Grapes of wrath

From Al-Ahram Weekly comes this direct, level-headed explanation of why the Danish cartoon incident has gone supernova, calling for everyone to cool off and back down.

Denmark has single-handedly blown up bridges of dialogue and understanding between Islam and the West. The offending drawings that have appeared in a Danish newspaper unknown to readers in our region are part of a pattern that has been evolving for sometime, a pattern of religious and ethnic incitement against Muslim immigrant communities in Europe. First it was girls wearing headscarves to schools in France; then a Dutch director was murdered over an insult to Islam. Dozens of clashes and skirmishes have been erupting here and there since the 9/11 attacks. The hate wave escalated following the London and Madrid bombings, and the revolt of the underclass in Parisian suburbs made things worse. The tension is easy to explain. Europe has failed to integrate its ethnic minorities in a meaningful manner.

The crisis could have been averted had Muslim governments acted promptly; that is, before EU countries took sides with Denmark and before dozens of European papers republished the offending cartoons. By that time, the message to Arab and Muslim governments and nations was clear: expect no apology!

Civil and Islamic rights groups in Denmark should have acted differently. The right thing to do was to file a lawsuit against the newspaper in the implementation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is enshrined in European laws. Had they done that, these groups would have had a chance to bring the newspaper to account, punish its editor-in-chief, and embarrass the Danish government and any other European government that gets so selective about freedom of expression. Only anti- Semitism is frowned upon in Europe at the time being. Slurs against Islam are not repressed with the same firmness — an obvious a case of double-dealing.

The crisis of the offending cartoons proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the so- called dialogue of civilisations is just an empty shell. Underneath it are layers of cynicism, mistrust and lies. The volatility of the situation is such that everyone should refrain from pouring fuel on the flames. As far as damage control is concerned, Al-Azhar should desist from fomenting feelings and the EU must condemn racist slurs in unequivocal terms.

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  • I don’t know why there is still so much discussion about all the reasons why this cartoons should have been published or not. That’s not the point. The point is that they became part of a war, they were just instrumented in a battle between fundamental differences between societies that have freedom of speech, the right to criticize everthing (even religion) and societies that still live in the Middle Ages. Sorry to disappoint many intellectuals, but that’s how simple it is.

  • Bob

    I’m sure glad there’s no fundamentalists in the US trying to repress freedom of speech, invading countries based on lies, saying it’s ok to torture, spying on opponents so they can be blackmailed, and saying that Science is bullshit and only their interpretation of scripture is allowable.

    Yeah, I’m happy we live in a land where none of that happens. Sure glad there’s no Middle Ages here in the good ole US of A.

  • John

    Strange that an anti-Muslim “pattern that has been evolving” is demonstrated by an example of a Muslim murdering someone, and all following examples are of a backlash against other Muslims murdering innocents.
    I can’t see how Europe’s”fail[ure] to integrate its ethnic minorities in a meaningful manner” justifies burning Denmark’s consolate. Until Muslims in Europe begin to understand the role of the press in political freedom, and how that in turn gives them religious freedom, I can’t see the point of even trying to integrate them. Clearly, the fundamentalist imams don’t want to integrate.
    The crisis could have been averted if “Muslim governments” had pointed out all the virulent hate speech regularly tolerated within their own borders and done something about their own problems first.
    Had “[c]ivil and Islamic rights groups in Denmark” brought suit against the paper they would have quickly understood the line between the press and the state, all gone home and had a nice cup of tea. Slurs are dealt with – these cartoons were hardly slurs.
    Finally, “[t]he crisis of the offending [sic] cartoons proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the so- called dialogue of civilisations is just an empty shell.” Clearly there is no dialogue, only stunned disbelief on one side and an incomprehensible rant on the other. What is the dialogue even supposed to be about? We don’t give a flying f*** about them, and they hate us.

  • Bob

    Thank you for so aptly demonstrating precisely what the problem is. As if all Muslims are murderers. As if all Christians invade countries because in their delusion they think Jesus told them to.

    There’s fanatics on all sides here. Unless we all want a major conflagration, maybe everyone should just chill instead.

  • agric

    Having spent 3 yrs working at the ‘heart’ of Islam – Saudi Arabia – I have had deep insight into their ways. Long conversations with intelligent men in their 20’s. I posed the question to many of them: What would you do if your brother decided he no longer wished to be a muslim? The reply on every occasion was either: I would kill him or the ‘government’ would kill him.What a wonderful peaceful religion! The holy cities of Mecca and Medina are forbidden to non-muslims. I have photos of the overhead gantry signs which instruct non-muslims to exit the road . This is enforced by police checkpoints which check everyone. Western women visiting there MUST adhere to the muslim dress code. A westerner (infidel) riding in a taxi will be held responsible if the taxi has an accident. This is the treatment meted out to non-muslims in a muslim country.You also have Sunni muslims killing Shia.These fanatice are a massive threat to world peace. Wake up – they will take over the world if we allow it.

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