Rex Murphy pleads, "In the name of God, stop the madness"
Rex Murphy is one of Canada's leading media figures, widely respected and
admired for his wit and biting commentary. He hosts the weekly Canada-wide
radio talk show, "Cross Country Check-up" on CBC Radio, writes a column for
the Globe and Mail, and is a regular face on TV.
In today's Globe, Rex Murphy puts to paper what countless ordinary Canadians
are saying privately. Why does the "Muslim world believe that if their
religious sensibilities are offended, they have both the right and the duty
to threaten violence and death to the offenders." What Rex Murphy has
penned, most non-Muslims, in a state of bewilderment, are asking in polite
How unfortunate that those who purport to defend Islam, do most damage to
the Muslim cause. Now these zealots have started a campaign to boycott
Danish food products in Canada.
How can we punish a Danish cheese maker because a Danish newspaper has
offended us? Are we not the people who clamoured that all Muslims must not
be blamed because of the actions of one man--Osama Bin Laden? What happened
to our logic?
We are making a laughing stock of ourselves and don't even know that.
If my Muslim community wishes to boycott Danish products as an act of
protest, why stop at Denmark. Why not start with American products? After
all, it is the United States that occupies two Muslim countries, not
Denmark. Where will this stop? Will we stop buying French, German, Italian,
Spanish and Norwegian products as well? After all, newspapers in these
countries too have printed the cartoons.
We need to understand that just because governments like Iran can shut down
newspapers by decree, does not mean the Danish government or any government
in a democratic society can do that.
This selected sense of outrage against Danish food products reeks of
hypocrisy and false bravado. After all it is easy to give up on Danish
cheese, but who will hand over their Microsoft, Mac or their Mercedes. Not
Hosni Mubarik, and definitely not King Abdullah or President Assad of Syria.
Muslim Canadians must express their outrage not only at the cartoonist, but
also the extremists in the Middle East who say, "The solution is the
slaughter of those who harmed Islam and the Prophet."
Read and reflect.
February 4, 2006
In the name of God, stop the madness
By REX MURPHY
The Globe and Mail
The case of Salman Rushdie is fresh again. Everyone will recall that when
Mr. Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, which contained what has been
described as an irreverent depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, he became the
object of a death sentence.
No less a figure than the spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomaini, issued a fatwa requiring Mr. Rushdie's execution, and the
execution of all who had been involved in publishing the book, and called
upon all "zealous Muslims" to pursue this grim end. This was not just a
piece of token bluster on the ayatollah's part. It might be useful to recall
the language of the edict: "In the name of God Almighty. There is only one
God, to whom we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid
Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic
Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to
Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran, as well as those publishers who were
aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous
Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one
will dare insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will
be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to
the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him,
should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions."
It may also be useful to remember that, although Mr. Rushdie went into
hiding and was under armed guard for years and has (so far) survived, that
he was not the only victim. There were riotous protests in India, Pakistan
and Egypt that caused several deaths, and Mr. Rushdie's Norwegian publisher,
William Nygaard, was the victim of an assassination attempt he only barely
Nothing in the modern culture of the West can begin to comprehend the notion
that a person can and should be sentenced to death for what that person
writes, and certainly nothing that treats the publication of a novel,
however poorly written, as, in itself, a capital crime.
Everything written, if it has anything in it, will offend someone, and if
the mere taking of offence was to amount to a licence to kill the offender,
well the world would be sadly underpopulated of novelists, columnists,
bloggers and the writers of editorials.
Now the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper four months ago,
depicting Prophet Mohammed satirically, and with particular reference to the
unspeakable practice of suicide bombing, has triggered an even greater
firestorm in portions of the Muslim world. One caricature shows Mohammed
with a bomb in his turban, another sarcastically reads that "paradise has
run out of virgins" for suicide martyrs.
There have been bomb threats against the newspaper; on Thursday, in Gaza,
masked gunmen threatened to kidnap European citizens and to target European
offices; protesters in Pakistan took to chanting "death to France" and
"death to Denmark," and, on an official level, there have been calls from
several governments in the Arab world to shut down the "offending" newspaper
and fire its editor.
The connection with the Rushdie case is clear. Whole swathes -- not all, be
it noted -- of the Muslim world believe that if their religious
sensibilities are offended, they have both the right and the duty to
threaten violence and death to the offenders. They are demanding retraction
and apology and trail their demands with threats of kidnapping and death.
Furthermore, they are insisting that their values and their codes apply
outside their own religion and their own countries. It is astonishingly
insolent. Considering the treatment that some of the press in some of these
countries accord Christians and Jews -- a recent mini-series on the
Protocols of The Elders of Zion in Lebanon and Egypt, the frequent
anti-Semitic editorial cartoons -- it is levitatingly hypocritical, as well.
It is worth noting that however offensive the cartoons of the Prophet may
have been, they cannot be as offensive as the many real suicide bombings
that have been executed in the Prophet's name.
If portions of the Muslim world want to protest about a real offence against
their religion they might radically take to the streets in great masses to
condemn what fanatics do in the name of that religion.
All this is occurring in the wake of yet another searing illustration of the
clash between fundamentalist Islam and Europe -- the murder of Dutch
filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was killed in 2004 by a Dutch Muslim extremist
angered by the filmmaker's depictions of Islam.
Artists, writers and the press in the Western democracies have the right to
create and write what they please. And so they must. It is why we are
democratic. And no fundamentalism, of religion or any other variety, should
be given the slightest leverage over that right.
Rex Murphy is a commentator with CBC-TV's The National and host of CBC Radio
One's Cross-Country Checkup.