The fire of Islamophobia has been lit again leading to ugly events that have put the Muslim and Western worlds on a collision course. This time again the trigger was blasphemous images of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), published in France. Following the republication and display of these in a French classroom by a teacher, the latter was murdered while three people were killed in a separate attack on a Nice church. The blasphemous cartoon first published by a Danish Newspaper in 2005 and then by Charlie Hebdo; is one of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a lit fuse protruding. This has created a rift between the Muslim worlds and France; as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam. The caricatures in question are seen by them as offensive and Islamophobic because they are perceived to link Islam with terrorism.
The French President Macron’s combative rhetoric in the aftermath of the controversy has not helped matters. Instead of addressing the issue in a statesmanlike fashion, Macron has held forth in a neo-colonial fashion about the ‘crisis’ Islam faces. This has led to certain questionable reactions from some in the Muslim world; former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in a blog post wrote that Muslims had a right to be “angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”. Such a response from a senior statesman is bound to raise eyebrows.
Among non-Muslim leaders Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given a very balanced reaction to the ballooning crisis. While defending freedom of expression, Justin made it clear that this freedom was “not without limits” and should not “arbitrarily and needlessly hurt” certain communities. Certainly, Emmanuel Macron can learn a thing or two about how to compassionately handle delicate matters from Trudeau.
France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million or more out of a population of 67 million. Anti-Muslim hatred has significantly risen in Europe in recent years. Far-right extremism and xenophobia have fuelled Islamophobia in Western countries, where terror attacks by Daesh and al-Qaida as well as a migrant crisis are used as excuses to legitimize those views. There have been intermittent attacks on mosques in France since 2007, when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs, and a pig’s head was placed among them.
Religion can be a powerful and life-altering experience and is important to many in their lives. French authority & the Western World has no idea how important is Prophet Muhammad in Muslim World. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is deeply revered by Muslims and any kind of visual depiction is forbidden in Islam. The caricatures in question are seen by them as offensive and Islamophobic because they are perceived to link Islam with terrorism.
The fallout with Muslim World is deepening amid renewed French support for the right to show caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. With a view to overcome from this crisis, French authority should promote openness and show genuine respect to Islam & Prophet Muhammad by demonstrating empathy and compassion through words and actions. By opening up and learning about Islam & Prophet Muhammad, encouraging and practicing religious tolerance is not only better for the French authority, but for the country’s future as a whole. France should protect the Muslim’s Religious right as guaranteed by the Constitution, treat all Muslims with kindness and take effective measures to alleviate tension and create a climate of respect and dignified living together for Muslims in that country.