Muslims Should Not Respond Violently to Texas Cartoon Incident: Indonesia

By Paramita Dewiyani
150507-ID-texas-620 An FBI agent views the area where the car of suspected jihadists was blown up in Garland, Texas, May 4, 2015.

Muslims should not to be provoked by a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest staged in the American state of Texas this past weekend and the shooting deaths of two Muslims who attacked that event, according to Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin.

The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack on the "Jihad Watch Muhammad Cartoon Art Exhibit and Contest" in Garland, Texas, but U.S. officials have yet to confirm the claim.

“All Muslims should not be overly provoked or respond to this situation with violence. That is not part of Islamic teaching,” Lukman told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"We ask non-Muslims to understand that the Prophet Muhammad should not be visualized with anything, including in a cartoon contest," Lukman added.

But he urged people to embrace dialogue as a way to settle differences.

"No more bloodshed. Dialogue is a more appropriate way to express our opinions," Lukman said.

IS linked?

Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi – reportedly both U.S. citizens – drove more than 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from Phoenix, Ariz. to Garland, where they shot a security guard outside the exhibition, injuring him in the ankle, according to reports.

Local police shot and killed Elton and Nadir on the spot.

On Tuesday, IS announced that “soldiers of the caliphate” had carried out the attack on the exhibit – marking the first time that the extremist group had claimed an attack in the United States, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

American officials said it was too soon to tell if IS was behind the attack.

The case "is still under investigation by the FBI and other members of the intelligence community" to determine if the two assailants had any ties to the IS group, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Another U.S. official said it was possible that IS played an "inspirational" rather than "operational" role in the attack, according to Reuters.

About 200 people attended the exhibition, which offered a $10,000-prize for the best artwork or cartoons depicting the prophet, according to AFP.

"We decided to have a cartoon contest to show we would not kowtow to violent intimidation and allow freedom of speech to be overwhelmed by thugs and bullies," U.S. activist Pamela Geller told The Washington Post newspaper by email.

Geller is head of the openly anti-Muslim American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), which is controversial in the United States and considered by some to be a hate group.

However, "There is no form of expression that justifies an act of violence," AFP quoted the White House spokesman Earnest as saying Tuesday.

‘No freedom without limits’

Din Syamsuddin, who chairs the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s most influential clerical body, said the violence in Texas should not have happened.

"Freedom of expression has limits, especially if it offends the beliefs of different cultures," he told BenarNews on May 6.

Cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad anger Muslims, he added.

"This value should also be appreciated. The case of Charlie Hebdo in France, which occurred earlier this year, should be a valuable lesson," he continued, referring to a Jan. 7 attack by Islamists that killed 12 people in and around the main offices of a French satirical magazine.

Lukman agreed that freedom of expression should be reined in by respect.

"Indeed, we have a right to express ourselves. But there is no freedom without limits. Freedom is constrained by our obligation to respect others," he said.

Art for art’s sake

For his part, Indonesian cartoonist Joko Kusbiantoro said art should be seen and appreciated from the perspective of art, and not according to religious values.

"I am sure everyone has their own opinion. But, as an artist, I see every piece of artwork from an arts viewpoint," he told BenarNews on May 6.

"If everything is linked to issues of ethnicity, religion, race, and intergroup conflict, it will easily trigger conflict," he continued.

Joko said the events in France and in Texas could have been avoided if societies were more tolerant.

"They should have learned from the Indonesian experience. We have a wide variety of religions, languages and tribes, but we are able to overcome this. We went through this 17 years ago," he said referring to riots in Indonesia that took place in May 1998.


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