understand the furore behind the printing of the
Danish cartoons, which depicted the prophet, Muhammad
in a less than favourable light, one has to understand
that to Muslims, any criticism of the prophet is
a direct criticism of Allah, because Allah choose
the Messenger to deliver his holy book. The Holy
Quran says, I [Allah] will instil
terror into the hearts of Unbelievers: smite ye
above the necks and smite all their fingertips off
them. This is because they contended against Allah
and His Messenger, Allah is strict in punishment.
(8: 12, 13). Therefore, as the Danish cartoons contested
(slighted) against Muhammad, they also contended
against Allah. Roughly translated, that means that
those who printed, or who intend to print the cartoons
face a real threat of being murdered in the name
To more fully comprehend the attitude of the fundamentalists
who would see it as their sacred duty to carry out
such murders, we need to look at the basis of their
beliefs, the Holy Quran, which Muslims
believe to have been dictated to the prophet by
the Angel Gabriel, on the instructions of God.
The central tenet of the Holy Quran
is that there is only one God, one faith, and that
those who practise other religions are in error
and are Unbelievers. Therefore they are doomed to
The Scorching Fire (We can hardly
blame the prophet for The Scorching Fire.
I was baptised a Catholic and during my childhood,
a Christian Brother school-teacher told me that
Protestants were destined to be stokers).
Such beliefs are hardly novel, nor should they cause
any anxiety to those of a different religion, or
no religion at all. But while the Holy Quran
is a truly beautifully-written book (it should be,
look who wrote it!), I found it breathtakingly violent
in parts. In the Sword Verses, for example
(so called because of their belligerent nature),
the prophet tells Believers,
them [transgressors] wherever ye catch them, and
turn them out from wherever they turned you out;
for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.
After telling the believers not to fight in the
Mosque, unless attacked, the prophet says,
if ye fight them, slay them. Such is the reward
for those who suppress faith.
To further supplement our understanding of the more
extreme nuances of Muslim culture, based on faith,
we have to examine Shariah Law, also known as The
Law of Allah. This set of edicts is drawn from the
Holy Quran and is practised to varying
degrees in Muslim countries. Shariah Law deals with
all aspects of life, including crime, economics,
business, legal matters, religious, and socials
issues. Some manifestations of Shariah Law include:
severing the hand or hands of thieves, stoning adulterers,
prohibiting freedom of speech (criticism of Muhammad
is punishable by beheading), and the total suppression
of women. Apostasy, converting from Islam to another
religion, is a beheading offence also (Condi Rice,
the U.S. Secretary of State, yesterday appealed
to an Afghan court for the life of a man who had
abandoned Islam for another religion. The judge
today said that he will not tolerate outside interference
in Afghanistans judicial process).
Given the above background, the publishing of the
Muhammad cartoons should not be entered into lightly,
and Im certain that The Blanket gave
the matter much thought.
The hysterical and vicious reaction which followed
in the wake of the Danish publication of the cartoons
was predictable, if nevertheless reprehensible.
And without doubt, those Muslims who burned Danish-owned
properties and caused mayhem did so because they
had been gravely offended.
But, be that as it may, that same violence is intimidatory,
and by its very nature, it forces us to take
stock. If editors and publishers bury their heads
in the sand on this issue, then those who perpetuated
the violence will have succeeded in re-sculpting
our concept of freedom of the press - to a point
where they, not us, will determine what our response
will be to future matters relating to them. Under
no circumstances can that be allowed to happen.
Every editor in every country which cherishes freedom
of the press should print these cartoons on the
same day. McIntyre and the isolated few who have
taken a principled stand on this issue, should not
be exposed to the possibility of being murdered
at the hands of religious fanatics, by the silent
acquiescence of those who fear to speak.
Robert Kennedy, said in Capetown in 1966, two years
before he was assassinated, For every ten
men who are willing to face the guns of the enemy
there is only one willing to brave the disapproval
of his fellow, the censure of his colleagues, the
wrath of his society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity
than bravery in battle or great intelligence.
The Blanket has shown that moral courage.