." Thank you Eric. The past two weeks have been spiritually, emotionally and physically trying for many of us caught up in the jihad (struggle) to uphold respect and reverence for our Prophet while condemning irrational and violent reactions in some parts of the Muslim world.
Now that the furor and fury is dying down a bit, I'm eating a Danish in solidarity for ordinary Danish people who have been swept into the current cartoon controversy. Just like I don't want to be blamed for the actions of a few radical extremists, similarly I don't think all Danes should be blamed for the mischief of an editor and an Imam.
I also have a message for Muslims, non-Muslims and Media. "Enough is enough - grow up and let's learn to live together!" Why? Because the world is now a global village and a joke in Denmark can have ripple effects causing tremors from Delhi to Dakkar. As the Sufi poet Saadi wrote: Human beings are like parts of a single body; if one part is wounded, the rest hurts. You, unmoved by the pain of others, are not worthy of being called human.
Many important lessons for humanity have emerged from this cartoon crisis and perhaps the best thing we can all do right now is to sit back, take stock and educate ourselves about each other, before we criticize.
From purely a faith perspective, this is a time when many faith communities have spoken out against willfully demonizing 'the other'. Those who haven't are also encouraged to speak out and show solidarity and support for each other, even at the risk of being taunted for being "cowardly" or "wishy washy". As well this is a wake up call for Muslims not to taunt or ridicule others because they now know how it feels to be on the 'other' side. Respect for each other is a hallmark of the Canadian mosaic and I applaud the individuals and organizations who have spoken out against hate mongering.
And hate mongering it is. Another lesson to learn is that if one community is saying out loud and clear that they find demeaning their faith, insulting, please listen to them. They are your neighbors, friends and fellow Canadians. The same Charter of Rights and Freedom that some editors want to use as an excuse to print the offending cartoons, also gives Canadians the right to object to hate propaganda. If my freedom impinges on your rights, then it's no longer freedom.
In the political arena, we've learnt that Muslim leaders have misappropriated the cartoon caper to pursue their own agenda for power and control. As a Muslim I find it totally hypocritical that the same people, who didn't speak out when the 1400-year old house of Prophet Muhammad in Makkah was being razed to the ground by Saudi authorities, are now using violence as a means of protest. Obviously they aren't out in the streets for love of the Prophet - more like love of profit!
Where were they when the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues in Bamiyan?
Every Muslim needs to ask the question: Is this what the Prophet would have done? Would he have condoned Women in niqab holding banners saying "God Bless Hitler" as an abomination to the entire name of Muslim women? The answer is a clear NO. Once they know the answer, they need to loudly and clearly condemn those actions that are against the Quran and practice of the Prophet.
Simultaneously it should be imperative that conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan teach Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism in schools. More importantly they need to teach respect for diversity within Islam. It's ironical that a cartoon caused riots in Pakistan, but 32 shias killed last week didn't even warrant a protest.
Rights of minorities in Muslim countries should be protected just like rights of Muslims in Canada.
Raheel Raza is author of Their Jihad..Not my Jihad and Interfaith director for The Muslim Canadian Congress
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