Still on the Cartoon Riots

by Damola Awoyokun

A newspaper in faraway Denmark published cartoons and here in Nigeria, Christians, southerners and northern minorities were getting slaughtered. What is more, the Catholic Church that usually does not suffer much during such outbreaks perhaps because of its non-militant evangelisms, ecumenical nature of its educational, healthcare and sport facilities, its similar traditions and shared international positions on so many issues with Islam suffered heaviest in these riots. It serves to confirm, coupled with the fact it happened in otherwise moderate towns, that the virulent strain of Islamic fanaticism is growing deadlier, recognizing no brother or sister, and this is partly because we are conceding a lot to it. Concession fertilizes fanaticism.

An instance is the Ife case. Obafemi Awolowo University is currently shutdown because some Muslim Students went to vandalise a COMMON ROOM (my emphasis) in Awo Hall where students that wished to watch porn movies, so the Awo Boys retaliated. Now, this is not about disrespect for the Koran or Prophet Mohammed, they just claimed Islamic faith is OPPOSED to it, hence violence. Fanaticism is making progress!

Unlike all of the rioters, I have seen the cartoons and I express utmost solidarity with Flemming Rose and the Jyllands-Posten. There are a lot of interpretations that can be adduced to them besides the one privileged or allowed to be privileged over the rest. On the very pages of a Saturday Guardian, an artist was described as a bomb in a headline on its Art page because he is budding and so talented. If a cartoonist does an illustration of this what shall we have? Does this mean The Guardian is calling the guy a terrorist? With the logic of the so-called ‘cartoon war,’ can newspapers and magazines still describe a person as a bomb? Are those with bombs or explosives always terrorists? See how we concede to fanaticism little by little until it seizes complete terroristic control. And yet the history of arts and science, the forward-march of progress and development is a sequence of substantial transgressions.

Let us assume that the Mohammed illustrations were truly derogatory, should the response be incitement to slain, slaughter, and burning buildings? The Cow is very sacred to Hinduism, so because a magazine like Farafina published a distasteful picture of an abattoir then the Hindus should…?

There are multitudes of offences visited on we with alternative spiritualities and traditional religions, and our deities and symbols but we shall not draw swords and daggers and spray petrol followed with fire burning like barbarians, rather we recourse to arguments and enlightenment drive as civilization demands. A religion does not only need pious adherents to stay sacred, it also needs enemies and it is in its treatment of its enemies and its non-adherents that its true worth is measured.

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