'Double Standards' and Dissenters
As the worldwide protests against Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad show no signs of subsiding, a debate within the Muslim world is also visible.
While many online Islamic commentators accuse the West of hypocrisy about freedom of expression, a few Muslim writers are criticizing the protests as excessive and at least three editors have been jailed for republishing the offending images, according to news reports.
Perhaps the most common continuing complaint in the Muslim media is that the West has a "double standard" on free expression.
"There are some wonderful people in Europe who are truly liberal and honestly compassionate and who fight for rights irrespective of race, creed or religion," writes Munar Majid in Malaysia's New Straits Times
"But there are also too many hypocrites who hide their skin-deep prejudices under a veneer of the right to freedom of expression which they [would] not express if it involved, say, iconic Jewish and Zionist matters."
"Let's not have more and more double standards to push Muslims against the wall," he concludes.
In Pakistan, syndicated columnist Nosheen Saeed says, "The double standards and hypocrisy of the West can't be more visible."
"Since the purpose of publishing the cartoons was to offend Muslims, Europe has successfully managed to do so. The West always initiates violence and when Muslims retaliate, they are labeled extremists," she wrote.
When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a myth, said an Iran News editorialist, "not even a single Western publication defended his right to free speech."
"The Iranian president had only expressed his opinion but was then criticized vehemently by most countries and international organizations, including the Germans who nurtured the ruthless Nazi culture and even the United Nations, which is supposed to protect free speech!"
"If there are taboos and redlines to be avoided," he wrote, "why should the West violate them when it comes to sensitive Muslim issues? The inconsistency in the European approach is glaring."
But Egypt's Al Ahram Weekly sees "a touch of hypocrisy" in the Islamic outrage.
"Why are we being so inflexible towards Denmark, even after the newspaper in question, and many others in the country, have apologized for the cartoons which, by the way, most of those protesting have not seen?" the editors ask.
And some journalists in the Islamic world have not shied from sharing the offensive images with readers. In Algeria, two editors have been jailed for running the cartoons, according to New Zealand Radio.
In Yemen, editor Mohammed al Asadi was detained Saturday after his weekly newspaper, the Yemen Observer, published partial details of the Danish images. The caricatures, according to the paper's Web site, appeared "under a thick gray band and in the context of an issue of the newspaper that was almost entirely devoted to praising the Prophet Mohammed, explaining the current controversy, and illuminating the background of Middle Eastern anger over the images."
Asadi, who faces up to a year in jail, told visitors, "I feel great. I know I haven't done anything wrong."
Two columnists for the Daily Times in Lahore have decried the recent demonstrations in Pakistan. Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan, a painter and political activist, says they remind him of "children who take to banging their head against a wall or the floor to register a protest with their mother. These tactics may work with a feeble-hearted mother, but surely an adversary would not give two hoots even if you jump off the wall or dig a hole to bury yourself."
"How many of us have actually seen the offensive material?" asks businessman Munir Attaullah.
Are the cartoons "universally and outrageously repulsive to any sane person, or is it just in bad taste? And is it not possible that this cartoon business is, like much else in our schizophrenic society (such as the wearing of lipstick and jeans, participating in mixed marathons, or contracting 'love' marriages etc.) just another example of what a particular segment of our population thrives upon (by making a mountain out of a molehill and constantly trying to impose its own values on everyone else)?"
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