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Why the Outrage?
By Siddique Abdullah Hasan, Prisonersolidarity.org
May 4, 2006

Some analysts and critics have called the outrage over the Danish cartoons "a clash of civilizations by subsets of Islamic fundamentalists," while others have called the outrage "state-inspired riots." But why not call the outrage what it really is: A genuinely religious outrage inspired by the immaturity, recklessness and stupidity of a newspaper editor for soliciting and then printing those provocative and inflammatory cartoons which he knew would provoke an outcry from the local Danish Muslims.

Were those infamous cartoons published out of ignorance? Flemming Rose, the editor of The Jyllands-Posten, can best speak for himself. He has defiantly said that "he solicited and published the cartoons to get the reaction from the local Muslims, and to teach them the value of democracy." Therefore, contrary to what former-President Bill Clinton said in a recent TV interview, the behavior of the editor was not did out of ignorance. It was a deliberate insult not only to the local Muslims in Denmark but also to the entire Muslim ummah (nation) under the auspices of freedom of speech.

Be as it may, freedom of speech does not grant an editor, or any person, a license to insult and inflame the passion of a people or a nation. If a pluralistic society is to truly exist in peace and harmony, then freedom of speech cannot be an absolute right.

This deliberate attack and assault on Islam is not new, and even moderate Muslims are now waking up and smelling the coffee. That is, there is apparently a global assault/attack on Islam--culturally, militarily, politically and religiously--and Muslims have a sacred duty of safeguarding and defending their Prophet and their creed. Echoing this same argument, Shaikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Shaikh, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti (a great Muslim scholar authorized to issue legal verdicts), said to nearly 3 million Muslim pilgrims during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, "Oh, Muslim nation, there is a war against our creed, against our culture under the pretext of fighting terrorism. We should stand firm and united in protecting our religion."

While Islam does stress tolerance in almost every facet of life, there can be no understanding or compromise for this type of blatant cynicism, disrespect and insult to Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah (upon whom be peace), a noble and the most beloved personage who was sent as a mercy to mankind and all that exists. Still, non-Muslims cannot fathom why the outrage over the cartoons. For many Muslims, to sit idle and allow this grave injustice to go unchecked is to collaborate with this evil, cynical act.

Islam teaches that when Muslims see an evil, they have both a moral and religious obligation to try to prevent it with their hands. If they are unable to prevent it with their hands, they should try to prevent it with their tongue by speaking out against it. And if they're still unable or afraid to do even that, then they should at least hate the evil in their heart. But under no circumstances should they sit motionless and become toothless. To do nothing is tantamount to disbelief and amounts to aiding and abetting the enemies in the destruction of Islam.

Muslims defending and supporting Prophet Muhammad with their bodies, monies and lives is not an innovation as some want the world to believe. They unflinchingly defended him in life and shall defend him in death, and this is non-negotionable. The sooner the world realizes this, the better chance the world has at resolving the current crisis. But, as long as European countries continue to find justification and excuses for the editor's actions, there will be no peaceful resolution to the violent outrage and massive demonstrations. Instead, Muslims will continue to sacrifice themselves for the person who is dearer to them than themselves.

One of the Prophet's companions, Abdullah bin Hisham, reported: We were with the Prophet and he was holding the hand of Umar bin al-Khattab, the second caliph in Islam. Umar said to him, "O Allah's Messenger! You are dearer to me than everything except my own self." The Prophet said, "No, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, (you will not have complete faith) till I am dearer to you than your own self." Then Umar said to him, "Now, by Allah, you are dearer to me than my own self." The Prophet said, "Now, O Umar, (now you are a believer)." This tradition exemplifies the closeness Muslims felt, and many still feel, for their Prophet. He is a paradigm for all humanity and represents the best of Muslim identity. Moreover, he represents everything Muslims hold dear about Islam and this insult cannot be tolerated.

But even if the cartoons were not insulting and distasteful, there would still be an outrage over creating the cartoons. Why? Plain and simple, making and displaying pictures of animated objects--of people, animals, and all living creatures--is strictly forbidden in Islam. In stark contrast, picture making and keeping pictures is primarily the pastime and art occupation of non-Muslims.

While there are many moderate and westernized Muslims who dupe both Muslims and non-Muslims alike by claiming there's nothing in the Qur'an which prohibits pictures, this is far, very far from the truth and will never be accepted by those staunch Muslims who follow the example and teachings of the Prophet in their pristine purity. Allah Almighty says, "And whatever the Messenger (Muhammad) gives you, take it; and whatever he forbids you, abstain (from it)." (Q. 59:7)
It is clear, unequivocally clear, from the above passage in the Qur'an that it is incumbent upon all Muslims to obey the commands and prohibitions of their Prophet. In obeying him they are actually obeying Allah, and disobedience to him is actually disobedience to Allah. So, what did the Prophet say regarding pictures? For the sake of brevity, hereunder are a few traditions regarding their prohibition:

· A'isha, one of the wives of the Prophet, said: "The Messenger of Allah returned from a journey and I had screened my door with a curtain having on it pictures of winged horses. He commanded me to remove it." (Muslim)
· The Messenger of Allah said: "The most grievous punishment on the Day of Resurrection will be for those who imitate Allah in the act of creation (i.e., making pictures and images)." (Muslim)
· The Messenger of Allah said: "Every picture maker will be in the fire of Hell. A body will be created for every picture made by the picture maker, and this body will torment him (the picture maker) in Hell." (Mishkaat)

The Prophet made the latter saying while destroying a picture. It's interesting to note that not only will the picture makers be punished on the Day of Resurrection, but they will be commanded to give life to what they tried to create. Indeed an impossible task to accomplish, for only Allah has the power to give life and to take it away.

To prevent Muslims from falling into idolatry is another reason for the prohibition of pictures, for worship should be done exclusively for Allah. By all means, Muslims should avoid the pitfall of other religious communities. With the utmost respect to Christians, the short of it is, and intending no offense, when a pious person among them dies, they build a place of worship over his grave and then draw pictures in it (the place of worship).

Although this is the Islamic stance on pictures and insulting its Prophet, the violent outrage and massive demonstrations could have been avoided if level heads would have prevailed. How? The Danish Muslim population sought to resolve the matter through petitioning and peaceful protests, but the Danish government refused to condemn the cartoons or to meet with the local Muslims' representatives. Its inaction and insensitivity inflamed the local Muslims and caused them to seek the help of Arabs and Muslims' embassies in Denmark, the oldest monarch in Europe where Muslims make up only 2% of the Danish population.

To add further insult to injury, the unrepentant editor's position has been, "Love it or leave it." Such defiance has prompted a millionaire in Pakistan to put a million dollar bounty on the editor's head. Remember Salman Rushdie and the bounty that was placed on his head for writing the book Satanic Verses? Well, history is indeed repeating itself.

Seeing that the cartoons were designed to incite hate and acts of terrorism against Muslims, why isn't Flemming Rose being held accountable for his actions? And if this is "free speech" and "fair game," then why has Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri been recently convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for "free speech"--inciting hate and terrorism--in London? Better yet, if it's truly "free speech," why is a reporter for Al-Jazeerah being detained at Guantanamo Bay for "inciting hate and terrorism?" It seems like the West is trying to teach Muslims more about hypocrisy than democracy.

In short, if it's good for the goose, then it has to be good for the gander. More succinctly, Muslim governments should demand that the editor be detained, indicted and prosecuted for "inciting hate and terrorism." It's precisely what his actions have caused in the world over. If their demand is not met, then Muslim governments should stop arresting jihadists and supporting this so-called war on terrorism, for the playing field is hardly what one would call level.

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Siddique Abdullah Hasan is the founding editor of Compassion, a newsletter to develop healing communication between capital punishment offenders and murdered victims' families. He is also a co-editor of the web portal Prisonersolidarity.org. The respected Sunni Muslim prison Imam was sentenced to death row for his alleged leadership in the 1993 Lucasville prison rebellion. He is currently on death row at Ohio's super-max prison in Youngstown, and is appealing his sentence. For more on his case, see Staughton Lynd's book, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising. (Temple University Press, 2004).

To contact Hasan about a writing assignment and/or a column on issues relating to Islam, incarceration and prison life, send inquiries to:

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, R 130-559
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road
Youngstown, OH 44505-4635

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