this is my humble efforts at analysing the danish cartoon incident. started working on it long time back, but being the lazy soul i am, never found time to complete it; until today.
i would appreciate your critical comments ... just want to see how i fared.
The cartoons that shook the world.
Living in Denmark, i had the opportunity to observe the cartoon incident from a different viewpoint compared to many others. Morever an initiative by local AIESEC gave me the opportunity to hear many sides of the story. This analysis is an attempt to put all these together, flavoured by my own observations and outlook.
Before I proceed, lets have a look at some general facts about Muslims in denmark.
- There are around 270,000 [BBC] Muslims
- They came to Denmark in the '70s from Turkey, Pakistan and some Arab countries, primarily as workforce.
- In late 80s and 90s, there were an influx of Muslim refugees and asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
- The Arab, Pakistani and Turkish origin muslims seem to better off with many owning businesses and their children being well educated. This includes many of the Iraqi refugees who were more successful in blending into the society compared to other refugess. In fact, there are an Arab and a Pakistani born MP.
- Among refugess Somalis are the largest in number. Most of these people are under-educated and many live solely on social welfare.
- There are a handful of Danish Muslim reverts, counting upto 5000 at most.
- Each of this group has their own Islamic Organizations, with generally little cooperation amongst themselves. Nvertheless, there are a few new organizations, comprising mostly of the danish born muslim members of different ethnic background. However the lack of central umbrella-like body makes the muslims quite disunited and without a strong voice to represent themselves.
- Muslims were not seen so positively in the society (and still aren't, i suppose), thanks to the media bias against them and their not so active role in the society.
Moving on to the main article, first I will look into the reasons behind the incident and then put foreward how, in my opinion, we can learn from this incident and put to practice the lessons learnt.
A. The reasons behind the sad incident
There had been many theories and counter theories on this with the issue being widely discussed in depth in many different forums. For some, this is a manifestation of freedom of speech, an ideal europe holds so sacred; while for others its a plot by the neo-cons to demean their peaceful faith. Yet many others sees it as a bad joke gone too far.
In my opinion, its a neither of these in particular, and at the same time a little of all in general. This cannot be seen as an independent incident with JP publishing the cartoons out of nowhere. Instead, i see it as an outburst of the dam that had been swelling up for so long.
First, i would like to point fingers to my brother and sisters in Islam. They are almost five percent of the population, but because of their disunity and backwardness in terms of education and social involvement, they had failed to potray a positive image in the society. Those more Islamically inclined saw the society, open and individualistic as most other european societies, as a threat to their faith and practice. In response, they sought out to cluster themselves in seclusion. On the other hand, some of the muslims, in their attempt to integrate, totally lost their own identity.
Neither of this approaches earned much respect from the Danes, and instead potrayed an incomplete and alienated picture; Thus harbouring suspicion and mistrust at both ends.
Had the muslims recognized the fact that they are the minority and hence it is not only in their interest, but also their prerogative to take well planned and affective measures to integrate into and build bridges with different elements of the society, such a sad incident could have been avoided. This can be seen from the fact that those who drew the cartoons were common people responding to the request by the newspaper. (In fact most of the cartoons do not seem to intent any derogatory remarks, and the cartoonists might not have had drawn them had they been fully aware of reasons behind the ban on depicting the Holy Prophet [peace be upon him].)
On the other hand, the misdoing by JP can also not be fully overlooked. I read an article linking Flemming Rose, the JP cultural editor who sanctioned the cartoons with the neo-con elites in US, though I dont know how strong the evidences were. In my opinion, there are always people who would like to see the world more divided, people who are always on the forefront preaching hatred and non cooperation, simply because it serves their political agenda. However, any person is only incharge of his own actions and not others, so i dont think Muslims should be crying out loud over what others are doing. Instead, if they would perfect themselves and are successful in being part of the society and potraying the true picture of Islam, these negative voices has to shut off by itself.
Lessons and way foreward
This incident should serve as the long due wake up call to Muslims in particular and peace loving citizens of the world in general. Its time we learnt that the era of free food is long gone. If we want to establish justice and truth and see peace and freedom prevail in this beautiful world of ours, we better ackowledge the fact that 'no pain, no gain' and learn to work for it. Here are few steps, in short, that should be taken:
1. In this cyber-information age, Ignorance is no longer bliss; rather, knowledge is power. It is not enough to reside in our little comfort zones and know only about ourselves. Instead, we should learn as much of as many things as possible.
2. Coming out of the comfort zone. We need to play a much more active role in the wider society, wherever we are, no matter how long (or short) we are going to be there for. This can in the form of community service, helping the needy, creating awareness or even active participation in politics.
3. Dreaming and planning. Its true our current situations only paints a picture of misery and depression, but in the midst of all that there is hope. In fact, if we look at things carefully, we would find much to hope for. It is time we ride on this hopes and dream of a golden tomorrow, a tomorrow where children can laugh and play without fears, a tomorrow where humans are humans, a tomorrow filled with joy, happiness and prosperity. The same tomorrow for ALL citizens of the world.
It is time we took fate in our own hands and work towards building it the way we want to. The challenge is our for the taking.