The malicious publication of hateful cartoons, first in Denmark and then in other European nations, deliberately defaming Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam is not only deeply offensive to Muslims, but is also a grave provocation.
It is a flagrant aggravation designed to sabotage grassroots moves towards a convergence, instead of a clash, of civilizations. The shameful motives of rightwing xenophobic journalists in Denmark (and elsewhere) who seek to undermine any meaningful rapprochement between Islam and the West must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill.
Muslims, in common with other citizens, subscribe to the freedom of expression and of the press. But these cherished liberties are neither inalienable nor unconditional. Nor can they be applied irresponsibly when a specific segment of the community is willfully targeted and ridiculed. A plethora of UK legislation, including libel, slander, defamation and anti-terrorism laws, already exist on the statute book to constrain unfettered free speech.
The premeditated policy by Danish (and other) Islamophobes to inflame tensions between Muslims and non-Muslim is inexcusable. And the malevolent re-publication of these satirical drawings of the Prophet Muhammad in other newspapers is not a bold assertion of free speech, but rather the reprehensible fomenting of discord and division between different faiths.
MECO unreservedly condemns the recurrent insults and slander against the Prophet of Islam but does not condone any abusive retaliation or violent response. Muslims must accord mutual respect and tolerance to people of different religions or none. In these trying times, everything must be done to build bridges of understanding and harmony. The gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims should not be widened by endorsing the illegal threats, puerile rhetoric and empty posturing from a minority of Muslim extremists.
However, when Islam and its Holy Prophet are persistently vilified in an indiscriminate and egregious fashion, Muslims have a democratic right to defend their faith and its founder. The most effective initial step is through a sophisticated, selective and sustained strategy. Muslims, in the first instance, should channel their massive worldwide consumer power not to buy Danish products. This co-ordinated global economic boycott of Denmark will in the long term have the desired effect, in much the same way Western sanctions were ultimately successful against the Soviet Union and apartheid South Africa.
Through this legitimate protest, the Muslim community not only reserves its inherent right to respond to Islamophobic attacks, but will also restore its self-respect in the process. This international boycott sends an unmistakable signal to those who have an inveterate hostility and an implacable hatred of Islam. Muslims are entitled to undertake legal counter measures to withdraw their support from those who purposely malign and disparage their religion. This united economic embargo against selected targets will enable Muslims to deal more effectively with the growing anti-Muslim prejudice coming from certain quarters.
Mutual tolerance and reciprocal respect is a two-way street. While it is incumbent upon Muslims in Europe to abide by the rules of civil society, they should not passively endure the endless, vicious assaults upon their sacred beliefs. They are permitted to take peaceful pro-active steps to counteract such gratuitous provocation. Like everyone else, Muslims are also entitled to live free from religious bigotry and racial hatred.
This entire episode, however, needs to be put in a wider context. While it is important for Muslims to protect their faith, it is deeply distressing that the collective energy of the international Muslim ummah is focused on a small Scandinavian nation while ignoring United States military occupation and foreign control in the heart of the Islamic world.
MECO can be contacted by telephone on 01865 766032, by fax on 01865 742612 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
This MECO Media Statement was published in the INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER on 14th January 2006