The Dirty Dozen (Plus Another Two)
Here is the 10 seconds summary of the whole issue: A Danish newspaper publishes 12 caricatures of prophet Mohammed in an effort to test Muslim tolerance, some people fret about it, but all in all the matter passes peacefully. A month and a half later, out of the blue sky, the issue is raised again, Arabic governments lead the calls for an apology from the Danish government, the Danish PM says they won’t apologize because they simply didn’t do anything; it was a private entity entitled to free speech that published the cartoons, and they are the ones who should be addressed, hell breaks loose, every body is calling for a boycott of Danish products, the movement is stronger in the gulf, but has considerable following elsewhere, a Norwegian newspaper publishes the cartoons, nobody takes notice, calls for targeting Danish targets everywhere in the world fills the internet, Arab government are giggling in closed rooms, and angrily urging the Danish government to punish those responsible in public, the newspaper apologize, nobody gives a damn, the Norwegian government apologize, nobody cares, a church is bombed in Iraq, some Danes are beaten in Saudi Arabia, and some people are preparing themselves for the end of the world. (Well, that was a little bit more than 10 seconds)
Only with us (Arabs) a sentence can start with “12 caricatures” and end with “the end of the world”. You get the idea?
I am not going to start pointing fingers at people, for the simple reason that I hate playing God. Even from a religious perspective it doesn’t make any sense, for the simple fact that everybody (absolutely everybody) has the option of repenting even as his soul is leaving his body, and everybody else has a whole life ahead of him, during which he can do all kinds of sins. So if I think that I am religiously right and that somebody else is Kafir, infidel, or whatever they’re calling them those days, it can very easily happen that we switch places at the very last moment. So you know, there isn’t one point in life when it is appropriate to judge the righteousness of anybody else. QED
But what’s more important, I guess, is how the whole thing oscillated. I might seem every bit of a conspiracy theorist now, but bear with me. I think that the whole thing is a result of an unholy, unspoken alliance between the forces of political Islam, and the Arabic, secular governments.
It is easy; it goes like this:
Islamists want to rise to power. They try violence but they discover that they’re playing the military-governments’ favorite pastime, so they retreat. They start directing their efforts at the grassroots. They condemn violence, because it didn’t go well with the masses. They know that we’re people who believe that “El Nearafo Ahsan Men El Meanrafosh” (what we know is better than what we don’t), so they don’t try to clash with the existing governments, because they know that people would prefer what they know rather than experimenting with anything new. Also, they have no real solutions to any problems the people are facing in their life, so they, in the manner of every good politician who doesn’t have the solution to a certain problem, invent another one and try to solve it. So they go “forget about life, let’s focus on death”. And then they go on with the very largest implementation of the “carrot and the stick” technique in history. In every satellite channel, sits a sheikh (not even an approved or educated one) who speaks about paradise and another one who speaks about hell. In every cassette, book, email, website, and sms message, the same occurs; paradise is promised to those who do so and so, while hell is promised to those who won’t. After a while the people are conditioned to think of the world as a two-way street (paradise and hell, righteous and infidel, halal and haram, us and THEM). And this way, the mission becomes much easier for radicals (some help from divisive, enraging, polarizing westerners won’t harm either). All they had to do now was to get into the political scene and tell people you’re either with us or against us. You’re either with the righteous, or the infidels. You’re either with the right, or the wrong, etc…I guess you all know what the choice would be. The Egyptian parliamentary elections are the best example. A movement with no real plan to do anything (at least none that any of us know about) is now controlling 20% of the parliament (not that the other 80% are any credible, but at least we know how they came)
So, this is the radicals part, what about the “secular” governments?
After years and years of practice, they finally understood that politics are moved by what people want, not what they want. Unluckily for us (or luckily, I can’t make my mind on this yet) they became aware to the fact a bit late. They missed the needs for democracy, reform, proper education, clean streets, inhabitable cities, efficient governments, etc, etc…and only caught on when people, disillusioned by the hopelessness of their conditions, were demanding religious salvation. Not to be outdone by radical religious groups, the Arabic governments went in full force trying to appear as the defenders of Islamic faith. They agitated people and were the first to demand the unreasonable apology of the Danish state! (On several occasion, Mubarak was asked by the Israeli government to apologize for what the Egyptian newspapers were saying against Israel, which is stupid—demanding apology, and he responded by saying that we have free press and they have every right to write whatever they want…fair enough….so why demand it from Denmark who has real free press!)
And so, for the very first time, through their mutual greed for power, the “secular” governments and the “islamist” groups find themselves in the same camp. It is only a pity that what they’re fighting is tolerance, acceptance, art, writing, freedom, fun, civil discourse, books, good times, and life. And as for people? They’re finding themselves between a rock and a hard place; they have to either follow suit or burn eternally in hell. Combine that with chronicle cases of inferiority complex, and paranoia, and you have a really explosive cocktail!
P.S. You came here looking for my opinion on what should have been done in the Denmark case? Well, here it is: sue the hell out of the newspaper, if you can take them down playing with their own rules, nobody else would dare do such an outrageous act. It would be clean, civilized, elegant, devastating, and to the point. You won’t be asking for the enmity of a whole country, and you’d have made your point in a very clear manner; money!
Why do I think that should have been done? Because I know that any attempt to speak about tolerance now would fail miserably, and frankly—as much as I hate lawyers—I am willing to put up with a thousand of them, rather than hearing a single death threat thrown around so easily.
update: I have a suggestion to end this raw. Check it out here.