Ahmed Younis – Re: Danish Cartoons – CNN International

Ahmed Younis – Re: Danish Cartoons – CNN International


We’re turning now to our top story: the outrage
in the Muslim world over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Any depictions of Muhammad
are offensive to the faithful, but in many Western nations, the freedom of
expression is a sacred right as well, including the freedom to express offensive ideas. Well,
for some perspective on this, I spoke with columnist
and author Christopher Hitchens, and Ahmed Younis with the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
This is a debate; they do not pull any punches, and we began by talking about the decision
of many media outlets, including CNN, to pixelate the images of Muhammad. Now, I know as well as you do that you have
not done that in order to avoid sparing the hurt feelings of my fellow guest, you’ve done
it because you’re afraid of retaliation and of intimidation.
Now I’d like to ask him and anyone else who was watching, is that the relationship they
want to have with the free press, because if we have to use this stupid word “offensive”,
those of us who believe in the Enlightenment and Constitution
and first Amendment are very much offended by this mad, babyish conduct; but we don’t
go out and kidnap the nearest Muslim we can find and
take him hostage until someone apologizes, we don’t violate diplomatic immunity, which
is one of the most important things; much more precious than the right of Muslims
not to have their feelings hurt. The whole thing is a scandal, and we’re all running
scared from it. Okay, let’s let Ahmed Younis; Ahmed, jump
in here, I know you want to respond. Yeah, absolutely! This is not about hurt feelings,
it’s about strategic discourse; the people that we see on TV are less than 1% of the
Muslim masses, the gravity of the discussion here is that the vast majority
of Muslim moderates that are offended from their role in a post-911 and in a conflict
oriented situation, which is at the apex of counter terrorism,
at the apex of an engagement on the discussion of hearts and minds, of course freedom of
expression stands, and no one is asking the Danish government to stifle expression, but
freedom of expression and the responsibilities of discussion, the responsibilities of those
with power and privilege to ensure that there is commonty between groups and
a belated response by the government, and then a continuing of republishing and printing
these cartoons. We have freedom of expression here in the
United States, but the President and the major media have chosen not to engage; the Pope
believes in freedom of expression, but he has
condemned these cartoons; it’s about strategic discourse. I mean, what is this babble? The state department
has said that it apologizes and thinks these things are offensive and it doesn’t say, as
far as I know, without any permission from the American people to say
that we take that view. I’m glad to hear you say that only 1% of the Muslim world takes
this view; in that case, why are we treating the leaders of these lynch mobs and bullying
gangs as if they were representative of your religion? That’s a very good question! And why is it that we can’t get condemnation
so easily or at all when, for example, Shia mosques and funeral processions in Iraq are
blown up by Muslim fascists? Christopher, the vast majority of Muslims
condemn attacks on Shiite communities, condemn on Christian communities in Muslim countries,
the Council on American Islamic relations sent a
delegation to Iraq to try to release Jill Carroll, the same with Margarat Hasaan. We
were against the Taliban… Wait a minute, wait a minute. I want to jump
in here for both of you; Christopher, Christopher, hang on because I have to jump in here. The
point is made here, and this keeps coming up over and over again,
that when we talk about the most radical of Muslims, they’re the ones who get the attention;
the whole of the faith gets painted by this brush with the kinds of pictures we’re showing
today of burning buildings, as awful as it is, there’s
a fair point being made here that this is clearly not representative. Well, that’s for Muslims to decide. If they
want to condemn this, they can! And actually, a lot of Muslim governments and authorities
have instead joined in the condemnation of the cartoons and
urged the Danish government to bring pressure on the free press in Denmark. That’s absolutely
outrageous! They are opportunists, state actors and non-state
actors that are taking this opportunity to pursue their ends, that’s a different discussion.
What we are discussing now is, why would we offend the very identity of 1.2
billion people who are needed for us to end this era of hate. Ahmed, Ahmed! Why are there so many anti-semetic
cartoons published all the time in certain Muslim press and Arab press, let’s talk about
the anti-semetic cartoons that are there all the time, and
you don’t see this kind of reaction from Jews who may be deeply, deeply offended. You’re right, we are all offended, not just
Jews, we are all offended when there are anti-semetic cartoons and these dictatorships that use
the other to galvinize the bases within their countries
to support them in their efforts, are acting contradictory to the interest of Muslims.
We condemn that type of anti-semetic behavior, we condemn it when it’s against any other
community, be it by Muslims like the Taliban, wait, Christopher, this
is the same Europe that had a genocide against Muslims, the largest genocide since the Holocaust;
we have got to be strategic, we have got to be sure that we are not negligently bolstering
the haters that are finding excuses for attacking Muslim communities. He wasn’t asked that question, he was asked:
why, when Jewish people or Christians, or the largest, and in my opinion most important
group in the world, those of us who don’t believe in religion and claim the rights of
the Enlightenment were offended, you asked, why
don’t we take the occasion to go and set fire to Embassies in democratic countries or kidnap
civilians, that’s what your being asked. You’re still claiming that Muslims have a
special right to be offended, and that is very offensive indeed! Absolutely not! I am claiming that Muslims
have an equal right to find dignity in the way that they are treated in society. Christopher,
if you feel that there is an attack against you,
you have the right to respond. That is the same freedom of speech that Muslims around
the world… Okay, hold on gentlemen, time out. Christopher,
I want to go back to the first point you made, and that is how newspapers of news organizations
make decisions about this, and you mentioned CNN’s decision to pixelate these, you’re right,
I mean partly based on fear of reprisals against our staff but also partly based on fear of
offending. I wanna put it to you this way, do non-Muslims have any obligation, in your
view, to be respectful of this aspect of the Muslim faith and to make an extra effort not
to offend? I’m not asking for the right to slaughter
a pig in a mosque, or to defecate on a Qur’an, or anything of this kind; I am saying that
religion makes very large claims for itself. Islam claims that it is the total solution
to all human problems, the sooner that it’s imposed on everyone, the better. Well, that’s
a point of view, but it can’t, if it’s going to make such claims, it has
to drop the demand that it be immune from criticism and especially from satire. To many
of us, the claims of Prophet Muhammad to be a Prophet are absurd! Of course we have
the right to do that, just as we have the right to represent unchaste nuns, and child-raping
priests, and the other people who also claim a special right, because they claim that their
own bigotry is divine. Okay, Ahmed Younis, why is it so different
for the Muslim faith? This is a fabricated discussion, the issue
here is not the freedom of the West and the isolation of the Muslim world. One of the
primary goals of Sharia, as studied in classical discourse,
is the protection of the products of the mind, protection of freedom of speech, that’s not
what we are addressing! We are not asking anyone to follow Islamic law; no one in the
world is saying that there should be an inhibition
against this type of speech, but what we’re saying is that those with the ability to move
discussion foward for peace, forward for an ability to see each other, they have a
responsibility to act; this is not babble! These types of cartoons… This isn’t the first time a religious leader
of Islam called for the murder in his own name for money of a novelist living in England… Who is this religious leader of Islam? We
are Muslims, sir, we all represent ourselves, our tradition has been clear, Christopher!
The tradition of the Prophet is clear commonty between all people, religious freedom
for all people including those who do not believe in God… We have to leave it there, gentlemen… They have special rights and they claim it
at gunpoint and by force… Christopher, that’s, that’s the last word
gentlemen! Christopher Hitchens and Ahmed Younis, both of you, it’s been spirited, it’s
been interesting, and it’s going to continue. That much is sure,
thank you both for being here! And that, again, was author Christopher Hitchens
and Ahmed Younis, with the Muslim Public Affairs Council, in debate for us a short time ago.

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