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New York Times Headline of Sunday January 11 reads: “More than a million people joined over 40 presidents and prime ministers on the streets of Paris on Sunday in the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks.”
Of course that is NYT’s take on it. What is clear of course is that the march and solidarity was against murder and not in favor of abuse of the Prophetﷺ.
If you don’t believe me, ask Queen Rania of Jordan or any of the other heads of state who have significant Muslim populations, what they were expressing solidarity for.
I am making this point because there is an attempt to portray the march and solidarity as if it was in support of the work of Charlie Hedo and others of that ilk who make their living out of ridiculing and mocking what others hold sacred without a single thought to the pain and anguish they may be causing. The world seems to think of pain and anguish only when the wound is made by a sharp or blunt instrument. Not when it is made by words which are sharper than any knife, go straight to the heart and result in a wound that festers and causes pain forever. Wounds that no medicine can heal, no hospital can cure. Wounds that only forgiveness can close – but that is more difficult than one would imagine. The world eulogizes those who exemplified forgiveness not because what they did was new but because it is so rare and so difficult to do. In effect we are saying, ‘Ah! I wish I could be like that.’ I don’t see anyone attending the march saying that about those whose chosen role in life was to mock, slander and deliberately cause pain to others.
If numbers are anything to go by then 1.6 million marched to condemn the killers while 1.6 billion Muslims + all other people of faith, people of compassion, people of justice marched in their hearts against Charlie Hebdo. I think it is important to note that. Violence is not only physical. Ask the woman, man or child who is the subject of mental torture. Mental torture is not a figment of the imagination. It is real. Its effects are damaging and last far longer than any physical wound. What’s more mental torture instigates physical violence as we saw in the case in point. To recognize this is not to sanction that violence or to justify it. But to recognize the cause to eliminate its effect and ensure that what happened to the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo never happens to anyone ever again. That can happen only if we take a holistic view of the incident and have the courage to look at the causes as well as effects.
What happened later – the publication of the new issue – is a different matter. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to force Muslims all over the world to accept that their Prophet is someone who is worthy of being mocked and that they have no choice but to accept this mockery that is being done under the title of Freedom of Expression. I want to say to all those who like to live in fantasyland – no Muslim worth the name will ever accept that his or her Prophet is someone who can and should be mocked and that they should laugh it off and forget about it. That will not happen as long as there is a single Muslim alive on the face of the planet. Those who want to answer that statement in the idiotic way that we have seen some express their genocidal views on channels like Fox that the sheer numbers argue against their ever gaining success. So there has to be a plan B.
The plan B is to come to our senses globally, take a step back and consider the bilge that we are being fed in the name of freedom of expression. Let me give you a checklist to consider the Western concept of Freedom of Expression. Ask yourself:
1. Your wife/husband doesn’t like your mother and is critical of her – acceptable?
2. Your wife/husband doesn’t like your mother and curses her – still acceptable?
3. Mocking and slandering Prophet Muhammadﷺ – acceptable?
4. Denying the Jewish holocaust – still acceptable?
I can ask many more such questions but will leave you to make up your own. The answers will be clear to anyone with any sense of justice. Critique is acceptable, abuse is not. Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammadﷺ are abuse – not critique. For a Muslim even critique is not acceptable but Islamic scholars have always been open to answering argument with argument – intellect with intellect.
The most famous of these was Imam Al Ghazali whose book Al Ihaya ul Uloom is a critique that answers questions of those who hold contrary views. He didn’t take the sword to them. He took the pen. But they also didn’t wield the pen like a sword while claiming that it was really a pen.
The West must learn that hypocrisy works only thus far and no further. If you talk about absolute freedom of expression then you can’t put certain things out of bounds. If you do, then it is not absolute freedom. If denying the holocaust is a crime (because the holocaust was a crime which the West committed, not Muslims) then mocking the Prophet Muhammadﷺ is also a crime and must be punished. Give people a legal means of dealing with crime and then hold them accountable if they still choose an illegal way. But if you close all legal doors and try to force people to accept your ‘right’ to assault and wound them, then there will always be those who won’t accept your aggression as your ‘right’ and will act as they see fit. Their actions will be wrong and condemnable as much as the actions of those deliberately provoke the reaction. Honor, to some, still remains more important than life.
The West must consider the ‘excuse’ of Israel which the West supports on the use of excessive force when they shell Gaza allegedly as a ‘consequence’ of Palestinians firing rockets into their own occupied land which Israel illegally claims to be its own. Israelis say, “They brought it on themselves. If you provoke us, we will retaliate.’ Does that argument make sense? Apparently to the West it does. Then ask why such an argument can’t also be used by others?
There is only one way to break the cycle of violence and that is to respect one another. To respect differences even if we don’t like those differences. To respect diversity. To respect that everyone has a right to his own belief, whether or not it makes sense to us. Disrespect, mockery, insulting and verbal (or graphic) assaults are all violence and must be responded to with legal action. If not they will give rise to reactions and the cycle will continue ad infinitum. So I say to you, abusing the Prophetﷺ is not a right. It is a very big wrong that violates the rights of not millions, but billions of people. So stop it right now.