(Mohd Asim is Senior News Editor, NDTV 24x7)
The cartoonists are dead and the Prophet of Islam is caricatured, diminished, shamed.
The horrific attack by some loonies on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has left the world stunned and outraged. There is a personal sense of angst in me as those killed were journalists and the target was a magazine.
My grief and anger is multiplied by the fact that the perpetrators of this barbarity claimed to uphold what is also my faith by birth. They sprayed bullets on some of the most creative minds because they dared to draw some cartoons of the Prophet of Islam.
This is not the first time that the self-appointed defenders of the Prophet and the faith have gone bonkers. There was the Danish newspaper episode some years ago. Then more recently there was a youTube video, again lampooning the Prophet. Both invited severe protests and attacks on western nations' embassasies in several countries. The Danish cartoonist also survived several bids on his life. While the protests over these distasteful portrayals of the Prophet (especially the YouTube video) are justified, the violence and attacks on institutions and individuals are plain criminal acts.
Before hurling stones or spraying bullets, these short-fuse idiots who claim to be the followers of the Prophet need to ask themselves a question. What has prompted these cartoons? Political cartoonists make fun of stupid and notorious individuals, societies and institution. And there is no harm in that. No politician, group or individual has escaped the satirical stroke of the cartoonists. Even in case of Charlie Hebdo, all religions and their leaders, from Jesus to Muhammad, are painted with the same humorous brush.
Those angry at the Prophet's cartoons need to ask themselves what turned their Prophet from messenger of peace to a terrorist in the imagination of the cartoonists? A cartoonist reacts to what's happening around, what's been talked about. Can't expect everyone to read the life history of your prophet and form an opinion for themselves. It's the doings of the followers that give most people their impressions about a faith or any organisation.
It's no secret that many among Muslims have projected the worst interpretations of the message of the Prophet and the Quran. The whole world knows about the promised 72 virgins, the four wives, the most medieval anti-women laws being paraded in the name of sharia. But so few have helped focus on the teachings of compassion, tolarance, respect for other faiths, gender justice that is all so intrinsic to the life of Mohammad. So whose failure is it?
Muslims extremists need to ponder if they are blaming others for their own failings. Anyone mocking the Prophet or Islam is actually lampooning the followers and the image that they present of their messenger and religion.
Another important question that every Muslim must ask himself/herself in that moment of rage when he/she sees something as insulting to Muslims' faith is 'What Would Mohammed Do?' Every Muslim is taught from the childhood, apart from a lot other forgettable nonsense in the name of Islam, how tolerant the Prophet was to criticism and abuse. Today, the crazy defenders of the Prophet are blinded by their rage.
The Paris attackers shouted "We have avenged the Prophet" while spraying bullets on the magazine staff. Each one of their bullets actually killed their Prophet 100 times. Those cartoonist and journalists will stay alive in our imaginations as martyrs for the cause of free speech, but the blood stains on the image of the Prophet will be difficult to clean.
The proof of it is that today, hundreds of cartoonists have taken revenge for the attack on free speech through that mighty weapon - a pen. There are scores of cartoons in magazines, newspapers and magazines today. They are being shared online by lakhs, retweeted by millions. And I see a Mohammed in all these cartoons.
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