A Danish newspaper’s editorial cartoons sparked reactions in many Cal Poly students.
In September, a series of cartoons were published in Jyllands-Posten that were deemed offensive to Muslims around the world. The most disrespectful cartoon depicts the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban.
The response to the cartoons has been portrayed by the media as overwhelmingly negative, as riots and even deaths have occurred as a result of the cartoons. However, the Cal Poly Muslim Student Association (MSA) has chosen a positive response to what has been named “The International Cartoon Controversy.”
“(Muslims) look up to (the Prophet Muhammad) for everything, so to have him insulted and depicted as a terrorist, that is really humiliating,” MSA president Naiyerah Kolkailah said. “I think that’s why it’s justified that Muslims have to speak out against this, but it’s the type of response. The focus should be placed on educating who he was and what his message was.”
Cal Poly’s MSA hosted a workshop on Dexter Lawn Thursday entitled, “Prophet Muhammad: The Best of Creation.”
The workshop was set up “to address the cartoon controversy, but also to shed light on the Prophet Mohammad and his message,” Kolkailah said. “You have some people acting out in violence, and that’s not even reflective of how the Prophet himself would respond if he was attacked.”
One of the main issues surrounding the controversy is freedom of speech.
“(Muslims) believe in freedom of speech, but there’s a difference between expressing your ideas and blatantly insulting one-fifth of the world’s population,” Kolkailah said. “That’s the distinction to be made, and you’re attacking someone who is a role model.”
The workshop included keynote speaker Rushdi Abdul Cader, a Muslim man from the San Luis Obispo community. Along with offering information on the controversy and background on Islam, Abdul Cader gave the approximately 25 attendees a Muslim perspective in what he called, “The Muslim eye for the Western guy.”
Abdul Cader explained when Westerners see a bunch of people rioting in response to these cartoons, they see is “a bunch of crazy Muslims.” However, what a Muslim would see is a bunch of crazy people who are not associated with the Prophet Mohammed or Islam.
“The Muslim will notice one person who stands out,” Cader said. “He’s wearing a white kufi – standing against them. Stand out for justice even against yourselves – if you want to see Islam, look at that man.”
Students in attendance said they found the workshop informative.
“The speaker was very eloquent,” math senior Matt Martinez said. “I think it was good for him to say what he did for more people to hear. The amount of violence occurring is related to a small minority of Muslims.”
One of the workshop’s main purposes was to correct some common misconceptions about Muslims and Islam. Kolkailah said Islam’s main misconception is that the religion is violent and synonymous with terrorism.
“The way (Arabs and Muslims) are portrayed in the media is they are a bunch of terrorists and they’re out to kill the infidels,” she said. “In Islam, there is a verse in the Koran that says there is no compulsion in religion to force our faith on anybody. (Muslims) can’t act out in violence to convert people.”
“People are getting in this image because of certain people, al-Qaeda or whoever, who are Muslim and are acting out in the name of Islam, but are not practicing the principles of the faith,” Kolkailah added.
She said another main misunderstanding about Islam is that women are oppressed, inferior and are forced to dress in a certain way. According to Kolkailah, men and women have different, but equal roles in society and both sexes have the same responsibilities in the worship of God.
“In dressing this way – I do it to please God, but I look for the wisdom behind it,” said Kolkailah, who has been dressing in traditional Muslim attire since she was 10 years old. “A woman has more to offer than her outward physical beauty. She has the intellectual, spiritual and emotional side, and the only person allowed to enjoy that physical beauty is her husband.”
“It’s actually liberating for me because I’m liberating myself from being looked at in only a physical way,” she added.
The Muslim Student Association’s second event in response to the international cartoon controversy will be Wed., March 8. The event will feature a film showing of “Muhammad, Legacy of a Prophet” and will be shown in building 3, room 213.