Protests have spread across the Muslim world over the publication in European news papers of cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Outrage over the cartoons has ignited demonstrations from Turkey to the Gaza Strip, and prompted a boycott of Danish products throughout the Middle East.
In Pakistan, hundreds demonstrated on Thursday, chanting "Death to Denmark" and burning Danish and French flags. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak warned that the decision by some European papers to publish the cartoons could encourage terrorists. Consequently, government ministers from 17 Arab nations have asked the Danish government to punish the newspaper for what they called an "offense to Islam" and some countries have even pulled their ambassadors from Denmark.
The controversy intensified on Wednesday when a French news paper, printed a new drawing on its front page showing Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy figures sitting on a cloud, with the caption "Don't worry Muhammad, we've all been caricatured here".
The response by Muslims to the cartoons is absolutely pathetic and depressing but revealing. The reason Muslims are responding with anger and threats of violence is because most Muslims live in countries where democracy and freedom of speech are alien concepts.
Moreover, the Muslim world suffers from a lack of visionary leadership. In this particular case, when Muslim leaders, including American Muslim leaders, realized that Muslims are furious they joined the chorus of fury rather than explain to their people that they must be reasonable and that freedom of speech is healthy even if it is insulting. What is even more disgusting is that most American Muslim organizations, who should know better, have joined the chorus of instigators rather than taking this opportunity to teach their members about the importance of freedom of speech and tolerance.
One would think that Muslims have learned a lesson from the mishaps of the radical Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini when in 1989, he called on Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy in his book, The Satanic Verses. The childish and stupid reaction by Khomeini caused an otherwise poor book to become a number one seller. Similarly today, the stupid reaction by Muslims has caused many more news papers to publish insulting images of the Prophet Mohammed.
When will Muslims wake up and realize that their intolerance of opposing opinions is keeping them in the dark ages? When will Muslims realize that respect must be earned and not forced through violence and coercion? When will Muslims realize that individual liberty and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights? When will American Muslim organization provide solutions to Muslims rather than instigate problems? The Free Muslims Coalition hopes that the answer to all these questions is soon.
For more information visit: www.FreeMuslims.org
Kamal Nawash, 202-776-7190, 301-905-6438, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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