The story about the cartoons has nothing to do with what has been called the issue of Islam versus secularism. The fact is that Muslims live with their religion in their daily lives, culture, but not us. They have preserved their faith beyond countless historical vicissitudes. We, on the contrary, have abandoned our faith. Therefore, this conflict implies the “West against Islam” and not the “Christians against Islam” – because there are not many Christians in Europe. And we cannot come out of this issue bowing to all religions of the world and then pretending we do not understand because we would not have the right to make fun of the prophet Mohammed.
Besides, in terms of religious hypocrisy, we have our roof made of glass. I remember the scandal caused by the film Christ, the last temptation which dared to show Jesus making love to a woman. In Paris, a cinema was set on fire where a youngster died. Three years ago, in a US university, the title of my conference was censured: “September 11, My God, My God, Please Don’t Ask Why It Happened”. When I arrived, I realized that the university had eliminated the expression “My God” because “we did not want to hurt certain sensitivities”. Well, we are also sensitive”! _In other words: while we demand the Muslims to be good seculars when it comes to freedom of speech and silly cartoons, we know how to be very prudent when it comes to believers of our precious religion. I have also heard pompous statements by European statesmen that their content could not be published in the newspapers, because freedom of speech had to be respected. Of course, if instead of the prophet there would have been a rabbi with a bomb on his hat, the accusations of anti-Semitism would have been plenty – rightly. The Israeli usually complain about the content of cartoons in the Arab press.
On the other hand, in some European nations –France, Germany, Austria for example– it is prohibited by law to question the existence of a genocide. As such, in France, it is against the law to question the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide. If I properly understood, in Europe, despite the so precious freedom of speech whose flag has been raised so high, there are certain things we do not have the right to say. It is difficult to be half committed to the freedom of speech until rejectionists are threatened with the rays of law including those who are considered so; but calling for defence of secularism and this very same freedom of speech when Muslims complain about the provocative and insulting way we represent their culture is a different thing.
For many Muslims, the “Islamic” reaction to this issue is embarrassing. A great number of Muslims wish for certain “reforms” in their religion. If this was the meaning of the cartoons, they would have taken water to the water wheel and no one would have said anything. But the idea was to clash and provoke.
The question is not to know whether the prophet could be represented or not. The problem is that these drawings represent Mohammed as a kind of Bin Laden, thirsty for blood. They represented Islam as a violent religion generically when actually it is not like that. Or do we want it to be so?
“Don’t Be Fooled This Isn’t an Issue of Islam versus Secularism”, by Robert Fisk, Counterpunch, February 6, 2006.