Saturday, March 29, 2008

‘Books Not Bombs’

Ismaeel Nakhuda, Arab News

JEDDAH, 26 March 2008 — A Jeddah-based publisher is to put into practice a novel method to counter a growing climate of Islamaphobia while fostering positive dialogue between Christians and Muslims: Books not Bombs.

The proposed screening of an anti-Qur’an film by a right-wing Dutch MP has led Esam Mudeer of Al-Bayenah Bookstore to team up with a dawah organization set up by the late Ahmed Deedat to distribute in Holland 50,000 copies of “Jezus in de Islam en de Koran” — a Dutch translation of Deedat’s book “Christ in Islam and in the Qur’an.”

“We’re sending books not bombs to the Netherlands… This is an opportunity for dialogue, an opportunity for the Netherlands to come to know the Qur’an and its message,” said Mudeer, adding that the books will be distributed tomorrow.

The call for dialogue follows the proposed screening of a 10-minute provocative anti-Qur’an film entitled “Fitna” (Arabic for strife) by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. Dutch television channels have declined to show the film, which also drew protests from ordinary Dutch people in the streets of Amsterdam last week.

Mudeer, who is a Saudi writer and a member of several charities and dawah organizations, was a student of Deedat for 18 years. He told Arab News that the book is a “thank you” message to ordinary Dutch people who have protested against Wilders.

“We came to learn that we have so many Dutch friends. One thousand people demonstrated in the streets of the Netherlands… even the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam participated,” he said.

The response to the film is in stark contrast to the negative publicity of protests against Danish cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) last year. “We’ve tried boycotting, we’ve tried anger, we’ve tried protesting, and we’ve tried going to court…this is an opportunity for ordinary Muslims to talk to ordinary Dutch and Danish people,” said Mudeer, who takes his inspiration from the way Deedat dealt with controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses.”

“He was the only person I knew who had read Rusdhie’s book from cover to cover and it wasn’t an easy job for him,” he said, adding that Deedat spoke of how “The Satanic Verses” was not only offensive to Muslims but also to Queen Elizabeth of Britain, white women and black people.

“Ahmed Deedat didn’t issue a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He didn’t want to kill him…he told the Muslim world that if Rushdie has hurt your feelings then don’t show those who hate you that you’re hurt as that would give them more pleasure and make them return,” he said.

“We need to relax and this is an opportunity for dawah, we’re not forcing anyone to become Muslim… Let’s be in the business of making friends, not enemies,” he added.

Commenting on the way Dutch Muslims have reacted to Wilders’ film, Mudeer said, “Dutch Muslims gathered together and — unlike the time with the Danish cartoons — they didn’t get angry or frustrated. They responded wisely, not in a violent way.”

Mudeer said Wilders wants to show Islam as a violent religion and that he continues delaying the screening of his film to raise emotions. “He is waiting for a bomb to go off somewhere, or for someone to do something dramatic and that’s why he keeps delaying it,” he said.

He added that Wilders is concerned at the spread of Islam in the Netherlands and Europe. “Even the Pope himself declared his concern in July 2007 of what he called the Islamization of Europe. Maybe they have genuine fears; we need to talk to them. What is it that you’re scared of about?” he said, adding that all publicity is good and that the controversy has probably caused an increase in sales of copies of the Qur’an.

Speaking about the position of Jesus and Mary in Islam, Mudeer said Islam is the only non-Christian faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus Christ and his mother. He added that Mary is mentioned 34 times in the Qur’an and that a chapter — Surah Maryam — is also named after her in her honor.

“Wilders said he wants to burn the Qur’an. If you call yourself a Christian, then is this a book you want to burn — the only book outside Christianity that honors Jesus and his mother? You’re going to burn a book that mentions his name 25 times?” he said.

Mudeer also asked Muslims to do some introspection. “Muslims didn’t thank Denmark for its support for Palestine. When Ariel Sharon invaded Jenin in 2002 Denmark was the only country in the world… that sent 20 ambulances for the Palestinians, why didn’t we thank them why didn’t we march on the streets and thank them,” he added.

Speaking about how Muslims should react, Mudeer said, “Muslims need to ask themselves, do you read the Qur’an for 10 minutes after Fajar everyday? Can we do that? That’s the best defense? Muslims of today must stop begging for respect. They must be worthy of respect and they must learn how to command respect like Muhammad (peace be upon him) did. When that happens Islam will be respected without us asking for it,” he said, adding, “The guy is after fitna, he called the movie fitna, he wants fitna.”

For more information: Islamic Propagation Center International Netherlands (IPCIN):

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