Tuesday, February 07, 2006

American Muslims seek censorship?

Now we are starting to see the response of the American Muslims to the cartoon controversy:

More than two dozen Muslims offended by The Inquirer's decision to reprint a caricature of Muhammad that has inflamed the sensibilities of their co-religionists across the world picketed the newspaper yesterday morning.

The cartoon, originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September, depicts Islam's chief prophet with a lit bomb inscribed with Arabic letters stuck in his turban. It ran in Saturday's editions of The Inquirer with a story about the dilemma faced by the media over reprinting a cartoon that has led to wounded feelings, burnt flags and torched embassies worldwide.

According to Islamic tradition, any pictures or images of Muhammad are considered sacrilegious. But the Danish cartoon is particularly insensitive, the local protesters contended, because it perpetuates a stereotype of Islam as a militant religion.

"It's disrespectful to us as a people," said Asim Abdur-Rashid, an imam with the Majlis Ash'Shura, an umbrella group for mosques in the Delaware Valley. "It's disrespectful to our prophet to imply that he's a prophet of violence."

Amanda Bennett, The Inquirer's editor, and Carl Lavin, a deputy managing editor, talked with the protesters outside the building.

"Neither I nor the newspaper meant any disrespect to their religion or their prophet," Bennett said in an interview. "I told them I was actually really proud of them for exercising their right to freedom of speech."

But Bennett stood by the decision to publish the cartoon, saying it "is one of the things newspapers do to communicate directly with people" about issues important to all communities.

Most U.S. newspapers have decided not to reprint the cartoon. As a gesture of free-press solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, newspapers in Europe have run the caricature as well as 11 others pillorying the prophet. One image depicts Muhammad halting a line of suicide bombers at the gates of heaven with the cry, "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins."

The line refers to the belief by Islamic extremists that those who die in a holy war are rewarded with virgins in the afterlife.

One demonstrator, 54-year-old Aneesha Uqdah of Philadelphia, argued that precedent exists for newspapers to withhold some information to prevent harm: "If a woman was a rape victim, you wouldn't publish her name," she said.

The harm in this case, according to the pickets, is to the reputation of Islam at a time when Muslims in the United States already feel under siege.

The demonstrators carried signs that read, "Freedom of Speech, Not Irresponsible Speech," "No to Hate," and "Islam = Nonviolence." [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Brilliant. And that was a nice patronizing line by Bennett to a mob of people who seek to silence her paper lest their religious sensitivities be offended. But it gets even better--the Council on American-Islamic Relations has now weighed in on the controversy:

At the news conference, CAIR will: 1) urge the American Muslim community and American media outlets to continue to show the restraint they have exhibited during this controversy, 2) reiterate the Muslim community's strong belief that the controversy is not an issue of free speech, but is instead based on concerns over hate speech and incitement, 3) condemn all violent actions by those who are protesting the cartoons, and 4) preview educational initiatives that CAIR is formulating in response to the defamatory attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. [Council on American-Islamic Relations]
Not an issue of free speech, but instead a concern over hate speech and incitement? Like the same way an unveiled woman is an incitement for lustful thoughts and rape. Gimmie a break.

So we have both an American Muslim street protest and a leading American Muslim advocacy group calling for self-censorship when it comes to any criticism of the Muslim faith and its mores.

How about this: the Islamic faith and its prophet Muhammad are repellant and Muslim sensitivities do not constitute a check on anyone's mind, mouth, or press.

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