"Good afternoon. Salaam alaikum. In this session we will deal with the political ramification of the cartoon controversy. The first (UI few words) Danish Muslims, Western newspapers (UI few words) the cartoons (UI several words) that they (UI few words). They took a legal course trying to use a Danish law incriminating incitement and hate speech, but eventually the court declined any action by the (UI few words) for action on the cartoons, which Muslims saw as deeply offensive and inciteful and based upon hate. Their next step was actually to go overseas. And they talked to people in Muslim majority countries. So obviously the situation went outside the country. About 11 Muslim lawyers and activists wrote to the Danish government and tried to meet with them to talk about the issue. The Danish government refused to meet with them. So the Danish government recently came out with the same exact (UI few words) saying they resent the notion that they are being portrayed as being (UI word) and they have met with some local Muslim groups to show that they are not opposed to Islam. They have met with, Danish government representatives have met with Muslim leaders in the United States to talk about the issue and (UI word) of course after the protests became a major news (UI word). The (UI few words) protests became violent in Syria and Lebanon. Mobs attacked the Danish embassies until they caused physical damage to them. In Pakistan, in Afghanistan (UI word) clashed with police. And police shot at them and scores of people have been killed.
"In other parts of the world huge crowds of Muslims, many were organized by Islam based parties, organized protests. There were many peaceful protests, major protests on the issue were peaceful. Of course if you protest (UI few words) violence (UI few words) and request a meeting. But that doesn't of course tell the fact that the large (UI few words) that this is something that is very deeply offensive and should not be tolerated. And the fact that most Muslims of the world (UI few words) and the Muslim (UI word) have spread their opinion peacefully. Yet in the Muslim world, where the attacks against embassies went beyond the (UI few words) and reached the point of violence, somebody, I'm adding my two cents to this discussion now, somebody has to take responsibility. In Islam it has been a very long standing position, that (UI word) of other countries, (UI word) of other nations, fall under protected classes of people, even in times of war. And this is no time of war between the nations of Muslims. And so somebody has to own up to the responsibility of the damage that was caused to the Danish interests. That's if we are to live true to our values. And I'm speaking as a Muslim."
"The issues went beyond that. A number of (UI several words). It was (UI word) of Danish (UI word). A number of Danish factories lost millions of dollars in economic benefits because of the impact of the (UI word) and their very (UI several words) had suffered losses, because of the economic (UI few words). Now it's an issue that's going beyond the discussion about discretion in (UI few words). So there are economic (UI word) that have been enacted. And there are perceptions across the globe that have been (UI few words). You can imagine groups like Al Qaeda is using the thing to (UI word) other Muslims (UI few words) each other. (UI few words) how they feel about the prophet. They hear and although that does not represent the mainstream political view, yet it is a cause to (UI several words). Today's event we have Dr. Parvez Ahmed. He is the National Chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This is his first year with the chairmanship of the CAIR board. He teaches finance at University of Florida. And he is (UI few words). He has published many editorials across the country dealing with Islamic issues and this (UI several words). He will elaborate on the political ramifications and the political meaning of the cartoon controversy, particularly what it means for (UI word) Muslims in Denmark, in Europe, in the West in general. Can it be that Muslims should tolerate a status where there are laws against hate incitement and against blasphemy that has does not cover Muslims? What does it mean for integration of Muslims in that country and in Europe and in the West in general? Those are some of the issues. I also (UI few words) for the (UI word) process in the Muslim world. What is it that Muslims in a number of countries have to learn, for example, how to address [sounds like 'differences'] regarding something printed in the media?"
08:31 Dr. Parvez Ahmed
"Good afternoon. I'm going to keep my remarks very brief. Thank you (UI name) for the introduction. And thank you (UI few words). (UI name) is Executive Director of CAIR also is (UI few words). The issues (UI several words) if you look at the AP story that came across the wires literally a few minutes ago. They talked about the (UI few words) the blood loss (UI few words) that is going on in Muslim countries. It is using (UI few words), hundreds of millions of dollars in lost (UI word). And now the story is emerging that these (UI few words) so they could (UI few words) in relationship with (UI few words) in Muslim countries. Could this (UI word) into other (UI word) countries that also publish these cartoons? Certainly it's possible. (UI several words) as far as to say it's probable to (UI few words). And it gave (UI several words) when you realize very quickly is, there is a wide use of such (UI word) Western understanding of religious symbols in Islam (UI word). And Islam does not have too many symbols or too many untouchables, so to speak. But certainly the Koran and prophet (UI few words). It is almost like a red line that nobody should cross. And in this (UI several words) this was an issue that was being discussed by our religious leaders also."
"The issue as such, freedom of speech is something that everybody stands for. Even the Koran talks about the freedom of speech. But along with freedom of speech comes a responsibility, comes responsibility. And newspapers emphasize this question every day. Even (UI several words) almost every day (UI word). This story is worthy of printing. This is not worthy of printing. This reaches certain quality. This is not of sufficient quality. And I think in general, (UI several words) a couple of newspapers over here, (UI few words) still emphasize that judgment. What was wrong about the cartoons? Sometimes the (UI several words). But (UI few words) was not just about the portraying of prophet Mohammad (UI few words). That's a part of it, but that certainly does not explain most of (UI few words). The ultimate goal is (UI several words), it was misrepresented, it was stereotypical and had only one purpose – incite hatred. So given that, that (UI word), so it's not the cartoons itself, it's not the drawing itself, it is the way the cartoons were portrayed and the message (UI several words)."
"Now of course (UI several words), because the very person (UI few words) were trying to defend, would not have reacted in that way. (UI few words) stories (UI word) prophet Mohammed, that anytime he faced adversity, he always dealt with adversity in kindness. He never reciprocated harshness for harshness, although he had the chance to do it on every occasion. And (UI few words) the story of when he was returning from (UI word), when he went to a (UI few words) and he was rejected in Mecca and (UI several words) and he's coming back (UI few words) and he's resting at the side of the road and the angel comes to him and says, 'If you wish, order (UI several words).' He certainly had the option to do that. But his response was, 'Leave it alone. (UI few words) will come people who (UI few words).' So that was the way he dealt with adversity. Every time he had a chance to exercise retributive justice, he always preferred [sounds like 'restorative'] justice, which is what he did when he conquered Mecca. As (UI several words), his response to them was, 'Go and (UI word) and (UI word) peace.' (UI few words) because (UI several words) personally and (UI word). Think about his uncle, Hamze, was ameliorated when (UI few words). And he (UI several words). So the (UI several words) in Muslim countries in a way that is (UI words), unethical, very (UI word), very (UI word), those are (UI several words)."
"And (UI several words), because (UI few words). The negative actions of the people to this (UI several words) their actions, because their actions (UI several words), because (UI few words) reinforce those images in the minds of ordinary Americans, in the minds of ordinary Westerners that Muslims are irrational, they are prone to violence, they cannot (UI few words). And we have to get (UI word) of that. And once again, whether it's (UI few words), whether it is beheadings in Iraq or there is a kidnapping of a journalist or (UI several words), once again (UI few words) thousands of miles away are going to pay the price (UI several words). In terms of the (UI several words). One of the (UI few words) is how (UI few words), what happened in this episode or this controversy? My characterization of this controversy (UI several words) – it is a story of missed opportunities."
"This controversy is a story of missed opportunities, many (UI word) opportunities. When the cartoons were published, and the newspaper had a chance to engage in (UI few words), it missed the opportunity to engage. (UI few words) with responsibility (UI few words) its own leaders who were (UI few words). And regardless of the (UI word), the newspaper (UI few words), although (UI several words) viewpoints (UI few words) publish these cartoons, even if (UI several words), it had the obligation to engage the (UI several words). The Danish government also missed an opportunity. While affirming the right to the freedom of press and the right to free speech, that should be affirmed, but the (UI few words) responsibility (UI few words). The Danish government would have been better off condemning the cartoon and then affirming that it is the right of anybody to pray. Freedom of speech comes with the freedom of prayer. And that (UI several words) is sacred, that these cartoons are (UI word), they're hurtful, they're inciteful. They should be called for exactly what the (UI word) are. (UI few words) if somebody chooses to express (UI few words), it is their problem. But (UI word) leaders, we do not (UI several words) viewpoint (UI several words). So (UI few words) missed opportunity by Denmark."
"Similarly it was a missed opportunity by European countries who, the European newspapers who reacted to the Muslim outrage, who reacted to the Muslim boycott. But the Muslim boycott did not come in one day. It came after months of trying to resolve the situation in a negotiated manner and had the influence on the situation in (UI few words) manner to the point where Muslim associations or Muslim dialogue, the Muslim communities of the other parts of the world had responded to boycott. So the Europeans, they wanted to have a show of (UI few words), that (UI few words) who's (UI few words). So we published a cartoon (UI few words) our right. Some Muslims responded by boycotting Danish (UI few words). It was their right. And then the Europeans, because we published a cartoon (UI few words) their right. So we had a struggle with these rights. Or more correctly, it became a struggle between [sounds like 'extremes']. (UI several words.)"
"The Muslim outrage is justified. Violence is not justified. Peaceful protest is justified. Harmful, destructive behavior of properties is not justified. So that was again a missed opportunity. If the European newspapers had used this occasion, used the occasion for more (UI word) and harmony and dialogue and opened up space for understanding of what prophet Mohammad actually means to Muslims and why the Muslim community's so outraged into the (UI several words) it chose to provoke the situation further – and then to come together. In America, by and large, political leaders, media, educated leaders acted very responsibly. (UI several words.) For example, when Condoleezza Rice talked about sanctioning or pointing the finger (UI word) with Iran and Syria, as states (UI few words), it may very well be true, but (UI few words). It may very well be true, but that's a (UI few words). But saying that, the point is millions of Muslims had their feelings hurt about the situation only reinforced the stereotype about America in the Muslim world, that (UI word) of us care about their issues that (UI few words). It was a missed opportunity. It was a missed opportunity to open a dialogue with the Muslim community, to understand their sense of outrage, (UI several words) and to engage them and use responsible Muslim leaders in America to open the dialogue with Muslim leaders in Europe and in the Middle East. That opportunity was missed. A golden opportunity (UI few words). (UI several words) we can use American Muslim leaders to open up space for dialogue with (UI word) Muslim leaders across the world."
"And finally, my final point is where do we do from here? Politically, what can be, what are the next steps? I think the next steps would be to broaden the scope of anti-hate laws, even contemplate about passing blasphemy laws, because blasphemy in such sacred icons like the prophet Mohammad, like the Koran or the cross or other religious symbols (UI few words) you shall require they (UI few words) given the (UI few words). So governments, legislatures, international bodies like the United Nations must contemplate about what are the ways in which an anti-blasphemy law could be passed that could protect the right to exercise freedom of religion and also protect the freedom of expression, to get a point of balance. And (UI several words) balance between different parameters that we have. And we have good laws actually. For the last (UI several words) many different models of how to combat anti-Semitism. In 2004 President Bush signed a law called the (UI word) the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which requires the State Department to monitor hate speech or incitement against the Jewish community (UI few words). I think a similar effort needs to be engaged for the Muslim community as well, especially Muslim minorities living in Europe and in America, because in Europe, in Europe what we see today, we have to remember that fascist and racist movements are alive and well to Europe and the United States. And these fascist and racist movements considers both Jews and Muslims as legitimate targets. And they're bent on defeating them, they're bent on destroying them, they're bent on inciting hatred towards these minorities. (UI few words) society."
"At the same time, when we ask for a (UI few words) laws to combat Islamophobia, we also have to ask Muslim societies, don't write (UI few words). And (UI few words) cartoons in Muslim presses (UI few words) language such as the (UI few words) about the Holocaust certainly are anti-Islamic, because the tradition of prophet Mohammad has been never (UI word) and (UI word) other people, never, even when (UI few words), even when there's most (UI word) opposition. (UI several words) could never ridicule anything. So regardless of what feelings you have towards the conflict, it does not give anybody the right to defame the memories of millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Nobody has the right to do that. And that has to be, a strong stand has to be taken by the Muslim community that when we ask others to respect us, we have to respect (UI word). We also have to have the moral authority to respect others. Thank you very much. I look forward to your questions."
"Thank you Parvez. Next we have Dr. Louis Cantori. He's a Professor of Political Science at UMBC, University of Maryland in Baltimore County. He's a great scholar, very thoughtful. He has taught at the University of Chicago. He's studied Islamic philosophy at the Theological Seminary of Al-Azhar, the longest existing university in the world. He's authored a (UI word) of several books including Local Politics and Development in the Middle East. He (UI several words) a publication Muslim Thought in the 20th Century. He has been President of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies. He has distinguished professorships at the US Military Academy, West Point, the US Air Force Academy and the US Marine Corps University. Dr. Louis Cantori has always presented very deep thoughts on the issues and has presented them with passion. We ask him to come and enlighten us as to what this whole controversy and what (UI word) controversy mean for the broader picture of U.S. relations with the Muslim world and Islam/West relations. Dr. Cantori."