We're Live Bangla Saturday, June 10, 2023

Dangerous path


Once more the fires of Islamophobia have been lit, setting off an ugly series of events that have put the Muslim and Western worlds on a collision course. This time again the trigger was blasphemous images of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), published in France. Following the republication and display of these in a French classroom by a teacher, the educator was murdered while three people were killed in a separate attack on a Nice church.

Unfortunately, French President Macron’s combative rhetoric in the aftermath of the controversy has not helped matters. Instead of addressing the issue in a statesmanlike fashion, Mr Macron has held forth in a neocolonial fashion about the ‘crisis’ Islam faces.

This has led to certain questionable reactions from some in the Muslim world; former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in a blog post wrote that Muslims had a right to be “angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”. Such a response from a senior statesman is bound to raise eyebrows. Our own prime minister’s response to the growing crisis has been mature; Imran Khan has called for unity among the Muslim world to “collectively counter Islamophobia in non-Muslim states”.

Indeed, among non-Muslim leaders Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given a very balanced reaction to the ballooning crisis. Observing that while he defended freedom of expression, it is “not without limits” and should not “arbitrarily and needlessly hurt” certain communities. Certainly, Emmanuel Macron can learn a thing or two about how to compassionately handle delicate matters from Mr Trudeau.

The fact is that efforts are needed on both sides - within the Islamic world and in the West - to prevent an increase in divisive rhetoric and extremism. Some in the West have unfortunately taken it upon themselves to consistently attack Islam’s most sacred personality under the cover of freedom of expression. Those who support this ignore the ugly history of orientalism and later colonialism, under which Islam’s sacred symbols were constantly attacked. It seems under the guise of so-called secularism the old tribal, religious hatreds live on. And while murder cannot be condoned, if such provocations continue, extremists will continue to find willing recruits to carry out acts of violence.

If questioning a historical event such as the Holocaust can be outlawed by keepers of the West’s morality, then surely measures can be taken to prevent public attacks on the faith of over a billion people.