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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Muslim Response to the Denmark Cartoons

This topic has really hit a nerve with me as the object of disrespect on both sides and an ardent supporter of free expression, including that which I personaly find offensive.

From The Daily Star:

Here are a few facts we should remember. However offensive any of the 12 cartoons were, they did not incite violence against Muslims. For an example of incitement, though, one must go back a few weeks before the cartoons were published. In August, the Danish authorities withdrew for three months the broadcasting license of a Copenhagen radio station after it called for the extermination of Muslims. Those were real threats and the government protected Muslims - the same government later condemned for not punishing the newspaper that published the cartoons.

Second, the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live - particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

As just one example, last August Fadi Abdullatif, the spokesman for the Danish branch of the militant Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, was charged with calling for the killing of members of the Danish government. He distributed leaflets calling on Muslims in Denmark to go to Fallujah in Iraq and fight the Americans, and to kill their own leaders if they obstructed them. Police in Denmark have been on alert since the London bombings, after which at least three extremist Web sites warned that Denmark could be the next target. There are 500 Danish troops working alongside American and British troops in Iraq.

Not only does Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in many Muslim countries, have a branch in Denmark, but Abdullatif has a history of calling for violence that he then justifies by referring to freedom of speech - the very notion the Danish newspaper made use of to publish the cartoons. In October 2002, Abdullatif was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after Hizb-ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets that made threats against Jews by citing verses from the Koran. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Abdullatif used the Koran to justify incitement to violence! And we still wonder why people associate Islam with violence?

Muslims must honestly examine why there is such a huge gap between the way we imagine Islam and our prophet, and the way both are seen by others. Our offended sensibilities must not be limited to the Danish newspaper or the cartoonist, but to those like Fadi Abdullatif whose actions should be regarded as just as offensive to Islam and to our reverence for the prophet. Otherwise, we are all responsible for those Danish cartoons.

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