Two sides of the same coin

In the current situation, many Muslims are angered by the support the cartoons have received.

I think people on different sides of the cartoon controversy are arguing two sides of the same coin.

The difference is one of emphasis, not of substance. Most Muslims keep asking, “Why is anti-Muslim speech OK when other hate speech, especially anti-Semitic speech, is not?”

Many non-Muslims (and even some Muslims) keep asking, “Why do Muslims like free speech only when it protects their right to criticize others?”

I think each group could benefit from a concerted effort at understanding the other, although, I, a Muslim, do believe Muslims now have a little less of a right to complain and a bit more explaining to do.

Muslims need to appreciate the genuineness of the current European fervor to stand for cherished principles in the face of implacable violence. In 2004, the brutal murder of Theo Van Gogh, director of the film “Submission,” which poignantly criticized mainstream Islam and its repression of debate, was committed by a religious extremist. Europe has not forgotten, and now it’s more a question of moral courage for many than of simple freedom of speech.

Appreciating the significance of this background is critical because the lack of this perspective is what is leading many Muslims to ascribe malicious intent to the journalists involved in the current controversy.

The latest developments in the Middle East have complicated the situation even more and offer eerie reminders of what angry Muslims are capable of doing.

They also serve to undo all that moderate Muslims (for lack of a better term) have achieved over the past four and a half years in the way of diluting the negative monolithic image created by Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequent terrorist acts committed in the name of Islam.

In the current situation, many Muslims are angered by the support the cartoons have received.

While they may not contest the political point some of the cartoons clumsily tried to make, they perceive the use of the prophet’s image as a complete lack of respect for their religious sensibilities.

The Prophet Muhammad is more than just a casually revered human being in Islam, and what Muslims demand of political and cultural satire is, at minimum, an acknowledgment that a distinction exists between the actions of some of today’s Muslims and what Muhammad (peace be upon him) preached.

This seems to be the cartoon publishers’ ” and many of their supporters’ ” blind spot.

I am appalled by the actions of Muslims who are violently acting out their anger over the cartoons ” sometimes against parties that had nothing to do with them. Legitimate vexation now seems to have devolved into a senseless tantrum against any and all perceived enemies, including the U.S. and Israel.

Even more appalling are the delusional arguments of some American Muslims that this was all a “Western” plan to trap Muslims by provoking them to violence, which could then be used as a justification for a war against Islam.

I can’t help but think of this as the clearest manifestation to date of the clash of civilizations Samuel Huntington predicted more than a decade ago. I hope I am wrong.

Munazza Humayun is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]