Somali confusion over the Cartoon Controversy.

By Shaacir Mataan (

Around the world, Muslims? anger is boiling over. Protests against the caricature drawings of our beloved prophet Mohammed (May peace and blessings of Almighty Allah be upon him) in Europe? so-called ?free press? is spreading up like a wildfire in the Islamic world. How could there be one uniform reaction of people in places as far flung as Nigeria, Somalia, Russia, and Indonesia, Lebanon etc, where there are geographical and racial differences? One wonders. Well, what non-Muslims are oblivious is the deeply held universal concept of Ummah, or the community of Believers. In Islam, Muslims belong to the Muslim nation. Race or ethnicity takes the back seat to the prerogative of this notion.

Sadly, the tragedy of the global Muslim outcry came close to home. In Boosaaso, a port city in the Northeastern part of Somalia, a teenage boy was crushed to death in a stampede caused by rioting mobs running from police fire.

Muslims have every reason to be angry. The average Muslim is fed up with the demeaning portrayal of our beautiful faith in western media. Fanaticism, terrorism, fundamentalism and all these negatively coined alien terms are easily associated now with Islam and is engraved in the western psyche thanks to the conceited campaign of vilification of everything Islamic by western media.

Every Muslim, whether you label him/her moderate or militant, has vowed not to sit down idle this time though. Muslims can?t take anymore the bigoted Islam-phobic invectives that have become so fashionable in the West these days.

Nevertheless the reactionary ways Muslims try to counter these provocations is absolutely wrong and problematic.

The loss of life, the mob reaction, the burning of flags, the ruining of properties, is appalling and offensive to say the least. The Muslim response everywhere is by and large bereft of rationale. The folly and foolishness of the protesters is really giving credence to the European foregone inference that Islam is violent and backward religion.

These violent actions are contrary to the sayings of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ? As reported by Tirmidhi:

?Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well, you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong, you will do wrong. Rather accustom yourselves to do good, if people do good, and not to do wrong if they do evil?

Wouldn?t it have been noble to see Muslims taking heed of the last decree of this wise tradition?

Wouldn?t it have been notable to see Muslims protesting against the suicide bombings and spilling of the Muslim blood in Muslim lands?

As for the Somali religious groups, it is kind mind boggling to fathom why they don?t rally against the cold-blooded warlords and their marauding militias, the road blacks and the arbitrary confiscation of properties? Wait a second here, wasn?t it the numerous clan based Islamic courts that where taking away other people?s belongings?
Every so often the Ulemma?s priorities and focus look as if they are misguided and hypocritical.

The pain and hurt caused by these wicked cartoons is beyond measure. Some may ask if you have a strong conviction in your faith, why a hypothetically ?satirical? cartoon could become so offending and so upsetting. The gist of this is the sacred can be ridiculed and made fun of while the secular is sheltered of any derision.

Forget about the fact that one of cartoons was depicting Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as the ultimate terrorist.

Well, The Muslim hue and cry is not about the cartoons anymore, it is about the historical attitude and the perpetual arrogance of the West. It is the hypocrisy and the double talk. You know what I am talking about. It is the lack of development, it is the economic stagnation, and it is the suffering of the Muslim masses at the hands of authoritarian regimes, supported by the West. It is the occupation and invasion of Muslim lands by the West. It is about recounting of Muslim deaths as ?collateral damage?. It is about the carnages in Fallujah, Chechnya, Palestine, Bosnia etc. Everywhere you look at; it is the Muslims who are at the receiving ends of indiscriminate bombings from suicidal fanatics and from laser-guided smart-bombs.

In Europe, It is about the Colonial past. It is the ban of Hijab in France and Holland. It is the alienation of Muslims and their reduction to second class citizens. It is the xenophobia and prevailing fear of Islam in the heart of Europe.

For us Somalis, predominantly Sunni Muslims, It is the propping up of mouthy fraud charlatans, like Ayaan Hirsi, a Somali avowed apostate, who is neither a scholar of any sort, let alone on Islam nor a captivating thinker, and whose whole claim of subjugation and escape from arranged marriage to an older man is comparable to James Frey?s (author of Million Little Pieces) fake addiction to drugs,.

Like Frey, Ayaan managed to make up million little lies about her nurture. She cunningly came up with unabashed charade against Islam to be in the limelight, thus becoming the token torchbearer of European Islam-phobia. Then, As usual the European hardliners amazingly rewarded this indecorous lady to parliament seat. Somalis are fully aware that her phony allegations hold no water whatsoever. It is a fraudulent feint ala Hollywood.

Some Somalis, thanks to the Italian colonial legacy in Southern Somalia, are familiar with Cicciolina, the Hungarian born porn star. She proved that it doesn?t take that much to join into the open chambers of Europe. But unlike Miss Ayaan, Instead of spewing hatred and inciting discord among people, Cicciolina wanted to patch up things. Cicciolina in her naiveté and eccentricity had wildly proposed to sleep with Saddam to avert war in Iraq. That was the first Gulf war.

Most Somalis I know are quite confounded with the concept of freedom of speech. Is there any limitation to what one can say? What is hate mongering? What is heretical?
It has become an open season to intentionally bash and provoke Muslims all in the name and disguise of free speech. But then free speech, as we are told, is inherently the conception of the civilized and liberal west and thus the west have a free rein to interpret it as they fancy. Anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist remarks in the media are strongly shunned and opposed and are seen as an incitement. But when it comes to Muslim bashing, it is a free speech. The Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad deftly elucidates the whole hypocrisy in another cartoon.

Cartoon from Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad. Counter-clockwise from top right: "This one is anti-Semitic", "this one is racist", and ?those fall under free speech

After September 11, Somalis became acquainted with so many encroachments of their rights. Most of them are petrified since things changed for worse. None dares to voice their anger publicly lest they became targeted and accused of terrorist sympathizers. Nevertheless, Somalis in Minnesota are very grateful to the local major newspapers; Startribune & Pioneer Press for their wise decision of sparing us of such hurt and pain and republishing these insensitive cartoons.

As far as our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Pbup) is concerned, no matter how hard they try to disrespect or insult his name; His defense is from the divine as Allah praises him in the holy Quran:

?Wa-inaka lacalaa khuliqin cathiim"

?And verily, you (O Muhammad!) Are on an exalted standard of character? ? or as another English transliteration puts it:

?And Verily, You (Muhammad (PBUH) you have been created with awesome character!?

Muslim should take comfort in the fact that Allah has sent the Prophet Muhammad as a mercy to all the worlds. As the Qur'an states:

"We have not sent you but as a Messenger to all mankind?

He was the best example in humanity and we should all strive to follow his tradition of wisdom, harmony, forbearance and reason. If he would have been alive today, the prophet (pbuh) would have disregarded these bigoted decadent cartoonists. He put up with worse harassments and persecutions of Qureish tribesmen for more than a decade by just being patient and peaceful.

Definitely, the violent riots in the Muslim world and extreme sacrilegious expression in Europe calls for an honest dialogue and understanding between the Muslim world and the West.

Most Somalis muse on and on about the uncompromising convictions of extremists in both sides ? the Euro-fascist islamo-phopes and the fanatical militants in the Muslim world. They deem the chasm between these radical groups, calls for this urgent need of dialogue for the sake of peace and calm to return.

And for all people in this world, of different races and religions, it is fitting to refer to Rodney King?s quote after the infamous Los Angeles riots. ?Can we all get along??

Shaacir Mataan
Minneapolis, MN