Last year in my final year at St. Andrews College (a Christian school would you believe?) we had the head of the local mosque come down to our school to talk to us about the current controversy surrounding his religion. It wasn’t long after the Danish cartoon situation and of coarse there was also the issue of terrorism as a whole. The basic point of him being there was to explain how most Muslims are moderates and that Islam is a loving and peaceful religion that was being given a bad name by extremists. At his introduction I didn’t have anything wrong with that message. I didn’t know much about Islam but I fully accepted that the vast majority of Muslims must fully condemn the actions of militant extremists within their religion. But as he began to talk and as I listened to what he was saying all of a sudden I started to feel a little shiver run up my spine.
He had a fairly warm demeanor but some of the things that were coming out of his mouth really threw me off, I couldn’t quite believe that he was being presented to us as a fair and reasonable representative of the Muslim faith. 1st he talked about the Danish cartoon situation and yes he said he in no way condoned the violent behavior that ensued after the publishing of those cartoons…shortly before he began to try and justify it. He said that the riots ensued because the papers published cartoons that were very offensive to Muslims and (paraphrasing) that although he didn’t condone the riots he understood and thought that we should understand too. After all it’s their religion. He claimed that the media had an unfair bias when it came to Islam. Yes, it sure as hell does have a bias, most news outlets won’t dare show a picture of Mohammad but will gladly show and air pictures and speech that ridicule Christ or any other figure from any other religion.
Question time! A few people put their hands up (including myself) A guy towards the front is 1st, I’m glad to hear him taking issue with the Danish cartoon situation, he says something fairly standard (but perfectly true) about how Muslims seem to have more of a tendency to go ape shit over a cartoon than any other religion. Our moderate Muslim friend comes back with an inane comparison:
They were angry because their religion was insulted. Although he doesn’t condone violence surely you can understand how personal that is? How would you like it if he came over to your house and said things about your family? It’s that personal.
To my absolute astonishment the guy at the front concedes the point; that is in fact the exact same thing, and yes, he does see where the car burning maniacs rioting in Denmark are coming from. I am beside myself.
My turn! I say that it’s freedom of speech and that Muslims seem to be the only religious group who can’t deal with the basic cornerstones of western civilization. Ok I didn’t put it quite that concisely; I was on the spot, give me a break. That was the jist of what I put to him. He comes back at me with the exact same argument that he put to the other guy: Me, your house, family, abusing them, would you be okay with that? I wish I had just said, ‘Well that would be trespassing and we have laws against that. What’s your point?’ What can I say? I’m a fan of zingers. Instead I went in to a more elaborate explanation about how if he were to publish something about my family in a newspaper or magazine or show or say something about my family on T.V. I wouldn’t like it, I would probably say something back, but I would never suggest he shouldn’t be allowed to say those things because we have freedom of the press and freedom of speech and I value those things very highly. ‘I do not like what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ and all that crap. He said he didn’t quite understand, to be fair his English was a tad scratchy. But the main points he had to make were clear. He heavily implied he didn’t think we should have the legal right to publish cartoons like the ones published in Denmark.
So that’s what we got from our year group assembly with a highly regarded representative of moderate Islam. He was against violence in the name of Islam…but you know…ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. And he wasn’t so crazy about this whole freedom of speech racket we have.
And that ladies and gentleman is the nature of Islam.