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Islamic Rage: Why a Cartoon in Bangladesh Leads to Killing of Christians in Nigeria

by Alamgir Hossain

04 Oct, 2007

Recently, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi Muslim cartoonist sketched a cartoon that appeared in a Bangla newspaper. It was intended to caricature the local culture where everyone tends to add ‚€œMuhammad‚€ before their name. In the cartoon, when an elderly Muslim priest asks a little boy carrying a cat, what was its name; the boy answers, ‚€˜Muhammad Cat.‚€™ This created outrage among Bangladeshi Muslims. The leader of Khelafot Andolon (Caliphate Movement) Maulana Ashraf stated that: ‚€œthe cartoon indicates disgrace of the Muslim prophet by naming a cat ‚€˜Muhammad'. Similar to the Danish Cartoon incident prophet Muhammad has been defamed in Muslim majority Bangladesh.‚€ The head cleric of Bangladesh‚€™s National Mosque, said: "This is a grievous offense, this is dangerous."

It led to violent protests in Bangladeshi capital, despite a ban on public demonstrations, under the current military rule. The newspaper offered immediate apology; so did the cartoonist. Not enough, the country‚€™s entire press community later sought forgiveness of the people. Still unsatisfied, the protesters demanded closure of the popular daily, and death of the cartoonist. Obviously, to save the young cartoonist‚€™s life from mob justice, authorities arrested him and put him in jail on groundless charge of ‚€œhurting people‚€™s religious sentiments.‚€ One should be little surprised by this outrage of Bangladeshi Muslims, as well as those surrounding Muhammad‚€™s caricatures in Danish and Swedish papers, since Prophet Muhammad himself was ruthless with his critics, especially the poets and singers, who ridiculed his creed.

Repercussions in Nigeria

Can this Bangladesh cartoon have anything to do with Nigerian Christians, thousands of miles away in a different continent? According to a Nigerian news report, it led to slaughter of nine Christians by Muslim mobs in Islam-dominated State of Kano in Nigeria. There was also widespread vandalism of Christian businesses, homes and properties, and raging down of churches. The General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Mr Samuel Salifu, said:

‚€œ‚€¶they (Muslims) saw a cartoon on the internet and they discovered that this cartoon was drawn by a 20-year-old Muslim boy from Bangladesh and they decided to visit their anger on innocent Christians and their churches.‚€

Salifu Continued:

"They cannot control their anger, they take knives and slaughter. When you tell them what they are doing is wrong, they will turn round and start to kill.‚€

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The question is: how could a cartoon, allegedly offensive to Muslims, drawn in a far-off land‚€•that too, by a Muslim‚€•anger Muslims of Nigeria to such an extent that they go on killing any non-Muslim come within their reach?

A similar savagery by Muslims took place in India in 1921 CE. When the Ottoman caliphate was facing the prospect of collapse, the Muslims of India, then under British rule, started the Khilafat Andolon (Caliphate Movement). Its aim was not only to protect the integrity of the Ottoman caliphate, but also to integrate India into that caliphate, after ousting the British rulers. And unsurprisingly, our Mahatma Gandhi happily joined this movement.

However, as the Ottoman caliphate faced a definite collapse, it hurt and angered Indian Muslims so much that the Mopla Muslims of Malabar (Kerala) vented their anger upon their Hindu neighbors. They went on a barbaric spree of killing, rapes and pillage leading to thousands of deaths and rapes of the Hindus. This episode became known as the Mopla rebellion. Gandhiji, out of compassion for his Khilafat movement brethren, quickly forgave the murderers and even embraced the leader of killers as his brother. But the British rulers caught the mastermind, and disappointing Gandhi, put him to justice.

It will not be difficult, however, to grasp why Muslims vent their anger on innocent bystanders and neighbors in such cases, if one understands the fundamental principles of Islam. Neither are such incidences anything new. In Islam, just by being a Muslim, one is obligated to attack and kill non-Muslims without any provocation, or a hurtful cartoon. Muslims must, by default, attack and kill the idolaters (Hindus, Buddhists etc.) unless they accept Islam, as commanded in the Quran:

"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them‚€¶" [Quran 9.5; Yusuf Ali]

If the Christians and Jews don‚€™t accept Islam, Muslims must by-default fight, kill and enslave them. But for belonging to the so-called ‚€˜people of the book‚€™ category, they are allowed to retain their faith if they accept a subjugated and humiliated status to Muslims and willingly pay Jizya (poll-tax) to Muslims:

"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." [Quran 9.5; Yusuf Ali]

Muslims‚€™ religious obligation is concisely defined by Imam Al-Ghazzali (d. 1111 CE), the greatest Islamic Sufi mystic and considered second-greatest Muslim after Muhammad, as follows (Kitab al-Wagiz Fi Fiqh Madhab al-Imam al-Shafi, Beirut, 1979):

‚€œone must go on Jihad at least once a year‚€¶ One may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire on them and /or drown them‚€¶ One may cut down their trees‚€¶ One must destroy their useful book (Bible and Torah etc.)."

Although Muslims do not carry out those religious obligations today, under Muhammad, they used to put every command of the Quran to practical application, whereby all idolaters were annihilated from Arabia before Muhammad‚€™s death in 632 CE, while the Hejaz (Southern Arabia) was denuded of Jews and Christians by the time of second caliph, Omar (634-644). In order to grasp the depth of Islamic fanaticism, we have to consider the history of Muhammad‚€™s struggle against the idolaters of Mecca. He, with ~150 converts, relocated to Medina from his ancestral city of Mecca in 622 CE, because his mission had become stagnant there. After arrival in Medina, he soon launched an unceasing war against Mecca, initially by attacking Meccan trade-caravans one after another leading to a number of bloodletting battles, causing death of more than a hundred Mecca citizens. The struggle culminated in prophet‚€™s capture of Mecca in 630 CE. He effaced the vestiges of idolatry from Mecca by revealing verse 9:5 (cited above) in 631 CE.

Here we must consider that the citizens of Mecca were the fathers, brothers and kinsmen of Muhammad and his Meccan converts, who emigrated with him. Once they joined the creed of Islam, they broke all kindred relations, bonds and affection; and eagerly and aggressively attacked their own kinsfolk causing bloodbaths. Such is the blood-thirsty rage that Islam can create among its followers. Unprovoked attack on and slaughter of the infidels remained a dominant feature of Muslim societies until the pre-colonial era. Oppression of non-Muslims continues in post-colonial days in repressed forms in all Islam-dominated societies.

Let us consider two more examples. One such example was the case of Abdullah Ibn Obayi, a powerful leader of Medina, who had converted to Islam, but consistently opposed Muhammad‚€™s excessive cruelty. He had successfully prevented Muhammad from slaughtering the Jewish tribe of Banu Qainuqa in 624, while his similar intervention in the attack of the Banu Quraiza Jews was ignored by Muhammad in 627, when Abdullah had become too weak. Muhammad slaughtered 800-900 surrendered Jews en masse. Because of his opposition to Muhammad‚€™s cruelty, i.e. dubious loyalty to Muhammad, he is repeatedly called ‚€˜hypocrite‚€™ in the Quran. Abdullah‚€™s son had become a devoted follower of Muhammad and was so enraged by his father‚€™s faltering loyalty to Muhammad that he sought Muhammad‚€™s permission to kill his own father. But Abdullah was a powerful leader and Muhammad, always judicious in such matters, resisted the temptation.

The second incidence was the killing of Jewish merchant, ibn Sunayna. After arriving in Medina, Muhammad sought to draw the Jews to Islam and wanted they accept him as their prophet. The Jews not only rejected his exhortations, but also became a nuisance to his mission through their criticism and ridicule of many of the inconsistencies of Muhammad‚€™s creed. Exasperated, Muhammad gave following open order (July 624): ‚€œKill any Jew that falls into your power‚€ [Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, Karachi, p369]. Muhayyisa was a Jewish convert to Islam from ibn Sunayna‚€™s own tribe and his family depended on the merchant for sustenance. After this order of Muhammad, Sunayna happened to fall on the way of Muhayyisa. The latter, ignoring tribal bonds and material help of the merchant, fell upon Sunayna and killed him.

The assassin‚€™s elder brother Huwayyisa, angered by such brutal murder of someone on whom their family depended for livelihood, confronted the killer saying, ‚€œYou enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?‚€ Muhayyisa answered, ‚€œHad the one (i.e. Muhammad), who ordered me to kill him, ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off‚€ [Ibn Ishaq, p369]. This brutal rage of the younger brother impressed Huwayyisa so much that he said, ‚€œBy God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous‚€ and immediately, converted to Islam.

These stories tells us what kind of appeals attracted early Muslims and what kind of murderous rage the Islamic creed can incite among it followers even against their nearest kinsmen. When no offense on the part of ibn Sunayna or just the rejection of Muhammad‚€™s creed by Mecca citizens could incite Muhammad‚€™s followers to raise swords and soak them with the blood of their kinsmen, one should be little surprised by what has taken place in Nigeria.

Muslims are definitely frustrated by international treaties and obligations which prevent them from unleashing‚€•what is divinely required of them‚€•on the world‚€™s five billion infidels. When further anger is added by offensive cartoons like this to their perennial pent-up frustration, what do they do? Muslims are supposed to follow the ideals of Muhammad to live a perfect life and to book a seat in Islamic paradise. They have definitely civilized themselves a lot from the Muhammad‚€™s age and time. They do those things now only rarely and at least with the excuse of one provocation or another.

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