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Sickness in the heart of Europe

Filed on October 12, 2006

THE world's 1.6 billion Muslims almost did not notice the fact that it's been a year since a little known Danish rag attacked the Prophet unleashing worldwide outrage. The sick elements of the Danish society responsible for the outrage last year did not miss the anniversary though. And this time around, it is a video abusing the man who epitomised all that is best in mankind: love, compassion and generosity.

Clearly, even if the Muslims are prepared to forgive and forget those targeting their faith and the Prophet, they are not willing to let go of the past themselves.

More importantly, now it is not possible to dismiss the cartoon episode last year as something that was the handiwork of a loony and reckless cartoonist. Clearly, there is a method in the madness. In fact, these disturbing acts of vandalism are not limited to Denmark. They are part of what has become a disturbing trend across Europe as the right-wing media and politicians whip up paranoid frenzy against everything Islamic. There is sickness in the heart of Europe. And the all-pervasive war on terror unleashed by the US neocons appears to have boosted it.

If it was the Danish cartoons last year, it's Danish video this year. Then there was this opera in Germany that took the concept of artistic licence too far when it showed the beheading of Prophet of Islam besides that of Jesus and Buddha. Last week, prominent French newspapers published an incredibly painful article by a Jewish 'scholar' about the Prophet accusing him of all sorts of absurdities.

What is going on? Can you blame the anguished Muslims if they see a clever and concerted campaign being conducted across the continent to vilify their faith and its revered figures and teachings? And can you blame the Muslims if they come out on the streets, from Morocco to Malaysia, in anger and frustration?

Whatever the explanation for these growing attacks on Islam and Muslims, they could have dangerous and far-reaching consequences for the whole world. The leaders of Denmark and other European countries cannot hide behind the fig leaf of the freedom of expression as these acts of intellectual vandalism and intolerance are unleashed on Muslims, Europe's second largest religious community. The freedom of speech is fine and Muslims respect it too just as they respect all other rights. However, the freedom of speech mustn't be abused to insult other people's beliefs and sensibilities. As the OIC has argued, it is the responsibility of politicians, governments, media and civil society organisations in the West to oppose all such attacks. This is essential if we want to avoid a dangerous clash of civilizations between West and Muslim world.




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