Sickness in the Heart of Europe

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

A journalist friend of mine, his tongue firmly in cheek, calls it ‘Oh I See!’ in a not so veiled reference to the seldom fruitful deliberations of the OIC. Which is why it’s interesting to see the body representing the 1.6 billion Muslims take on some real issues for a change at its summit in Dakar, Senegal this week.
 
Giving voice to the fury of their people, Muslim leaders and heads of states have protested against the growing Islam-bashing in the West warning of "serious implications for global peace and security". 

The warning articulates the outrage over the republication of the Prophet’s caricature by 17 Danish newspapers and the film attacking the Holy Quran by a Dutch lawmaker.
 
When the Jyllands-Posten first published that despicable caricature three years ago, our friends in the West had explained it as a necessary phenomenon of a free Press.
 
So even as the agitated believers around the world came out on the streets burning Danish flags, the West shrugged off the protests as something of a minor nuisance.  More than a hundred innocents died in those protests that rocked the world from Morocco to Malaysia as well as Europe and the West.

But the Western establishment went to great lengths to defend the Jyllands-Posten’s freedom — the freedom to mock other people’s beliefs and sensitivities. 

And in a classic case of adding insult to injury, 17 Danish dailies and several other publications across Europe have now reproduced the caricature. Why? Apparently to express ‘solidarity’ with the Jyllands-Posten that is allegedly facing threats from ‘the Islamic terrorists’.
 
What’s going on people? What’s it that the West is trying to prove? Why does Islam repeatedly become the target of the Western freedom? And why are its own religious icons spared this creative licence? Is it because Denmark’s laws and those of other European states strictly prohibit any attack on Christian beliefs and icons?
 
While Islam and Muslims are the world’s favourite punching bag, you could be imprisoned for so much as questioning the Jewish Holocaust. If this isn’t a case of double standards, what is? And what’s the difference between these newspapers and some of those misguided young men targeting the West?
 
Those behind the 9/11 and 7/7 strikes were similarly driven by their sense of solidarity — however misplaced — with fellow believers.  Why were those people then called terrorists and those applying the same logic are being lionized as the defenders of the freedom?  
 
But the West knows as well as we do that this has nothing to do with the freedom of speech. There is something really rotten in the state of Denmark, as Shakespeare put it.    In fact, this is not confined to Denmark. This sickness pervades the whole of Europe and the Western world. While there has always been deep-seated animosity and hatred against all things Islamic in the West, of late this is acquiring alarming proportions. More worryingly, these are not isolated incidents of some fanatics going berserk. There’s a clear method in the madness. From the Jyllands-Posten cartoon to the numerous books and movies targeting the Prophet, Islam and Holy Quran, just about everything we believe in seems to be fair game.
 
Right now, at least two films attacking the Book are ready for release. Despite angry protests from Muslim countries, Dutch MP Geert Wilders is going ahead with his movie on Quran. In the past, Wilders has demanded a ban on the Holy Book likening it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
 
The movie is not the first of its kind. Another film, Submission, by another Dutch filmmaker, Van Gogh, featured Quranic verses against a naked female body. The film was supposed to be a protest against the ‘mistreatment’ of Muslim women. It touched off a storm of protests across the Islamic world.
 
But no lessons were drawn from the episode. Not even after Van Gogh was assassinated by an agitated young Moroccan immigrant. And now we have another film targeting the Book. Can you then blame ordinary Muslims if they see a grand, never-ending conspiracy against their faith?
 
Yet our friends in the West turn around and ask: "Why do they hate us?"  Well, this is why they hate you!  When will the West wake up to the fact that it is its utter contempt for everything they revere that infuriates ordinary Muslims?  How many innocents have to die before the European governments decide to rein in the sickos who have made a career out of their pathological hatred for Islam and Muslims?
 
And what will it take to convince the liberated, anything-goes West that it really hurts us when you target the Man who we love more than our own parents and children?
 
This is particularly unfair to a Prophet who repeatedly taught his followers to respect other people’s beliefs. He warned us you are not a believer if you do not respect and believe in the messengers of God – including Moses and Jesus — who came before him. Which is why it’s such a shame that the West should tolerate these disgraceful attacks on Islam and its Prophet. 
  
But this has gone far enough. It’s time the Western governments are told in unambiguous terms that this vicious campaign against Islam must stop and stop right away.
 
Not because it really hurts the Muslims everywhere, which it does, but because it is not in the West’s interest. Successive generations of young Muslims are growing up loathing the West for this pathological campaign against their faith.
  
It’s good that the Muslim states at the OIC summit have expressed their outrage at growing Islamophobia in really forceful terms, without any spin and without beating about the bush.
 
Apart from the historical Western doublespeak and double-dealing in the Middle East, it is the endless demonization of Islam and Muslims that is fuelling the clash that Samuel Huntington promised us.  It’s about time the West got this message — loud and clear — from the Muslim states that Islam-bashing is JUST NOT ACCEPTABLE any more. 
 
And this should be done by going beyond those regulation OIC, UN and Arab League resolutions. It’s time for more meaningful and concrete steps. Just stop doing business with countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. That will teach them the lesson they refuse to learn, hitting ’em where it hurts the most. And there will be quick results — quicker than you could say Jyllands-Posten.

-Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor and columnist of Khaleej Times. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at aijazsyed@khaleejtimes.com.

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