Sunday, February 05, 2006

OPINION: Get your own house in order before you go tearing others' houses down ...

Around 900 years ago, back in the days when most of Europe was lost in the Dark Ages, the then-deranged Muslim ruler of Jerusalem decided to tear down the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. He was quickly deposed, and the Church hastily rebuilt at Muslim expense. The Muslims apologised.

It was too late. Within a few months, reports of similar attacks on Christian pilgrims and symbols in Palestine had spread across Europe. Pope Urban II seemed powerless to respond. He was more concerned with corruption within the Vatican (much of it his own doing), and with the presence of other allegedly false competing claimants to the Pontiff’s throne.

The Pope's “solution” to the internal crisis was to seek a diversion. He declared the first Crusade. Historians agree that in leading this battle, the then-Pontiff was less interested in defending the honour of Christ or Jerusalem than in shoring up his own power and diverting attention away from crises within the Church.

Hardly 900 years later, the tables have turned. This time it is mainly Muslim leaders who are embroiled in corruption and scandal. The generals, emirs, kings and presidents-for-life that rule most Muslim-majority states (usually with the help of their Western patrons) have failed to effectively deal with the poverty, illiteracy and other economic and social ills too numerous to list here.

Today these rulers are also seeking a diversion. One obscure neo-Conservative Danish newspaper appears to have provided it. What they have also proven is that perhaps Muslims are in the midst of their own Dark Age.

In the past few weeks, two bastions of Middle Eastern liberty and democracy - Libya and Saudi Arabia - have withdrawn ambassadors from Denmark. In many Muslim countries, Danish goods are being boycotted.

In my birthplace of Karachi, frenzied Pakistanis hit the streets with protests that did more damage to the Pakistani economy than to anyone in Denmark. Don’t these people have work to do and mouths to feed? Then again, some of these men (Pakistani women have more important matters to attend to) will protest each time they think a Pakistani batsman is given out lbw unfairly.

And across the Arab world, supermarkets have removed Danish goods from their shelves. Recently, a Syrian Muslim rabble decided that the best way to defend the honour of their Prophet was to attack and burn embassies of at least three European countries. In Gaza, with Israel ready to cut the fiscal umbilical cord, Palestinian gunmen seem content to bite one of the few hands that feeds them by occupying and threatening workers at the headquarters of the European Union.

Had someone unaware of the cartoons viewed the response, they might think Denmark has invaded Bosnia or Iran and was unjustly occupying its territory. They might think Danish settlements replaced Israeli ones popping up in various places across the West Bank. Or perhaps the Danish government had passed laws banning girls from wearing headscarves in schools.

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, an obscure privately-owned newspaper in Denmark published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. One cartoon apparently showed the Prophet standing at the pearly gates of heaven in much the same way as St Peter in the Catholic tradition. Another portrayed the Prophet’s turban as a bomb.

The cartoons were first published in the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten. Most people living in Muslim countries would probably be unable to pronounce the paper’s name, let alone having heard of it.

And so today, I and many other Muslims feel compelled to stand up and be counted. To defend the honour of a man I grew up to regard as a Prophet.

No, not from a dozen cartoons published by a neo-Conservative Danish newspaper. Nor from their reproduction in newspapers across Europe and even New Zealand.

We feel compelled to defend the honour of the Prophet of Islam from the shameful actions of some people claiming to be his followers.

No, we are not ashamed of Islam. We are not ashamed of the Prophet Muhammad. We are not ashamed of the values many of us grew up with, values that are so similar to those of my Anglican school or my many Jewish colleagues and friends.

What upsets and shames us is the depths to which some Muslims have sunk.

I wonder at how low Muslims have stooped that some of them are prepared to resort to mob violence to display their religiosity. In doing so, they appear ignorant of (or worse still, reckless to) the fact that they are mainly targeting the innocent.

The Arabic phrase used by the Qur’an to describe the Prophet Muhammad is “rahmat al-lil a’alameen” (literally “mercy to the worlds”). Like the other Prophets recognised by Islam (including the Messiah Jesus), Muhammad always preferred forgiveness over revenge.

Instead of following his example, many 21st century Muslims are behaving in similar vein to the then uncivilised medieval Europeans did during the Crusades.

Today, some Muslim mobs are attacking anything deemed Danish. They are being egged on by selfish, undemocratic and dictatorial kings, generals, emirs and presidents-for-life.

Muslim countries are suffering problems taller than the tsunami waves that brought so much misery to hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Indonesia.

Muslim women in various countries are being murdered by members of their own families for the sake of defending some false notion of “honour”.

Millions of Muslims are living in poverty and disease in Pakistan following the devastating earthquake. Millions more are starving in refugee camps in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Muslim-majority nations are riddled with corruption. Their leaders are squandering resources and wealth whilst their citizens live below the poverty line.

Yet today some governments of Muslim-majority countries are encouraging their citizens to attack European embassies. For many dictatorial and undemocratic Muslim regimes, the cartoon controversy represents a wonderful diversion away from the real problems facing their communities.

Instead of protecting the honour of their Prophet, some Muslims seem intent on destroying their own honour by behaving in a manner their Prophet had condemned 14 centuries ago.

What appears to have (quite understandably) upset Muslims most is one cartoon depicting the Prophet wearing a bomb as a turban, suggesting that he preached terrorism. Yet surely the worst way to protest against this is to commit acts of terror such as tearing down and burning embassies.

Boycotting Danish goods may be a more peaceful and preferable manner of protest. Yet even such a boycott effectively punishes the innocent and attributes the disrespectful manner of one newspaper to an entire nation. To blame all Danes for the actions of one newspaper editor claiming to defend freedom of speech is as absurd as blaming all Muslims for the acts of terror of a few lunatics claiming to defend of Islam.

Those Muslims who really care about the honour of their Prophet should focus their attention on improving their own situation. They might start by considering what sort of deal non-Muslim minorities get in Muslim countries, and how non-Muslim religious symbols are abused in Muslim publications. Perhaps they would then understand why some Muslim minorities leaving peacefully in Western countries (including Denmark, New Zealand and Australia) may cop plenty of flack due to their antics.

The Muslim mobs might also consider how the Prophet responded to attacks on himself. I am not aware of any biographical record of the Prophet taking any revenge for attacks on his person. I remember one recorded incident of a Jewish neighbour who was in the habit of pouring faeces over the Prophet. One day, the faeces stopped. The Prophet’s response was to inquire about the neighbour’s health.

How far some of today’s Muslims are from the golden example of the man in whose name they are causing so much destruction. Don’t they have enough problems of their own to be concerned with? In the grander scheme of things, in the context of poverty and natural disasters and culturally-related oppression of women.and so much else, are some Muslims so narrow-minded and infantile as to ascribe so much importance to 12 cartoons?

My message to Muslim mobs is simply this - before you consider tearing down the houses (and embassies) of others, think about cleaning up your own.

(The author is a Sydney-based industrial and commercial lawyer and a freelance columnist whose articles have been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review, Daily Telegraph, Courier-Mail, Canberra Times and New Zealand Herald. He is a columnist for Online Opinion and and regularly controbutes to the Web Diary. This article has also been published at Online Opinion on 6 February 2006 and in the Dominion Post (published in Wellington, NZ) on 8 February 2006.)

Words © 2006 Irfan Yusuf

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Anonymous said...

admire ur antimuslim stance. come to hillsong church and accept christ as lord.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant Irfan. A piece of common sense that's increasingly in short supply. You have an intelligent understanding of of history and progress. If Islam is to be taken seriously, it's voices such as yours that must be heard.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to stop pretending to be a muslim?
You may be one of the few sane muslims in the world. Of course by Western standards you are mentally ill. Here is your chance to cast off your muslim identity. Or is your muslim identity the only reason you are an interesting person?. It is interesting that someone with a brain could also be a muslim.

Anonymous said...

They should take all these newspapers with cartoons of Allah and glue them on to some american bombs. Then drop those bombs on some muslim mosques. Thats the way to treat the muslim religon

Anonymous said...

Nicely put Irfan; and by the 3 comments above you can see the ignorance is from all sides.

Pamela K Taylor said...


This is a great analysis, and so true for many, many Muslims (despite what your anonymous commentors may think...)

Keep up the good work.


GoateeCat said...

It's heartening to see people other than the name-calling brigade reading your blog and appreciating the intelligent critique within.

Keep it up Irfan.

Anonymous said...

Moslems should be burned alive on pyres made from jews.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article, Irfan.

Stupid cartoons followed by a stupid reaction. It's great to hear from a Muslim who can see into the heart of this sorry mess.

Best, Adrian

BTW, from the writing style I'd say the 3 offensive posts above were written by the same fool...

Anonymous said...

A truly excellent argument from someone true to his faith and the liberal humanist tradition.

Anonymous said...

If you change the religion and the names of the countries and what you call the various "leaders" you have an apt description of the western world. What ails the Muslim also ails the Christian, the Bubhist, the Jew, the Hindu....
We stand on the answer, we allow others to rule to avoid responsibility. The Earth has all the answers, why do we let them own it?


Anonymous said...

Yep, I have to give it to you - this piece looks flawless.

Anonymous said...

Talisker? Such a refined Islay malt.

I agree with your sentiment, but are we acquainted?

Anonymous said...

Irfan on radio:

"People should be able to sue media outlets [which publish the cartoons]." You are a useless comentator and a useless lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the church was not rebuilt until 40 years later, and it was not at Muslim expense, it was at the expense of the Byzantines.

Anonymous said...

Irfan, is your blog too? really confused!!

Anonymous said...

If you like Highland Park and rocks, then perhaps so Vercingetorix.

Iqbal Khaldun said...

I can't believe some loser has nothing better to do than make a blog called 'correctingirfan'. Man that's probably the ultimate compliment. Funny how the supposed bastions of the religion are too chicken to post their names.

Yes it's not rocket science this one. Some Muslims need to develop their sense of humour. The rest of us need to develop a bit of moral courage and voice our condemnation of the extremists. Great post Irfan.

Anonymous said...

Well presented, Thank You.
Possibly it is a good thing that the dimwits put on this earth (to show us right from wrong?) are actually reading what you write.
Even if they sneer and smear, perhaps your words, ricocheting about inside their heads, just might find a neurone or two to impact... We can live in hope!

Anonymous said...

I am Danish - I have Jewish, Protestant and Catholic ancestors.
If I invite 10 people for dinner and one of them is Muslim or Jewish, I do not serve bacon since even the smell may bother them.
I will not serve beef if there is a Hindu among them.
If I know there will be vegetarians among my guests, I will think about serving vegetables with the main course that can be eaten as a main meal.
I do not understand the need to start a debate in the manner of the Danish newspaper. Judging from the reaction it would be (apart from the death threats) like starting a debate on pornography with 12 hardcore uncensored photos on the front page or a discussion with the catholic with satanic pictures of Jesus on a cross upside down.
What I do not understand either is the ability of radicals of any denomination to read murder and mayhem into any of the religious texts.
I am not at all religious, however it is in my opinion that the first law of mankind must be "Do onto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You"
These are sad times...

Anonymous said...

go to hell irfan you fat fuck...

Anonymous said...

732pm says that these are sad times. He his wrong. It is a good time to be white and Christian while muslims get killed and sent to hell by the US Army, Airforce and Marines.

Keep bitching and we will kill you all Mohamedist scum
Hoo Ha

Anonymous said...

The Queen of Denmark says it right:

“We are being challenged by Islam these years — globally as well as locally. It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and lazy.

“We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance.”

No tolerance for sand niggers, hankie heads, camel fuckers, pakis, lebs or other worshipers of the Satanic false prophet Mohammed

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your excellent analysis.

And thank you for having the courage to speak out so calmly and so clearly in the midst of all this hysteria and rabble-rousing. You have probably put yourself at considerable risk by speaking the truth. Corrupt regimes in the Islamic World will hate you. Local thugs and ratbags will hate you. American corporate crooks and their pals running imitation Christian church rackets will hate you. The terrorists who are the real servants of Satan will hate you. Never mind - you will have a clear conscience.

By the way, someone mentioned a sense of humour: I'm not a Moslem but I'm lucky enough to have met quite a few True Moslems with a real sense of humour and with a genuine tolerance that comes from an unshakable confidence in their own religion. The reason that evil fanatics, puritans and fundamentalists (whether Moslem, Christian or Jewish) are so joyless, intolerant and vicious is that have so little real knowledge of, and confidence in, whatever religion they pretend to uphold.

Anonymous said...

Vercingetorix please. Talisker an Islay malt? I think not! Talisker is from the Isle of Skye.

Best you stick to your Mead.

Iqbal Khaldun said...

That was probably me. I wrote a post on this issue where I opined that a lot of Muslims have a sense of humour. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we'd have to admit that we're not as tolerant of criticism as we like. I would nevertheless say that at least publicly we lose our sense of humour. I suspect the reason for that is because we have continued to retreat towards ever more orthodox interpretations of Islam as the world around us gets more insecure. Yet in the process many of us have lost the ability to use plain old common sense, so there is a tendency to elevate stupid things like these cartoons into something more serious. I think it reflects a deep-seated insecurity, an inability to find a meaningful identity through Islam alone.

Anonymous said...

What Iqbal Khaldun had to say made me think.

To an outsider, a non-Moslem, like me, it seems that in less time than a single generation, so many Moslems have slid into a bottomless pit of despair and hopelessness and in so doing they have become easy prey to all sorts of exploiters and their schemes.

There has always been poverty and oppression and imperialism and crushing injustice but Islam seemed to give those afflicted by such evils the inner strength and the hope to carry on no matter how terrible their circumstances; it compelled those in power to have at least momentary humility and compassion.

But what has happened to Islam today? What has happened to the dream of a revitalised Islamic World that would lead again in scientific, social and artistic progress? Instead of progress, we see purposeless attacks on learning, on achievement, on things that improve the life of everyone ....... and on other things I shall not mention here (lest I start an unnecessary brawl)...... What can be done to restore hope and inner strength to those who need it???

Anonymous said...

"I think it reflects a deep-seated insecurity, an inability to find a meaningful identity through Islam alone."

Maybe deep down all muslims suspect that Islam is the religion for ignorant stupid 14th Century crazy-men

Anonymous said...

I wish a muslim would fly a plane up your arse like they did to the World Trade Center

Anonymous said...

Dear Irfan.

As a new father, I sometimes wonder what sort of world my son will inherit. I look at the maddening rhetoric from the parts of the world that call themselves Islamic and shudder.

Then I read your article which has been published in a New Zealand Newspaper and I am gladdened. I know that you are not the only Muslim that has this perspective on the goings on after the publication of these cartoons, but I have to admire the way that you have phrased your viewpoint.

Sadly, some of the posts I have read up to now only prove that people such as yourself, and myself, have a long way to go in the fight against intolerance and bigotry. But thanks to you, I will keep trying.


Anonymous said...

i've got a lot of respect for this viewpoint

Anonymous said...

Having just read this article in todays Wellington Dominion Post, I believe that this is the most sensible comment to come out of this whole affair. I think all religions have extremists amongst their believers and have had for centuries. But that does not excuse them. The extremists do nothing for the cause. They only slow its progress and acceptance.

I have to say that I have a lot of respect for the author of this article as it makes so much sense

Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled by Irfans con job. Muslims don't think the way he does. Irfan is a private school boy. Just because he tells you what you want to hear - that muslims should be reasonable - doesn't mean they will me. Irfan is the fat ugly face of a religion that is even uglier.

Anonymous said...

You obviously hate Australian society or you wouldn't be a muslim. Piss off to Indonesia or New Zealand and don't come back. Take your leb thug mates with you. I am sick of your anti-semitism

Anonymous said...

Well done Irfan, at least there are some Muslims out there who are prepared to voice their opinions and distaste for those who seek to radicalize your religion.
What still bothers me however is the continuing silence by the rest of the muslim world over the acts of violence perpetrated by memebers of their faith. The effect of this has been remove any semblance of respect I had for your faith.

I would like to thank the Muslim community for it's continued silence, which serves my purpose of denouncing ALL religion as intollerant, hypocritical and self-serving.

For the violence that has been meted out in your name may all you religious idiots rot in the particular hell of your choice.

The Bear

Anonymous said...

I am a muslim Women, Irfaan you may think that you are making peace by writting this article, all i can say is that you are giving the non-muslims the right to disrespect muslims, if we leave this now somebody else will mock the Prophet (SAW) in a another newspaper or magazine and then it will be too late because we would have given them the right to mock Islam by not reacting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Irf,

Thank you for this post. It is very constructive in the current situation.

I'm still not a big fan of Islam but perhaps more comments such as yours can change my views.

Anonymous said...

... for the Anonymous Moslem woman who posted at 10;41pm:

I can understand you being hurt by the crude cartoons. I too would be offended if anyone insulted whatever was dear to me.

But, in reacting without thinking to the nasty scrawls that were published in an unimportant paper in a small remote country many months ago - do you really want to help George Bush and his little gang of crooks? Do you want to help the skinheads who have never seen the inside of The Bible, let alone The Koran? Do you want to help the false Moslems and true friends of Satan who get richer and grab more personal power each time gullible young Moslems kill themselves? Do you really want to prove the money-hungry TV evangelists and Ariel Sharon right? Because that's what will happen if you encourage mindless violence or if you neglect to oppose greedy evil-doers hijacking your religion from within.

Nobody can be given the "right" to attack your religion but you yourself have a clear duty to live your own life in such a way that you will gain the respect of everyone for your religion.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful world it would be
If all men had the wisdom of thee

Steamboat Lion said...

Brilliant post.

The same ridiculous intolerance that currently divides the moslem world and the predominantly christian West once divided christianity itself and nearly destroyed Europe. Eventually both sides realised that the only way forward out of perpetual war was to stop worrying about what the other guy beleived and to 'live and let live'.

So to all those who think the answer is for those who beleive differently to change or for 'us' to wipe 'them' all out, you not only have evil in your heart, but you're also too ignorant to learn the lessons of history.

Theo Clark said...

Thanks for the great post irf.

The irony of the cartoon violence is that people who feel the need to "defend" their god/prophet are, for all intents and purposes, proclaiming the smallness and insignificance of their god/prophet. Surely a "big" capital "G" God can look after himself? Surely the taunts of humans are something he can handle? And if it really does offend him, can't he take care of it himself?

The irony in the vitriol from some of the moronic posters here is that they have successfully demonstrated their brotherhood with the violent protesters - they are filled with the identical hatred. If they had been born in Iran or Pakistan instead of here, they wouldn't be bigoted, clean-shaven, simple-minded, fundie Christians (assuming they are literal creationists - they also worship a tiny, little "g" god). They'd be the bigoted, hairy, simple-minded fundie Muslims burning Danish flags.

Always be wary of those who take themselves too seriously...

Anonymous said...

hey irfan,

got to you via altmuslim.

this article strangely parallels something i wrote here. i think you'll be shocked.

Anonymous said...

its Plagiarism

Anonymous said...

What plagerism? It's history.

Anonymous said...

"...I am a muslim Women, Irfaan you may think that you are making peace by writting this article, all i can say is that you are giving the non-muslims the right to disrespect muslims, if we leave this now somebody else will mock the Prophet (SAW) in a another newspaper or magazine and then it will be too late because we would have given them the right to mock Islam by not reacting. ..."

Shut your hole and go back to your burka muslim woman. Your opinion is worthless. Blow yourself up in protest. Islam is the religion of the stupid and crazy. Bring back the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem and give them American planes and lets commit genocide on muslims. Lets start by killing women and children they are the most defenceless and the most fun.

Anonymous said...

to 8:07pm Anonymous

Wake up to yourself!

That Moslem lady's opinions deserve to be heard .... even if you do disagree with them. Ever hear of a system of values called Chivalry? And one of the cornerstones of Chivalry was respect for women, wasn't it?

Before you start talking too much about the Knights of Christendom, I suggest you give those cheap Hollywood films and screen-jockey games the big flick and instead go off and read one of the thousands of factual books and articles about real knights. You will be amazed, delighted and horrified by REAL history ..... and it might just give you a little bit of insight too. Then, when you've done that, read something about the Greek struggle for independence .......

Anonymous said...

"Then, when you've done that, read something about the Greek struggle for independence"

You'd be talking about Greek independence from the raping, murdering, genocidal muslim empire of Turkey? Do you expect Greeks to respect muslims? Why do you expect me to respect muslims?

Anonymous said...

We are not going to have peace until they are dead or converted to Christianity

Anonymous said...

to Anonymous at 3;43am:

Gee, you're negative.

No, no, leave reading about the brave and determined Greek independence fighters until well AFTER you have read about the great Knights .... who were certainly more interested in praying to God and in honour than in murdering women and children. Not every armed man who went on a Crusade (whether to Palestine or to Lithuania) was a true Knight, even though his overlord may have dubbed him as such. Many of them were just plundering cut-throats, thugs and boofheads - and often sent off on a Crusade by the local priest and the local lord in the fervent hope that the Saracens or the heathens would rid the village of another brawling idiot.

Disciplined modern armies have enough trouble fighting wars in the Middle East .... so what was this you were saying about giving modern-day plundering cut-throats, thugs and boofheads strike aircraft so that villages in The West can get rid of all their brawling idiots?

Anonymous said...

Irfan I would like to use this article in teaching challenges faced by world religions at High School. Your article is so clear and insightful, it's as if the 'so-called silent majority' of Islam finally has a voice. With your permission I would like to burst the bubble of negative stereotypes fed in part by hysteria.

Irf said...

damien, send me an e-mail with more info. My e-mail address is