The Threat of Offending Islam

  • 4 June 2008


It is believed that last Monday's attack on the Danish embassy in the Pakistani capital Islamabad – in which eight people were killed -was in response to the disrespectful drawings of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that were first published in Danish newspapers in September of 2005 and re-published last February. The attack comes to remind us of the dangers of mutual hatred based on religious and ethnic differences and of the repercussions of fomenting an atmosphere of ill will, lack of confidence, and mutual accusations between different societies with varied religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Such dangers and repercussions distance us from the much-needed environment of dialogue, communication, and understanding between religions around the globe that would foster coexistence, peace, and mutual respect in our world.

What is particularly troubling to observers of religious bashing and the violent and chaotic responses to it is that this environment – in which wisdom and rationality are absent – allows extremists from both sides, perpetrators and aggrieved, to pour oil on fire, propagate for destructive thoughts and practices, build barriers between peoples, and advocate for hatred and animosity.

There is no doubt that the misguided use and criminal exploitation of concepts that appear fair and cultured, and the hiding behind high moral principles like freedom of speech and expression, are ploys for attacking sacred beliefs. Racists and conspirators express their hatreds obliquely and try to obscure facts and events, all the time counting on angry and extremist responses by simple people aggrieved by attacks on the most sacred in their lives. There also are groups that have always chosen extremist positions regarding a variety of issues they claim to defend but in the process do harm to Islam and give its detractors the opportunity to spread their accusations. These detractors have used the bloody actions of these extremists to excuse their views of Islam and to accuse it falsely of encouraging violence, glorifying the sword, and aiming to kill the other and spill his blood; accusations that are furthest from the truth about Islam.

There also is no doubt that the continuation of attacks against Islam by western extremists, and the unbalanced and easygoing response by some western countries, contribute to inflaming feelings of hatred and powerlessness while giving wrong signals to bashers of Islam and its sacred symbols to continue on their dishonorable path. Violating the sanctities of others and hurting them by sullying their beliefs and symbols cannot for a moment be considered an accomplishment or honor but a shame on the perpetrator and an eternal dishonor.

The best response and most successful way of dealing with the extremists of the West and the fundamentalists of the East is to give primacy to wisdom, open channels for dialogue, and organize educational programs in non-Muslim countries that explain the truth of Islam and show the profoundness of its principles and tenets, the glory of its concepts, and the beauty of it injunctions. Anything less would leave the door wide open for its detractors who conspire to misrepresent it through incorrect and unfair stereotypes.