It’s not about the cartoons

M.A. Azeez is imam for the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims

On September 30, 2005, the infamous Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a set of derogatory cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in an insulting manner. In February this year, the cartoons ignited an outcry that led to protests and demonstrations all around the Muslim world. Some of these protests turned violent, and numerous people lost their lives. Many people in the West observed with disbelief, asking: What is wrong with those Muslims?

To comprehend Muslim rage, a process of exclusion is warranted.

Are Muslims angry because the cartoons simply depicted the prophet Muhammad, which is forbidden in Islam? But Islamic law is only binding to Muslims. Why would they expect others to abide by their code of law?

Is it because the cartoons were disparaging? But what is new about that? Right-wing conservatives and evangelists in the United States and Europe have attacked the prophet of Islam before and called him all sorts of names. Moreover, the prophet of Islam was subject to mockery in numerous Western publications before this.

Is it because of the double standard in Europe when it comes to freedom of speech and religion? Still an old story. We didn’t see Muslims rioting after numerous European countries banned hijab (Muslim women’s headscarves) from public places, while Catholic nuns’ habits, Jewish yarmulkes and other religious symbols were immune from such laws.

Is it because of Western occupation of Muslim lands? If that were the case, we would have expected Muslims to take to the streets from the day the Taliban was overthrown, or when Baghdad fell.

So, what is causing Muslim rage over the cartoons?

Perhaps the answer has nothing to do with the cartoons per se.

Muslims took to the streets to protest their own governments that are seen as agents of Western domination.

Muslims didn’t riot to protest the humiliation of the prophet of Islam, but to resist their own degradation by tyrants that enveloped their lives with unbearable oppression.

Muslims saw their own mockery, not the prophet’s, in the infamous cartoons.

The caricatures were not the straw that broke the camel’s back, but rather the vent through which Muslims were able to channel their anger about local affairs without the fear of their governments crushing them.

Muslim rage over the cartoons has to do with anything, in fact, but the cartoons!