Recently, a 20-year-old Bangladeshi Muslim cartoonist sketched a cartoon that appeared in a Bangla newspaper. It was intended to caricature the local culture where everyone tends to add “Muhammad” before their name. In the cartoon, when an elderly Muslim priest asks a little boy carrying a cat, what was its name; the boy answers, ‘Muhammad Cat.’ This created outrage among Bangladeshi Muslims. The leader of Khelafot Andolon (Caliphate Movement) Maulana Ashraf stated that: “the cartoon indicates disgrace of the Muslim prophet by naming a cat ‘Muhammad'. Similar to the Danish Cartoon incident prophet Muhammad has been defamed in Muslim majority Bangladesh.” The head cleric of Bangladesh’s National Mosque, said: "This is a grievous offense, this is dangerous."
It led to violent protests in Bangladeshi capital, despite a ban on public demonstrations, under the current military rule. The newspaper offered immediate apology; so did the cartoonist. Not enough, the country’s entire press community later sought forgiveness of the people. Still unsatisfied, the protesters demanded closure of the popular daily, and death of the cartoonist. Obviously, to save the young cartoonist’s life from mob justice, authorities arrested him and put him in jail on groundless charge of “hurting people’s religious sentiments” One should be little surprised by this outrage of Bangladeshi Muslims, as well as those surrounding Muhammad’s caricatures in Danish and Swedish papers, since Prophet Muhammad himself was ruthless with his critics, especially the poets and singers, who ridiculed his creed.
Repercussions in Nigeria
Can this Bangladesh cartoon have anything to do with Nigerian Christians, thousands of miles away in a different continent? According to a Nigerian news report, it led to slaughter of nine Christians by Muslim mobs in Nigeria. There was also widespread vandalism of Christian businesses, homes and properties, and raging down of churches. The General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Mr Samuel Salifu, said:“…they (Muslims) saw a cartoon on the internet and they discovered that this cartoon was drawn by a 20-year-old Muslim boy from Bangladesh and they decided to visit their anger on innocent Christians and their churches.” Salifu Continued: "They cannot control their anger, they take knives and slaughter. When you tell them what they are doing is wrong, they will turn round and start to kill.”
The question is: how could a cartoon, allegedly offensive to Muslims, drawn in a far-off land―that too, by a Muslim―anger Muslims of Nigeria to such an extent that they go on killing any non-Muslim come within their reach? A similar savagery by Muslims took place in India in 1921 CE. When the Ottoman caliphate was facing the prospect of collapse, the Muslims of India, then under British rule, started the Khilafat Andolon (Caliphate Movement). Its aim was not only to protect the integrity of the Ottoman caliphate, but also to integrate India into that caliphate, after ousting the British rulers. And unsurprisingly, our Mahatma Gandhi happily joined this movement.