Monday, June 2, 2008

The Imam, the Danish Cartoons and Piss Christ

In today's Al Arabiya website there is a news item on the suicide bombing against the Danish embassy in Islamabad.


The PM of Denmark called it an "unjustified attack."

The Danish Deputy PM called it "an attack on Denmark and the values it defends."

The Muslim League denounced it as an act of "violence and terrorism."

The Aljazeera Arabic news channel reported on this issue interviewing Pakistanis on the subject. The interviewees basically said that "Denmark is to blame for publishing the insulting cartoons and then for not apologizing for them."

Going over the comments' section in Al Arabiya website, a number of commenters said that the Danish deserve it for "insulting the prophet," others said that it is wrong to use violence. Some blamed Israel and the US for the bombing. One commenters accused Denmark of bombing its own embassy so that the Muslims are placed in the position of apologizing to Denmark instead of the opposite.

Most voices disapproved the deed but asserted that "Denmark is wrong" and should be boycotted or their embassies shut down for insulting Muslims with the cartoons.

The Danish are defining this matter as an attack on freedom of expression. Many Muslims see the cartoons as an attack on their faith and its symbols.

Both are inaccurate positions.

The Danish are wrong because the Muslims feeling insulted do not care what freedoms the Danish have. The issue is that they perceive the cartoons as "Christian Denmark" and not one individual or a groups of individuals "attacking their faith."

The Danish government is painting the attackers as haters of the freedom of expression and other Western values.

But anyone who peruses a Western cultural product will not fail to note that the sacred is not sacred. How many times you see God's name taken in vain, you hear "holy shit," "Jesus f--ng Christ" among other choice terms. An African American actor, Morgan freeman, played God in Bruce Almighty and Jim Carrey having the powers of God for some time used the powers to make Jennifer Aniston's breasts bigger and to have his dog use the toilet.

I am not a religion scholar but for Muslims and other followers of Monotheistic faiths insulting God is a bigger offense than insulting the Prophet.

But we have not seen demonstrations and violence in response to Bruce Almighty?

The Pakistanis who bombed the embassy probably haven't heard of Piss Christ- the award- winning "Piss Christ" controversial picture by photographer Andres Serrano. Mr. Serrano won an award for that picture- an award partially supported by the US government agency, the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Serrano took a picture of a Crucifix submerged in a cup full of his yellowish urine. The artistic community thought it great art, many Christians felt insulted.

It was not an attack on Christianity not by the artist, not by the US government nor by the arts' community.

By asking the Danish government to apologize and blaming the controversy on Denmark the government and people many Muslims show an acute lack of understanding of Western society and government- that is the respect or lack thereof to the sacred in the public space and the role of the government.

Muslims who live in the West know better than those in Karachi and Khan Yunis. However, unfortunately, this issue is not explained to the Muslim world. Understanding and having an explanation does not mean excusing or justifying. But some voices actually add fuel to the fire. After the film Fitna came out, a local Imam in Dearborn told a newspaper reporter that Fitna is part of a Western Crusade against Islam while other Imams had no comment.

Muslims deserve better.

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