Is publication of blasphemous cartoons a naked attempt to provoke Muslims?

Islamophobia has a long history in the West and it dates back centuries, however, Muslims should be cautious of attempts to sow evil in the world

Islamophobes provoking Muslims

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday strongly denounced the publication of blasphemous caricatures by French magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this week. In a statement, he said the publication had hurt the sentiments of billions of Muslims. “Pakistan has conveyed its concerns to the French government in this regard,” the minister said.

But there is a perception among a majority of Muslims that the attempt to republish anti-Islam material by Charlie Hebdo is a kind of insensitive and renewed provocation. It is likely to lead to a chaotic situation not only in France but across the world wherever Muslims are living. The caricatures insult Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In his statement on the matter, Qureshi said Pakistan was a democratic country and believed in freedom of expression. He, however, said freedom of expression did not give a license to anybody to hurt the sentiments of others. The foreign minister also noted that there had been an increase in Islamophobia and xenophobia across the world.

Muslim leaders, particularly Prime Minister Imran Khan, have been making efforts to deal with the challenge of Islamophobia that causes unrest and chaos not only in the western societies but also in Muslim majority counties. There is a dominant academic view that Islamophobia is a result of persistent anti-Islam scholarship in the western world.

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Islamophobia in the West: How are Islamophobes provoking Muslims?

It is important to note that since the end of the 20th century, there has been a deliberate effort by the western media and scholarship to present a violent image of Islam. In this regard, acclaimed author Edward Said wrote an insightful book titled ‘Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World‘ and presented a factual analysis of the situation. He outlined how the western media deliberately initiated a war against an imagined, violent Islam.

The leading newspapers in the United States in the 1990s published countless anti-Islam articles. In 1996, an article titled Seeing Green: The Red Menace Is Gone, portrayed Muslims in a bad light. The New York Times published an article that cultivated hatred against Islam by dividing people between ‘Us versus Them’. The campaign against Islam resulted in what now the western media terms ‘white-supremacist hate crimes’. These supremacists are now challenging the order within developed societies.

Oriana Fallaci: An epitome of anti-Islam scholarship

Oriana Fallaci, a late Italian journalist who wrote several articles and books against Muslims and Islam, is considered to be a great inspiration for many far-right campaigners in present-day Italy. After September 11, Fallaci adopted an anti-Islam stance, and today her legacy is enjoying a moment of renewed popularity. She is said to the spiritual leader of Islamophobes provoking Muslims in the West.

She wrote three books – The Rage and the Pride, The Force of Reason, and Oriana Fallaci Interviews Herself – in which she described the Muslim world as an “enemy we treat as a friend” and warned Europe about what she believed to be the danger of becoming “Eurabia”.

Fallaci borrowed the term from a conspiracy theory popularized by the Egyptian-born British writer Bat Ye’or (a pseudonym for Gisele Littman) about an alleged plan to ‘Islamise’ Europe through mass immigration.

On September 28, 2001, a week after the September 11 attacks, Corriere della Sera, a Milan-based newspaper, published a five-page article titled La Rabbia e l’Orgoglio, or Rage and Pride, in which Fallaci accused the West of being too soft on Islam and Muslim immigrants. In Italy, she argued, “There is no place for muezzins, minarets, fake teetotalers, their f****** middle-ages, and their f****** chadors.”

A few months before her death, Fallaci famously said she was ready to blow up the minaret of a mosque in Chianti because she did not want to “see a 24-meter minaret in the landscape of Giotto when I can’t even wear a cross … in their country!”

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PM Khan’s efforts to counter Islamophobes provoking Muslims

One year ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad, agreed to jointly counter anti-Islam forces. The three leaders reportedly took part in a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the beginning of this year where they agreed on possible measures to counter Islamophobia.

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PM also announced on his Twitter handle that a TV channel was going to be launched by these three countries. “President Erdogan, PM Mahatir and myself had a meeting today in which we decided our 3 countries would jointly start an English language channel dedicated to confronting the challenges posed by Islamophobia and setting the record straight on our great religion – Islam.”

He further noted that “Misperceptions which bring people together against Muslims would be corrected; the issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualized; series & films would be produced on Muslim history to educate/inform our own people & the world; Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence.”

 

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