By Aayesha J Soni
The situation concerning the drawing and publishing of cartoons of the prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) refer. It is an extremely emotional issue which seems to be coming up too frequently in recent times. However, whenever it does come up I am always left feeling a little more confused about our world and human nature.
These cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) are published in the name of freedom of expression. They are published with the view by many that circulating them is a great victory for democracy and the epitome of freedom in all aspects of our lives. By doing this act we are led to believe that we can now say that we truly exist in a world where we have the right to live as we please, do as we will and say what we think. But why, I still cannot understand? How is it that an act which intentionally aims to hurt another person’s feeling and personal beliefs can be considered a triumph?
I am a young person living in an ever-changing world, and am currently at a stage in my life where I am more aware and perceptive of the world around me than I have ever been. On the brink of adulthood, understanding those around me and the systems within which we exist seems to be the primary goal of my existence these days. It is for this reason that I find it so difficult to understand how the great political ideology of democracy would approve of not respecting another person. Our country and many countries in the world claim to respect all of those who co-exist with us in society, affording them their human rights and freedoms. But how can doing something which will undoubtedly cause a reaction (possibly violent) and antagonize a considerable number of people be considered an act of democracy? I think for me it all boils down to the necessity of the act itself. The Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) was one of the greatest men that ever lived-to that fact there is no doubt. As Alphonse de La Martaine wrote in ‘Historie de la Turquie’: "If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad?”, and he was just one amongst the many other great non-Muslim thinkers of our time who revered this remarkable man, others including Mahatma Ghandi, Michael Hart (author of “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential persons in History”), Annie Besant, George Bernard Shaw, Dr. Gustav Weil, Thoam Carlyle and the list goes one. It is understandable then the great interest people seem to have in the last prophet. However, it should then too be understood that within Islam it is considered a great and personal insult to every Muslim for any visual depiction of the Prophet to occur. Why then do people outside of the faith find it so difficult to respect this? Why, if it is known that it will provoke an emotional response, do people around the world, and now in South Africa too, find it necessary to intentionally (and sometimes maliciously) continue with this act? These are just a few of the questions that I find myself faced with. The simple answer, of course, is that it is not necessary. These provocative actions are completely pointless and while some people might be trying to display their “rights” they are selfishly ignoring the rights of those humans living around them. They are ignoring the right they have to treat others with respect, dignity and to live with integrity. They are ignoring the right they have to not do things which will elicit a hurtful response in another. And most importantly, they are ignoring the right they have to act responsibly within the democratic country they peacefully co-exist within. After thinking for some time, the only reason I could come up with for why anybody would ignore these obligations they have to their fellow man is ignorance. I might still be young, but I do know that we live in a world where somebody else’s traditions and beliefs don’t always make sense to you. However, it is still up to us to appreciate these differences and more importantly respect them. The situation which has been created concerning the depiction of the Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) was completely avoidable, and in my opinion a reactionary response would be understandable.