[Muzammil Ahmed is a board member of the Michigan Chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).]
The uproar over the Danish cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad is a victory for extremist elements in both Western and Islamic societies. Rather than try to foster bridges of understanding and stimulate communication, the various publishers of the offensive cartoons made a calculated move to incite Muslims across the world.
Muslims revere the prophet Muhammad, looking to him as a living example of how we should conduct our lives. A small but highly visible minority of Muslims have taken to marching the streets, burning flags, wishing violence toward others. However, mainstream Muslim organizations in North America condemn these violent protests, particularly when there are more important issues facing the Muslim world.
No mainstream publisher would intentionally produce material that is considered racist, anti-Semitic or offensive to specific ethnicities. The publication of such material is not an issue of free speech, but an issue of respect and responsibility. The choice to be offensive to an entire community will certainly invite people to boycott and protest. Inevitably, a minority of the protesters also becomes irresponsible, and the situation can spiral out of control.
The Danish newspaper publisher has apologized and the editor has been fired. This is a time for Muslims to gracefully accept such gestures and use them as an opportunity to create further understanding. There are many divisions between the large immigrant Muslim populations in the West and their host countries. Both sides must make a conscious effort to avoid inflammatory rhetoric and strive toward peaceful coexistence.