On 30 September 2005, Jylands-Posten, the Danish Newspaper, had printed twelve cartoons. These cartoons did not cause much of a stir at the time, apart from peaceful protest in Copenhagen organized by the Muslim Community. What was it that caused such a widespread reaction a few days ago? Suddenly many devout Muslims all over the world took strong exception to these cartoons, regarding them as blasphemy and went on the rampage. There is hardly a country, with a sizeable Muslim Community, that did not have violent demonstrations against the Danes. This illustration of violence and the extreme reaction to these cartoons brings home the message that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark, O cursed spite that ever a leader will be born to set it right” (with apologies to William Shakespeare).
Is there really something rotten in Denmark? Probably not! Denmark, like much of Europe today has become the home of a sizeable Muslim Community. The Muslims see themselves as a persecuted minority. Their religious values are very different from western values. Perhaps there is certain insensitivity by the West in recognizing this as was demonstrated by the extreme Islamist violence that occurred all over the world. This could also be due to ignorance and lack of understanding of those who are observant Muslims. Democracy in Islam, as non-Muslims in the West view it, does not exist. Mohammed, the prophet, is seen as infallible, holy and is regarded as the supreme messenger of God. The idea of using Mohammed as a symbol for caricature is unacceptable to devout Muslims all over the world. One never sees Mohammed’s face in any Muslim art work.
Those who value democracy and feel that it is legitimate to satirize religion do not take into consideration the feelings of many religious people irrespective of their faith. Jewish people have had a bitter experience with anti-Semitic Der Steurmer cartoons against them during the rule of Hitler in Nazi Germany. Today there are cartoons depicting Jews in a derogatory manner in many Islamic newspapers. These Arab countries are not democratic at all but they give their caricaturists freedom to depict Jews in an anti-Semitic way. Jews have protested against these cartoons but there was never any wide scale violence or demonization of the nations from where the cartoons originated. Muslim fanatics have overreacted in a violent way that has crossed every red line of reason.
The chief rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, and many other Jewish leaders had condemned the cartoons using the Jewish experience in anti-Semitism as reason for showing sensitivity towards religious feelings not only of devout Muslims but towards all faiths. This is commendable of course.
On the other hand, the world has not been the same since that fateful day on September 11, 2001 when Al Qaeda Muslim fanatics crashed two passenger planes into the Trade Center in Manhattan, NY, resulting in the deaths of over 3000 innocent people. Since then there has been so many incidents of fanatic Islamist terror all over the world, many newspapers have adopted a cynical attitude towards Islam, which is a reflection of the average non-Muslim’s fears of Islam. Many people in Europe and the rest of the western world view Islam as a violent religion whose aim is the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. All means of achieving this aim is legitimate as far as these Islamist fanatics are concerned. The Islamist suicide bomber and the 70 virgins in heaven waiting for him has become a symbol of Islam in the eyes of many. The frequency of violent Islamist terror had played its part in the demonization of Islam in the eyes of many. The production of satirical cartoons poking fun at Islam in the name of freedom of the press is a result of this. The western democracies had enough of imported Islamist terror in their countries!
Israel has suffered from suicide bomb attacks initiated and organized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad who to this day do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. These groups are linked to Hezbollah in Lebanon and possibly to Al Qaeda as well. Lately Iran has been threatening Israel’s destruction. It will form part of this unholy alliance of hate for anything associated with Israel and the West.
The fact that an insignificant matter like satirical cartoons directed at Islamist terror has caused such a violent reaction in the fanatic elements of Islam proves how fragile relationships are between Europe, U.S and the Muslim world.