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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Sad state of affairs in world news

Published: February 10, 2006
Section: Opinions

The publication of satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed have sparked a fury of international protests and violence. Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ignited the chaos by printing drawings that feature Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb. Islam forbids any illustrations of the prophet.

NATO troops, who are peacemaking troops, were the targets of protests in Afghanistan. Muslim clerics called for a peaceful demonstration, which then turned violent by people who threw stones and tried to break into the NATO compound. Other protestors had rifles and grenades. Thousands of protestors also threw stones at Italian peacekeeping base in Herat, Afghanistan. As of Wednesday, twelve people have died in the protests around the world.

Afghanistans Council of Clerics stated that the cartoons were an offense to the Prophet Mohammed and demanded that Danish authorities investigate the incident and steps to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. They noted the apology of the editor of the Danish paper and prime minister, and requested that those angered avoid acts of violence. Several countries are now boycotting Danish products and Iran declared it would cut trade with Denmark.

In Iran's capital, protestors attached both the Norwegian and Danish embassies. Iranian authorities supposedly told citizens not to use force on diplomatic territories. However, Irans leading Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, said the drawings were an Israeli conspiracy provoked by bitterness of Hamass win in recent Palestinian elections. Because everyone knows that Zionists run Denmark.

Foreign Ministry spokesman for Iran, Hamid Reza Asefi, said that Western countries should atone for their mistake. This was not perpetrated by the entire Western hemisphere. Why target Norways embassy? Or peacekeeping troops? These drawings were the result of a cartoonist and an editor, who perhaps were uninformed of Islamic law forbidding images of Muhammad.

The popular Iranian newspaper Hamshahri announced it would hold a contest for Holocaust cartoons. This, they say, is in order to test the extent of Western free speech. Iran is the same country whose President referred to the Holocaust as a myth and will sponsor a conference to investigate scientific evidence on the Holocaust. Is it not enough to find the remains of thousands who were burned in ovens? Pictures of people being starved to death in labor camps? The accounts of survivors all over the world? The deaths of approximately ten million people? The numbers tattooed on peoples arms?

Anger often clouds judgment. Akram Durrani, Chief Minister of an Indian province, said that the cartoonists should be punished like a terrorist. In Pakistan, people chanted Hang the man who insulted the prophet! Terrorists are people who do things like fly planes into buildings, not draw cartoons. According to USA Today, Durrani followed his statement by saying that Islam insists that all other religions and faiths should be respected…. Nobody has the right to insult Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims. So why is it acceptable to try to hurt people by publishing cartoons satirizing the Holocaust?

Violence is not the answer to this incident. Neither is publishing Holocaust cartoons. That is an especially disgusting attempt to derive satisfaction from upsetting Jews, who are, by the way, unrelated to this cartoon. Violence can also cause troops to harm and kill their own citizens in self defense. There are various things that can be done to make the message clear that Mohammed should not be mocked in a forum such as a newspaper. Peaceful protests counter the stereotype expressed in the cartoons in question, and would perhaps lessen this stereotype in the future.

Thousands of Muslims gathered peacefully in Niger and in Peshawar, Pakistan to protest the cartoons. I believe that economic sanctions are a much better solution than attacking embassies and the use of violence, but I also think that cartoons dont necessarily reflect the views of newspapers, and newspapers dont necessarily reflect the views of countries. Economic sanctions would most likely erode already tense relations between the Western and Muslim worlds. Nonetheless, governments and religious leaders around the world should be working harder to peacefully ensure that incidents such as this do not get repeated.