Putting aside that these cartoons were offensive to all Muslims we should look at some of the reactions here. I was stupefied by the call of boycotts. I am not an advocate of boycotts because I believe in this globalized world that we live in, boycotts do not work.
Most Muslim nations condemned the cartoons, some went as far as to call for appropriate punishment and some went even further and recalled their ambassadors to Denmark and others jumped off the cliff and implemented boycotts which targeted Danish companies that had absolutely nothing to do with this. But the fiasco was based on the faults of both the Danes and Muslim governments. I stress the word government here because no government in our part of the world is representitive of the people.
First thing’s first, those cartoons should have never been published in the first place, free speech quickly changes to hate speech when the intent is to cause offense; I highly doubt they would have done the same thing with any other religion but that’s not the point. Muslims had a right to react and to protest them. One cannot put aside the fact that through worldwide condemnation there was a desire to seek a diplomatic solution upon which the paper should have apologized but instead Muslim protests were met with silence. It is at this point that things started to go awry.
Islamic governments failed to distinguish between a newspaper in Denmark and the whole of Denmark. Instead of focusing on the newspaper they went after its government which had nothing to do with it. Instead of focusing on the newspaper they went after companies that had nothing to do with it. Did they not think that there are Muslims who live in Denmark that could be affected by it?
What drives me crazy is that the Gulf governments, most of who were the architects of these boycotts, were so prepared to boycott over offensive cartoons yet I havenÃ¢??t seen such a reaction towards Israel since the oil embargos in the 70’s. I mean, come on! The cartoons were offensive yes but this land is being occupied for heaven’s sake!
In conflict there is something called the proportional response. If someone calls you names you don’t set their house on fire. What was done here by some governments was far from proportional. Everyone was trying to hold the whole of Denmark responsible for the actions of a newspaper.
More inappropriate reactions were the gunmen who took over an EU office in Palestine, flag burning and my favorite: beating up Christian university students in Iraq. All of this was despicable in my opinion, specifically the last one which I am stunned by. The irony here (and Muslims reading this will appreciate this) is that upon feeling their religious teachings had been offended some Muslims reacted by forgetting their religious teachings.
It should however never have gone that far all diplomatic means should have been exhausted first before resorting to such inane measures in my opinion.
I consider the cartoonists who started all this to be stupid but I consider the reactions of some Muslims to be just as stupid, which goes to show that in any society, despite your origins or your religious beliefs, you will find a good sample of stupid people.
There needs to be improved dialogue with the western world, especially since many people do not understand Islam and have started to fear it and even hate it, specifically with the media, the likes of Bin Laden and the series of reactions we saw in the past few days. I noticed many angry Danes and Europeans these last few days whose comments reflected their lack of knowledge of anything Islamic and thatÃ¢??s something that needs to be addressed.
A dialogue is a two way street, it allows everyone to come together and compromise. While Muslims cannot expect everyone to have the same respect for their religion in Europe as they would in their native land at the same time European governments should protect its citizens from hate crimes and racism when it comes to their religion.
Muslims play such a major role here; this is after all a time when we are haunted by the ghosts of Bin Ladens and Zarqawis who have made our lives miserable since 9/11. This is a time when we should be breaking stereotypes and not enforcing them.
In the end both parties played a role in the escalation and hopefully this incident will serve as a starting point for initiating greater dialogue between Muslims and Europeans where a mutual respect can be cultivated.
see also: Danish Muslims Urge Calm After Apology