|Mohammed Wattad, PhD|
Only Muslims Can Change the World's View of Islam
- Mohammed Wattad, PhD
The cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammad were drawn by Western journalists for Western audiences in a society grounded in democratic rights and freedoms, tantamount among these the right to free speech. And what is the essence of free speech if not the right to express disputed and even offensive views?
Muslims are well aware of the rights and freedoms afforded to them in democratic societies, and this is precisely the reason many of them leave their Islamic homelands for the West. It is therefore with the utmost hypocrisy, audacity and impertinence that Muslims living in democratic countries react to criticism of their faith with threats, vandalism and violence. Their sensitivities notwithstanding, if Muslims are to live among Westerners, it is they who must conform to the norms of the land, not vice versa.
Examples abound of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other faiths being the subject of gross insult. Yet while these expressions have sparked outrage and anger, they are met with words in the marketplace of ideas. Only among Muslims are words of criticism met by the sword. This proves exactly what the Dutch and French cartoonists sought to depict: the moral, educational and cultural bankruptcy of those who act barbarically in the name of Islam. The cartoons are not concerned with Islam, but with the way some Muslims exercise Islam. They merely reflected existing images created by extremists themselves.
If this image is wrong, then we Muslims bear the burden to show otherwise. Terrorism today stems primarily from Muslims in the name of Islam. For these images to change, Muslims must be at the forefront of countering Islamic radicalization in the Middle East and in our adopted countries.
The writer is a visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine.