Statement by H.E Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu Secretary General of the OIC on the incident of publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) in Danish and Norwegian Newspapers
The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Conference has closely followed the developments over the reprehensible incident of publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Danish newspaper Jylland Posten and their recurrence in the Norwegian newspaper Magazinet. The General Secretariat notes that there was far and wide condemnation in the member states through official and individual reaction, condemnation by international organizations and non governmental organizations and rightly an outcry and anger of the Muslims whose most important religious symbol in the person of the Prophet was targeted and ridiculed. The obnoxious and distasteful act whose gravity is of un-proportional magnitude requires to be explained to the international community so that the protest may be understood in the correct perspective. It is with this aim in view that H.E Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu Secretary General of the OIC has issued the following statement on the incident along with the briefing paper.
The Secretary General notes with a deep sense of disappointment the lack of empathy and rejoinder by the Danish authorities on the publication of blasphemous and sacrilegious cartoons printed in Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. The response was highly unsatisfactory, it was issued after procrastination of over three months and was unable to reach the underlying reasons on which the Muslims were anguished. However by providing protection to the newspapers and failure to censure in unequivocal terms, it has served neither the cause of freedom of expression nor it has advanced the goals of multiculturalism domestically or internationally.
The Secretary General also notes with regret that failure to categorically condemn the cartoons by the Danish authorities may set a dangerous precedent which has already been witnessed on recurrence of the cartoons by two publications in Norway as they were encouraged over the manner the Danish authorities approached the incident.
In his letter to the Danish Prime Minister, the Secretary General drew attention to the fact that series of Islamophobic acts including the invitation to portray Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the newspaper could lead to escalation of tension which he has sagaciously advised could be avoided only if the Danish authorities, may promptly refrain perpetrators of sacrilege and issue their condemnation. The failure to take notice of sacrilege by the concerned authorities has attracted globally sentiments of abhorrence by the Muslim masses, who have presumed that Danish and Norwegian authorities instead of salvaging the damage done by the newspapers have stepped forward to defend the wrong doers.
This has unfortunately vitiated the climate of trust which OIC and international community were trying to build for dialogue among cultures. The Secretary General strongly believes that there are no two opinions on respecting freedom of expression. The 1.3 billion Muslims have no problem in accepting the right of electronic and print media to exercise their freedoms without any let or hindrance. The Muslims strongly support exercising freedom of conscience as one of the principles which is completely in consonance with the western concept of freedom of expression. However it has to be exercised by taking into account respect to the values of those with whom one may tend to disagree. Superimposing the right to revile other religions and prophets goes against the essence of freedom of expression as no democracy, legal or political system allows preaching of hate and insult for the sacred values and symbols of others.
In this backdrop the Secretary General views that how far it could be called a civilized democratic behavior when a newspaper invites publicly to draw pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, which blatantly purge his personality by showing him terrorist with a bomb over his turban, most wanted criminal, fond of women, dagger carrier, etc; need no further mentioning due to reverence for him. These are all reprehensible and deeply sick notions portrayed by individuals who have no knowledge about the personality of Prophet Muhammad. It is evident that the invitation of Jylland Posten was motivated to incite hatred and violence against Muslims. By exposing the level of understanding of Islamic religion and its symbols the newspapers have seriously damaged their credibility in the eyes of the Muslim world and harmed democracy, freedom of the press, violated decency and civilized norms.
The invitation for depiction of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the backdrop of Islamophobic acts and the general stereotyping of Muslims who are so ignorantly portrayed as demons and terrorists could only have led to ill-informed and malicious stereotyping of the Prophet. When defending blasphemous acts, it helps none and it only germinates extremism and retaliation which is not in the interest of anyone who wishes to safeguard multicultural and pluralistic values. The Muslim societies all over the globe are endeavoring to put in place political institutions based on democratic and pluralistic values and without hesitation acknowledge the origin of those good values for reference, however, if sensitivities of cultural and religious differences are not observed no room will be left to respect those values and freedoms.
The freedom of expression as a right is not confined only to Danish or Norwegian people but these are universally accepted norms which must be judged on the basis of responsibility and freedom in the global context. The angry reaction in the Muslim world is not per se on the insinuation against Muslims as terrorists which they indeed condemn and over the damage done to their religious sentiments but it is mainly due to that premeditated and deliberate attack on the revered person of the Prophet, whose Holy position, message and teachings were so maliciously and calculatingly sacrileged by the so called defenders of freedom.
The Secretary General appeals to the Muslims to stay calm and peaceful in the wake of sacrilegious depiction of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which has deeply hurt their feelings. He has stated that Islam being the religion of tolerance, mercy and peace teaches them to defend their faith through democratic and legal means. Being adherents of peaceful religion, Muslims should dispel misperceptions prevalent among certain people in the world through enlightened dialogue and teachings of the great religion of Islam and its Prophet, whose teachings revolve around forgiveness, love for humanity and emancipation of human beings from prejudices and false doctrines, irrespective of race, religion, creed or political orientation. The Prophet’s divine message was to remove ignorance from the world, his address was humanity and therefore, Muslims have responsibility to underline these universal truths in their dealings with other cultures and communities. He noted by concluding that it was the legitimate expectation of 1.3 billion Muslims that perpetrators of blasphemy who have transgressed civilized boundaries of freedom can redress the situation by extending an unqualified apology.Jeddah: 28 January 2006
Source: Taken (with Thanks from OIC-OCI.ORG
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