Since the cartoons portraying Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) were published in Europe, the reactions to this “unusual event” have drawn the world’s attention. The event is unusual because it represents a public offense to 1.3 billion human beings at a time when the cultural gap between the Muslim world and the West is growing to an all time level.
There is no doubt that the cartoons published in “Jullands-Posten” and other journals reflect a deep misunderstanding of Islam and of the instructions of Muhammad (PBUH). The cartoons clearly represent the picture of Islam as understood in the mind of the cartoonist and probably the minds of the Danish and many Western people in general.
What the West needs to know is that Muhammad was a man of honor who was highly respected by all those who knew him before and after Islam, whether enemies or friends. Muhammad was a man who devoted his life to spread the message of Islam, that there is only one God, The God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus, the God of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Muhammad was tortured and insulted by his people for more than twenty years, yet when he had a chance for revenge he forgave them and made supplication for them to be saved. Such a man deserves praise and respect, not to be portrayed as a terrorist carrying a bomb on his head and a sword in his hand.
It is for this reason that the offensive cartoons stirred strong feelings of anger and frustration in the Muslim world leading to massive demonstrations, political tensions and boycotting of some European products.
So where do we stand? We, Muslims, are supposed to act according to the instructions of the Quran and the commands of Muhammad (PBUH). When Muslims face a problem, they look for answers in the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Quran makes it clear that those who insult the Prophet will be punished by God Himself (Quran 9:61). The Quran, however, does not approve violence and instead calls for forgiveness and for peace: “help one another in righteousness and piety and do not help one another in sin and transgression” (Quran 5:2). As per Mohammed (PBUH), his instructions to his followers and consequently to all Muslims is to respect neighbors, respect guests and to do no harm to innocents under any circumstances. There should be no doubt in our minds that if Mohammed (PBUH) were alive, he would not approve the property damage that the World witnessed in some western embassies in the Muslim world.
When “freedom of speech” offends twenty percent of the World’s population by ridiculing the most respected man in their religion, this “freedom to speak” becomes “freedom to insult”. On the other hand, Muslims should be careful in their reactions. The role of Muslims is to correct the misunderstanding of Islam and to rectify the West’s views of Mohammed and of Islam in general. The response to an offense that others consider freedom of speech should be a collaborative and peaceful effort by Muslim governments, scholars, religious institutions and Muslim individuals to educate the Westerners about Islam and to bridge the gap.