The rise of extremism… even on Christmas cards

To mock and ridicule any religion is a way of playing to extremists hands

Bakir Oweida
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On my way from London to Dubai to attend an Al Arabiya event, a headline shocked me as it barked straight to my face: "Obscene cards that sully the message of Christmas." Half way through reading the story (Daily Mail - Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014) I wasn't only shocked, but greatly offended.

As a Muslim, my belief in Islam wouldn’t be complete, or even true, if I do not believe in all prophets and messengers of God, the three holy books, and accordingly respect both Judaism and Christianity. Neither am I a true Muslim if I interfere in their followers’ way of worshiping, do any harm to their houses of worship, or forbid them from practicing their religion.

These are very simple facts known to any average Muslim who knows the basic five pillars of Islam, even if he or she was completely illiterate, never attended a kindergarten, or got any degree of education. The irony tells us that the problem of Islamic extremism doesn't have anything to do with any average, ordinary, and simply faithful Muslim believer who heartily fears Allah and never loses hope in his mercy and compassion. The real problem lies with those who try to brainwash the moderate believers, especially among younger generations, for the sole purpose of forcing their vision, or version, of Islam, even if this meant killing other Muslims, let alone followers of other religions, and spreading mayhem and destruction wherever they can.

Playing into extremist hands

In the meantime, to mock and ridicule any religion is a way of playing to extremists hands. Therefore, I can't see why a lot of creative people, gifted with intelligence, vision and creativity, can't see also that poking fun of any of the prophets, holy texts, or religious festivities can only add fuel to the raging fire of extremism in our troubled world. Within that context, I don't only understand and fully support all voices that protest against using the commercial side of Christmas to mock or ridicule Christianity, its messenger, or any church authority.

In my view, even such art work is a form of extremism, even if extremism - and I do believe that is mostly the case – is the last thing in the minds or personal lives of artists or publishers who take off their silky gloves and go too far down that risky road.

To mock and ridicule any religion is a way of playing to extremists hands

Bakir Oweida

I refrain from quoting any words or describing any sketches or drawings that I read about in that newspaper story, which mocked Jesus Christ, his mother Mary, the pope, and Christianity as a whole, out of respect to readers and not to participate in promoting what was offensive to me as Muslim. So no wonder there was an outcry among many of those who were shocked to see them, accompanied with their children, displayed on the shelves of bookshops or newsagents.

Turning to another page, I came face to face with the real bloody ugliness of extremism, not the imaginable one. That was several horrific pictures of the horror that took the lives of 132 school children in Peshawar the day before. Yet another gruesome example of the extent terrorism can go to, whether it was fed by the Taliban extreme ideology or any other one that condones the killing of innocent people.

Indeed, while it's vital that the fight against extremism must go on, especially in facing up to all schools of thoughts that promote terrorism, I don't think it is too exaggerated to say that extremism is on the rise wherever one looks. It does take different shapes, names, and forms, but it's there, you can see it in the torn- apart war zones, in a Sidney cafe, on television screens, the so- called social media sites, wording of mottos or slogans on flags and posters of different factions, and now even Christmas cards are not safe from ridiculing a great Abrahamic religion that calls for love and peace. Well, a very happy festival season and prosperous peaceful new year to all peace loving people all over the world.

Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on [email protected] and [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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