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,