TOPICS: Muslims suffer tragedies

The latest round of culture wars does neither side any good. The western fundamentalists insist on seeing Muslims as different, alien and morally evil. Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in bad faith. Its aim was not to engage in debate but to provoke, and it succeeded. The same newspaper declined to print caricatures of Jesus. I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of “religious pain’’ that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted.

The cartoon depicting Muhammad as a terrorist is a crude racist stereotype. The implication is that every Muslim is a potential terrorist. This is the sort of nonsense that leads to Islamophobia. Muslims have every right to protest. In reality, the number of demonstrators was tiny: 300 in Pakistan, 400 in Indonesia, 200 in Tripoli, a few hundred in Britain, and government-organised hoodlums in Damascus burning an embassy. Beirut was a bit larger. Why blow this up and pretend that the protests had entered the subsoil of spontaneous mass anger? They haven’t anywhere in the Muslim world, though the European media have been busy fertilising the ignorance that exists in this continent.

How many citizens have any real idea of what the Enlightenment really was? French philosophers did take humanity forward by recognising no external authority of any kind, but there was a darker side. Voltaire: “Blacks are inferior to Europeans, but superior to apes.’’ Hume: “The black might develop certain attributes of human beings, the way the parrot manages to speak a few words.’’

In fact, these demonstrations are a response to a tasteless cartoon. Did the Danish imam who travelled round the Muslim world pleading for this show the same anger at Danish troops being sent to Iraq? The occupation of Iraq has costs tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Where is the response to that or to tortures in Abu Ghraib? Or the rapes of Iraqi women? Where is the response to deaths of Palestinians?

Last year Afghans protested after a US marine in Guantanamo had urinated on the Quran. The marine explained to the probe team that he had been urinating on a prisoner and a few drops had fallen accidentally on the Quran as if pissing on a prisoner was more acceptable.

The February 12 footage of British soldiers brutalising and abusing civilians in Iraq — beating teenagers with batons until they pass out, posing for the camera

as they kick corpses — was made public. No one can imagine these are isolated incidents the British Ministry of Defence claims; they are the norm under colonial occupations. Who will protest now — the media pundits defending the Enlightenment or Muslim clerics frothing over the cartoons? It’s strange that the Danish imams and their friends abroad ignore the real tragedy and instead ensure that the cartoons are being reprinted everywhere. How will it end? Like all these things do, with no gains on either side and a last tango in Copenhagen. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine the occupations continue. — The Guardian