Saturday, February 04, 2006

Civlity and Legalism

As much as I hate to talk about it, it seems that the situation has been forced upon many Muslims. The Danish cartoons controversy is escalating. I think it is good to explain a few things. Muslims believe in an absolute truth, and we believe that humans have a choice to personally explore for it, and to reject or accept it. The mission of Prophethood and dawa is to explain to humanity the truth of Islam. The most fortunate among us will believe in it whole heartedly, and will be willing to put their wealth, their lives, and anything they hold dear on the line for it. Some of us will believe it, and try to live accordingly, but also make blame-worthy mistakes in the way. And Allah is the best of Judges, the most Merciful, and the most able Enforcer. There will be others, and Allah is the best of Judges. The most unfortunate among humanity will understand the truth, but still ridicule and deny the truth. It is with regards to the worst of humanity, that we believe God tells us:

Can ye entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it. - Chapter 2, Verse 75 (Yusuf Ali rendering of the meaning.)

To you be your Way, and to me mine. - Chapter 109, Verse 6. (Yusuf Ali rendering of the meaning.)


In short, the message of Islam to all, Muslim or not is alike. You have been given an intellect and signs around you. It is up to you to accept or reject the message. The cartoonists who chose to draw or publish them meant to offend. If they accept the message it is for their own soul, and if they chose to reject, deny, and ridicule, it is for their own soul. Islam explicitly forbids Muslims from insulting the divine that others believe in. No amount of physical force can explain the truth. If that had been the divine plan, all of humanity would be believing in one faith, for God is All-Powerful, and well capable of infinite force.

Now, all Muslims love and respect our Prophet, and all of the other Prophets like Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all) more than ourselves, our families, and our nations. It is a logical construct that those who do not believe, will not feel the same way. However, we believe that as a matter of civility certain manners should be observed. Just because I do not love your family the way you do, it does not mean that I should pronounce all manners of obscenities towards your family, or employ racial slurs against your community. However, if one does so, then the understood law of the land should be employed. Slandering, or speech that directly incites violence is a crime in many systems of law. For those systems of law in which sacrilegious insults are not a crime, we can, and should, only employ the better, and more civil of approaches. One can not expect everyone to have the same moral compass. However, if the message we have is better, it will shine in its own light. I do not think that violence or threats of violence are legitimate, or positive for the message of Islam, or for the harmony of nations.

We believe that there is a difference between conveying information in a good manner, and insulting someone. We Muslims believe that Jesus was a man, born of a virgin mother, and not God. This does not mean that we insult Christians. Similarly, Jews believe that Muhammad (pbuh) was not a Prophet of God. This is a truthful account of the beliefs, not an insult.

Addendum/Update

It is good to see a lot of the muslim blogosphere calling for an end to this fiasco and madness, eg., Abdusalaam, Eteraz, Chan'ad, Abu Sinan etc. However, I think I want to draw a fine line here. Muslims can and should feel strongly about this issue. Loving our Prophet, his family, and all the other Prophets is common to all Muslims - Shi'a, Sunni, liberal, conservative etc. So I think Muslims do, and should feel attacked when any of the above are mocked and attacked. I previously wrote against that excuse of an argument, MWU!, initially for playing around with these sensitive issues in the Sex and the Ummah columns. I don't think the trade boycott against Denmark can last, or that a complete and permanent one is even justified. The 57 member nations of OIC can't even make cheese or insulin, and they can't live without the crumbs that Europe throws at them. This is why the cartoons even hurt so much in the first place. The EU has threatened to launch trade wars, presumably against Iran or KSA. A cynical part of me roots for EU on this. May be a baptism in fire will give us a lesson. The conservatives need to know that some things will have to change if they even want to survive today. And the rich spoilt brats making up the uber-white, ultra-liberal wing in glitzy Tehran U figure out what some in Europe think of them. Unless the masses and poor in the heartlands have been absorbed in a vibrant economic system, we will continue to be humiliated. I am not so sure anymore if I want to say that Scandinavia is great.

The most shameful act so far : a Catholic priest in Turkey was killed. The Turkish police have arrested the suspect. Justice ought to be served. This is blasphemy too, and it is a sad day for Muslims.

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