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16 September 2012

Muslims should Protest when their Faith and Prophet are degraded, but not indulge in violence

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By Kaleem Kawaja

The events of last week when an abusive and derogatory film about Prophet Mohammad sparked massive public protests in Muslim societies across the world, is a clear instance of unnecessary provocation of the Muslims as a community. However, this is a repeat of several such attempts in recent years. Less than a year ago Rev Jones in Florida, US, tried to burn a copy of Quran on public TV and that caused similar protests in the Muslim society across the globe. Only a few years ago a newspaper in Denmark published a derogatory cartoon of Prophet Mohammad; causing a firestorm across the Muslim world.

The US and European countries are very aware of this repeated cyclical effort to degrade the faith of Islam and to provoke Muslims. And they vehemently criticise the violent protests by the Muslims. But to date in all these years they have taken very little action to prevent those who are repeatedly indulging in such abusive degrading of Islam, the faith of 1.6 billion world population. Surely most Americans and Europeans decry such abusive attempts to degrade Islam, but the governments and public organizations in those countries do not take any action to put into effect policies to prevent such degrading of Islam. As civilized people, do not the Americans and Europeans have a responsibility to take preventive steps towards such lampooning of Islam? Does this lack of action not reflect badly on the American and European societies?

American and European people understand well that such provocative actions are an abuse of the freedom of speech, that is available more in Western society than in the Muslim societies. And yet they hide behind these excuses time and again. Surely this has gone on for too long and it is time for Western societies to take action to stop this continual degrading of Islam and its prophet.

Muslims should definitely not keep quiet or look the other way when such degrading of their faith and their prophet occurs. It is their duty to hold large and effective public protests. But they must make sure that the protests do not turn violent. And under no circumstances they should try to kill or hurt any American or European individuals. That is a violation of Islamic guidance to Muslims on how to protest against injustice. Thus the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi and the killing of 4 US citizens including the US ambassador was a horrible act of terrorism. In fact it brought bad name to the Muslim community and their effort to protest the abuse hurled at their faith and prophet.

But Muslims as a community have to be proactive and make every effort to persuade American and European governments and public bodies that they simply have to take effective action to stop this repeated and continual degrading of Islam and its prophet. Massive public protests, representation through their governments, advocacy within Western societies are some tools. Unfortunately the small number of vocal Islam-haters will not stop their nefarious efforts to degrade Islam, but they can be isolated with focused public action by Muslims. If Muslims become passive in this matter, that will not help. But Muslim protests must not turn violent.

Muslims should also understand that most Americans and Europeans abhor such degrading of Islam and its prophet and in fact want equal respect given to them. But it is their keeping quiet in the public space against the hate-speech of the abusers amongst them, who are few in numbers, which is causing the violence and turmoil. They must turn proactive and stop this hatemongering.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

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