by Adedayo Ademuwagun
This week some gunmen attacked Charlie Hebdo Magazine office in Paris and shot twelve people to death. The magazine had published ‘offensive’ cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, and preliminary reports indicate that the men are Islamists who attacked in order to get back at the magazine for ridiculing the Prophet.
The cartoons were clearly irreverent, but observers are unanimous in their agreement that this doesn’t justify the killing. One Muslim named Iyad El-Baghdadi tweeted, “Killing innocent people in the name of Islam is much, much more offensive to me than any cartoon can ever be.” A lot of people were provoked by the attack.
The Islamic religion promotes reverence toward the Prophet and the things pertaining to it. As a Muslim, one is not permitted to mention the Prophet’s name merely. Muslims take these things very seriously and the fanatical ones can be intolerant of irreverence.
So when a magazine publishes cartoons of Prophet Muhammed naked or with a bomb on his head, there certainly will be trouble.
Unlike that, Christians are perhaps more forbearing as regards irreverence. Christians can make (or take) a joke about Jesus in a way that Muslims won’t.
In the movie Newsroom for instance, there’s a scene where a lady tries to make a point to one of her employees, and decides the best way to do so is to tell a joke about Moses and Jesus.
She goes: “Moses and Jesus are playing golf one day. Moses hits the ball and gets his shot in the hole calmly. But when it’s his turn, Jesus strokes the ball around, performs a few stunts and gets his shot in the hole as if he’s performing a miracle. Then he looks at Moses with a big grin on his face as if to tell him, ‘Hey, do you feel me?'”
“But Moses is not feeling anything. He looks at Jesus for a moment and then says, ‘Look. You wanna play golf or you wanna f__k around?'”
Muslims with extremist views would probably not allow such a joke about the Prophet slide.
Bayo is a Christian. He says, “One time I tried to familiarise with a Muslim stranger, so I greeted him by saying “Asalam alaikun”. But when he realised I’m not actually Muslim, his face changed. He was visibly offended and it looked like he was going to hit me. From then I don’t ever try to salute Muslims like that anymore. I don’t want to offend anyone or endanger myself.”
Taoheed Shoboyede is one of the leaders of the Ahmadiyya Mission in Nigeria. He’s also the editor of The Truth, a faith-based newspaper published by the mission.
He says, “In Islam, we believe anything you set aside as sacred must be treated with absolute respect. It’s not just the Prophet (SAW). We believe Jesus and all the other prophets of Allah are sacred and should never be subject to ridicule. So we don’t do that. In fact, even if you’re not a Muslim and you set aside a stone as your own object of worship, as a Muslim I must treat that stone of yours as sacred, because that’s what Islam teaches. Islam teaches us to treat all sacred things with utmost respect even if they don’t belong to our religion.”
So what should Muslims do when someone says something inappropriate about the Holy Prophet or Islam?
Shoboyede quotes the Qur’an: “And the servants of the Beneficent are they who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say “Peace!”
Kareem also says, “It’s not for me to fight for Allah or Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when someone says bad things about them. The Qur’an doesn’t tell me to do that. So if I’m arguing with my friends and they criticise the Prophet, I just try to enlighten them concerning the issue and then move on. I don’t put a knife in their stomach.
“I believe these extremists aren’t true Muslims. Just look at those Boko Haram people who bombed the Kano mosque some months ago for example. What kind of Muslim bombs a mosque? Those people at the mosque weren’t drawing cartoons or abusing the prophet. They were there to pray to Allah.”
Bayo says, “Muslim leaders are definitely not doing enough to teach Muslims to desist from violence. We need more Muslim leaders to speak out. They need to publish more books about it. They need to hold more lectures about it. They need to talk more about it at the Jummat every Friday. It’s not enough for Muslims to say Islam is a religion of peace. They need to show it. This attack on Charlie Hebdo is totally unacceptable.”