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Mr. Aziz Junejo
Muslims must resist violence over insult to prophet
Special to The Seattle Times
As a Muslim, I, too, was deeply hurt by the 12 disrespectful caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that were re-published in Europe this month, but I condemn in the strongest terms the violence and frenzy spawned by a minority of Muslims who protested the images around the world. The destruction of Danish embassies, the boycotting of Danish products and the beating of Danes working in the Middle East do not reflect the character of our prophet who is described in the divine scriptures of the Quran as a mercy to humankind, one who taught justice and dealing kindly with others.
Islam promotes the idea that a well-mannered response and civilized rebuttal are powerful enough to make an ally from even the most awful enemy. I support the right to protest, but it is forbidden in Islam to carry out acts of aggression against innocent people or to seek revenge over religious insults. In fact, Islam forbids the use of force and threats to alter the hearts and minds of people.
Although the question of whether the prophet of Islam should ever be pictured is not addressed in the Quran, making pictures was forbidden by the prophet himself. For millions of Muslims, the custom of forbidding such depictions continues today. To that mindset, add the current issue: The caricatures that appeared in the European press portrayed Prophet Muhammad as a person of violence, which in turn portrays Islam as a violent religion — which it is not, nor are its teachings.
As we strive to move toward a more tolerant and culturally sensitive world, I found myself most surprised by the silence in our country's Christian, Jewish, other faith communities and their religious leaders on this issue. I thought they would be the first to express concern. Muslims in this city and around the nation have worked very hard to embrace interfaith dialogue, and many among the clergy of other faiths — if not all — must have realized the sanctity Muslims attach to the Prophet Muhammad.
The prophet of Islam was known to be gentle and kind-hearted, always inclined to be gracious and to overlook the faults of others. Good manners and courtesy, compassion and gentleness, simplicity and humility, sympathy and sincerity were some of the keynotes of his character. Muslims are required by faith to love him and emulate his character, to consider him a human model of perfection.
As a Muslim, I was appalled by the NBC television program "The Book of Daniel" depicting Jesus (peace be upon him) in a disrespectful manner as the buddy-O-pal of a local priest, hanging-out and having casual, indecorous dialogue on a variety of comical matters. This was painful to me as a Muslim, and I took the opportunity to speak openly about my disapproval on a local radio program.
In Seattle, the local media have been sensitive and have not shown the cartoons, until Thursday when the Stranger newspaper printed them. I don't know what the paper was trying to accomplish, but local Muslims have vowed to not react. Islam teaches us that threats and bullying might make others change in the short run, but such acts are ultimately ineffective because every human being has to make a conscious decision about his or her relations with God and his creation.
A proper response
Muslims, and all people of faith, must respond to affronts to their prophets and their faith, but in a way that is based on divine teachings:
• Ask the perpetrators of hate to allow you to introduce to their audience your religion and scripture the way you see them.
• Engage others in meaningful dialogue and discussion about the true nature of your faith and the true personality of your prophet, messenger or lord.
• Make sure your religious and intellectual leaders direct their congregations in meaningful responses, careful not to incite hate and racial bigotry.
As people of faith, we are all brothers and sisters in humanity and share a common goal of eradicating intolerance of any kind by speaking out against it. Whether Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu or other, we should not tolerate hateful rhetoric when it relates to faith. We should strive to defend each other's right to practice religion freely and to protect the sanctity and sacredness of each other's religious values in a peaceful manner.
Aziz Junejo is host of "Focus on Islam," a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. He and four other columnists — Pastor Mark Driscoll, the Rev. Patrick J. Howell, Rabbi Mark S. Glickman and the Rev. Patricia L. Hunter — take turns writing for the Faith & Values page. Readers may send feedback to email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company