My response to religious depictions

What a crazy two weeks it had been! I’m referring to “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” and Zapiro’s cartoon.

Apparently this is how it started….. The creators of the animated show, South Park, featured Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in one of their episodes and subsequently received death threats for it. In response to that an American cartoonist, Molly Norris, created a page on social networking site Facebook called “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”. The page invited everybody to post their depictions of the Prophet (pbuh) on 20 May to emphasise freedom of expression.

In Islam all depictions of Nabi Muhammad (saw) are forbidden to prevent him from being seen as someone who was inferior or someone less perfect than what he actually was. So it’s mainly out of respect that such action is forbidden.

That Facebook page had many Muslims up in arms in many parts of the world. In turn, our very own well known satirical cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro, drew the Prophet (pbuh) talking to a psychologist. The bubble on top of his head read “other prophets have followers with a sense of humour”. The cartoon appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper.

Many have argued, saying that the picture wasn’t THAT offensive and that it wasn’t as bad as some of the Danish cartoons that were previously published. And I agree with that statement. BUT I also find it offensive for the following two reasons:

  • obviously because all depictions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are forbidden.
  • since when are Muslims encouraged to see psychiatrists or psychologists when having problems in life? We should turn to the Qur’aan and let the Qur’aan tell us how to deal with life! Having such a perfect human being turning away from the Qur’aan and to a shrink is highly offensive to me!
  • if they are drawing the Nabi (saw), who will be next on the list? Allah (swt)?

Having said all of the above, we Muslims need to understand that there will always be a small group of non-Muslims who will try to provoke us and get some sort of reaction out of us. We also need to understand that they have the right to depict any prophet or any aspect of any religion. Nobody can stop them. They do these things because they don’t understand Islam and therefore it becomes our duty to try to inform and educate the ignorant however we can.

Even though I am saying that they have the right to make such depictions, it doesn’t mean that I am supporting or condoning it. Not at all! But we can’t expect people to understand if we don’t tell them the reasoning behind any statements we make. And they are right about freedom of expression – drawing prophets IS freedom of expression. Non-Muslims don’t see why any Islamic laws or anything they don’t believe in should apply to them. But we should NOT accept such blasphemy or keep quiet about it. We must speak up but we need to do it in an Islamic manner.

We had plenty of debates at work during the two weeks of the whole cartoon saga. Some felt torn between being a journalist and freedom of speech and being a Muslim. I disengaged from those debates. I didn’t feel the need to get into heated discussions with colleagues about what is right and wrong. However, I am totally for freedom of expression. But when it comes to my faith (or any other faith for that matter) a line must be drawn. All faiths need to be respected equally.

All we can do is make duah that Allah, the Greatest, will enlighten the minds of people in time to come insha-Allah.


One Response to My response to religious depictions

  1. h says:

    I personally dont think it was that offensive.

    Im not too sure if islam has forbidden any depiction.

    I disagree with your idea about psychologists and psychiatrists. That would like saying you shouldnt go to a doctor.

    Today , we know more about problems of the body and mind, and everything works through a process. So to want to say Allah is going to do all that is silly. you still must play your part.

    Finally, even the prophet sought advice from people. Even the athaan, apparently was from a dream from another person. He took part in hijra. Why would leave if he could have just asked Allah for help? He sought sanctuary for himself and people.

    And finally, even the prophet got depressed and sad. He was human after all.

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