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Muslim Student Response to Danish Cartoons-Fwd: Star-Tribune Article (02/27/06)

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  • Deborah Shepherd
    This email was sent out to all the Anoka-Ramsey Community College this morning by one of our librarians. Al s introduction of the writer, an ARCC student who
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2006
      This email was sent out to all the Anoka-Ramsey Community College this morning by one of our librarians. Al's introduction of the writer, an ARCC student who is Muslim, is appended. I thought it might be of interest to anthropologists at other community colleges.

      Deborah Shepherd

      Deborah J. Shepherd, Ph.D.
      Anthropology and Sociology
      Anoka-Ramsey Community College
      Coon Rapids Campus
      email: deborah.shepherd@...
      new phone number: 763-433-1195

      >>> Al Mamaril 2/27/2006 10:02 AM >>>
      For those interested...attached is an article by Najat Kessler, printed in today's Star Tribune. Najat is a student on the Coon Rapids Campus, a TRIO participant, library student worker, and a Muslim. Najat is fluent in 4 languages (French, Berber, Arabic, and English).

      Al Mamaril, Library Faculty
      Anoka-Ramsey Community College
      11200 Mississippi Boulevard, N.W.
      Coon Rapids, Minnesota 55433-3499
      Phone: (763) 433-1552
      Fax: (763) 433-1521
      Email: al.mamaril@...


      Muslims need a better response
      Najat Fares Kessler,

      "I am a Muslim and I find myself utterly disturbed by the hype over the cartoons about the prophet Mohammed. To me such reaction is nothing but an act of despicable bullying. I am amazed that we the Muslims somehow lost our religion to extremists. We all sit and watch as they take over and speak on our behalf and it seems that it is spinning out of control.

      Who dares speak up? None of us. We are afraid of violent retaliation! This is what it comes down to being a Muslim in the world today. What a sad state of affairs.

      Here is a very short list of great thinkers who suffered or lost their lives to Muslim religious abuse:

      Salman Rushdie, a British citizen, had to go into hiding for writing a fictional book.

      Irshad Manji, a Muslim and Canadian citizen, had to hire a bodyguard after her book "The Trouble with Islam" came out.

      Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch citizen and moviemaker, was assassinated by a religious Muslim fanatic after he dared to make a movie asking questions about women in Islam.

      And now a paper has dared to publish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, and a frenzy of violence by Muslims sweeps the world.

      Yes, the cartoon that represented the prophet as a terrorist is offensive; but I don't think the cartoonist or the newspaper that published it are the only ones responsible for such offense. We Muslims share the responsibility.

      In the last 30 years the center stage of mainstream Islam has been occupied mostly by very offensive extremist groups. The rest of us who do not belong to such groups sat silent, except for a few voices here and there that very quickly get beaten down.

      The Muslim extremists have spoken and acted in every offensive, abusive and aggressive way -- from issuing death threats to Jew-bashing, from assassinations to bombings and suicide bombers. These self-appointed ambassadors of God promote hate toward anything that differs from their philosophy. After this has gone on for 30 years or more, how can we Muslims blame a Danish cartoonist for a drawing of our prophet as a terrorist? I say the cartoonist is not to blame; we are.

      This cartoonist is only mirroring back to us the message that Muslim extremists have been hammering to the world. And we, the nonextremist Muslims of the world, are not helping matters by letting self-righteous extremists speak on our behalf.

      Besides, who says that it is wise and Muslim-like to respond to an offensive action with an offensive reaction? The prophet Mohammed need not be defended; he finished his deed centuries ago and he is where no living human can harm him, offensive cartoons or not. God need not be defended, either; for he created the whole in a diversified way with zillions of religions. Let us stop the hype, relax, listen, observe, learn and enjoy the day.

      Third, the prophet Mohammed was a religious and historical figure who belongs to the whole human race. Islam, like all religions, is by no means exclusive to its members but a human heritage that belongs to all human beings. Maybe it is time to give up this sense of arrogant entitlement to God and what he wants in our Muslim thoughts.

      I thought a person's faith lies in his heart and soul: It cannot be taken or altered by others but only by himself. So how can some cartoons drawn by a stranger in foreign lands affect so badly my fellow Muslims' faith that they are ready to kill?

      I say to my fellow Muslims: Take an example from the prophet Mohammed's life. Maybe a strong faith is not about screaming bloody murder because someone misspoke about the prophet Mohammed. Maybe a strong faith is the opposite reaction: to stay peaceful and calm and unfazed by the offense.

      Islam today needs a really introspective and an honest debate among Muslims and non-Muslims. I challenge fellow Muslims to learn how to practice dissent, and I challenge non-Muslims to learn about Islam. Ask questions; please don't be politically correct, and don't be shy in your criticism and comments.

      Let me remind every Muslim living today of what was a tradition of Islam in its brightest days in history: the forgotten practice of Ijtihad, which means critical thinking, debating, dissenting, and practicing openness and tolerance.

      Islam is living its darkest days today. Let us not demand respect of others by being close-minded extremists, but let us earn the world's respect by becoming enlightened, wise, tolerant Ijtihadists. I dare my fellow Muslims to take the high road of Ijtihad and start debating every verse of the Qur'an, not in order to persuade someone else but in order to start learning about what it means to be a Muslim. I dare non-Muslims to participate in this debate and maybe learn more about their world history, geography and humanities. Let us make an effort to acknowledge everyone's shared responsibility in the birth of the beast of religious extremism in the Muslim world."


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