Caricaturing Islam


Don’t they really fancy Islam? The Danes show their love for the Prophet again. On October 25, the rightwing Danish People’s Party used a hand-drawn picture of Prophet Mohammed under the slogan "Freedom of expression is Danish, censorship is not" in an ad for its election campaign.

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, a Danish-Muslim politician of the leftwing Red-Green Alliance, said, "People won’t react to it because they have decided not to. Nobody wants to talk about (the Muhammad cartoons crisis). It is no longer an issue."

However, she herself has responded with a poster showing a sketch of the DPP leader, Pia Kjaersgaard, with the caption, "Freedom of expression is Danish, stupidity is not".

She has fallen for the bait. Islam is the pin-up religion of the world now ­ pin-ups can be hugely threatening because they get your hormones all jiggling, they give you an opportunity to air your moth-eaten morality, they make you titter because their in-your-face attitude overwhelms you and makes you blabber and try to reduce the object of your derision because you cannot do a damn thing to either aspire to or control it.

Last year, after the cartoon series of the prophet, someone decided to shoot a video footage of members of the anti-immigrant DPP taking part in a competition for drawing the best such cartoon. A report had stated, "The faces of the young people were blurred in most of the footage. One cartoon appeared to depict the Prophet Mohammad as a camel, urinating and drinking beer."

This is not even pathetic. It isn’t something to get worried about. These people do not have the courage, forget conviction, to show who they are.

Think about it. A group of drunken wasters has a problem with immigrants for taking their space and their jobs. Instead of just sounding like jealous dimwits, they caricature the prophet; they believe that hitting out at Islam will get them attention. They probably don’t know much about the religion. I’d cut them a lot of slack because they are desperate.

The only aspect of this amateurish one-upmanship was that state TV aired it. Should not the Danish government have a clear-cut program on its immigrant policy instead of getting punks to do its dirty work?

The idea of the punk as political pontificator has found voice, and a rather demonic-looking tongue, in the persona of ‘Rage Boy’, who has been in the forefront of the Danish and other protests, his photograph with wide open mouth all over the media

I got a flavor of a lack of Islamic fervor during the time when the Quran was flushed down the lavatory. I was in an Islamic country, Dubai, and with some amount of vicariousness was looking forward to the real McCoy. No protests. Nothing. Arab families on a Friday afternoon, presumably after the prayers, were heading towards the KFC, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks sections in shopping malls. Where was their hatred for the West, their concern about the desecration? Chances are that if you told a wealthy Arab about Guantanamo Bay, he might look skyward and say, "Inshallah, next month I will take my family there for a holiday."

For me this was a revelation more potent than the reams written about ‘insult to the religion’. The Danish cartoons, then and now, fall in the same category. The Prophet is no doubt the symbol and the messenger of the Quran. But Islamists, as opposed to Muslims, use religion as a political entity. Quranic injunctions are fabulist in their probity; it is the Shariah that lays down the rules of law.

Most Muslims have a more fable-like relationship with the Book and the Prophet ­ there are passages they like and repeat. It is that simple.

Matters get complicated when demonstrators get into the act. The last time during the cartoon controversy, they were screaming, "USA watch your back, Osama is coming back", "Desecrate today and see another 9/11 tomorrow". This is more Speakers’ Corner than evangelist.

It is not about piety, but about superficial assertion. The West has created the bugbear about, and thrown the bait of, pan-Islamism. The Islamic world spotting this mirage in the desert goes for it. They call out the name not of Allah, but of Osama. What has Bin Laden got to do with the Quran? They have been trapped, and they do not even realise it. The strategy has worked beautifully ­ get the Muslim world to talk about Islam and Osama in one breath and then declare a general war on terror.

How many Islamic nations put their wealth and manpower to fight the Western forces against their aggression towards their own? Where is the Islamic revivalism one hears about? With the exception of token gestures like people fighting for the right to wear the hijaab or say their prayers in public places, where is the unified, self-respecting, self-sufficient Islam?

If Islamic societies want to worry about insults, they should start looking at how they treat their own people. Sunnis and Shias routinely violate each other’s existence and they follow the same Prophet and Book.

Then they should, if they must, consolidate into a progressive conglomerate with diverse schools of thought adding dimensions to their ideology. It is time to give up the pretence that there is one Islamic whole. Amazingly, this imaginary bloc has resulted in the West trying to ape it. The West uses religion during elections today; it uses morality; it uses terrorist tactics to purify society. It is an interesting turn of mores, but not desirable.

The Muslim world could with its wealth and heritage easily take on the West in one fell swoop: reject it.

Values are what people practise, what they believe in. Values do not come packaged as symbols. The problem is that we do not as yet have the capacity to make that fine distinction between decency and morality. Everything decent is moral. All that is moral is not necessarily decent.

FARZANA VERSEY is a Mumbai-based writer-columnist. She can be contacted at kaaghaz.kalam@gmail.com


October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria