I had to comment on today's story regarding the Muslim Minnie/Mickey Mouse image that is doing the rounds on the internet and which has got many Muslims a bit hot under the hijab.
Naguib Sawiris, a prominent secular Egyptian tycoon and politician, retweeted a picture which was already widely circulated on the internet, of Minnie Mouse in a veil and Mickey sporting a beard. It promptly incurred the wrath of his country's Islamic community with 15 Salafi lawyers filing lawsuits for blasphemy and the mobilisation of a Facebook petition to boycott his businesses which has reached 60000 followers.
Understandably jittery about shares in his telecommunications companies Orasom and Mobilnil taking a pounding he was forced to grovel.
"I apologize for those who don't take this as a joke; I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry,"
Frankly, I have some sympathy with Mr Sawiris.
Have all Muslims had a sense of humour bypass? All the other religions seem to accept a bit of mickey-taking (excuse the pun) in the spirit it is intended but Muslims seem to consider themselves apart from the rest of mankind. Christians are routinely ridiculed (The Life of Brian sends up Christianity in its entirety), Jews (America is full of Jewish comedians you make a habit of taking the piss out of themselves) or Buddhists (Airplane! depicts them as bumbling loonies) seem to have no problem in self deprecating humour. They have all had fun poked at them without there being mass riots and threats of reprisals.
Trying to find the offending picture on the internet is harder then it seems. Is everyone worried they might get an unwanted ticking package in their morning mail?
This isn't the first time that the Muslim community has overeacted to harmless cartoons. Take Danish catoonist Kurt Westergaard's depiction of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head instead of turban. Near-the knuckle? Possibly. Inflammatory? Probably. But enough to lead to angry protests, riots and deaths? Do me a favour and get yourselves a thicker skin.
Let's get one thing straight. I don't really have time for any of the organised religions. I appreciate that for certain people it makes their life better, a psychological crutch for those who need to give their life and death a sense of purpose. Great. Whoop-de doo, I am happy for you. Unfortunately religion has caused twice the amount of suffering that it has helped alleviate. Mankind has a remarkable knack of polluting great ideas to meet his own selfish ends.
I specifically can't stand the religions that push their doctrine in your face. I personally believe that religion should be a private thing that you do in the privacy of your home or centre of worship. Much like stamp-collecting.
So I would say to Muslims you will gain a lot more respect from society in general and perhaps gain more converts if you show yourselves as open, friendly and able to laugh at yourselves and not react with over the top threats of violence anytime anyone has the temerity to challenge your values.