Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The toon war!

A rightwing Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes 12 cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. I've seen the toons. If I were the editor of JP, I'd reject the cartoons outright because they are too crude. Stupid, substandard and silly. Surely cartoonists and editors ought to be able to spot the difference between Indian turbans and Arab ones, as one expert throws in. In the 1930's Jyllands-Posten was very in-famous for supporting fascism. The newspaper maintains that the drawings were an exercise in free speech.

I don't think we can completely blame the Europeans for these flukes. They cherish the liberal,democratic, free values that Europe espouses. Another matter anything against Jews -- dubbed anti-semitism -- can immediately land you in trouble in Europe. Now, an Iranian rightwing newspaper Hamshari is planning to run cartoons lampooning the Holocaust. Rightwing vs Rightwing! Iran knows where it hurts the most. They are attemting to hit the Europeans, right there.

What Posten and Hamsari flunk to understand is that beyond the EU and Persian borders, in a globalized world, these alleged actions can have some serious repercussions. A strained relationship especially between Islam and the west has a frightening tendency to imbalance the precarious world order.

Islamic world is seething. The western audiences may find it a little disturbing. Why are the Muslims so continuously angry that any insult can set off violence? Do these groups feel so powerless, so callously dominated that they are willing to wage war over the alleged actions of a single newspaper? What about the freedom of expression? This is just satire, so why don't they just chill. The truth is slightly different!

What we seem to forget is the simple fact that Europe has had a strong Imperial past. Tabish Khair professor of English at Aarhus University, Denmark, and author of The Bus Stopped notes that Islamic fundamentalism and European imperialism are horribly interlinked. As a reaction to European imperialism and, later, a political development of the west's fight against communism and socialism, Islamic fundamentalism is a quintessentially modern phenomenon. Hence, in their own way, Muslims are much more bothered about the opinion of the west. Any insult or an attempt to pick on the Islamic values is stepping on the thin-line.

Islam and West are two different entities. "You can't expect Muslims to behave exactly like Westerners do. If the Muslims feel as a matter of their faith that they do not like to have the picture of their prophet then that view should be respected, a US academic said to BBC world. The French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy perhaps put it aptly: "Freedom of expression confers rights, it is true - it also imposes the duty of responsibility on those who are speaking out."

Frankly, much of the Islamic world believes that truth is selectively presented in the western media. Truth that is touched over, gnawed and tarnised. The Arabs, to my mind, have a reason to believe what Al-Jazeera says rather than embedded CNN hacks. "Media is a mistress", as one analyst says. One hardly finds European newspapers dedicating edit spaces or front pages to the capers of -- or search for -- Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. These gentlemen led to a genocide in the heart of Europe in 1990's. What happens to the expression-decibels everytime a Palestinian kid is run over by an Isreali monster battle tank?

Sure, we share this small globe. Different values and norms. There are influences of one on the other. The world has been living with such contrasts, for aeons. We must let it grow amidst the confluence of faiths, ideas and convictions.


Interesting links:

{Source CNN: It ends with an unusual note -- CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam.}


Dr Anil K Jha said...

That is a very mature piece from a very young writer.

Alec said...

You making an interestg arguement here but moslems for sure are going hyper on this one.

Peter Hidston said...

I believe in what the french foriegn minister has to say on this. If a cartoon is deemed offensive by Muslims, why carry it. Why provoke them in the first place?

wasy said...

You need not to be fanatic to raise your voice in opposition to the people who have prejudice for your faith. Jyllands-Posten should stand up and apologize for its actions, to all the believers of this small globe coz we share it.
its always nice to read u