L'affaire des caricatures danoises vue par les musulmans finlandais
Finnish Muslims understand indignation over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad
Helsingin Sanomat 1.2.2006
Muslims living in Finland have expressed understanding for the uproar in the Middle East over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad published by a Danish newspaper.
The newspaper Jyllands-Posten has been accused of insulting Islam, or at the very least, of using poor editorial judgement.
Although the 12 offending cartoons have not been shown in the Finnish media, with the exception of a few brief flashes on television, they have been readily available on the Internet.
The greatest offence was caused by a cartoon depicting Muhammad wearing a turban that had been turned into a bomb.
Imam Khodr Chehab of the Islamic Society of Finland, which represents several different groups of Muslim immigrants in Finland, says that the cartoons are "deliberately offensive", as they try to portray Islam as a violent religion.
He says that the angry reactions, and threats to boycott Denmark are justified, because the Danish government, and ordinary citizens have expressed their support for the newspaper.
"Desecrating the Prophet is a very serious matter", he said.
Chehab says that he is certain that if the pictures were published in Finland, the reactions would be the same as in Denmark.
The vice-chairman of the same congregation, Abdi-Hakim Yasin Ararse, who has a Somali background and works as an engineer for Nokia, says that he saw the cartoons on the Internet last autumn. "My first reaction is that I became very angry."
Yasin Ararse notes that Islam does not permit any images depicting Muhammad. "Freedom of expression has progressed very far in the Nordic Countries, but common sense should tell that this is slanderous."
He also feels that the drawings do not bring anything new to the two stereotypes concerning Islam that are often seen in Western countries - that it is a religion of violence and the oppression of women.
However, he does not agree with calls for a boycott of Danish goods. "Muslims in the Nordic Countries have bigger problems than these cartoons."
The chairman of the Finnish Islam Congregation, Okhan Daher of Finland's long-established Tatar community, feels that the core issue of the uproar is that people should respect each others’ religions. "These are sensitive issues especially in the Middle East, and in societies where faith has a strong presence in people’s everyday lives."
Daher says that in the more secular West, reactions over stunts that insult Christianity, for instance, would be more moderate.
His advice to both sides in the Danish dispute is: "Do not provoke, or be provoked".
Daher also says that demands from the Middle East that the Danish government should apologise for what Jyllands-Posten has printed could stem from "ignorance". He notes that people do not understand that in the West, governments cannot dictate, and are not responsible for the content of the media.
Imam Chehab notes that freedom of expression is not unlimited even in the West. "If you make jokes about the holocaust, you go to jail. Racism in Finland is illegal, and these drawings have racist characteristics."
Helsingin Sanomat 31.1.2006
Finnish expert expects stir over Prophet Muhammad caricatures to blow over soon
Professor Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, Finland's foremost expert on Islamic culture and religion, does not view the commotion caused by the Prophet Muhammad caricatures published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten last autumn as a far-reaching one.
"The affair has the characteristics of a fleeting sensation. For Arla Foods this may be a serious business if it affects their market share, but in general this looks like the kind of an incident that will simply be forgotten quickly" Hämeen-Anttila says. The Danish-based dairy group has been at the centre of the storm, facing a boycott of its goods.
"In the wider scope, I don't see this episode as particularly significant."
Hämeen-Anttila does not believe the brouhaha over last autumn's caricatures in Jyllands-Posten by 12 cartoonists depicting what the Prophet Muhammad might have looked like will reach proportions similar to those over author Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses.
"The situation is fundamentally different. Rushdie's novel was a source of lasting provocation, as it was continuously available in bookstores. Jyllands-Posten's caricatures, by contrast, were originally only published once. Also, in 1988 Ayatollah Khomeini was the influential figurehead of the radical Islamic movement, and only his intervention sparked the fuss", Hämeen-Anttila suggests.
"One has to be careful with where to draw the line when freedom of speech and the freedom to tackle issues that others may hold precious is in question. Making fun of someone's religion is a matter where caution is advisable, even in the name of common courtesy, if not for any other reason."
The angry reaction in the Islamic world has included a boycott of Danish export goods, diplomatic sanctions, and threats from Islamic militants. Denmark has advised its citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia, amidst growing anger and resentment across the Muslim world at the cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. A Norwegian magazine recently reprinted one of the caricatures, thereby sparking protests against Norway in addition to Denmark.