Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Islam - The Muslim divide over the cartoons

Nice to see the New York Times doing its job for a change and reporting on the journalist jailed for publishing the Muhammad cartoons.

And it's also nice to see some Muslims challenging other Muslims.

In a direct challenge to the international uproar over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, the Jordanian journalist Jihad Momani wrote: "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras, or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony?"

Denmark has done more than expose media and Muslim hypocrisy, it exposed fault lines within the Muslim community. We need to put pressure on those fault lines and allow whatever moderate voice there is to speak out.

Mr. Momani and Mr. Assadi are among 11 journalists in five countries facing prosecution for printing some of the cartoons. Their cases illustrate another side of this conflict, the intra-Muslim side, in what has typically been defined as a struggle between Islam and the West.

The flare-up over the cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper, has magnified a fault line running through the Middle East, between those who want to engage their communities in a direct, introspective dialogue and those who focus on outside enemies.

And those who want to speak out have a warning for us that we must heed.

"I keep hearing, 'Why are liberals silent?' " said Said al-Ashmawy, an Egyptian judge and author of books on political Islam. "How can we write? Who is going to protect me? Who is going to publish for me in the first place? With the Islamization of the society, the list of taboos has been increasing daily. You should not write about religion. You should not write about politics or women. Then what is left?"

Meanwhile the Organization of Islamic Countries wants the EU to enact laws that will slience the Western media.

The Times notes what has been evolving over the last few decades in the Middle East. But as you read this, the exact same applies to Europe over that same time and is starting to repeat itself in the US.

While the cartoons have infuriated Muslims, the regional dynamics underlying the conflict have been evolving for decades, during which leaders have tried to stall the rise of Islamic political appeal by trying to establish themselves as guardians of the faith.

In the end, political analysts around the region say that governments have resorted to the very practices that helped the rise of Islamic political forces in the first place. They have placated the more extreme voices while arresting and silencing more moderate ones.

Finally the Times points out that the cartoons were published by Muslims in Egypt last year and no one rioted. Proving that this entire affair has been manufactured - by Muslims. Pity the Times didn't give credit to bloggers for discovering and pointing that out.

To many journalists, proof that Mr. Momani and Mr. Assadi face charges because of the region's broader political dynamics — and not because of the nature of the cartoons — can be found in Egypt.

After all, Ahmed Abdel Maksoud and Youssra Zahran are free. They are journalists with the Egyptian weekly Al Fajr, one of the first Arab newspapers to publish the cartoons. They wrote a story about the caricatures and reprinted them in October — months before the conflict erupted — to condemn the drawings.

The irony of this seems to escape the Times which still refuses to publish the cartoons.

And there is another lesson here the Times and all the Western media should learn from these other Muslim voices.

"I am telling my people, 'Be rational, think before you go into the streets,' " he said. "Who harms Islam more? This European guy who paints Muhammad or the real Muslim guy who cuts a hostage's head off and says, 'Allah-u akbar?' Who insults our religion, this guy or the European guy?"

Some how that lessons seems to be lost to the Western media.

Here in the UK capitulation to Muslims is rampant and has resulted in a Muslim state within a state where 40% of Muslims want Islamic law enacted in Britain.

Britian, remember Said al-Ashmawy's warning: "With the Islamization of the society, the list of taboos has been increasing daily."

Don't believe him? Here is a growing list of taboos Muslims have banned in Britain. Taboos like, piggy banks, ceramic pigs in butcher shop windows, books like Animal Farm, theaters and museums censored, bill boards banned along with the English flag and Piglett too.

Wake up Britain, wake up.


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