Printing Muhammad cartoon a poor choice

As good Bill Shakespeare once said, “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.” What am I talking about? The ridiculous cartoon that came out recently, originally published by a newspaper in Denmark.

Interestingly, there was little to no reaction about the cartoon when it was first published, mainly because the newspaper that published it is recognized as a right-wing publication that has a very small following, much like the entire right-wing party in Denmark. The issue was ignored by the Danish government since the newspaper has a small readership, even after several imams, or religious clerics, complained.

The newspaper decided to run the story about the reaction to its cartoon to add some sensationalism and blow up the issue in an attempt at publicity. The specific cartoon I am referring to depicts Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb with a lit fuse. In retaliation, the imams went on a tour of the key European states in order to publicize and inflame the issue, which is when the cartoon was republished in France.

Traditionally in Islam, it is forbidden to depict anyone in a cartoon or photo form, but because of a globalized media, these rules have been bent slightly and only very fundamental sects still follow this tradition.

If you’ve lived in the Middle East, you learned to see that many imams have different agendas. Right after 9/11, Saudi Arabia ‘deported’ several hundred imams from the mosques in the Kingdom, a public relations tactic to demonstrate that it was cracking down on fundamentalist imams. However, other imams around the region continue to push religion with politics and this always ends up being to the detriment of the rest of the country. These ones in particular had an alternative agenda to get attention drawn to themselves.

Predictably, the rest of the fundamentalist groups followed suit like a set of dominos; such as in Indonesia and Afghanistan, where remnants of Al-Qaida and the Taliban are using this to increase their anti-West ideology.

In the Arab world, the fundamentalist groups are using this cartoon hatred in order to force their governments into confrontation with their allies in the West.

But regardless of the reaction, what the Danes did was ridiculous and done with the intent to incite violence; nobody in his or her right mind would publish cartoons making fun of the Tsunami, for instance.

According to “Good Morning America,” Iran issued a cartoon contest to retaliate against the anti-Islamic cartoons, where Hitler will be portrayed in bed with Anne Frank. Yeah, I know it’s reprehensible, but that’s the kind of nonsense that stuff such as this spawns. Kind of like a giant political version of a schoolyard tag game with big bearded bullies.

The promotion of unrest in Iran has an obvious purpose, acting to divert Western attention from its nuclear program. Similarly in Lebanon, the protests are geared at diverting attention from the assassination of the anti-Syrian Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and also geared at making Lebanon seem weak without the Syrian military presence that left, ending its 25-year occupation.

Many people have not heard about the protests in Lebanon linked to this same cartoon, but they were anything but unplanned. According to a reliable source within the Lebanese government: “Five buses arrived on a Sunday, full of unemployed people, each carrying plastic bags full of stones.” Several hours later the army intervened with a rough total of about 500 arrests.

Remember that when the movie “Dogma” came out, Catholics protested.

In countries like Iran, there is nothing such as the First Amendment that allows people to vent their frustrations in a healthy and organized fashion. This facilitates bogus protests being loosely linked to things like badly drawn cartoons. If I were an imam, I would be more pissed that the cartoon was so badly done and that the cartoonist didn’t spend much time on it – rather than for the meaning.

Moazam F. Syed, a consulting engineer at TXU and the president of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County, said he was disappointed in how people have reacted and that they should “go back to the teachings, back to the days of the man they are marching for and remember what he would have done in the same situation.”

Michael Bou-Nacklie is a junior international communication major from La Cote aux Fees, Switzerland, who is also a writer for the Arab News.