The Daily Herald asked three questions to Ahmed Rehab, director of communications for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Chicago, on the controversial cartoons published in newspapers throughout Europe.
Q. Have you seen the cartoons?
A. Yes, some of them. I think they are quite repulsive. Muslims, regardless of how liberal or conservative, are likely to find them repulsive. The pictures of the Prophet Muhammad are not based on knowledge of Muhammad but rather people’s fears and suspicions.
Q. How is the portrayal of Muslims different or similar in American media?
A. American mainstream media has a way to go to be attuned to the religious sensitivities of Muslims. (But) I would never fathom any mainstream American publication publishing a cartoon like this.
This, to me, is reminiscent of the hair-raising, anti-Semitic cartoons existent in Europe pre-World War II. And no one cared.
Islamaphobia is replacing anti-Semitism in Europe. It is becoming the new anti-Semitism.
Q. Some European journalists are claiming this is a free speech issue. What part does free expression play here?
A. I also believe in individual freedom. Freedom of expression in the press doesn’t need to resort to something so vile and repulsive.
The best response I can put forth to such hatred is to redouble my efforts to live the good values the Prophet Muhammad preached.
I want to purchase biographies of the Prophet Muhammad and give them as gifts to libraries in Denmark.