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International Anger on Insulting Cartoons: Jamiatul Ulama South Africa


The international Muslim community is deeply offended by 12 cartoons mocking the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and depicting him as a terrorist in some European publications recently. It is evident that these publications were aiming to demonize the character and personality of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who is followed by 1.5 billion Muslims globally and who is admired by millions of others all over the world. After all, what was the intention of these publications by depicting the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, when it is a well known fact that he was a paragon of peace, mercy, tolerance and forgiveness?

The publication of these cartoons demonstrates contempt for the religious beliefs of the Muslim Community. These publications have abused freedom of speech by taking it to a dangerous, irresponsible and unacceptable level by showing disregard for the sensitivities of Muslims around the world. The Muslim community views the publications of such offensive material as a serious attack on the integrity of their religion, and as an attack on the global Muslim Community.


The media has a duty to act responsibly in sensitive issues of this nature and not to push the right to freedom of expression to ridiculous levels where the lines of distinction between profound and profane are virtually obliterated. Freedom of expression is not an absolute; it is limited by the requirement of not causing offence or inciting racial or religious hatred. Sensible and responsible leaders around the world, including the pope, issued strong statements against these cartoons. The US Government also condemned these caricatures. "These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. "We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."


The reason why Muslims are so angry is because these cartoons have violated fundamental teachings of their religion. Islam has traditionally prohibited images of humans and animals altogether - which is why much Islamic art is made up of decorative calligraphy or abstract arabesque patterns. Throughout history Muslims have cast out, destroyed or denounced all images, whether carved or painted, as idolatry.

Therefore, images of the Prophet are strictly forbidden in Islam, because it is forbidden and because this is deemed disrespectful to him, and for the very fear that his image could then be distorted and abused. Thus no records of any authentic image or portrait of the Prophet is to be found any where in the world throughout history. Yet some people seem to have little understanding of why this should be so, nor do they understand the intensity of the feelings aroused in Muslims when this is done.

Muslims love the Prophet (peace be upon him) so intensely that this love supersedes their love of everyone else. When speaking or writing, his name is always preceded by the title "Prophet" and followed by the phrase: "Peace be upon him", often abbreviated in English as PBUH. Attempts to depict him in illustration were therefore an attempt to depict the sublime - and so forbidden. To depict him in a series of mocking and provocative cartoons is the worst form of blasphemy imaginable. No Muslim can ever tolerate such disrespect.


The entire culture and value system of Islam is based on respect and reverence, such as respect for parents, wives, elders, religious symbols and so forth. For certain people respect means nothing at all. Such people satirise and mock anything and everything, including their own religion, all of which is done in the name of freedom of expression. They expect to also mock at others, in the name of freedom of expression. But Muslims, who are required by their religion to respect all of the Holy Prophets (peace be upon all of them), will not tolerate the mockery of any of the Holy Prophets. Hence when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was mocked in the cartoons, there was a furious reaction from Muslims around the world. Unfortunately some editors either do not have the understanding of Islamic values, or deliberately abuse the freedom of speech to incite and offend Muslims in these provocative ways.

Two things are wrong with the Danish cartoons. Firstly, the illustrated depiction of the Holy Prophet, and worse, the intention to ridicule the Prophet (peace be upon him) through it. This was an explosion waiting to happen. Muslims view this as an example of the ignorance and arrogance of that certain people display towards them.

Yet there are countless of other people, who may not be Muslims, but who have shown respect and admiration of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) not because they believe in him or are his followers, but because they are fair, just and not prejudiced in their study or analysis of his personality as recorded in his biography. These people have found him to be a wise, kind, tolerant, forgiving, honorable and generous person, who has inspired millions around the world. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself was the subject of abuse, violence and mockery in his lifetime, but he always tolerated, forgave and showed kindness even to his opponents. Although Muslims are furious about disrespect shown to the Prophet, it is important that they register their protest respecting law and order, and do not act irresponsibly, for that is not what the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) would have approved.

Mufti Zubair Bayat


Jamiatul Ulama (KZN ), South Africa

Source: Taken (with Thanks from Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)

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