The latest cartoon crisis and the unrecognized bitter reality

Just like the "radical Islam" frequently mentioned in the West, the "radical Christianity" and "radical Judaism" rapidly rising in the West are presenting a new threat.

The latest cartoon crisis and the unrecognized bitter reality
By Ekrem Dumanlı, Today's Zaman

A cartoon crisis occurred in Denmark and the mutual distrust between the West and the Islamic world deepened as a result. According to Muslims the cartoons insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

But to some European politicians and intellectuals, they were a part of freedom of expression. Whatever the consequences were, the scene that emerged signaled a dangerous development. The West-Islam conflict that has become far more prominent in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was further enflamed. Extreme groups from both sides benefit from this situation. Just like the "radical Islam" frequently mentioned in the West, the "radical Christianity" and "radical Judaism" rapidly rising in the West are presenting a new threat.

The worldwide impacts of the cartoon incident in Denmark were just ending and extreme reactions were finally being replaced with logical analyses when a similar crisis was precipitated in Sweden. In a Swedish paper called Nerikes Allehanda, a cartoon that insulted the Prophet Mohammad was published on Aug. 19. Now the events set off by this recent crisis are following a course similar to those after the situation in Denmark. As harsh statements are issued, the crisis further deepens and is extending beyond the borders of Sweden. Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who foresaw the approaching danger, gave a statement to Zaman daily on Sept. 2, calling on Muslims to "react to the cartoons, but never resort to violence."

Why is Mr. İhsanoğlu making such a warning? Even though some Westerners don't seem to realize it, insults against the values held sacred in Islam contain provocative elements. Unfortunately an important group of Western intellectuals and politicians is not equipped with accurate information on Islam's values. The station of prophethood itself is sacred in Islam. That is, it is just as unacceptable for the prophets Jesus and Moses or other noble prophets to be insulted as it is for the Prophet Mohammad. This sensitivity of Muslims stems from their respect toward all of the holy books conveyed upon the prophets. Therefore the very basic principles of Islam requires a Muslim to believe that all prophets (like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses or Jesus), without exception, were devoted and truthful. He who does not believe in one of the prophets is not regarded as a Muslim. The issue is not only about the station of prophethood itself -- respecting religious references is among the basic pillars of Islam.

Some intellectuals in the West have lost their ability to empathize. For example, the first responses to the cartoon crisis in Sweden were quite civilized and democratic. However, those democratic reactions that had to be assessed peacefully and skillfully couldn't be responded to calmly. Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt made a statement replying to those of Muslims, acting as though he extracted no lessons from the bitter events in Denmark. What the prime minister said is technically correct. He says the government doesn't decide what is published or not published in newspapers. I suppose this is true and that is how it should be. However, it can't be too difficult to also couple these remarks with an apology for people being hurt.

Some Swedish deputies' remarks to the effect of "If you are offended, so be it!" were covered by the Swedish press. This is a grave scene! It is wrong and will not contribute in the least to world peace; nor can our old and pained world afford another crusade. As a result different languages, races and identities coexist in the world and they will continue to coexist. While it is possible to make a more livable world by respecting one another, what sort of benefit can we extract from humiliating, scorning and provoking one another? This is an attitude that also runs counter to the modern values of the West. Respecting human rights means respecting people's identities and the sacred elements and sacraments that form those identities.

There is also the dimension of the media in this issue. I think a new fad has sprung up in the West. Some newspapers want to be heard in some way or other and want to be popular, even at the cost of sparking reactions targeting Islam and thus publicizing themselves in a cheap and easy way. The worst mistake that could be made in the profession of journalism, which necessitates respect toward the consumers, clients and people, is hurting people. The editor of the Swedish paper, Ulf Johansson, reportedly discussed responses by saying, "I disregard them and I don't respect them." In my opinion, this colleague of mine chose the wrong profession, because a newspaper manager is someone who pays attention to every single phone call, e-mail and letter. After all, the quintessence of the profession of journalism is communication, not becoming mired down in a dialogue of deaf people and definitely not getting involved in provocative actions.

This ever-widening areas of conflict following Sept. 11 have been pushing Muslims and Christians to either side of a widening divide. This is a development that threatens our world. The sound-minded intellectuals among Muslims, Christians and Jews see this threat. The "clash of civilizations" is a nightmare scenario for our world. Those who want to take part in this scenario must be out of their minds as our unique world presents enough possibilities to those who want to live in peace. Surrendering the world to the winds of fanatic provocations means forgetting that we all live on the same ship, and is ultimately tantamount to creating a hole in that vessel.
Last Mod: 04 Eylül 2007, 07:17
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