Monday, February 06, 2006
No, the letters don't stand for "Was Wacky Muhammad Danish". Rather, they stand for "What Would Muhammad Do?" Perhaps this question is relevant to Christians (WWJD) who are wondering about the current Danish cartoon incident that has become a full-fledged controversy.
A little background, in September 2005, a Danish newspaper called Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in offensive manners. One showed Mohammad as a knife-wielding Bedouin; another showed him with a turban shaped as a bomb; yet another depicted Mohammad standing at the gates of heaven telling suicide bombers: "Stop! Stop! We have run out of virgins!"
For Muslims and religiously sensitive people everywhere, the cartoons were an anomaly. Although their publication was defended in the name of "freedom of expression," they still insulted Mohammad, and it was, at best, a risk for the newspaper to publish them. No serious American newspaper would commission images of Jesus that were solely designed to offend Christians. Certainly Muslims have the right to protest the hurtful and insulting depiction of their Mohammad in the newspaper, just as the newspapers reserve the right to publish said offensive cartoons.
That being said, however, the way in which many Muslims around the world are protesting the cartoons is barbaric. There are street demonstrations across the Middle East, with flag-burnings galore. The Danish Government warned its citizens about traveling to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. It even withdrew aid workers from the Gaza Strip.
Speaking of Gaza, masked gunmen temporarily occupied the EU office in Gaza and warned Danes and Norwegians to stay away. In Indonesia, eggs were pelted at the Danish embassy. In Saudi Arabia - as reported by the Associated Press - two employees of the Danish company Arla Foods were beaten up by angry customers. Two Palestinian militant groups threatened to retaliate against the newspapers by kidnapping Europeans and targeting churches and European offices and this week end thousands of rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to the building housing its diplomatic mission in Beirut in its Christian neighborhood., etc., etc.!
What in God's Name is going on here? What sort of response is this? Is this what Mohammad - the one whom is supposedly being defended by these Muslims - would do in this situation? It seems that the many stories surrounding the life of Mohammad only serve to confuse the issue! On the one hand, much of the folk lore pictures him as peaceful and non-violent. On the other, he is characterized as a vessel of God’s wrath upon non believers and apostates, violent and vengeful and merciless in their destruction.
Here is my point, how could it be that Muslims today - who claim to love their Mohammad deeply and follow his example - react in such an ugly way to the publication of cartoons that depict him in a negative manner? Is all this merely a demonstration of their faith? I mean gunfire at an EU office? Threatening Europeans and churches? Attacking and burning embassies? Beating up employees of Arla Foods? Is this what Muhammad would do?
I wish I had the answer! After all, there are so many other - more dignified, more truly Muslim - ways to lodge a protest against the cartoons. As one Islamic blogger put it, “Muslims could have had a silent vigil in from the Danish embassy, instead of pelting the embassy with eggs. Muslims could have written the newspaper - with polite, non-hateful, non-threatening language - and told it that this is wrong”.
So, I’m perplexed. Why didn’t Muslims take this opportunity to show the world the true face of Muhammad if, indeed, there is one? Why not contrast the hateful face that was printed by the Danish newspaper with the merciful, forgiving face of a true religious leader? There are so many ways to disagree without being violently disagreeable. Is it true, as some have said, Muslims failed to live up to their faith again! Certainly this fuels the fire of the angry slogan of “the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim”.
Indeed, if the publishers of these cartoons think that Muslims are nothing but a bunch of barbarians and to prove it, they intentionally published offensive and provocative cartoons depicting Muhammad in a nasty manner. It worked! Muslims stepped up to the plate and threaten innocent Europeans, shooting guns in the air, and burning Danish flags, building, effigies etc. Perhaps Muslims, by and large, simply took the bait! Or perhaps Muslims, by and large, are barbarians. What do you think? What would Muhammad do?
Note: "While the debate rages, an important point has been overlooked: despite the Islamic prohibition against depicting Mohammed under any circumstances, hundreds of paintings, drawings and other images of Mohammed have been created over the centuries, with nary a word of complaint from the Muslim world. The recent cartoons in Jyllands-Posten are nothing new; it's just that no other images of Mohammed have ever been so widely publicized."
Link to this page to see an archive of numerous depictions of Mohammed serving as a reminder that such imagery has been part of Western and Islamic culture since the Middle Ages.
I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish (ESV, Romans 1.14).
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all (ESV, Colossians 3.11).