Friday, April 2, 2010


It is said that blasphemous cartoons are a depiction of freedom of expression. But we should think whether we are going wrong in using the freedom and consequently it instead of establishing reconciliation between two units, is paving way to enmity.

This time it is not the new cartoon of Prophet Muhammad or a reprint of the one already published. It is the cartoon of a Muslim woman covered from head to toe with the slit space for her eyes depicted as prison with jail bars and locks. It was published in a Canadian newspaper Montreal Gazette and was drawn by one Terry Mosher.

Though the cartoonist contends that the purpose behind drawing the cartoon was to encourage discussion over the issue of veil, which started off in Nov 2009 when a Muslim woman refused to remove her veil in a French class in Montreal. It should be noted that the Gazette published an editorial in support of the woman, which the cartoonist said was clear evidence that the cartoon was meant for instigating a discussion over veil.

Nevertheless, keeping in the mind that earlier cartoons of Prophet Muhammad have created much havoc throughout the world, the novel way of starting a debate through drawing cartoons seems that ill intention was hidden behind this. It is the matter of belief and any attack on the belief, no one can tolerate. The Muslim community for long has been a target of such attacks which ultimately created among them some extremists who naturally tried to kill the attackers. The matter of belief is very sensitive. Great wars have been and continue to be fought for belief.

Perhaps, this was the reason that a woman was ready to fight for her belief. This is despite softness and affection being the nature of women.

“Jihad Jane” a middle-aged American woman was recently charged for helping to recruit a network for suicide attacks and other terrorist strikes to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe. It is said that she had also travelled to Sweden to kill Lars Vilks in a way that would frighten “the whole Kuffar [nonbelievers] world.”

In the meantime, seven others belonging to Algeria, Libya, the Palestinian territories, Croatia and the US too were arrested for plotting to kill Vilks. Interestingly a woman too is among the arrestees.

Vilks had drawn a cartoon insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. The drawing was used in a Swedish newspaper in 2007 to illustrate an editorial on freedom of expression. A group linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq had offered a $100,000 (£66,000) reward for killing Vilks, and a 50% bonus if he was “slaughtered like a lamb” by having his throat cut.

His cartoon was published about a year-and-a-half after a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten paper caused protests by Muslims around the world.

Many attempts have been made to kill different cartoonists who committed blasphemy to the Prophet Muhammad. There are many newspapers which use “freedom of expression” and many people also enjoy the freedom but they live in peace and no one, even the Islamists, try to kill them. Why only the Danish newspaper ‘Jyllands Posten’ and some others are the target of Islamist? Why it is so that only cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks are attacked? Take any newspaper and you will find many cartoons in them. There are many TV channels devoted to cartoons. No one goes on opposing them.

Before the news came that Kurt Westergaard was burnt alive in his house, an alleged Islamist al-Shabab militia member 28-year-old Somali had intruded his house wielding an axe and a knife to kill him. Just after the cartoon of Westergaard was published, he has been receiving threats from Islamists and was under immense security.

These very cartoonists were safe before drawing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. The reputation of the newspapers publishing these cartoons too was not bad.

But after publishing the cartoons both cartoonists and newspapers came under attack from Muslims. It is said that the cartoons were a depiction of freedom of expression. Somewhere we are going wrong in using the freedom and consequently it instead of establishing reconciliation between two units, is paving way to enmity.

We should think whether we are causing increase in the number of extremists in the name of freedom of expression. It is but we who have provided them with a chance to practice violence. If we do not tease the religious beliefs and then the fundamentalists continue attacks on secularists, their own community will abandon them.

A saint in the past becomes criminal if they undergo certain circumstances. So is the case with terrorism and its breeders. The Islamic terrorists, as claimed, often are reacting to the atrocities and misbehaviours they face on the hand of others. During the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack, the terrorists called it the answer to the tortures meted out on the Muslims throughout the world including Kashmir, Gujarat and Palestine among others.

Perhaps, there would be a check to all these violence if extremists are not inflamed by our activities.

A Hameed Yousuf

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