Saturday, February 11, 2006

Understanding "Islamic rage"

My last blog ended by challenging the Muslim world to make up its mind regarding whether it belongs in the modern world or whether it wants to continue to belong to the pre-modern parts of the world.

On reflection, however, I am now convinced that the reaction to the Danish cartoons is being framed the wrong way around the world.

The matter has little to do with the issue of freedom of speech or the freedom of the Press, whether in the West, or internationally. The rules for that are more or less well settled in each Western country, as well as in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights– even if those documents are not followed in many countries who are members of the UN, such as China and most so-called Islamic countries.

As we should all know by now, unlike Judaism and Christianity, the Koran does NOT forbid representations of the Prophet (PBUH), though some schools of thought among Muslims do so. There are images of the Prophet (PBUH) in a pulpit in Medina itself, in the Topkapi in Istanbul, and in museums in Bokhara, Samarkand and Isfahan itself. Most European museums have miniatures and book illuminations depicting Muhammad, at times wearing his Meccan burqa (cover) or his Medinan niqab (mask). There have even been statues of Muhammad, and several Iranian and Arab contemporary sculptors have produced busts of the prophet. One statue of Muhammad can be seen at the the U.S. Supreme Court, where the prophet is honoured as one of the great "lawgivers" of mankind. The Janissaries -- the elite of the Ottoman army – used to carry into battle a medallion stamped with the Prophet's head (sabz qaba). As for images of other Muslim prophets, they run into millions. Two years ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran honoured the painter Kamal-al-Mulk, who is famous for having painted a portrait of the Prophet (PBUH)showing him holding the Koran in one hand while the index finger of the other hand points to the Oneness of God. The rulers of Islam probably did this only because Kamal-ul-Mulk had been exiled by King Reza Shah in 1940!
Therefore, logically, the Muslims who claim to be so upset about the Danish cartoons should not burn the Danish flag, but the Iranian one!

In any case, the matter has little to do with asking people around the world to be "sensitive" to the religious concerns of their Muslim neighbours – or, for that matter, other religious neighbours: some people are sensitive, and so much the better for them; some are insensitive and so much the worse for them.

The matter has to do primarily with the need for Muslim fundamentalists to "mobilise and motivate" the Muslim masses in relation to their cause. And if they don't find Danish cartoonists and newspapermen to use for this purpose, it is clear that they will find something else to do so.

Witness the fact that "in retaliation" for the Danish ones, some Muslim leaders have come up with use of anti-Jewish cartoons - not anti-Christian cartoons or anti-modern cartoons or anti-liberal cartoons! As if Jyllens-Post, the Danish newspaper which published the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), or its editor or the people or government of Denmark had anything particular or special to do with Zionism! In any case, Zionism (as Muslims understand it today) was a bogey inherited from Hitler's fascists and their campaign to take over power in Germany and has little to do with the real issues facing a resolution of the problems in the Middle East today.

I don't deny that understanding the Danish cartoons as a "Zionist plot" is a remarkable bit of self-delusion on the part of individuals.

However, for the key instigators of the protests - the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba) – it is merely cynical manipulation of any fact or incident or idea that might somehow be possibly twisted to suit their purposes.

The modern world should expect such tactics from such organisations.

What is worrying is when entire States get in on the act, such as Iran's cessation of trade relations with Denmark.

Why ever would any country want to do so, when it should be clear at least to the rulers of such countries that there is a completely different political and cultural context in the West, where political parties do not control the Press and Media either formally or informally?

Well the answer to that question is simple. The ruling elite in Iran too needs to use religious hysteria to continue to keep its people in thrall, at a time when the people are becoming restive, as they see through the religious masks used by their rulers to conceal their greed and corruption.

Increasing recognition of the true nature of their rulers is spreading in the Muslim world, along with a recognition of the material and civilisational benefits of the modern world, so the rulers need to find ways of distracting the populace with "threats" in order to "justify" putting in place ever more draconian measures to keep the population under their control.

If the leaders of the Muslim world really believed, for example, in the Palestinian cause, they would not have stopped funding the Palestinians simply because their then-leaderYasser Arafat supported Saddam Hussein's attack on Kuwait. The claim of Muslim leaders to genuinely support the Palistinian people would have been easier to accept if they had created ways of continuing to support the Palestinian people while trying to influence Yasser Arafat.

Instead, for years and years, the ONLY people around the world supporting the Palestinians financially were the European Union!!!

So it should be clear at least to the Palestinian people, who are their true friends and who are simply using their cause for their own nefarious purposes.

Similarly, it should be clear to Muslims who their true friends are in the current clashes and who are simply manufacturing and using "Islamic rage" for their own purposes.

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Mark Stewart said...

Here in Denmark, the Muslim community makes a big deal about the Koran saying they should not make a representations of any prophet including Moses & Jesus! So no it is not known my all, as you write, but I wish it was.

tokealt said...

Sorry, but what's (PBUH) mean again?

Prabhu Guptara said...

PBUH = "Peace Be Upon Him". That's a translation of the traditional Arabic expression of honour and respect for the Prophet Mohammed whenever his name is mentioned (PBUH). Its an honorific, like saying "Shri Krishan" or "Lord Buddha" or "Jesus the Lord".

Everyone's beliefs deserve to be treated with respect at the same time as we subject them to rational analysis and discussion.