In September 2005, a Danish newspaper by the name of Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons, in which our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was depicted. These cartoons were first retaliated against by the Muslims who lived in Denmark, but eventually the entire world came to know about these cartoons, and Muslims all over the world were enraged at this shenanigan of sorts.
The newspaper, when confronted as to why they would do such a thing replied that the cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (SAW) were basically an attempt which was made to criticize Islam and their concept of self-censorship. What happens is that in Islam, there is a tradition called ‘aniconism’ which is a practice in which one believes that images of divine beings like Prophets, for example, should be avoided at all costs. If one ever comes across an image of a divine being, then that is considered extremely blasphemous.
The drawing of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and its being published in a newspaper was severely criticized by all Muslims all over the world. They were very offended. Judicial complaints were filed against the newspaper, the embassies of not one, but many Islamic countries were asked to take action against this blasphemous act. The complaints, however, were ignored by the Danish government who said that they simply did not want to get into this. They also refused to meet the diplomatic representatives of the Muslim countries.
The matter was then taken in hands by a few Danish Imams who visited Middle East in 2005 to seek help. This, in turn, got a lot of attention from the media. In early 2006, January-February, various protests could be witnessed all across the Muslim world. Some of these protests took quite an ugly turn in which a lot of people were killed, Churches and Christians were attacked upon and soon enough, all of this resulted in a major international boycott.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen the Danish Prime Minister said that this controversy is easily Denmark’s worst international relations incident since the Second World War. The incident was even more tensed up because it happened around the same time when the world was already going through a rough patch, especially with what happened during the September 11 attacks. The Muslims were already in a bad position with their new label of ‘terrorists’.
The drawing of these cartoons was interpreted in a number of ways. Some saw it as a deliberate attempt to create misunderstandings between the Islamic community and practically the rest of the world. Some saw these drawings as an attempt to humiliate the Danish minority. Others viewed these drawings as ignorance about the history of Western imperialism.
Some considered these cartoons as nothing but ‘freedom of speech’. Freedom of speech is a basic right which should be guaranteed to everyone irrespective of what religion they belong to, but it does not mean that you poke fun at somebody’s religious beliefs. There is a difference between voicing your opinions and concerns and just plainly mocking someone’s faith.
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