Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Our Kind of Punishment

What's the most striking image of Mahatma Gandhi in your mind? Close your eyes and try to see him.

Most likely you can see him calmly
sitting at his spinning wheel. That timeless image is engraved in our mental photo bank, but what's its enduring secret?

His posture is peaceful and reassuring, utterly detached from his surrounding. Nothing can disturb his tranquility, but we all know how that enfeebled Indian leader managed to lead
his nation to independence in 1947. Gandhi advocated civil disobedience and non-violence.

That's why we can never imagine him in a hostile pose. The same could be said about Nelson Mandela or any other liberation leader in the history, including the Prophet Mohammad.

Like him or dislike him, it's almost impossible for you to dispute Mohammad's well-documented hatred for violence. He preached a faith that at least literally means peace, no matter how it is misrepresented and misinterpreted by his power-thirsty followers.

In some countries, the protests against the insulting Danish cartoons have turned hysterically violent, with some fatalities reported in Afghanistan and Somalia. They did not lose their lives in vain, hopefully, but I wonder if the prophet would have condoned torching and looting buildings belonging to guests.

publication and the ensuing protests have raised unsettling questions: Was the whole issue a bait designed to prove a null hypothesis that Muslims, moderate and/or fanatic, are intrinsically violent? What's the line between justified anger and irrational rage? Would the next big war be fought on resources, as experts foresee, or among religions? How can we define and safeguard local values in an increasingly globalized world? How others can respect those values without fear of submission? And who can set possible punishments for trespassers?

"A strange thing, our kind of punishment! It does not cleanse the offender, it is no expiation: on the contrary, it defiles more than the offense itself," says the
German thinker Nietzsche.

Any knee-jerk protest would besmirch only Islam by uniting its hardline opponents and undermining its moderate followers.

Ironically, Gandhi became a victim of hatred and vengeance. How hopeless. His legacy of tolerance can never be victimized. How hopeful.


At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Tauquil said...

Whilst the Prophet Muhammad did indeed preach peace, he was also a warrior who engaged in caravan raids and led his people into numerous battles. So I would say, unlike Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, it is very easy to imagine the Prophet Muhammad in a hostile pose.


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