Sorry Muhammad, Danish Youth Says
|Saturday, February 23,2008 18:15|
|By IOL Staff|
Provoked by the re-printing of a cartoon lampooning Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) by Danish newspapers, Danish young man Anders Botter has stood up and be counted, taking his case of defending the other"s religious sensibilities to the popular social website Facebook to say "Sorry Muhammad."
"As an average Danish citizen, my primary goal with this Facebook group is to say that "I’m sorry" to all those ordinary Muslims around the world, who have been offended by the cartoons of prophet Muhammed (sic)," Botter said in a live dialogue on IslamOnline.net.
Botter, 27, says he launched "Undskyld Muhammed" or sorry Muhammad in English to spark a constructive debate about limits of freedom of expression in a secular and democratic Denmark.
"I"m 100% support the freedom of speech – but I also respect the religious views and feelings of other people," he said.
"Denmark is a very secular society, where religions do not play a significant role. In my personal point of view the "new religion" of Denmark is "democracy" and "freedom of speech.""
Seventeen Danish newspapers reprinted on February 13 a drawing of a man described as Prophet Muhammad with a ticking bomb in his turban.
The move came following the arrest of two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan origin for allegedly plotting to kill the cartoonist who drew the caricature.
"I think it was a very wrong decision (to reprint the cartoon). It was their decision to make as the freedom of speech is fundamental for all Danish newspaper, but I strongly disagree with this decision and was very disappointed," Botter said.
He said he hoped that the chief editors would have wised up after the 2005 cartoons crisis, when mass-circulation Jyallands Posten first published a set of offensive cartoons ridiculing Prophet Muhammad, sparking a Muslim outcry.
""Sorry Muhammed" critically questions the necessity of printing a picture of the prophet Muhammed, with a bomb in his turban. This picture has previously proved highly inflammatory in large parts of the Muslim world and can too easily be construed as denigrating and demeaning towards Muslims."
"I had hoped for a different kind of reaction, which was more diverse and brought new perspective to the debate," Botter added.
He said such a debate will be helpful in damping down fundamentalist and extremist voices on both sides.
Unlike the prevailing attitude, Botter said his Facebook group has received a torrent of support contributions from Danes.
"There have been very many different responses. However, the vast majority (we) re supportive and very positive for this initiative. It is of the utter most importance to Muslims around the world get a chance to see that not all Danish citizens support the publishing of the cartoons.
"And it is of the utmost importance to Danish citizens get a chance to see that not all Muslims are radicals or member of organizations that are against the freedom of speech and democracy in general," Botter noted.
Ironically, he says, Danes who strongly defended the right of newspapers to re-print the offensive cartoon out of freedom of expression are the same people who sent him hate mails and even threats for silence.
"However, I can happily inform you that every time I receive 1 hateful email, I receive 25 supportive emails. So I am very happy…I will not be silenced by threats."
Botter blamed Danish media for adding fuel to the flames by what he called their biased coverage of the cartoons crisis.
"Up until now the media has forgotten about the voice of the average Danish citizens and only asked politicians (who are for the Muhammed drawings) or the Danish Imams (who are against the drawings)," he said.
He said Danish media ruled out the other and depicted the crisis in "a very black/white manner where you are either for the cartoons or against them."
"Denmark needed more diversity in the debate. Therefore, I used my voice (my freedom of speech) to set up the Facebook group."
On his future plans to boost this diversity, Botter said he is planning to collect online signatures in his support of his fledgling group.
"This manifest is not written yet but it will emphasize that one can support freedom of speech, condemn violence and killing AND be against the publishing of the Muhammed drawings."
Aspiring to be a professional filmmaker, Botter did not rule out a movie about the noble messages brought by different prophets to humanity.
"I would like to make a movie, which contains traces of all major world religions. For example a movie where Jesus, Muhammed and Abraham all featured as historical figures and later holy prophets."