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Freedom of Mass Insults: Is it a Constructive Approach in a Culturally Divergent Global Community? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Saladin, Egypt Aug 7, 2006
Culture , Peace & Conflict , Human Rights   Opinions


The world has turned rapidly into an interrelated and interconnected community, by virtue of the excessive progress of communications and media bridges. At the same time, human rights activists worldwide complain about the stance of the Chinese government towards the Fallun-gong group, thousands of miles across oceans and continents, Greenpeace volunteers are roaming overseas to stop the whale hunting in the Sea of Ohotsk or elsewhere, never mind the influence of oil prices on global economy, pollution, and policy-making. In short, whatever happens today in a certain place, affects in a more or less important manner, directly or indirectly, lots –if not all- of other places. Hence, the consequences of any actions taken by a certain group or government in a certain country are no longer limited to the geographical boundaries of that country.

This concept does not extend solely to political, economic or environmental incidents; in fact, it is deeply related to the world's kaleidoscopic social, cultural, religious, and ethnic aspects as well. The recent dilemma that has arisen from a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad (s) – the role model and the absolute human character for more than 1.2 billion people sharing this planet with Danes and others – in an way that reflected either a dangerous ignorance of symbols that are considered absolute by one fifth of the human family, or a deliberate display of hatred and xenophobia towards –again- that one-fifth of the human family (regardless of the size or the geographical region served by Jyllands Posten).

This depiction did not follow any pattern of objective criticism – which Islam itself accepts, and even highlights several points non-Muslims have criticized Islam for, within the Quran itself - , instead, it employed direct and deliberate insults. If true Muslims devote themselves to a religion that prohibits them from insulting or making mockeries out of others’ beliefs, absolutes and rules, then such cartoons are nothing but a rigid message of hatred, not only towards Danish Muslims, but also towards more than one fifth of the human race worldwide: it's by virtue of globalization.

The controversy appeared neater in the recent dilemma of a Danish Muslim TV presenter, who insisted on wearing her Islamic headscarf. Her appearance in that particular form has angered many in Denmark –probably those who stood vigorously with the publishing of Muhammad's cartoons as an essential right of "freedom of expression"—indicating again the same symptoms of "refusing to listen", given –as an example—that the British authorities at Heathrow airport have assigned some veiled Muslim female officers to be in charge of the passport control offices, in other words, to be the first people a visitor would meet in Britain.

One should note that there are four camps: extremist Muslims (and there are not many), extremist westerners (again not many), neutral westerners and moderate Muslims, who are the vast majority. What should be dealt with is to hinder extremists on both sides from pulling out the neutral and moderate majorities to their respective sides.

Moderate Muslims, including me, deeply respect and esteem what the Danish flag represents to the Danish people, and we stand strictly against any form of violent display of anxiety that has taken place in the Muslim world –including the burning of the Danish flag over the Danish cartoons. However, while we fully respect the value Danish flags represents for the Danes, the latter party is urged to respect what a man called Muhammad has represented to billions of people over the past 14 centuries.

The question is not really that of freedom of expression, it is about ignorance, and about mutual refusal to make the slightest effort to "know" and "listen" to the "other". Fortunately, it was the Muslim side that has begun to build that bridge, starting by Amr Khaled's initiative "The Conference on Dialogue" that took place in Copnehagen, Denmark, in March 2006. The conference was meant to be the beginning of a full-scale cultural exchange between the west and the Muslim world, such that dialogue shall take the form of “give & take” instead of the existing form of “take only, give nothing” adopted by extremists belonging to both parties.

One the individual level, my Egyptian Muslim family and I hosted a Danish student from January to July 2006, in Alexandria, Egypt, in a proactive –and not reactive—approach to try to provide the Danish people with the truth about us, our region, our culture, and our beloved prophet Muhammad (s).



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My name is Ayman el-Hakea, I am a Construction Engineering graduate from the American University in Cairo. My origins date to an interesting mixture of Yemeni, Moroccan, Albanian, and Egyptian ancestors. I always try to be a moderate Muslim, I like animation, geopolitics, comparative religion, and football. I like to be with "people"...and I hope my writing isn't boring for anyone.

batool | Sep 1st, 2007
Nice Ayman as usual I enjoy reading your articles but please remind me to tell you something the next time we talk :).

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