Not all is well in the state of IslamI don't know a lot about Denmark. Last year, I was seeing a lady who reminded me of a former Sydney real estate agent now married to the Crown Prince of Denmark. During a recent visit to Indonesia, I enjoyed Danish pastries. Though I must say that in Indonesia, they did taste a little different. Was it extra chilli or spice? I don't know.
But in their response to the publication of certain cartoons across European newspapers, some Muslim protesters have just added too much chilli and spice to their legitimate protest. In the past few weeks, Libya and Saudi Arabia have withdrawn ambassadors from Denmark. In many Muslim countries, Danish goods are being boycotted.
In my birthplace of Karachi, frenzied Pakistanis hit the streets with protests that did more damage to the Pakistani economy than to anyone in Denmark.
The same scenes were repeated in Gaza. Then again, some of these guys (Pakistani women have more important matters to attend to) will protest each time they think a Pakistani batsman is given out lbw unfairly.
Even the Lebanese President (himself a Maronite Christian) issued a statement condemning the publication. And across the Arab world, supermarkets have removed Danish goods from their shelves.
From the response, you'd think Denmark had invaded a Muslim country and was establishing Danish settlements all over the place. Or perhaps that the Danish Government had passed laws banning girls from wearing headscarves in schools.
Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, a number of privately owned newspapers in Denmark published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. One cartoon apparently shows him standing at the pearly gates of heaven in much the same way as St Peter in the Catholic tradition.
The cartoons were first published in the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten. Most people living in Muslim countries would probably be unable to pronounce the paper's name, let alone have heard of it.
In January, the paper published an apology. It claimed the cartoons were first published as part of an ongoing debate on freedom of the press.
If the paper expects me to believe that, it will probably also claim the loud noises I heard at the Sukarno Airport in Jakarta were not Qantas planes landing but Danish pigs taking off.
But the reaction of so many Muslim civilians and Governments makes me wonder. The same people jumped up and down and screamed and shouted when Salman Rushdie published what was clearly his worst novel in decades.
Instead of the novel being a huge flop, the gross overreaction of some Muslims led to it becoming a best seller.
In the case of the Danish cartoons, the issue is a simple one. If you don't like what you see, write a letter to the editor. Or cancel your subscription. Or do what Danish Muslims did and meet the editor to secure an apology.
Millions of Muslims live in poverty across the world. Muslim women are murdered in their thousands for "dishonouring" their families. Apart from Indonesia and Turkey, I don't see a lot of democracy in Muslim countries, let alone press freedom.
Muslims in Gaza face a potentially desperate situation as Israel turns off the economic tap. Muslims in southern Thailand aren't exactly living it up.
The Muslim world faces problems of an order taller than a tsunami wave. Yet Muslims are squandering time and resources on 12 cartoons.
Yes, it is true that Islam forbids the pictorial depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. However, that ban doesn't extend to non-Muslim newspapers operating in countries where Islamic law does not apply.
And if the cartoons do portray the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light, should that affect what Muslims themselves think of him? Is his dignity dependent upon what appears in cartoons of newspapers that sound like exotic icecream brands?
Yes, the cartoons were insensitive and in bad taste. But they don't reflect on the entire state of Denmark.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. But if the response of Muslims to the Danish cartoons is anything to go by, things are even more rotten in the state of Islam.
* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer. This article was first published in the New Zealand Herald on 6 February 2006.