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Edmonton Muslim Council Statement on Danish Cartoon Controversy

Jewish Free Press, May 4, 2007 
Vol 16 No. 28, page 11

The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities is grateful to the Jewish Free Press for the opportunity to address the republication of the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the Jewish Free Press in February, 2006, caricatures that were originally published in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten. According to Mr. Richard Bronstein, publisher, the Jewish Free Press republished the cartoons in order to educate its audience on the subject matter of the furor that swept the Muslim world last year.

To fully comprehend the reason for Alberta Muslims’ outrage over the cartoons, one must understand the relationship most practicing Muslims have with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  Muslims revere and respect all of the Judeo Christian Prophets and find any disparaging depictions of them to be repugnant.  However, most practicing Muslims have a special relationship with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Muslims believe that he is the closest to perfection after God Himself.  He was a noble and forthright man whose teachings in the 7th century revolutionized religion.

Many Muslims feel they have a personal connection to the Prophet.  Muslims are required to pray five times a day and in every prayer, they mention the Prophet Abraham’s name and they also bear witness at least three times in every prayer that Muhammad is the messenger of God.  That declaration itself reinforces most Muslims’ allegiance to the Prophet.  Muslims confirm their allegiance and shower blessings upon the Prophet at least 15 times a day during their prayers.  Love and respect for the Prophet Muhammad is imbedded into the collective consciousness of the Muslim psyche.  Therefore, when Muslims view depictions of their beloved Prophet that blatantly suggest that he was a terrorist promoting the wanton killing of innocent people, that he was lecherous, maniacal,  demonic and reveling in destruction, they are deeply disturbed, offended and hurt especially when the Prophet never advocated indiscriminate killing and terrorism, contrary to what the cartoons suggest.    The cartoons demonize and vilify the Prophet of Islam and in so doing, they effectively demonize and vilify the religion itself and to a certain degree, the followers of Islam.

The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities believes that since only unfavorable imagery of the Prophet were made available to the readership of the Jewish Free Press that suggested he was the epitome of evil, it is only fair to balance this imagery by  publishing positive illustrations of him.   The Council believes that the cartoons serve no purpose but to perpetuate harmful stereotypes of Muslims and feels that the connotations inherent in the caricatures and their negative impact  ought to be neutralized to allow the readers of the Jewish Free Press to formulate their own opinions or prompt them to do their independent research regarding the Prophet of Islam.  Therefore, the Council has selected the following quotations from Zahoor’s and Haq’s “Quotations from Famous People”,1  that may facilitate or pave the way towards a better understanding of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

Sir George Bernard Shaw in the Genuine Islam Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936.

“ I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Savior of Humanity.”    “ I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world  he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness .”    

James A. Michener, 'Islam: The Misunderstood Religion' in Reader's Digest (American Edition), May 1955, pp. 68-70:

"Muhammad, the inspired man who founded Islam, was born about A.D. 570 into an Arabian tribe that worshipped idols. Orphaned at birth, he was always particularly solicitous of the poor and needy, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the downtrodden. At twenty he was already a successful businessman, and soon became director of camel caravans for a wealthy widow. When he reached twenty-five his employer, recognizing his merit, proposed marriage. Even though she was fifteen years older, he married her, and as long as she lived, remained a devoted husband."

"Like almost every major prophet before him, Muhammad fought shy of serving as the transmitter of God's word, sensing his own inadequacy. But the angel commanded 'Read'. So far as we know, Muhammad was unable to read or write, but he began to dictate those inspired words which would soon revolutionize a large segment of the earth: "There is one God."

"In all things Muhammad was profoundly practical. When his beloved son Ibrahim died, an eclipse occurred, and rumors of God's personal condolence quickly arose. Whereupon Muhammad is said to have announced, 'An eclipse is a phenomenon of nature. It is foolish to attribute such things to the death or birth of a human-being."

"At Muhammad's own death an attempt was made to deify him, but the man who was to become his administrative successor killed the hysteria with one of the noblest speeches in religious history: 'If there are any among you who worshipped Muhammad, he is dead. But if it is God you worshipped, He lives forever.'" 

M.H. Hart, The 100:  A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, New York, 1978, p 33)

“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.”

Alphonse de Lamartine,  Historie de la Turquie, Paris, 1854, Volume II pp 276-277),

 “ The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only.  They founded if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes.  This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls ….Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad.    As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?” 

 Mahatma Gandhi in  Young India, 1924.

"I wanted to know the best of one who holds today’s undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind.  I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life.  It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.   These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle." 

The Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities thanks the Jewish Free Press for allowing it to educate its audience about Muslims’ relationship to their Prophet and to attempt to neutralize the negative impact of the imagery contained in the notorious caricatures originally published in Denmark.   The Council ends with quotations from Thomas Carlyle in Heroes and Heroworship 2, which aptly sum up its point of view: 

“The lies which well meaning zeal has heaped round this man are disgraceful to ourselves only.”  “A silent great soul, one of that who cannot but be earnest.  He was to kindle the world, the world’s Maker had ordered so.”

1 Zahoor,  Haq, “Quotations from Famous People”, (copyright 1990, 1997, All Rights Reserved), date of access:  April 16, 2007 <www.cyberistanorg/islamic/quote/.html>

 2 Ibid

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