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Friday, February 24, 2006

The Cartoon Controversy: Thoughts of a Malaysian in Coppenhagen

Got this from an e-mail conversation that I was copied on. The author is a Malaysian who now lives in Coppenhagen. It provides a different view of the events surrounding the Jylland-Posten Cartoon Controversy. His essay has been presented in its entirety (edited for language only, not content).

Of Bridge, Boundary and Bedbugs -
the Muhammed drawings

Perhaps the Muhammed drawings were blessings in disguise. It was meant to happen and it has to happen. Otherwise we will not be woken up from our sleep. It could be that we have been sleeping too long and didn't realize that we are a victim of our own bedbugs.

The condemnation towards these drawings by the majority of Muslims is understandable but this is a great challenge for all of us on how we were to handle the case. The best thing the Muslims can do is to give Jylland-posten and their believers some love and affection. NO? ..OK, but how about some flowers instead?

Perhaps nobody understands Islam better except for Muhammed himself. We all know that right after his death, there was already disagreement on who was going to be the successor. All the 4 caliphs died of being murdered except for Abu Bakar, who died of old age. The Muslims were fighting against themselves and still are, and as a result, we have so many branches and factions in Islam; the Sunnis, the Shiites, the wahibbis, the bin ladens, the abu labans and the abu what not.

It is sad to see that this religion that supposed to promote love, peace and freedom, was and still is a victim of those who craved for power.

I believe that Islam is a religion of all time and by that I mean, it has to be interpreted to the present and to our own surrounding. As a Malaysian and coming from a totally different culture and time than that of tMuhammed, it is important that I hold on to my roots, the Malay/Malaysian root and values, and at the same time practicing the religion. I could, if I want to dress or look like Muhammed but I already have my own 'baju melayu', Malay traditional clothes, which truthfully reflects my own culture and identity or, I could be wearing my jeans and t-shirt, which is the result colonization and of globalization.

I believe in the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. And I love Denmark for this because it has opened up a new dimension on how I can express myself without the fear of being taken into a jail, without first being found guilty. I am married to a Dane and I value and respect the Danish culture. Belief in human rights, interest in religions, hungry for knowledge and my Malay roots have thought me to be open and flexible. I have to use the knowledge that I have learnt and all my senses to find the point where I am able to balance things up without loosing my own identity.

The drawings were no doubt done in a very bad taste but it is important that Muslims were to stay calm and rational because we can only see the gravity of our own mistakes which only we our self can and should correct.

Perhaps it is a tap on our shoulder, to see and ask our self in the mirror how far have we gone forward, or backward, or have we simply remained stagnant all this while.

I don't believe that it is healthy that we have the right to offend because it’s insensitive and a non-tolerant behavior which can only lead to violence. I am truly sad to what happened to Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch film maker that was murdered by some fundamentalist and I do not support any kind of intolerance and violent behaviors, but then Theo took his chances and was killed due to his lack of understanding.

Religion is a personal matter and it is a case of between man and God. I believe that we have misunderstood some of the teachings in Islam on what it is like to be a Muslim. Muhammed never practices any violent act and never imposed or forces anyone to be what they don't want to be, and that goes the same in the case of apostates and homosexuals. They have their rights to live and we should leave the matters to God. Let Him be the judge.

Muhammed is a perfect example of an ordinary human being, like us, without any supernatural power or possesses any kind of magic compared to the rest of other prophets. But what makes him extraordinary is his understanding towards humanity and his great contribution towards the man kind, on how we can practice to be the best human being we possibly can. We found that in the Scandinavia, which Denmark was one of leading countries fighting for human rights, but sadly to say, not anymore.

A man should be free to adopt any religion, to believe in God or not to believe in God. Just because we are born Muslim, Christian or Jew, doesn't guarantee that we will be in a 'save place' either here or elsewhere. What we practice or do today will shape for tomorrow or the future.

The law saying that Muslim shall be flogged or stoned if they have committed adultery or the cutting off hands if they were to be found guilty of stealing is outdated and not compatible anymore.

And as for Jihad or the Holy War, it is to my understanding that it is a war that begins and ends in oneself. We are not short of curiosities and normal that we make mistakes along the way. Holy War is to learn from our past and not to repeat the same mistakes again and again and again. The last thing that one should do is to go and blow oneself up. But then again, we have to ask why these people do it anyway. When one is in a state of being oppressed from one generation to another, when one is being occupied in their very own land and when one couldn't see a way out, then one can easily being manipulated and brainstormed into doing this act of self destruction.

Jylland-posten is free to do what they want to do, but the way that they did the drawings are simply not my style.

I do defend the freedom of speech and the freedom of press because it is important in order for us to check our self, to understand our self, and learnt on how we can move forward. It feels good to talk to someone who has the same thoughts and understanding as we have, but greater understanding happens when we are willing to be opened and talk to someone who is of different opinions and often we disagree with.

We have to stay positive, constructive and calm at all time and I do best believe that freedom of speech and the freedom of press can be practiced with respect, responsibility and prudent, and I am not ashamed to say that, those are my only boundaries.

Name Withheld
Copenhagen, Denmark
Feb 16 2005