Muslims encouraged to forgive Charlie Hebdo cartoonists

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Muslims should forgive Charlie Hebdo magazine cartoonists, an Islamic academic told thousands gathered for Friday prayers at a local mosque yesterday.

The cartoonists at the Paris-based magazine, some of whom were killed earlier, depicted Prophet Muhammad in the nude and in other ways that offended Muslims. Their killers proclaimed to have committed the murder to defend the prophet.

Hafiz Abu Baker Mohammed, a Durban-based former judge and Islamic scholar, yesterday told 3,000 congregants at Masjidul-Quds in Gatesville that violence was not the response their prophet would have encouraged.

Hafiz Abu Baker Mohammed, a Durban-based former judge and Islamic scholar. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Hafiz Abu Baker Mohammed, a Durban-based former judge and Islamic scholar. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

“Prophet Muhammad’s response was one of compassion, inclusiveness and forgiveness. He has his own Charlie Hebdo’s who insulted him in his lifetime,” said Mohammed.

“There’s no need to defend Prophet Muhammad. Muslims must ignore this. The caricatures will not affect his character.”

Mohammed said “mainstream media created a lot of confusion” and should be more responsible in its depiction of Islam though.

“Mainstream media is not giving the full picture. The demonising of Islam is calculated,” he said.

On the matter of the media’s right to publish the cartoons, the academic said “these cartoons is not about freedom of expression”.

“This is about having the right to offend. Criminal law tells you that you don’t have the right to injure someone. Since when does the law allow one to injure someone?” he asked.

“To say I have the right to offend is to say, ‘I have a right to be a bigot’. Which culture says that? This is a reflection of their own moral bankruptcy.”

Sataar Parker, chairman of the Masjidul Quds board of trustees, said they invited Mohammed to “empower the community with information about the prophet’s character”.

“We needed a scholarly and not emotional approach to the cartoons. We need to address this in a cool, calm and collective manner,” he said.

“We know that the prophet had dirt thrown at him and didn’t respond with violence.”

Parker said they encouraged interfaith efforts at their mosque and invited a Christian and Hindu leader to attend the Friday talk.

“We’ve had Jews, Christians and Hindus addressing our congregation. Good relationships will bring about harmony among human beings,” said Parker.

Bishop Dennis Abrahams, from the Shiloh Pentecostal Church in Primrose Park, said he had seen the magazine’s self-proclaimed atheist cartoonist’s depictions of Jesus Christ and found that offensive too.

“It was done in the spirit of intolerance. We should respect one another’s religion,” said Abrahams.

“We are concerned. This is not right. When they drew cartoons of Jesus Christ, I feel hurt as well. They should apologise.”

Pandit Ashvin Narshi, a Hindu priest at various temples in Cape Town, said they also did not support the cartoons because they are “destructive”.

It was something out to destruct and we can’t support that. If a cartoon is there to educate someone and bring about harmony then we should support it,” said Narshi.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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