February 13, 2006
Don't Attack the MessengerBy Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick
'Don't attack the Messenger!' is a phrase shouted by enraged Muslims defending the iconoclastic tradition within Islam prohibiting artistic renderings of Mohammed. However, it also might be the response attributed to beleaguered European editors accused of provoking riots after publishing caricatures of Mohammed.
What began as a liberal challenge to resist intimidation for criticizing Islam has became the Islamists' vehicle for challenging Western liberal democracy. Dr. Walid Phares, Fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, interprets the protests as the beginning of an anti—European intifada noting that,
Far from being a spontaneous eruption by aggrieved masses, victims of European imperialistic and racist attitudes, the conflict was carefully calculated from the beginning. What began as the Danish Islamists desire to engender support for their grievances to Islamic governments was skillfully manipulated by others to intensify the uprising.
Lebanese Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, accused Syrian security officers in civilian clothes of initiating the burning of the Danish embassy in Beirut. In Gaza, professionally printed placards and a myriad of Danish flags were produced ready for burning. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, provided his religious imprimatur to violent demonstrations against Denmark's embassy in Tehran, calling their actions "justified and even holy." King Abdullah II of the moderate Muslim state of Jordan reminded the American press after meeting with President Bush in the Oval office that
This is a campaign, not a reaction. For the radical Islamists the objectives have less to do with securing apologies than it does in creating conflict to empower their movement for future success in the Islamization of Europe.
The final Communiqu� of the Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) issued on December 10, 2005 identified the political goals of the world's Islamic community to include criminalizing 'Islamophobia' and anything that can be construed as defamation of Islam as racist.
Identifying offenses against Islam inevitably will become burdensome. Even when they practice 'responsible freedom,' European bureaucrats, editors, authors and artists will never be certain of where the line of Muslim sensibilities is drawn and when it is crossed. A crucial question for Europeans is why they should be concerned more with Muslim sensibilities than they are with any other religious group's sensibilities.
What is being asked of Western countries by the OIC is to accept, in effect, shari'a—based blasphemy laws, but only as they apply to Islam. Nowhere in the OIC communiqu� is there a condemnation of the horrific caricatures of Jews and Christians, nor of the violent attacks against non—Muslims which occur on a regular basis in Islamic countries. Self—criticism of the bitter fruits of Islamic law for women and non—Muslims is also absent in the OIC statement.
The riots of the last few weeks will subside. The question will then arise, what next? After the ashes of the European flags have been washed away, will the EU members settle into a calm complacency? Perhaps, but Islamists see the future of Europe as more dynamic.
Dr. Ismail Jalili, chairman of National Association of British Arabs, provides a clue. Even as he calls the violence unacceptable, he concludes that it is likely that insensitivity will build resentments in Europe that will inevitably 'explode in an uncontrollable fashion....'
The die is cast. The restraints Islam imposes upon itself through shari'a will continue to chaff against the seam of traditional Western liberal values.
The real test for Western countries will be to resist the temptation to legislate a new spate of religious vilification laws. Although designed to promote tolerance, they are often misused and contribute to greater inter—religious conflict. By seeking to appease, the proponents of these laws actually empower the Islamists. Radical Islamists will use vilification laws to muzzle critical opposition, thereby adding another arrow in their quiver to confront the West, the fear of prosecution.
Already there are calls for laws to prohibit publishing images of Mohammed. The British Muslim Action Committee has proposed changes in the Race Relations Act and the Press Complaints Commission code.
Contrary to popular belief, the word 'Islam' does not translate into the word 'peace.' Islam means submission. That is the message Islamists are sending the West. Submit to Islam. The West must be equally as clear in reply.
The Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick is the Washington representative of Christian Solidarity International and Secretary General of the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights, the largest coalition of ethnic and religious minorities in Islamic countries.