The Message

Joen’s has written about the fiasco with the illustration of the Prophet Mohammad, since he’s Danish the topic is obviously closer to him than others out there. I actually had to sit back and think about this for a while before jumping and offering how I view this topic. I rarely delve into the religious on the Kode; I pertain to the fact that there’s a time and a place for these things and in all honesty I don’t think I’m well versed enough in this area to rant and rave about it. So I’ll try an offer an explanation of why the Muslims around the world are reacting in such a way.

To cut a long story short a Danish newspaper decided to publish 12 illustrations that depict the Prophet. So you say to me, who gives a shit? Didn’t they make movies about Jesus, several times, and he’s meant to be God, surely the Prophet and what some artist thinks he looks like 1800 years after the fact shouldn’t really matter (one difference between Christianity and Islam, I’ll get into this a little further down, is that there is no iconography in Islam). I guess that’s what the Danish newspapers thought as well, which is where their naivety of the situation and even complete disregard for some’s beliefs comes to light. You see if you knew anything about the religion you wouldn’t have published those pictures. Not because anyone is telling you not to. This isn’t a question of Free Speech. This is a question of understanding and acting in a responsible manner in a way it’s also about respect. If they honestly didn’t think that this would get a reaction then I’m completely baffled as to why they wanted to publish these illustrations in the first place.

In order to explain this point of view I’m going to try and explain the reason I believe that the Prophet should not be depicted in images. Islam has got a great deal in common with Christianity. In fact if you’re Muslim you have to believe in Christianity. There are however some fundamental differences. The main one is the fact that Muslims don’t believe that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God, he was also a Prophet of God. That’s where things differ effectively, the fact that God is neither born nor does he give birth, therefore he doesn’t have a son, and Mohammad is his Messenger.

See that’s a very important aspect of this entire thing. When Islam came to be people where still worshiping statues and pagan religions where still practiced extensively. So it was the duty of the early converts to spread the message. Nothing can take anything away from the Message. Mohammad made sure that this was the case, going to so far as recording his faults as well. After all he was human.

This isn’t about self censorship, it’s about conveying your thoughts in a respectful manner. In a considerate manner. That is how you enlighten people. That is how you open their eyes to what you’ re trying to do and say. Did they not think why a movie like The Message (chronicles the birth of Islam) never showed the Prophet? What did they think they were being clever? Cutting edge?

Many people don’t realise this but the Koran is not merely the ‘Muslim’s Bible’. It’s our miracle. It’s what we have to place our faith in. There’s a reason why it’s called faith. Every heavenly religion has got a miracle. Jesus performed many miracles, Moses parted the sea, you get the picture. So what is Islam’s miracle? It’s a book, that effectively is the word of God. That is what you have to believe, that’s where you make your leap of faith. You have to believe that angels came down to an illiterate man in his 40s and told him to read and write there and then. So the written word in Islam is a supreme thing. The Arabic language is what the message is convey in. Ever wonder why all those Middle Eastern buildings and Mosques had loads of writing on them? Koranic verses to spread the message.

So why get so pissed off about drawings? The only reason I can think of to be honest is because people are fundamentally lazy and dumb. It’s a sad thing, but it’s ultimately true. People will see something and forever imagine it in that way. There is no way that anyone can actually tell what Mohammad or Jesus or whomever looked like. By drawing something you’re effectively stamping it in people’s minds. You’re taking something away from the Message. This is not about Mohammad. It never was and hopefully it never will be. If a fuss wasn’t made for these illustrations we’d be going to watch “Brad Pitt is the Prophet Mo”.

I’m not saying the Danish newspaper didn’t have the right to publish those illustrations. Not say thing that at all, but in the same way doing something that is so effectively disrespectful to the practitioners of the faith is obviously going to illicit some form of reaction. In this case it’s anger. It’s to be expected and they should have had the forethought before running the pictures. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to.

As to the reactions this has had, well to be honest that’s just embarrassing. Burning the Danish flag is just retarded; all the Danes I’ve met have been FAR too nice, in every sense of the word. Unfortunately ignorance leads to people acting in really stupid ways. You have to direct your anger at someone or something. So the question is if Muslims are not allowed to depict the Prophet, should those that don’t believe care? Not really no. But if you’re inclined to talk about a topic, make sure to do your research. Learn about it. Try and understand and respect someone’s belief. If you’ve chosen to believe in Darwin’s theory, good for you, that however doesn’t give you the license to disrespect someone else’s beliefs. In my mind that’s wrong.

I’ll interject in here and say I’m not very religious. My practice of the faith effectively lies in the fundamentals. Be nice and civil to one another. Treat others how you would want to be treated. Never accept injustice, both to yourself and to others around you, stay clean, don’t pig out just because you can. Little things. I will fast during Ramadan (read the last paragraph) because I think it’s a great idea and something that I think many people should do because they will gain more than they give. I don’t pray and I enjoy a glass of wine every once in a while. My point is I’m not an expert and maybe not the right person to talk about this, these are my thoughts and opinions and I’m always open to yours.


  1. I commented over at Noscope, but just wanted to say here that the Danish newspaper was clearly out of line. It’s one thing to be “edgy” in the media, but it’s a whole other thing to be blatantly offensive based on culture or belief. Sorry bro. :(

    1 Nathan Smith
    Quote | 3/2/2006
  2. Hello Khaled,

    After reading the article above, I feel that I need to point that I do not agree with you stating that “Islam has got a great deal in common with Christianity”. Together I disagree with your statement that “if you’re Muslim you have to believe in Christianity”.

    Firstly we both have very different fundament beliefs (as you start to point out later in the article). I, as a Christian believe that Jesus was the begotten Son of God, and that He died for our sins so that we can enter heaven. As Muslims believe that he was just a prophet, be believe that he is not only just a prophet, but also the saviour of mankind. He was God incarnate. Yes you would state that this is blasphemous since I am saying that God became man. The reason I state this is because; like you I believe in the Bible - which is a miracle to us. The bible clearly states that “God so loved the world that he gave is only son, so that whoever believes in him shall live and not die” (John 3:16). We place our faith in the scriptures too… and I would like to point out a few things from my site :

    Throughout the Qur’an, we find that Jesus is always referred to as a prophet, much like all the other prophets. In Sura 2:136 he is joined with Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and Moses as simply one of the prophets. In Sura 43:59 he is mentioned as nothing more than a servant, and in Sura 5:78 as only a messenger. Yet in eleven instances in the Qur’an Jesus is given the title of “al-Masihu Isa,” The Messiah Jesus (see Surahs 4:157,171; 3:45) or “al-Masihu Maryam,” the Messiah, son of Mary (see 9:31). In all 11 cases this title applies to Jesus alone. Islam, therefore, seems to join with Christianity in declaring Jesus the long-awaited Messiah promised to the Jews through the prophets of old.
    Not only that, the Qur’an intensifies this title by applying to the title Masihu the article “al.” In all cases, without exception, the title is written “al-Masihu.” The definite article positively distinguishes him from all the other prophets.

    But that is where the confusion comes in. For nowhere in the Qur’an does it say who or what the Messiah is. It gives no explanation for the Messiah. In fact, great scholars in Muslim history like Zamakhshari and Baidawi admitted that al-Masihu was not an original Arabic word. Why, then, does the Qur’an acknowledge that Jesus was the Messiah, yet give no delineation of what the word Messiah means? Why give him a unique title and not explain its significance?

    Since the Qur’an gives us no definition for the Messiah, we must do what the Qur’an encourages Muslims to do when they have any question. In Surahs 10:94 and 21:7 the Qur’an calls on Muslims to “ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee,” or in other words, those who have the scripture, the Bible. Jews and Christians find in the Bible that the title for Messiah is reserved for the specially-chosen one of God, one man alone, who stands above all other men, prophets and apostles included.

    Since this is getting rather long; I want to point out : In Qur’an Sura 2:177 ‘Ibn ul-sabeeli’ means ’son of the road’ = traveller, Qur’an allows possibility of God’s son (Sura 39:4)
    Christ is Qur’an as primary revelation, while Muhammad = Gospel writers as secondary (like Hadith, Sira, Tariq, Tafsir)

    Finally I ask :
    “God’s word does not change” = (Suras 3:2,78; 4:135; 6:34; 10:64; 18:26; 35:42; 50:28-29).

    “No difference between Bible and Qur’an” (Sura 2:136; 3:2-3).

    “Muslims must ask Christians” (Sura 10:94; 21:7)

    “Muslims are to believe in the Bible” (Sura 4:136)

    “Christians are to believe in the Bible” (Sura 5:46-47, 68)

    With all the above, does this show that Christianity is the only valid and the only true faith ? Even the Muslims in the Sura are asked to believe in the bible. The bible clearly states that Jesus was and is the Son of God.

    I know you probably would say that the Bible was changed… if so then please explain your findings regarding the changes and how it was corrupt.

    I think that line of argument is simply used as a scapegoat to get around any issue that a Muslim is presented with.

    As much as we disagree in the above, I have written a very different view of the whole ‘cartoon issue’ which you can find :

    Hope you have a good day and I am sorry that this is very long !
    Many thanks

    Please feel free to contact me if you need to talk about the raised issues.

    2 Arun
    Quote | 3/2/2006
  3. Khaled I’ve been thinking about this whole thing for days as well. First of all thanks for your explanation!

    You’re basically saying people should simply treat Islam with some more respect, including not publishing pictures like the ones that appeared in the newspapers. While I tend to agree with this there’s one thing that disturbs me in most Muslims, whether they’re in fundamentalist middle eastern countries or in my own country, the Netherlands:

    Islam and it’s followers should REALLY learn how to cope with criticism, satire and even hate. It’s some sort of ‘renaissance’ that needs to happen. In the middle ages people got stoned, burned, drowned or killed in another horrible way if they did something similar to what these newspapers did. Right now however we’re living the 21st century. Most beliefs have learned how to cope with ‘non believers’ and any kind of behavior they may confront them with in a civil way. When someone who obviously doesn’t have a clue calls you an asshole, what do you do? Most of us would shake their head and ignore the ignorant person. I believe this unability to ignore criticism or satire from ‘non believers’ is the most important thing Islam MUST improve upon. Imagine all those people we see on TV going out in the streets, screaming, threatening to kill people, burning flags etc. etc. would simply engage in a civil discussion just like you are doing by posting this entry… what a great thing that would be now wouldn’t it?

    I completely fail to understand the extremely agressive reactions. I hope one day Islam will overcome this thing. It will make Islam a much better religion and gain a lot of respect internationally.

    3 Marco
    Quote | 3/2/2006
  4. Nathan - It’s cool bro, even though you might think that I’m upset reading the post, I’m not really. I’m slightly disappointed but that’s only because I’m an optimist and stuff like this reminds me that we’re in a shitty world, however it’s always getting better. 100 years ago there would have been a war because of this. Baby steps we’ll all learn to tollerate and understand each other.

    Arun - I do wish you’d stayed on topic because you’ve obviously got a lot to say. I didn’t write the post to promote a religion versus another religion and to be honest I’m not interested in getting into that discussion. I’m happy that you’ve got such conviction for your religion, that’s a great thing. It’s interesting how you’ve even countered comments and arguements that I didn’t actually raise, but that’s ok. I’ll be reading your view on the illustration on your website shortly.

    Marco - I couldn’t agree with you more. Unfortunately the world of Islam had it’s renaissance over 1000 years ago. I’m not going to talk about what that entailed but it’ll be exceptionally difficult to do that again. That time is over.

    You’re right critisim should be accepted and if offensive or rude or whatever, should be countered with a civil manner. If instead of burning flags the countries brought the Danish newspaper out to task and explained what a grevious error they had commited in the view of muslims then maybe the Danish newspaper might have issued an appology and people could just move on, instead of trying to promote freedom of speech, which is most definitely not the issue here.

    4 Khaled
    Quote | 4/2/2006
  5. ah, just want to add some explanation. The other reason why islam forbided to draw Muhammad’s face is because islam dont want any race to be connected to muhammad, for example arab race. so in the end all race in the world (not just arab) will accepted islam more generously. Christianity (sorry, it just my opinion)had this problem, by picturing Jesus as a white man,some white man felt some superiority among other race, thus created a slavery.

    5 anto
    Quote | 4/2/2006
  6. Your entry is a very level-headed response which I appreciate immensely.

    I quickly want to make sure that by discussing this myself on my blog, I did not want to offend anyone - the newspaper has already done a fine job of that. I also want to point out that I have nothing but respect for you, Khaled, I hope you know that by now.

    That said, I’d like to sum up what I think, as shortly as possible.

    1. The newspaper should have expected consequences by drawing religious iconography, just as they would if they had drawn the nazi swastika.
    2. The newspaper is right to apologize for offending, because that, they have.
    3. The newspaper was not wrong in posting these images, just stupid. I still believe this is within freedom of the press, bad decision as it is.
    4. Now, the consequence is that Denmark, not only the newspaper, is feeling the consequences. This is wrong: only the newspaper should feel the repurcussions.

    Khaled, I think you and I are fairly in agreement with atleast 1, 2 and 4. 3 is the one that deserves elaboration.

    I understand Islam’s place next to Christianity back in the days, and I fully understand (now) why it’s so wrong to depict the Prophet.

    A story went in the papers after this blew up; it was about a kid who had drawn the Prophet with his crayons. This harmless drawing made an uproar among all the local muslims. Of course the kid couldn’t understand this because, what’s wrong with drawing?

    This depicts a problem; I cannot see how it can ever be possible to uphold this rule of not drawing the Prophet. It’s the same as the ten commandments. People kill other people. We know it’s wrong, and we try our best to avoid it, but it’s going to happen.

    The big difference between “thou shalt not kill” and “do not depict the Prophet” is that one is commonly accepted, the other is not. My sincere wish for all the peoples of one religion would be: let all the peoples of an other or no religion alone, and live with them side by side. Let them go to hell for drawing our Prophet, but we know better. And vica versa.

    6 Joen
    Quote | 4/2/2006
  7. Excellent post Khaled.

    Another reason for the uproar that wasn’t stated explicitly by anyone (on this site at least) is that there is actually a ban on all religious imagery, connected to the Mosaic Commandment against graven images.

    And technically only Eastern Orthodoxy has Iconography in the world of Christianity. Some components of the West (Rome and some flavors of Protestant Christianity) have ‘Religious Art’.

    And Anto… dude Slavery has been around since at least 3100 BC. And Jesus was never depicted as ‘white’ until the 10th - 11th century. He was depicted as what he was, Jewish.


    7 Chris J. Davis
    Quote | 4/2/2006
  8. Khaled, great article.
    I appreciated reading this a lot, even if I don’t agree with you on all points.

    For the record, I wasn’t aware that depiction of Mohammed wasn’t allowed before this case. I think I have known at some point, but when you aren’t a muslim yourself, it gets stored in a low priority bin together with the jewish rules of how to handle your meat and vegetable dishes and stuff like that.

    I’ll be writing an article on the points I disagree with, so forgive me if I don’t elaborate right here and now.

    Thanks for the article.

    8 Brian Meidell
    Quote | 4/2/2006
  9. Asalam mu aleikum!

    I read that article too… and I think I generally grasp why I am not supposed to depict the prophet (pbuh) myself. My current understanding of things though, is that the miracle of the Quran has been provided to us, and it is for us to follow, in our own conduct. What it isn’t however, is a collection of rules for non-muslims to follow, or a standard for me to judge others by. This is where I think a lot of insecure muslims fall off track. I think rather than waste their time crying about some illustrations or burning flags, etc… they could better show their love for Allah by doing more good in this world and showing more compassion and consderation for others. Cry babies ;) We will all endure some suffering/disrespect in this life — this is to be expected. It does not excuse us from our own bad behaviour or misuidance.

    Sermon end 8)

    9 Ryan Mahoney
    Quote | 5/2/2006
  10. Joen you can’t offend me if you tried buddy, you know the respect for Denmark and it’s people is something that in many ways has been built by my friendship with Mike, yourself and to a lesser extent Jonas (whom I don’t talk to as much as you guys, who is also a gent as well). So me writing this post was just an attempt to try and explain and make sure that the Danish people don’t think that all Muslims are crazies.

    One thing that baffles me is where the hell they got Danish flags to burn. I swear I wouldn’t know where to start if I wanted one and I live in London (I’d probably but I doubt they’ve got something similar in Syria for example). Where the hell did they get the Danish flags from dammit :).

    I’m glad we’ve all said our share and we’ve all got a better understanding of the situation, which effecively makes this blogging malarkey even more important by promoting discussions and understanding. Thanks everyone for their comments.

    10 Khaled
    Quote | 5/2/2006
  11. I have one more question really in this respect. It’s something I’ve always wondered about. Most religions state that God / Allah is the allmighty.

    Given this assumption, what in the world gives any human being the idea they have to act on behalf of God or Allah?

    I mean: If He is really allmighty he’ll strike those who oppose him with His vengeance himself now won’t he? This question keeps on popping up in my mind every time I see the news…

    11 Marco
    Quote | 5/2/2006
  12. I still don’t really know how to feel about this issue. I am agnostic. I try not to offend others; however, I am mighty opinionated and often do. The thing is, it is very hard to offend me. I don’t hold very many things sacred.

    I think what is perhaps most important about this issues is the bias of the newspaper. Who owns it and what are they trying to do. If the intent of the newspaper was to degrade a group of individuals then I think that is wrong.

    12 David
    Quote | 5/2/2006
  13. This is a really interesting story to debate but a very sad one. This has all led to the inevitable violence which simply strengthens the incorrect stereotype europeans seem to hold against Muslims. The paper should not have published the pictures, but now the Danish government seems to be getting the blame. The government holds no power over the press.

    13 Richie B
    Quote | 5/2/2006
  14. Hi Khaled - my Danish friends out here haven’t been so unpopular since the Vikings invaded Europe and developed a reputation for rape and pillage.

    I’m coming to the end of my 14 month stay out here in Copenhagen and not once could I imagine that the peace loving, socially conscious and appeasing Danes could ever get round to insulting anybody - they are such a likeable population and country. But one ignorant and privately owned paper seems to have cost the reputation of Denmark with its former friends in the Middle East.

    But I guess there’s ignorance and extremism on both sides - if the paper knew anything about Islam it would never have printed those images - if the Middle East knew anything about Denmark, or the concept of a privately owned non-governmentally owned/controlled press, they would not be directing the protests at governmental building or the Danish prime minister or people. They are not responsible, or accountable, for the actions of an ignorant paper, which is privately owned.

    I also don’t agree with the concept that - because you have a free press you can print what you want - that is an extremist view of free speech. I think the subsequent reprinting of the images were even more irresponsible given that they were printed after some of the initial protests.

    I just get worried that this whole thing is being taken over by these rather unhelpful ‘extremist’ and more ‘right wing’ element of the Muslim community - the so called ‘fascist Islamic movement’. These are the guys who have the audacity to believe that they are speaking for the whole of Islam - these are the guys who seem to be motivating the younger Muslims into all of this hatred and anger. Don’t you get a feeling that Islam is being taken over by the people intent of using it to motivate people for their own political means and power?

    I sure hope that the moderate Muslim voice of reason comes to the surface and is not drowned out by this angry mob law.

    14 Ben
    Quote | 6/2/2006
  15. In the past few days some rumors have been popping up that all this started with a set of cartoons including three extra ones that were taken out of context. Yet those were (when placed in this wrong context) the most offensive of them all. Can anyone confirm this?

    More and more I’m getting the feeling we’re all being fucked. Like someone is ‘directing’ this whole thing. It just doesn’t make sense. The cartoons have been published months ago. Months later all of a sudden all hell breaks loose. Call me paranoid but I’m getting the feeling someone, or some group of people ‘benefits’ from this stuff…

    15 Marco
    Quote | 7/2/2006
  16. Check out this as well. Oh yes… someone is screwing with all of us and using those who protest in the middle eastern streets as pawns in a whole lotta different chess game.

    16 Marco
    Quote | 7/2/2006
  17. Nice article, good writing and I agree with you that the caricatures should not be published. However, one point still remained unanswered is why is the majority of the Muslim countries so easily manupulated by anger and violence, despite saying they are peace loving and kind. Not that I am not away about Islam (not that much though), I come from Singapore and grow up in a multi-cultural society and have great many Muslim friends myself.

    But the fundamental question as to why is anger and violence (in terms of punishment) so central to the Islamic states at this moment should be looked at and understoodd. I try to explain that in, but it may be flawed.


    17 Kelvin Wong
    Quote | 25/2/2006

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