Sunday, February 12, 2006

Danish cartoons and the plague of Islamic fundamentalism

Kash Kheirkhah

Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post on the Danish cartoon issue:

"The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature. The cartoons do not begin to approach the artistic level of Salman Rushdie's prose, but that's not the point. The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached."

I do agree with Mr. Krauthammer. But to me what's really at issue here is what prompts Muslim radicals to waste no time in using this opportunity to slander the West, question its hard-earned values and even intimidate the Western Governments into apologizing for something they are not even responsible for?

Well, the answer is crystal clear: Regimes run by Islamic fundamentalists.

The plague of Islamic fundamentalism started when the Western powers led by Jimmy Carter administration-- pushing for an Islamic Green Belt in the Middle East to promote Islam as a means of containing the Soviet Union's expansionism-- allowed (and even helped) the radical Ayatollahs to seize power in Iran 27 years ago, helped arm Islamic Mujaheddin in Afghanistan and let Lebanon plunge into the hands of Hezbollah.

How wrong this was. Step by tragic step, Islamic fundamentalism; emboldened by the Western powers' laconic, short-sighted policies, found its way to the entire region by leaps and bounds, leading to the creation of a multi-headed monster which now seems to be completely out of control.

A living, breathing example of this is the Salman Rushdi story. When in 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini fatwad the killing of the British author Salman Rushdie, what was the West's reaction? (Khomeini's fatwa, in fact, helped publicize Rushdi's book which would otherwise have remaind obscure and brought Salman Rushdi world-wide fame) When the terrorists groups such as Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah in Lebanon were openly backed by regimes such as Iran's, what was the West's reaction? In other words, what has the free world done to contain the spread of Islamic fundamentalism that over the years has grown so rampant? What have we done to push reform in the Middle East, stop fundamentalist regimes from brainwashing Muslim children and planting seeds of hatred of the free world in their minds and hearts?

The answer is "nothing" with a capital N. And when for the first time, a US president rightly aims at the worthy cause of stopping the Middle East swamp from breeding mosquitoes of terror, the first group of people to knock him down are the same Western intellectuals who are now so aghast at seeing such harsh backlash by Muslim extremists.

Now having said all that, I truly believe the original publication of these cartoons was wrong for two important reasons: First they desecrate a faith, what millions of people truly believe in. as Mr. Krauthammer says, desecrations of all faiths is wrong, whether it's Islam, Christianity or Judaism. Also as President Bush rightly put it the other day, freedom of the press should come with the responsibility to be thoughtful about others and what is near and dear to their hearts. With all due respect for the freedom of speech, I believe that it must respect the sacred taboos of other religions.

Second, as a result of the West’s wrong policies of the past 30 years, Muslim extremists do have the upper hand now in the Middle East and politically incorrect moves such as the publication of these cartoons will only play into the hands of those who leap on any chance to use religion to their own political purposes. Unfortunately, Islamic fundamentalism is a reality in today and we can't simply close our eyes and pretend it doesn't exist. It very well does and it has tuned into a political culture now, spearheaded by imposters such as the Iranian mullahs.

The sad thing is many of these mullahs and the so-called "religious leaders" couldn’t care less about Islam. If they really did, they would stage protests with the same fury, condemning all acts of terror--such as beheading and suicide killings of innocent people -- that are being committed these days in the name of Islam.

As long as Islamic hardliners are in power and are able to feed terror cells and brainwash the masses with the oil money and as long as the free world continues to stand divided rather than united in the battle against hate-mongering and religious fundamentalism, the world should expect darker days ahead.

Related articles:

Fareena Alam - Why I reject the anarchists who claim to speak for Islam: Violence in the name of Islam has done more to damage the Prophet than any Danish cartoon.

Alamdar Hamdani - When pens draw out the swords of protest: Islam needs a unifying, universally respected voice — its own Martin Luther King Jr., or Gandhi.

Seema Munir - Protests reveal need for mutual trust: I , for one, as an American Muslim, am deeply troubled by the current events and hope to see responsible behavior on both sides. We live in troubled times, torn by mistrust, deceit and ignorance.

Emran Qureshi - The Islam the Riots Drowned Out : Sadly, the recent polarization obscures a rich humanistic tradition within Islam — one in which cosmopolitanism, pluralism and a spirit of open-minded inquiry once constituted a dominant ethos.