MMN Editorial Regarding Azerbaijan's Eni Khabar Publishing Derogatory Cartoon Of Prophet Jesus

Montreal Muslim News Editorial (Feb 14, 2006)

There are several media reports surfacing that a small newspaper in largely Muslim Azerbaijan has published a derogatory caption over a picture of Prophet Jesus in what the editor said today was a response to the Danish caricatures.

The caption in the Eni Khabar weekly, which has a circulation of just 2,700, included derogatory references to the birth of Christ and his mother Mary.

The Editor-in-Chief of the paper, Faik Balabeili, is quoted as saying: "We took this step as a worthy and equal response to the Danish newspaper that insulted the name of the Prophet Mohammad."

Montreal Muslim News views the publication of this derogatory cartoon of Prophet Jesus and his mother Mary with the same disgust and anger as those that were published in Denmark and throughout Europe regarding the Prophet Mohammad.

Jesus (known as Isaa in Arabic) is a Prophet of God, and his mother Mary is highly praised by Muslims and in fact an entire chapter of the Quran is named after her.

Please keep in mind that of all the Prophets, of whom 25 are mentioned by name in the Qur'an, Jesus is probably the most written about in the Qur'an. Various stories in the Quran talk about his miraculous birth, his ministry, his disciples, and the message that he brought to his people. As a result, Muslims always speak of Jesus with the highest respect.

Of Mary, the Qur'an says: "Behold! the angels said: 'O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations" (Quran 3:42).

As an article of faith we believe in all of God's prophets and also believe they all taught the same essential message. Thus, when one of them is defamed, then they are all defamed. An attack on one is an attack on all of them.

We denounce Eni Khabar weekly and its Editor-in-Chief Faik Balabeili for printing this utterly offensive cartoon. Such a move serves no useful purpose, is un-Islamic, and does nothing to defend the cause of Islam or reduce tensions between faith communities.

Our religion prohibits us from defaming the religious symbols or personalities of other faith groups as doing so causes hurt and harm. Our example must always be that of Prophet Mohammad who bore patiently those who verbally and physically attacked him. It was through the force of his noble personality, however, that he won many hearts over to Islam.

In addition, we are totally against the Iranian 'Holocaust cartoon competition.' It is simply wrong and repugnant to seek to score political points by denying the sufferings of others. It is also un-Islamic as it is perpetuating a lie. Those people, including Muslims, who deny the systematic genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of Nazis are simply wrong and misguided, and we distance ourselves from such hurtful talk which only inflicts deeper wounds into a people who have already suffered so much.

Also, publishing openly anti-semitic cartoons is an example of not only crude racism, which only fosters hatred and animosity, but gives Islam and Muslims a bad name. Thus, such evil practices must cease.

In the words of Myrna Linder, Executive Director of the Calgary Jewish Community Council: ""We hope that the controversy of the past few weeks will lead to an open discussion about mutual and reciprocal respect between faiths."