September 20, 2012
The anti-Islam video being allegedly shot in the US and called “The Innocence of Muslims” stirred up a turmoil in the Muslim world a week ago. Now the French weekly Charlie Hebdo came to offer one more blast by publishing a series of cartoons ironically depicting Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile the French Presidency came quickly to announce that on Friday 21st of September is planning to shut down all its diplomatic representations and French schools in the Muslim world being outspokenly afraid of retalations in respect of the biggest prayer day of Islam. After all, why doing so? Why spreading that heatred across the cultures?
It is not an issue of the free speech of the press nor of the level of intensity of reaction from the Muslim world. This trend to mock Muhammad is something that tends, in the name of publicity, to be the norm for some of the Western media that strive to sell and get reknown by insulting sensitive and fundamental symbols of religion. Even if the reaction from the Muslim people and the outrage they show seems quite weird to some of the Westerns, there is no doubt that as far as cartoons of Muhammad directly insult the Muslims, there is no reason to incite extreme retaliation, especially when this religion is Islam, where we definitely know how much piety counts for the lifes of millions of people.
It is without doubt that the reason of doing so is merely commercial, as Charlie Hebdo -used to sell about 1,000 copies a week- has now sold over 60,000 due to the publishing of Muhammad cartoons. The issue gets greater dimensions if we take into account that today the offices of the weekly were being attacked and firebombed by extremists who left a message on the front explaining how disgraceful the editor should feel and how disgusting they, the Muslims, feel about these cartoons.
From a wider dimension, it has been a common trend for Islam to be chased by media and politics in the Western world. The first sign was in 2005 when a Danish daily published a similar series of cartoons mocking Muhammad with the reaction being relevantly harsh and wide. In 2009, during the Swiss cantonal referendum over the minarets in Muslim-prayer mosques across the country, the debate turned to be extremely rugged when the far right party openly insulted the representatives of the Muslim community of the country. In addition to this, a series of posts were published and pasted across the streets of Geneva, Zurich and Berne, depicting a quite humiliating image of the Muslims and stressing out the supremacy of the “Swiss” over them. The ban of building of minarets was finally passed by 57% but the essence of the debate is still wandering over Switzerland.
During the last two years in Greece, extreme right and nazist groups are consistently chasing Muslim immigrants by hitting them, insulting them, injuring them and sometimes killing them. Especially in capital Athens, where the immigrants are usually concentrated in masses, the issue has taken wider and more severe dimensions now that the far right party is officially represented in the Greek Parliament and it is appeared to be much more organized and mobilized to continue chasing Muslims.
After all, I am wondering where and how this handling of the religious identity is going to end up. Are we faced with repeating and increasing incidents of racism and discrimination across Europe and the US or we need to finally deal with whatever brings money and publicity by ignoring even the deepest feelings and sensitiveness of religiosity, race, and gender?