Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was a man who spent his life fighting against extremism, oppression, corruption and injustice. He taught his people the virtues of gentleness, kindness, patience. If then, he was alive today do you think he would bother about a cartoon or a portrait or a film of himself, or about repression and persecution of his Ummah.
In Netherlands, last year, a Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) cartoon contest was organized by anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders, leading to widespread protests and call for ban on such depictions.
A few years ago an anti-Islamic short film that was released and uploaded on YouTube. It lead to violent protests and demonstrations that spread across India, Pakistan, to the Arab world to some of the western countries.
In Islam, physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) even respectful ones, are considered blasphemous.
The ban on imagery has not always been absolute and there is a tiny but important tradition of drawing the Prophet that goes back to the 13th century.
But in more recent times, the murder of cartoonists at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, led to arguments where many Muslims and non-Muslims saying that Islam has always banned any representation of the prophet, because of strong warnings in the Quran and other religious scriptures against idolatry or anything that could be seen as a pathway towards idolatry
Any such ban, however, cannot be absolute because there are bound to be people who at times in the name of freedom of expression and at other for creating mischief will indulge in what is religiously seen as blasphemous depictions of religious imagery.
Every such time such an incident takes place there is a predictable cycle of Muslims getting worked up and it continues to repeat itself again and again.
Someone who we had often not even heard of makes an offensive cartoon or a film and it leads to burning of that countries flags, huge protests in front of embassies, protest marches, large amounts of money being declared for killing the person responsible for such an act and demands are raised for death penalty for committing blasphemy.
As Muslims, we have been told again and again of how to deal with those who mock and insult Islam, and the holy prophet. If we look at Surah an-Nisa it clearly tells the believers not to engage and just get up and leave and return back only when they stop.
Allah tells us in the Quran in the Surah al-Furqan (The Criterion) [25:30]: And the Messenger cried out: O my Lord! surely my people have treated this Quran as a forsaken thing.
We, Muslims instead of dismissing mockery and letting it die out on its own we give free publicity to it. We are giving voice to these otherwise talentless artists and they are making money out of it.
In Surah al-Anam [6:108] we are told not to mock or insult idols of pagans lest that become a cause of them retaliating and insulting God
“And do not insult those whom they call upon besides God, lest exceeding the limits they should insult God out of ignorance. Thus have We made fair seeming to every people their deeds; then to their Lord shall be their return, so He will inform them of what they did.”
If Allah lucidly commands us not to be a means of others insulting God does that say about us, why are we being advertising for those holding competitions to insult Prophet Muhammad or our religion in any way.
And while we are busy diverting our attention to some worthless cartoons, a million Chinese Muslims have been taken into internment camps to be “re-educated” so that they renounce Islam, criticize their own Islamic beliefs and those of fellow inmates, and recite Communist Party propaganda songs for hours each day. According to some reports they are being tortured and forced to eat pork and drink alcohol. China is treating Islam as a mental illness and these camps will lead to heavy psychological damage on these largely Uighur Muslims.
Where are the protests against this? Why are we not investing our attention on the plight of fellow humans in need of us. I am yet to see protests at the Chinese embassies, or a call for a boycott of Chinese products and businesses on social media by Muslim groups. So far there have been absolutely no demands to Muslim countries to end diplomatic ties with China or to recall ambassadors posted in Chinese stations.
Hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas who say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups and who have been in the region for generations are rendered stateless, the United Nations described the military offensive in Rakhine, which provoked the exodus, as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” They need our help and there is little that the international community has done. While there has been widespread condemnation of Myanmar and its action, calls for sanctions have been far and few.
Surely we can show our love to Allah and his prophet we should direct our energies in accordance with Quranic teaching and bring the world’s attention to the plight of Muslims facing systematic oppression and attempts to wipe them.
Our prophet taught the message of justice, equality between race, gender and rich and poor. There are so many accounts of abuses which he faced what shines through was his clemency and noble character.
I’ll end by a short story hoping it would serve as a reminder to us. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was annoyed in Mecca thirteen years before his immigration to Medina because Mecca reminded him of the countless pains, tragedies, wickedness and troubles caused by his most stubborn enemies. However, when Mecca was conquered, and those adversaries who caused trouble and paved way for calamities for him and his people, he forgave them all and extended mercy and absolution to all addressing them:
“You may go free! No reproach this day shall be on you; may God forgive you.”
Prophetphet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was a kind and merciful man. Let’s uphold his message of mercy, clemency and benevolence.