Karim Raslan writes in the International Herald Tribune about differences within both the Muslim and the Western worlds.
The extensive violence and ugly rhetoric we are seeing broadcast from elsewhere in the Muslim world point to differences between the Arab-Muslim heartland and the Indo-Malay periphery.
Yes, we are part of the extended family of believers, the ummah. We cannot help but feel some sense of solidarity with our co-religionists in Damascus, Tehran or Cairo. But the explosiveness of the Arab street doesn’t translate, somehow, to the tropics.
Many of us have a growing suspicion that we are culturally different from our Arabic- and Urdu-speaking brethren, perhaps more tolerant and less emotional.
I am reminded of how uncomfortable I felt last year when traveling through Saudi Arabia, surrounded by a people I found disquietingly alien.
For all we share as Muslims, we Southeast Asians don’t really know what it’s like to inhabit the cultures or politics of the Middle East.
Nor is the West a unitary culture. Europe’s fervent secularism reminds me that the nation of the Great Satan, with its crowded churches and Sunday preachers who fill sports stadiums, is actually more like my world than Europe is.
Since Sept. 11, I’ve accepted certain verities that now I have come to question. Europe was supposed to be the neutral bastion of moderation in the face of a belligerent America. But in fact that Europe is godless and alone.
UPDATE: Malaysian blogger the _earthinc offers a much better take on the cartoon offensive that doesn’t appeal to cultural (or “tropical”) values. (After all, the English word amok was borrowed from Malay, not Arabic.)
When I first heard that a Danish media published caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (tag) last year, to be honest, being a Muslim myself, I was slightly irritated. Though it’s an act of free speech, the Danish media abused its rights. That was that and I didn’t expect it to balloon up unnecessarily. I didn’t expect it because I don’t think it’s rational for such issue to take a center stage in world politics. Apparently, I have overestimated the Muslim world’s sensibility. Muslim Malaysians on the contrary are acting coolly. Comparing Malaysians’ response against Arabs and Indonesians’ reaction on it, I can’t help but feel proud to be a Malaysian.
In my opinion, what’s happening in the Muslim world is a gross overreaction followed by impossible demand. The side at fault is the rightwing newspaper Jyllands-Posten, not the Danish government. Moreover, the Danish government has no right to censor the newspaper. Nobody should but that’s another matter altogether. Hence, the Danish government has no reason to apologize….
The ability to discern between the government and a private entity is not lost on Malaysians, unlike Arabic countries and Indonesia. In fact, I think, Malaysia is the only Muslim-majority country that is not blaming the Danish government for a private entity’s doing. I might be wrong but it seems like so.
To all Muslims out there, seriously, be sensible. The first thing to do is to realize that it’s a rightwing paper that started this, not Denmark the country. Differentiate the two and then comprehend that the Danish government can’t censor that paper. Blaming and targeting the Danish government and its people for things that they didn’t do only complicates the matter at hand and bring about a much unneeded clash of culture.
So Denmark, I stand by thee. But definitely not by Jyllands-Posten.
UPDATE 2: The culture editor of the Jyllands-Posten explains in a Washington Post op-ed what has been happening in Denmark since the publication of the cartoons.
Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people’s beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue — in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them.
In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People’s Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between “them” and “us,” but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.