Muslim scholars scold newspaper for cartoonsMuslim scholars scold newspaper for cartoons
Cartoons featuring Muslim prophet Mohammed caused a divide between Denmark's Muslim and non-Muslim populations, rather than uniting them and calming hostile voices, two of the world's leading Muslim democratic thinkers say. Lawyer and author Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel peace prize in 2003 for her fight for human rights and democracy in Iran, told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten that its decision to call for and print twelve caricatures of the Muslim prophet might have been a well-intentioned attempt to prompt a dialogue on democracy between Muslims and non-Muslims in Denmark. The effect, however, had been the opposite, and in fact risked harming democracy's cause in Islamic countries. 'I would like to stress that I do not personally have any problems with cartoons like these,' said Ebadi, who is a devout Muslim. 'The problem is the way the subject is approached. It splits more than it unites.' She went on to say that many Islamic regimes placed populations in a dilemma, telling them that they had to make a choice between their religion and democracy. 'When people protest, they tell them that Islam and democracy cannot coexist. Totalitarian regimes present them with a choice between Islam and democracy - exactly like some Western intellectuals do. But it's a false controversy,' Ebadi said. 'What your newspaper has done is the same thing undemocratic Islamic government's do, when it comes to discussions about democracy.' She said many Islamic governments were probably ecstatic that the newspaper had printed the cartoons. 'Now they can present this page of the newspaper and say: 'Look what the so-called Western democracies do to your religion!' So it has a negative effect on Muslim people's fight for democracy.' Ebadi said the harmful effect of the prophet cartoons could have been diminished by printing other cartoons by their side, featuring Jesus Christ and Moses, to show Muslims that the intention was not to harm them, but to poke fun at religion in general.
Swiss-born, British philosopher Tariq Ramadan said the newspaper had every right to print the cartoons, but that did not mean the decision was an intelligent one. 'Muslims in the West have to understand that they should not overreact on situations like this, where a Danish newspaper decides to run caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Muslims need to learn that it's a part of the culture in this part of the world to use humour, satire, and irony in relation with religion,' said Ramadan, who teaches Islamic studies at the University of Oxford and forms a part of British PM Tony Blair's Task Force on better integration. 'My advice to Muslims would be: It doesn't mean that you need to accept it with all your heart. But let your mind form a critical opinion about it. I don't think 3000 Muslims should have walked in a demonstration through Copenhagen's streets. I think they should have quietly sent letters to the editor protesting the printing of the articles, and let that be it.' Ramadan, however, said Jyllands-Posten decision to print the cartoons had been wrong, as it prevented reciprocal respect between the two population groups. 'If there is to be a common ground for the future in the relationship between Muslims and Danes, we all need to show a certain wisdom. There hasn't been much wisdom, neither with the people who started the drawings nor the people who got 3000 Muslims to march in a demonstration in Copenhagen,' Ramadan said.
More unrest in Rosenhøj, Århus
Last night, disturbances again flared up in the Rosenhøj district of Århus after several days of quiet. Dustbins were set alight, shop windows smashed and there was one incidence of attempted arson. One 19 year old was arrested. Last week there were several evenings of disturbances in the area when young people took to the streets, causing general havoc and setting fire to a kindergarten and fast food restaurant. City officials attempted to calm the situation by engaging in dialogue with the young people involved, their parents and social workers, the police, teachers and housing association members. It seemed the plan had worked after the weekend passed peacefully.