During the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy, I remember meeting with the Norwegian and Danish ambassadors to the United States here on Embassy Row in Washington DC after the global uproar caused violent protests and mass riots all over the world. Since that time, we have seen several other high-profile global political firestorms which have revolved around some disrespectful cartoon depictions of Islam’s prophet.
In April 2010, many of us remember international media stories after the famous American cartoon show called “South Park” decided to air an episode depicting Islam’s prophet in a teddy bear suit. Similarly, in September 2012, a French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo decided to “print cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, less than one year after being firebombed for running similar caricatures” which led to “riot police guarding the Paris offices of the weekly publication” and the French government eventually closing 20 embassies around the world as a precautionary measure against retaliatory action.
So after nearly ten years of these trends, what is the moral of this story?
The moral of the story is that people will continue to draw cartoons of our beloved Prophet in the future whether we like it or not.
For these reasons, it is important for global Muslims to understand the some of the top reasons that people decide to publish these inflammatory cartoons.
Some of these “Top Five” reasons include:
1) When people continue to draw cartoons of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), they are doing so in order to generate irrational violent responses from some elements of the Muslim world to help perpetuate the notion that Muslims only resort to violence to address political grievances;
2) By publishing cartoons of Islam’s prophet, they are trying to disingenuously illustrate to Western audiences that Muslims are somehow opposed to the concepts of “free speech” and a “free press”;
3) Without trying to understand the religio-cultural nuances of why people might be offended by such depictions, these people are simply trying to show the rest of the world that Muslims have “no sense of humor”;
4) The ‘clash of civilizations’ right-wing mantra is perpetuated by these false cartoon controversies, since it gives the average Western person the impression that somehow “Islam” and the “West” are inherently at odds with one another;
5) Finally, as I stated in the beginning and I cannot reiterate enough, when people draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, they are trying to lure and incite Muslims to respond violently which will only help to fuel further Islamophobia around the world.
For these reasons, since our global community will surely continue to see more cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as we move into the future, it is important for Muslims around the world to react peacefully and not provide haters of Islam with the irrational reactions that they so devilishly desire.
Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, author of the book Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era and contributing editor for The Islamic Monthly in Washington, D.C.