Thursday, January 08, 2015

In Charb’s Horror, is a defence needed?: reflections on a deadly cartooning

by azly rahman



It is an act of terrorism upon a group of gung-ho cartoonists  and nothing to do with Muslims versus Christians.

Why do I say this?

Do we ever call the Christian and Catholics the biggest global terrorists since time immemorial for the following crimes against humanity?:

- Enslavement of the Africans by the Christian Dutch, Belgians, British, French, etc,

- Enslavement of China by the Christian French, British, and even the Americans?

- Enslavement of the Filipinos by the Christian Spaniards, for 400 years,

- Enslavement of the Javanese by the Christian Dutch for 300 years,

- Enslavement of the Indians (and pre-Pakistanis) by the Christian Britons for 100 years,

- Enslavement of the Algerian Muslims by the Christian French that led to the Battle of Algiers that took the lives of over 1 million Algerians.

- Mass killing of the American-Arawak Indians by the Christian Conquistadors after the expedition of Christoforo Columbo, under the patronage of the Catholic King Ferdinand and his Christian consort Isabella?

- The history of Christian-American enslavement of the Africans beginning from the time of slavery, moving towards the lynching of the Southern Blacks by the Christian Ku Klux Klan, right up to the killing of the four girls in Alabama that further fuelled the American Civil Rights movement?

- The history of America itself as a ‘Protestant-Christian Nation’ that legitimises the enslavement, killings, and exterminating her own people as well as people of other lands - from the time Columbus arrived, to the Revolutionary War, the American-Indian War, the War of 1812, to the Civil War, to the time of Manifest Destiny, to the Korean War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror that destroyed Iraq, to all kinds of war in-between covert and overt... all done by Protestant-Christian terrorists done in the name of ‘the State’...

Do we want to add more...? Or do we need to understand how capitalism, culture, consciousness, colonisation, and imperialism works and how Europe is now tasting its own medicine of being a ‘Christian’ Colonial Nation...

But is that what Isa (peace be upon him) taught about treating fellow human beings? Do these warmongers even read the Sermon on the Mount and ‘The Beatitudes’ and at least to understand what riches of the Earth means? And do these cartoonists even understand what Muhammad (peace be upon him) means as a messenger of peace?

Subverting existing foundations

I once wrote about cartooning/lampooning Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures.

Here is the excerpt from ‘A lesson before cartooning’. I wrote this in a column about eight years ago at the height of the debate on the Danish cartooning issue. I am reading it to see if I still agree with what I have written, and by all means... say what you folks think, too... it is a difficult dialogue...


“ ...  This warfare is part of an ongoing historical march of the ‘clash of fanaticisms’ and of ‘ignorance’. This is the notion of the signs and symbols of colonialism or the ‘book of signs’ that I am frequently writing about in this column. We must now learn how to read the happenings of the day and analyse them from a kaleidoscopic point of view - from the historical, political- economic, and ideological point of view.

“My writings are meant to ‘subvert’ existing foundations, whether they are coming from the right, left, centre, up, and down, etc, of the ideological spectrum. I see myself as providing more questions since no one should monopolise the truth - whether Islamists, Liberals, Democrats, Postmodernists, the Danes or the new Abdullah Ahmad Badawi cabinet.

“But I also believe in praxis - the translation of theory to practice so that we do not merely become armchair ideologues in our field but speak a truth we are comfortable growing up and growing old with. Universal themes of humanity Religion is useful as a bridge to philosophy, and to reason and rationality.

“The cartoon issue might have been a Christian issue of the depiction of Jesus or a Jewish issue with Abraham/ David /Moses or a Buddhist issue with Siddharta or a Hindu issue with depiction of Arjuna/Krshna/Brahma/Vishu/Shiva or whatever that is unfairly caricatured .

“I hope we will continue to think of these issues and enlighten others on the philosophy that we hold dear to our heart. Religion need not be a tool to be turned into firebombs or daisy cutters. There is value in it - which each believer must explore - so that ultimately what exists in our understanding is the presence of the Ultimate Reality and the Supreme Being, or the Lord of the Universe.

“My point is clear on this issue, whether it is a cartoon, or a work on canvas, or a computer- generated image - one must condemn acts that blatantly disrespect the belief system of others.

“I teach comparative/transcultural philosophies here in the US and use The Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to teach Americans about Hinduism. I also teach the Quran and the Hadith, the Bibles of the Christians and the Jews and texts of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. I have deep respect for these texts and the universal themes of humanity in them as they transcend race and nationalism.

“All have to learn from each other especially in understanding and respecting what others have to teach. If we begin our educational process by hating each other through the denigrating of these symbols, we have already failed to grasp the meaning of education for spiritual life itself.

“Those who see it acceptable to parody and denigrate Jesus (peace be upon him) are probably non-believers of any religion themselves and are used to the kind of freedom of speech that has no boundaries. Muslims must not defend anyone who denigrates any religion, in order for one to be called a good Muslim."

(Written February 2006)

It is a difficult dialogue but certainly violence begets violence. For the millionth time we ask this question: But where do we go from here?

Do we have any answer? I don’t.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you professor,
ive been saying the same points to my friends all this while.
What more to be added.
I wish I could print this and post around the corner on the Congress.
ignorant and bigots are are all over the congress too.

Anonymous said...

What happen to French comedian who poked on Hitler and Jews in stand up comedy?
why is he under arrest in so called free and open French society?
How come a naked person can walk freely in the street of Paris but school children who cover their hair were expelled from school?
What kind for liberty is this in France republic? it sounds more like islamophobia rather than freedom of speech?

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