FacebookGate

Faraz Rana, a lawyer based in New York, has authored this exclusive piece for PTH. We welcome his contribution and hope that he will contribute regularly. (Raza Rumi)

Depictions of the Prophet (pbuh) are banned in Islam so people (presumably, Muslims) don’t idolize the images. The lawyer in me will tell you that a non-Muslim drawing a similar image, especially in jest, will not violate that rationale. Nor will Muslims ever confuse a cartoon with a serious depiction. Of course, using technical legal arguments to quell incensed religious rhetoric is about as effective as eradicating objectionable content on cyberspace by blocking it. Oh, wait.

The debate on FacebookGate and the underlying arguments on the limits of free speech will never be resolved by rational minds. So, in case you missed it, here is just a quick sampling of the conversations sprouting all over, coincidentally, Facebook.

The Facebook group was a collective effort to malign Muslims. The group was intended to be a demonstrated exercise in free speech by some bloggers, as a direct response to the decision by the producers of another TV show to curtail their creative outlet in the face of death threats. As often happens on the Internet, the ones with the most pent up vitriol for just about everything under the sun tend to have the most free time to vocalize it. The group was hijacked and the posts became offensive. What is interesting, though, is that the group was not very popular until people started pointing fingers at it. After that, it went Facebook viral and the offensive content just perpetuated itself.  It is as if Muslims snatched the offensive content from the jaws of obscurity and brought it back to life for the whole world to see.

I don’t believe in free speech when it offends my religion. You are out of luck. Free speech is a concept that exists outside your belief system. It even exists outside the legal limitations imposed on it by the United States Supreme Court.  It will continue to exist so long as humans are capable of free thought.  What makes free speech so vexing, however, is that it becomes important to people only when it manages to offend someone. Otherwise, you call it, in legal parlance, “small talk.”

Think about what your mother told you when you were bullied as a kid. She was a playground sage and understood that fighting back only worked if the bully wasn’t twice your size. Even then, how many times were you going to fight him? It is a fact known for hundreds of playground years that bullying someone is only fun if you can get a predictable reaction out of the bullied.  Ignore them, she would lecture, and the bully has no raison d’etre.

They don’t make fun of other religions. Everyone is against the Muslims. Two words: Family Guy. If you are not a fan of the American cartoon show, the “I dream of Jesus” episode is a particularly funny episode.  It is available on Youtube. The irony is free, as well.  Find mocking Christianity to be too 8th century? Spend some time on the Internet, and you will find a website dedicating to ridiculing virtually every race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, belief and preference known to man. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to hating women. Yes, the entire gender.

We need to fight back when people attack our religion. We are soon going to run out of people to fight. Muslims are not winning any popularity contests (Miss USA Pageants, a different story), which means finding a more effective way to vocalize our presence.  The history of Islam is filled with parables about how being a good Muslim is an effective way to fight ignorance. Perhaps highlighting our meaningful contributions to society, rather than staging protest after protest, might be a better way to spend our free time.

Boycotting Facebook will show them our collective strength. Not even close. We created Facebook groups about how we were going to quit Facebook. We could not help but make use of the powerful and innovative forum Facebook has created for people to communicate and launched our own protest groups on Facebook.  Mark Zuckerberg was just sitting back and smiling that everyone showed up to play in his own backyard.  When a Muslim creates an innovative way to communicate on the Internet, perhaps a kitab-e-shaqsiat for you Urdu speakers, we can then perhaps think about dictating the rules of the game.

Well, I’m just bored and need to fight for something. Great! Last time I checked, Muslims were going through an existential crisis, marred at the very least by poverty, illiteracy and the inability of all of us to agree on anything remotely relevant.  Islam is a beautiful religion. Lets spend our free time practicing it, helping others follow it and helping the poor. When we have overcome our collective troubles and fed and empowered even the weakest amongst us, we can shift our attention to figuring out how to celebrate Eid on the same day.

As an appointed bureaucrat, supreme court justice or elected official of a country with a majority Muslim population, it is our duty to dictate what is morally acceptable to our population. Shame on you, the government of Pakistan. Once the dust settles, you deserve the greatest blame for turning a farce into an international incident.  It is your job to transcend the knee-jerk sways of your people and implement the functions of a government, much like how every other government acts in the face of impassioned protests. Never mind that you once again managed to associate our country’s great name with a message so myopic that it was barely comprehensible to the outside world.  Lets not even bother to romanticize the message of a nation’s founder who, in his inaugural address, promised that the state would not interfere in the religious affairs of its citizens, much less dictate to a nation of 170 million what they should consider “sacrilegious.” All of this pales in comparison to the amazingly swift manner in which you acted. You may have noticed our country has had some problems as of late. If you could only use the same efficiency to value and save human lives, we might not care so much about your moral inclinations.

On the bright side, when it is time to eradicate corruption from the halls of our government, we do know how to get your attention.
I am a spiritual leader or Imam and I found the views on Facebook to be offensive so I instigated a protest in my neighborhood. What in the world were you doing on Facebook in the first place?
The author can be reached at Farazarana@gmail.com

12 Comments

Filed under Islam, Islamism, Pakistan, Religion

12 responses to “FacebookGate

  1. yasserlatifhamdani

    Mr Rana… Brilliant!

  2. Hayyer

    Christ has been blasphemed in the west without anyone being attacked even though the church was offended. Think of the Kazantzakias novel filmed by Scorcese ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, or the rock musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ by Rice and Lloyd Weber.

  3. Hamud

    One question is continuously striking me: Does a provincial high court have the legal competency to ban anything for the whole country?

  4. Ron

    Awesome !

    Rational thinking at its FINEST.

  5. Rashid

    AT A DEBATE IN USA
    (Philadelphia Feb 27, 2006)

    On February 27, 2006 a debate, How Far is Too
    Far?, over the cartoons controversy was hosted by
    The Free Library of Philadelphia. A few days
    before this The Philadelphia Inquirer reproduced
    the infamous Danish cartoons of the Holy Prophet
    Muhammad (peace be upon him). I believe this is
    the only major newspaper in U.S.A. to reproduce
    them.
    The debate was in a huge hall, packed with an
    audience, mostly Caucasian Americans, i.e. Jews
    and Christians. And I believe my wife and I were
    the only Muslims among the audience (as there
    were no comments by any attendee who acknowledged
    being a Muslim or sounded like a Muslim). I
    got the chance at the end to make a few comments
    when the microphone was handed to me. I covered
    and replied to all the major comments made by non-
    Muslim panel members and audience. I was able to
    make my comments in an unfriendly environment
    without any fear, as I followed Hazart Mirza
    Ghulam Ahmad’s approach. I was neither apologetic
    about Islam and Muslims nor I took the other
    extreme approach. Hazrat Mirza sahib’s approach
    was simple: The best way to convince the opponents
    of Islam and spread Islam in the West is to play according
    to the rules of the game established by them.
    The Panel included: New Yorker Cartoon Editor
    Bob Mankoff, Daily News cartoonist Signe
    Wilkinson, Temple journalism Professor Karen
    Turner, Dr. Shams Inati, Professor of Islamic
    Theology at Villanova (she is a Christian, originally
    from Egypt), and Daisy Khan, Executive Director
    of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
    Briefly my points were:
    1. The Prophet Abraham had two sons, Isaac
    and Ishmael. Among Isaac’s progeny is Moses and
    among Ishmael’s progeny is Muhammad. So, I
    consider these cartoons to be anti-Semitic and the
    publication of these cartoons should be declared an
    anti-Semitic act and newspapers should be stopped
    from publishing this anti-Semitic material. Both Mr.
    Mankoff and Ms. Wilkinson were not expecting
    such a comment, and the expressions on their faces
    acknowledged it.
    2. Muslims revere Prophets Moses and Jesus
    the same as they revere Prophet Muhammad. So a
    Muslim will never make cartoons of revered
    personalities of Jews and Christians.
    3. In almost every Muslim country there are
    political movements whose leaders are Mullahs
    (Muslim equivalent of Rabbis). These politicians
    assert that their political agenda is synonymous with
    Islam, and to oppose them is to oppose Islam itself.
    Despite this the newspaper cartoonists in Muslim
    countries, including Pakistan, make their cartoons.
    If newspapers in Muslim and Arab countries make
    cartoons of Jewish Rabbis who represent a Zionist
    political movement, this does not justify the
    European newspapers’ decision to publish cartoons
    mocking Prophet Muhammad. Newspapers should
    not compare apples to oranges. This comment was
    in response to an audience member who made a
    comment about cartoons of Jewish/Israeli Rabbis
    published in an English language daily in Saudi
    Arabia.
    4. Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad more
    than they love their own fathers. And they know
    details of his life more than they know about their
    fathers as well. And as they know that whatever
    these cartoons are presenting is not true, so it hurts
    every Muslim including the moderate ones.
    European public should not alienate this moderate
    and peaceful Muslim majority.
    5. In Islam, the death penalty is reserved only
    for a murderer, and even in that case the victim’s
    family is encouraged to forgive and spare the life of
    the perpetrator. So all these so-called fatwas to kill
    the author and the publisher of these cartoons have
    no religious value and no legal value. They are all
    non-sense and I condemn them. But at the same
    time we should not ignore human nature. Those
    who are madly in love cannot think rationally, their
    statements are not rational, and their actions are not
    rational. And this is true not only of Muslims but all
    over the world, including the United States.
    Muslims are madly in love with their beloved, i.e.
    Prophet Muhammad. So, all these so-called fatwas
    are nothing more than “matters of the heart”. This
    comment was in reply to a member of the audience
    who referred to fatwas issued by some Muslims.
    I thank Allah for providing me an opportunity
    to defend the honour of the Holy Prophet
    Muhammad, in the presence of an educated non-
    Muslim audience.

  6. Rashid

    AT A DEBATE IN USA

    After publication of Danish Cartoons and their republication in US newspapers, in 2006, I was at a debate in Philadelphia. May be you would like to read the way I handled and replied to questions/ comments by important media personalities in US.
    At a debate in the U.S.A.
    by Rashid Jahangiri, M.D.
    The Light, June 2006

    On February 27, 2006 a debate, How Far is Too
    Far?, over the cartoons controversy was hosted by
    The Free Library of Philadelphia. A few days
    before this The Philadelphia Inquirer reproduced
    the infamous Danish cartoons of the Holy Prophet
    Muhammad (peace be upon him). I believe this is
    the only major newspaper in U.S.A. to reproduce
    them.
    The debate was in a huge hall, packed with an
    audience, mostly Caucasian Americans, i.e. Jews
    and Christians. And I believe my wife and I were
    the only Muslims among the audience (as there
    were no comments by any attendee who acknowledged
    being a Muslim or sounded like a Muslim). I
    got the chance at the end to make a few comments
    when the microphone was handed to me. I covered
    and replied to all the major comments made by non-
    Muslim panel members and audience. I was able to
    make my comments in an unfriendly environment
    without any fear, as I followed Hazart Mirza
    Ghulam Ahmad’s approach. I was neither apologetic
    about Islam and Muslims nor I took the other
    extreme approach. Hazrat Mirza sahib’s approach
    was simple: The best way to convince the opponents
    of Islam and spread Islam in the West is to play according
    to the rules of the game established by them.
    The Panel included: New Yorker Cartoon Editor
    Bob Mankoff, Daily News cartoonist Signe
    Wilkinson, Temple journalism Professor Karen
    Turner, Dr. Shams Inati, Professor of Islamic
    Theology at Villanova (she is a Christian, originally
    from Egypt), and Daisy Khan, Executive Director
    of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
    Briefly my points were:
    1. The Prophet Abraham had two sons, Isaac
    and Ishmael. Among Isaac’s progeny is Moses and
    among Ishmael’s progeny is Muhammad. So, I
    consider these cartoons to be anti-Semitic and the
    publication of these cartoons should be declared an
    anti-Semitic act and newspapers should be stopped
    from publishing this anti-Semitic material. Both Mr.
    Mankoff and Ms. Wilkinson were not expecting
    such a comment, and the expressions on their faces
    acknowledged it.
    2. Muslims revere Prophets Moses and Jesus
    the same as they revere Prophet Muhammad. So a
    Muslim will never make cartoons of revered
    personalities of Jews and Christians.
    3. In almost every Muslim country there are
    political movements whose leaders are Mullahs
    (Muslim equivalent of Rabbis). These politicians
    assert that their political agenda is synonymous with
    Islam, and to oppose them is to oppose Islam itself.
    Despite this the newspaper cartoonists in Muslim
    countries, including Pakistan, make their cartoons.
    If newspapers in Muslim and Arab countries make
    cartoons of Jewish Rabbis who represent a Zionist
    political movement, this does not justify the
    European newspapers’ decision to publish cartoons
    mocking Prophet Muhammad. Newspapers should
    not compare apples to oranges. This comment was
    in response to an audience member who made a
    comment about cartoons of Jewish/Israeli Rabbis
    published in an English language daily in Saudi
    Arabia.
    4. Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad more
    than they love their own fathers. And they know
    details of his life more than they know about their
    fathers as well. And as they know that whatever
    these cartoons are presenting is not true, so it hurts
    every Muslim including the moderate ones.
    European public should not alienate this moderate
    and peaceful Muslim majority.
    5. In Islam, the death penalty is reserved only
    for a murderer, and even in that case the victim’s
    family is encouraged to forgive and spare the life of
    the perpetrator. So all these so-called fatwas to kill
    the author and the publisher of these cartoons have
    no religious value and no legal value. They are all
    non-sense and I condemn them. But at the same
    time we should not ignore human nature. Those
    who are madly in love cannot think rationally, their
    statements are not rational, and their actions are not
    rational. And this is true not only of Muslims but all
    over the world, including the United States.
    Muslims are madly in love with their beloved, i.e.
    Prophet Muhammad. So, all these so-called fatwas
    are nothing more than “matters of the heart”. This
    comment was in reply to a member of the audience
    who referred to fatwas issued by some Muslims.
    I thank Allah for providing me an opportunity
    to defend the honour of the Holy Prophet
    Muhammad, in the presence of an educated non-
    Muslim audience.

  7. Jimbo

    When muslims start respecting other religions and their icons such as those of Buddhism, Chisristianity, Hinduism, etc then they might get some respect back for Mohammad. Right now, its a one way street, Muslims demand a lot of respect but refuse to admit or even atone for their own arrogance or violence that they visit on others.

  8. yasserlatifhamdani

    Interestingly if you search “Muhammad” (PBUH) from Pakistan, the results are “restricted”.

    Isn’t this a great blow for those who are actually trying to defend the honor of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in academic debate?

    It seems that the PTA has lost all balance.

  9. Sam

    Muslims call Jesus is just a prophet, not son-of-god as believed by Christians.

    This deliberate degradation of status, by Muslims is insulting at best and self serving.

    Why should christians and other countries ban Koran for insulting Christians on this basis ?

  10. Sam

    correction for my previous posting.

    “Why should christians and other countries not ban Koran for insulting Christians on this basis ?”

    Either you agree to this, or give up peurile “i am offended all the time” cries.

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