Tuesday, February 07, 2006

At last, some sense

This is lazy blogging, but this is absolutely the most sense I have seen written about the cartoons saga, and it comes courtesy of the excellent Eurotopics, a service from the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/bpb in cooperation with Perlentaucher Medien GmbH and Courrier International which you can subscribe to here. It is brilliant because it provides translated snippets from a range of different language newspaper. I am taking the liberty of reprinting their dossier compiling the views of moderate Muslim intellectuals on the cartoons saga. There is nothing I can really add to comment upon the heartfelt views here, except to say how sincerely I hope these views prevail. But maybe I am being naive, especially about the international relations aspects of what's going on. The only thing I would say is that all these articles taken together demonstrate in an interesting way that in some ways we are starting to see an increasingly transnational media sphere in Europe. The internet and blogging definitely have something to do with that. I just hope that this helps to calm, not inflame, passions, but judging by some ill-judged anti-Islamic websites I have seen in the last few days, I fear that the latter is the case not the former.

Society/ Global: Cartoon dispute - the views of Muslims living in the West
The violent protests against the Muhammad cartoons are spreading and putting the lives of Western Europeans living in the Arab world at risk. Now Muslim intellectuals are also voicing their opinions in European newspapers. They see the confrontation as a chance to modernise Islam.

+++ Denmark - Jyllands-Posten. It was bound to come to this clash between the civilisations, says writer and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali in an interview with Orla Blog. She adds that, even though it may sound cynical after the attacks on Western diplomatic buildings, the conflict still offers a great opportunity. "Thanks to these cartoons, Islam could make the progress of centuries within just a few years. It's high time there was an uprising. Had the cartoons not been published, the discussion about the Prophet Muhammad would never have arisen.
It's important to remember that Islam hasn't undergone all the reforms and adjustments which Christianity and Judaism have undergone over the past thousand years. On the contrary, Islam is stagnating. Its laws are geared towards tribal society. Now all Muslims in Denmark and Europe are being forced to reflect on what their attitude should be towards Muslim taboos that are incompatible with modern democratic society." +++

+++ Austria - Der Standard. "The Arabs and Muslims themselves are mainly responsible for the defamation of this religion and of the Prophet Muhammad's image, because they convey a distorted picture of this divine and immortal message and its revered prophet. We should all ask Mohammed for forgiveness for defacing his image," writes Arab author Baha al-Musawi, and asks: "Why don't we portray Muhammad as a devout, honourable and tolerant human being, instead of letting him be reduced to an image of Osama bin Laden, of a sword, of killing, of the Taliban, of beheadings and suicide? How can we permit the murder of the unbelievers when Mohammad honoured them? How can we oppress women when Mohammed revered them? How can we spill blood when Mohammed has forbidden it?" +++

+++ Germany - Die Welt. Irshad Manji, a Canadian and Visiting Fellow at Yale University, asks why people shouldn't be allowed to make jokes about Muslims. "We Muslims can't pretend to have the integrity to demand respect for our religion if we don't respect the religions of others. When have we ever demanded that Christians and Jews be allowed to set foot in Mecca? Only when they come for business reasons are they allowed to enter.
As long as Rome continues to welcome non-Christians and Jerusalem welcomes non-Jews, we Muslims should be protesting against more than these cartoons." +++

+++ United Kingdom - The Guardian. Tabish Khair, an author, english professor and self-professed "moderate Muslim" says he has remained silent on the cartoon controversy "because there is no space left for me either in Denmark or in many Muslim countries. ... Between the Danish government and Islamist politicians, between Jyllands-Posten and the mobs in Beirut ...The moderate Muslim has again been effectively silenced. She has been forced to take this side or that; forced to stay home and let others crusade for a cause dear to her - freedom - and a cultural heritage essential to her: Islam. On TV she sees the bearded mobs rampage and the clean-shaven white men preach. In the clash of civilisations that is being rigorously manufactured, she is in between. ... She cannot scream. Come to think of it, can she really express herself at all now?"+++

+++ France - Le Monde. Abdennour Bidar, a philosophy professor in Nice, shares his views on "the profound democratic changes to Islam" in Europe brought about "by the daily reality of Muslims living there". "The shift is characterised by what I call a 'self-Islam', that is to say, a culture of autonomy and personal choice, thus a culture based on diversity and differentiated identity - an Islam of individuals, and not of the community! ... 'Self-Islam' is, in fact, the expression of a culture that has radically mutated beyond its original authoritarian form, and which has become democratised via a process through which each European Muslim, looking to his conscience, has appropriated the question his own identity. Let's acknowledge this change and adjust our understanding of European Islam by working to deconstruct this 'community' fantasy." +++


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