You might want to laugh if you see
another cartoon of the Prophet in standard beard and white turban
on the cover of a magazine with a comic bubble saying, “A hundred
lashes if you don't die of laughter." In a world where ROTFL is
the language of the elite, this might not surprise anyone. It
should, for beneath the guise of satire what you are encountering
is the cultural standardisation that the western powers expect
from all countries.
It is ironical, for they are often protesting against the uniform
Arab identity. The cartoon in question was to be on the cover of
the French ‘Charlie Hebdo’ that has been described as “a fiercely
secular weekly”. It makes one wonder, then, why such fierce
secularism has resulted in a brand willing to change its name for
one week into ‘Charia Hebdo’ (charia is the French way of spelling
Sharia) supposedly “to protest against the rise of Islamist
political forces in Tunisia and Libya”.
No, the West did not want the nations fighting for freedom in the
Middle East and North Africa to become westernised clones of
itself. That would defeat the purpose. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Egypt,
Turkey, Iran would hardly qualify as strongholds of Islam. In
fact, they were modern societies, in that they did not live in the
dark ages and had progressed on many fronts. Attempts to liberate
them, or intervene in backdoor freedom struggles, have not been
successful. There are no tribal factions to drone here on an
ongoing basis. The Western powers were aware that nations with
strong cultures would not buy their idea of liberty. When the
rebel forces were done with their photo-ops, they knew that it was
time to reclaim their heritage. Part of that heritage is moored in
Islam. It is not the only aspect, but it is most certainly one of
There are reasons to debate several aspects of Sharia laws and
their relevance to contemporary times. It is the job of the
nations involved to do so, not outsiders. The manner in which the
fallen leaders were treated by the freedom forces did not reveal
any concern for human dignity. Why, even the US put their
most-wanted man Osama bin Laden to sea because they wanted to give
him a quick Muslim burial.
The major problem is not the cartoons themselves – although many
Muslims do respond rather strongly to them – but the motive behind
such provocation. Charlie Hebdo planned to have the Prophet as a
guest editor (since when have guest editors been on the covers of
magazines?). They have, in apparently the best tradition of
parody, got an editorial signed by ‘Mahomet’ that states: "There
is no god except God, otherwise all hell will be let loose."
Another cartoon shows Mohammed with a red nose and the caption:
"Yes Islam and humour are compatible."
They probably are, because unless there is inherent humour you
cannot satirise something. However, the level of satire is
juvenile. Indeed, there is “no god except God” for the believers
and even those who like their dose of tautology. This might
include the likes of Pat Robertson and the tele-evangelists;
perhaps we could smuggle in the guy whose claim to fame was
creating a bonfire of the Quran and is now planning to contest the
Yes, many Islamic countries use the Sharia as the basis for their
broad jurisprudence, but when was the last time you came upon any
secular law that did not use ‘moral’ values as its theme song? Do
the leaders in the West not take their oath of office in god’s
name? What is the predominant religion of the nations of the West,
and the major capitalist powers? Mammon lags way behind their own
faith, and it is not Islam. Are the festivals they celebrate
almost all not paying obeisance to the saints? Is Israel a secular
nation? Is India? Technically, some can claim to be secular but it
is the majority or the powerful segments that will always have
The revolts in the Arab world have been wrongly pushed as an
agenda against conservatism. This is far from the truth. They were
fighting certain powers and it is unclear as to whether they were
truly independent or working on remote. Why were foreign aircrafts
hovering overhead? Moreover, why are the French concerned about
how these countries are run? A report quotes the guest editorial,
titled "halal aperitif", where ‘Mahomet’ says, "Ennahda promises
(Tunisians) that their personal freedoms will remain and it will
not introduce Sharia law. Ha, ha, no kidding? Why should a
religious party take power except to impose its ideas."
All political parties, religious or otherwise, impose their ideas.
This is what ideology means, this is what the Congress does, or
the Knesset or the Diet. This is why you have Tories and the
Labour parties, Republicans and Democrats, and Communists of
The real editor Charb was, of course, shocked at the pre-release
hostility: "Why do people only get angry when we attack religion?
We are just commenting on a news story. We are not presenting
Mohammed as an extremist.”
An attack on anything, including religion, should be clean and
sharp, not with a blunted knife. This is not a news story because
Tunisians died fighting. They were not sitting in a hotel room
with prostitutes planning to become leaders of their country with
the backing of IMF. The Tunisians have chosen their form of
government after the rebellion, the very same rebellion that was
being glorified quite prematurely the world over. As regards how
the Prophet is presented, perhaps it might help if the western
powers realised their own attempts at extremism – whether it is
exercising veto powers, managing nuclear deals, droning civilian
populations, manufacturing fresh wars on terror, and even deciding
what people should wear.
The magazine also decided on a supplement, ‘Charia Madame’. You
really will not need to exercise your minds too much to discover
what it is about: different styles of full-length veils.
When the news of this edition first made an appearance, Muslim
organisations did not react. However, on Wednesday, November 2,
the offices of the magazine were gutted in a petrol bomb attack.
There will be the usual freedom of speech arguments. This will not
be the first time such speech has been muzzled. It is when
governments refuse to inform the people about important documents
and details, when they keep an eye on the surfing habits of the
citizens, when they bulldoze their views on the mainstream media.
It is not a pretty picture and none of this can be justified.
However, the editor’s chant that this attack has upset him and he
is angry that "violence could be used to counter drawings" is
Was the drawing non-violent? Is pornography not sex?
is a Mumbai-based, unveiled, non-practising Muslim-born writer who
has no desire to score points with the Prophet. She can be reached