Saturday, February 04, 2006

Religious Intolerance or Freedom of Speech

The Islamic world is in an uproar over cartoons published first in a Danish daily and then all over Europe in solidarity with the Danish daily. For those who don’t know what cartoons I am talking about, they depict the Prophet Muhammed (the holiest man in Islam) in several different ways, none of them are flattering. The most inflammatory one depicted the Prophet with a bomb instead of a turban. In the Muslim faith, any and all depictions of the Prophets are strictly prohibited. You will never ever walk into a Muslim household or place of worship and see a picture of what we think the Prophet looks like. The reasoning behind this is simple. During the time of the Prophet, idolatry was rampant. People who were not Christian (Islam is traditionally thought to have begun in 633 AD) or Jewish worshipped stone idols. As Islam is the worship of one God, it was thought that if there were any depictions of any of the Prophets and most specifically Mohammed, people might turn to worshipping the depictions instead of God.
Most people in the West tend to have a vague understanding of the true core of Islam and many have a distorted image thanks to our friendly neighbourhood terrorists (the scrouge of any and all Muslims who are true to their faith). People in the West simply think that the Muslim protests are about limiting free speech. This is not at all the case. What it comes down to is that the Danish cartoons were deliberately inflammatory and disrespectful. Had the cartoonists wanted to draw a depiction connecting Islam and terror, they could have done so without using the image of the man considered the holiest in all of Islam. Had they wanted to make a serious statement about the state of Islam today, they could have depicted the devil himself and not the Prophet.
This cartoon brouhaha is not just about Freedom of Speech. It is about the growing number of people who are becoming intolerant of Muslims. We are spat upon, ridiculed, harassed, arrested arbitrarily, and best of all, we have ever sin committed by terrorists laid at our doorsteps. This cartoon bungle has brought to the foreground the religious intolerance that is found all over the world. It has brought it clearly to the top of the most visible intolerance lists. Do we hear people protecting us? No. Do we hear people standing up and saying that extremism exists in all religions (David Koresh sound familiar)? No. Do we hear or see anyone standing up to the racists who would throw us all into interrment camps saying that it is unfair to tarnish us all with the same bloody brush? No. What we do hear is that we are quite literally the most loathed and misunderstood religion on the planet. Do the mainstream media ever report about the moderates who are fighting the tide of extremism daily and at great risk to themselves? Of course not, it does not garner ratings. What they do report is about the latest crazy who has decided to take it upon himself to misinterepret all sections of the Quran that talk about Jihad. Jihad is in fact not all about fighting. What moderates do when we try to dispell the terrorist images of Islam is true Jihad. True Jihad is fighting for your religion, not blowing people up mindlessly to make a name for yourself. True Jihad is fighting the extremists and others like them who distort Islam. True Jihad is intellectual in nature. The only “war” Jihad that has been talked about is when a Muslim country is overrun by people who would destroy it in it’s entirety. True Jihadists are NOT Bin Laden, Zarqawi et al. True Jihadists are those who work against people who kill in the name of God.
These cartoons are not Freedom of Speech personified. They are in fact Religious Intolerance personified.


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