The Year 2005 and the month of September of that year, is going to resonate in the corridors of history, with the shrill cry of something momentous – it was a cry of anguish of human civilization itself, when two of the great cultures of this century prepared to clash on a fundamental issue. According to some, it may have been a war cry as well. No guns or swords were drawn; what was drawn were a series of cartoons, by something mightier – a Pen! In fact they were pens of12 innocuous artists.
When the future generations get to know about the infamous cartoons controversy started by a little known newspaper in “a quiet place in a calm Nordic city”, the same corridors would reverberate with the names of those historians, who were perceptive enough to hear that cry and record it for posterity. In fact, it would be partly because of those historians and social scientists that the continuity of world civilizations would have been ensured.
One of those names, who would hopefully be thanked for this endeavor, would be that of Muhammad Tariq Ghazi. It will be because of his capture of the kaleidoscopic events preceding and following that lament of civilization, in a fascinating, perceptive commentary called The Cartoons Cry.
As a layperson, who observes the current world events with interest, yet confusion, Ghazi’s deeply insightful book provides a clear and accessible study of the mindset of the two major cultures of this era, heading onto a possible collision course according to some astute observers. The Cartoons Cry also draws valuable intuitive guidelines on how that catastrophe can be averted and civilization salvaged.
I am sure, for readers like me it would provide an invaluable insight into a culture, which I share with the author and the maturity needed to stimulate us, for charting out a better future for our grandchildren. It also provides an unusually perceptive introduction to the West, of a parallel culture descending from Abraham, the common ancestor.
It would have been a difficult task for the author to tell everything in an honest, yet non-confrontational way. But, it goes to his credit that he took this challenge, minutely researched the subject from worldwide news sources and then penned it, with the confident authority of a veteran journalist, a perceptive social scientist and political analyst.
It is a deftly woven account of the events which eventually led to the two cultures standing face to face for confrontation. On one side was the defense of right of freedom of expression and on the other the fundamental right of respect for religion. It is perhaps no accident that the author personifies both sides – as a journalist and as a practicing Muslim. Like a responsible peace-negotiator, he takes up the task to bring them both together in this book.
But, is The Cartoons Cry only a factual assessment of events as they were? I think not. The book, at the narrative plain, is a mirror of the historical, social, political, economic and judicial parameters of the international community of the current century. Democracy – with all its fundamental rights of equality and justice, is also “law is will of the people. The Westerner finds legal ways to circumvent laws, biblical or temporal, and legalizes their diversion through democratic process.”
The young people in the West – “worship the symbols of total freedom – free from any form of religious, moral, social or political restrictions “. But, national leaders and the clergy are definitely not their role models.
The Muslims, on the other hand, are seen as a people distinguished by their religious behavior, earning them the sobriquets – from fundamentalists and practicing to moderates, seculars and liberals.
As immigrants, Ghazi feels, Muslims have had nothing to offer to their host countries, as a result they are “there to emulate, to copy, to ape everything their new nation offers, thus encouraging their hosts to demand more assimilation and acceptance of western values, rather than showing respect to the uniqueness of the guests.”
The relationship between the powerful and the weak in our times: The powerful and mighty oppressing the weak with sanctions and warring tactics, the oppressed going for dialogue, peaceful demonstrations, boycotts and then finally resorting to violent tactics when “nobody listens”.
The Cartoons Cry gives very informative historical background into the origins of such violent tactics as bounty on the head, burning of effigies, burning of national flags. These are not originally Islamic ways of protest, but have been taken up by excitable minority on the promptings of scheming politicians. The author feels that it is the duty of Muslim social scientists and the media to tell them about the un-Islamic nature of these practices.
Above all it advises, the resort to legal procedures, which is one of the common meeting ground for both the cultures. The Islamic ruling for justice which is based on equal retribution to the original injury and no more, but may be less or forgiven entirely, is an eye-opener for not only Western society but Muslims as well.
Above all, it is a labor of love. Ghazi’s love and reverence for that person shines through, the denigration of whose dignity has probably motivated him to write the book in the first place. In words of devotion and respect he affectionately draws out the personality of Muhammad Rasool-Allah (saw), the Prophet of Islam, and shows how an attack on such a revered personality is likely to disturb the emotional stability of about 1.5 billion of his followers, because they love him more than their own selves.
The book demands serious study, particularly by the young generation of all faith communities, and also needs to be preserved in libraries for the important historical contribution it is going to make to the global human community.
The Cartoons Cry is a call for a firm handshake between the children of Abraham. And who better to invite to it, than “Muhammad” Tariq Ghazi! He hopes the Creative Minority of Muslims who have migrated to the West, would be the first to extend their hand.