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   Statement by NABA regarding Jyllands-Posten Cartoons

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5 February 2006
N A B A - The National Association of British Arabs 

The unprecedented backlash created by the publications of insulting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has occurred because of the lack of  understanding and sensitivity to the role of religion in Islam. Cartoons  against prophets in either Christianity or Judaism would not be allowed  in the Islamic world and Muslims rightly expect their religion to be  treated with equal respect. It is noteworthy that according to the  Danish newspaper, Politiken, Jyllands-Posten in 2003, rejected a similar satire invoking Jesus on the basis that it was too sensitive for  Christians*. It is the insulting nature of cartoon (or of Salman  Rushdi's book) which is the core issue; a concept that the western media  continue to ignore.

If anything, this incident further demonstrates the continuing double  standards practised by some media when news relates either to Islam or Arabs. The lack of reporting of Iraqi deaths over the past three years' or the approach to the problems in Palestine whereby the numbers killed in attacks on Israel are given maximum coverage whilst the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and the theft and destruction of their water and agricultural lifeblood' are ignored by all but a very small number of journalists, send a clear message to Muslims and Arabs. It is much resented by Muslims and Arabs that any negative comments on Israel and Zionism, however minor, meets with uproar and charges of anti Semitism, but the same does not apply when Muslims and Arabs are the target. Major repercussion such as we are seeing should not therefore be surprising. The Attorney General stated that any anti Semitic statement would be met by harsh litigation, yet he discarded a much more blatant insult to Arabs by Kilroy Silk when NABA called for his prosecution. Freedom of speech must remain our goal but that freedom should be equal and tempered with sensitivity.

At the same time, the level of intolerance exhibited by some demonstrators in London is equally unacceptable, particularly as the cartoons were not reproduced in any British newspaper and shows poor judgement and a dangerous escalation in tactics.

Mutual tolerance can only come with mutual knowledge and understanding and lessons must be learnt from the lack of sensitivity which this episode has demonstrated. Injustice and double standards will continue to provoke the type of sentiments we are seeing now in Europe and build
up resentment that can explode in an uncontrolled fashion such as happened in France.

Dr Ismail Jalili,

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