Cartoon-Crazy by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (September 02, 2018)

Trust an ill-mannered buffoon to turn the sacred into the profane, or, at least try to. Cartooning, like journalism, art and poetry can come to the rescue when freedom, justice and human rights are threatened by despots and all-manner of Hitler clones. The arts can show the mirror to power maniacs and speak truth in their face. However, these can also be misused by malicious fools.

After creating great distress to the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, publications like Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten learnt no lessons. Islamophobes in France and Denmark are unrepentant after wreaking the havoc they did in near past. A pig-headed Dutch law maker, geert Wilders, announced recently that he was organising a Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) cartoon contest.

It sounded menacingly similar to two such bad-taste cartooning events in recent past in Denmark and France in recent years that created strife and loss of life, besides bitterness in Europe-Islamic world relations. What does this oafish law-maker intend by organising a cartoon contest about the most revered Muslim, who breathed his last 1,400 years ago? What kind of law Wilders makes when he is intending to create a wave of extreme lawlessness worldwide, in which people are sure to die?

By drawing the Prophet’s (PBUH) cartoons earlier some Dutch citizens have tried to humiliate Muslims worldwide. Islam says one cannot be a true Muslim till Allah’s prophet’s (PBUH) love is not greater than the person’s love for his/ her own life and that of his/her near and dear ones. The earlier Dutch cartoons showed the supposed (wrongly) figure of the Prophet (PBUH) in the most abusive and slanderous way.

The fact that a Muslim loves the Prophet (PBUH) more than he/she loves himself/herself is known to people like Wilders. Hence, they strike where it hurts the Ummah most. Soon after the announcement a palpable, dangerous mobilisation had been reported from Muslim societies across the world.

In a display of fake commitment to freedom of expression, the Dutch foreign minister said he did not agree with Wilders, but he would defend his right to exercise his freedom of expression through organising the cartoon contest. This resonated with a famous European thinker’s view, “I do not agree with you, but I would defend your right to express your views.” Or, something to the effect.

It seems all the freedom of expression lies in hurting and inciting Muslims to protest (possibly, violently, in some cases) through lampooning their Prophet (PBUH). Have they tried lampooning Moses, or Jesus? Thus challenged, some of them might try to lampoon these revered personalities also, howsoever unwillingly, and certainly less rudely.

Ok. Now the final question. Will the craziest of cartoonists in Denmark, France or, for that matter, anywhere in Europe or America try lampooning the Holocaust? The clear, ringing answer is, No. Never. Why? Because the Jews would not like it. Hence, there is a limit on freedom of expression when it comes to Jews. Even the lofty Voltaire-inspired Dutch foreign minister would not defend some cranky law-maker’s idea of a cartoon contest on Holocaust.

Why does freedom of expression evaporate before 25 million Jews, but stands like an invincible mountain before 1.8 billion Muslims? We must ponder this question seriously.

We have heaved a sigh of relief to hear that Wilders has stepped back, citing threat to his life as well as to that of others. Soon after the September 11 attacks on World Trade Tower, American columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote a singularly unconvincing piece, “Why do they hate us?” The “they” here were Muslims, and the diagnosis was that Muslims hated Western freedoms. To know why some Muslims do not like the West, look at the banality and venom of Westerners like Wilders.

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