Cartoons & Controversy
By Leslie DeJesus
What is art without a little controversy? The Muslim community is up in arms about the depiction of prophet Mohammed in numerous political cartoons. As Americans we’re conditioned to ignore or discarding what we don’t like.
In a way it’s easier for us to overlook things that might be deemed as insulting to other nations simply because we do not share common beliefs or because the subject matter does not hit close to home. But what happens when figures that help define our nation or religious beliefs are lampooned? Would we mobilize and protest?
The bigger issue at hand is sensitivity. From what I have gathered through numerous news articles what has angered the Muslim community is the western dismissive response or lack of understanding. According to published reports one of the many reasons why so many are upset is because the depictions only focus on extremist views sending the wrong message to other parts of the world. Many believe these extreme examples feed into stereotypes that ultimately perpetuate hate.
Then again would the prophet encourage the burning of Danish embassy? According to the New York Times article “U.S. Muslims Try to Ease Europe's Discord” dated February 13, 2006 Muslim leaders in Europe as well in the Middle East “like Al Jazeera, have offered a consistent message to Muslims: you must stop the violence because the Prophet Muhammad would never have approved, and you are playing into the stereotype of Muslims as barbarians.” While others feel the cartoons were deliberately created to rile up Muslims.
The article goes on to say “Muslim American leaders say they feel anguish over the Muslim world's violent protests, which have left at least 11 people dead. Azeem Khan, assistant secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America, based in New York, said, ‘It hurts us when people attack embassies, because it reinforces the image that we were protesting in the first place, which is that Muslims are violent.’”
Since these cartoons have yet to appear in American publications many Islamic leaders in the U.S. believe that although Muslims are in the minority U.S. Muslims are more conscious of their surroundings and more willing to protest negative depictions of their society before something of this magnitude is produced. Others believe that although acceptance has been hard they have been more prosperous in the United States than in Europe.
As American Muslims try to defuse tension between European Muslims and the European government the rest of are questioning free speech and freedom of the press and whether or not there is a line that can be crossed.