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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Our Government, The Guardian of the Faith

There is major anger here directed towards a Danish newspaper that published 12 insulting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in an unacceptable way. If we needed a reason that the “West is out to destroy Islam” then this paper has already provided a good one. Talk shows and countless paper articles have condemned the Danish government for refusing to act against the paper and called upon Muslims worldwide to voice their anger towards these cartoons.

What is very interesting is that it was our government who instigated this “crusade” against the paper and the Danish government. The foreign minister summoned the Danish ambassador and voiced our government’s disapproval. The national newspapers carried editorials warning about the current “war on Islam” and explaining how the west does not live up to its words about religious harmony and respect. Talk shows on national TV called upon the citizens to send protest emails and callers-in called for assisting the Danish Muslims in suing the government of Denmark and the paper.

Given the fact that this is not the first time that something that Muslims deem offensive arises in Europe, why did the Egyptian government take it upon itself to instigate this particular campaign? I believe our government is trying to portray itself as the “guardian of our faith” especially when it wants to do things that the people are not favorable towards, the current warm relations with Israel is a good example. The regime knows it is hated, it knows the people are getting religious, it is well aware that it is losing grounds to the Islamists, what is a better PR campaign than defending the prophet Muhammad in Denmark?

The above fact raises a concern that I have. How far will the government go in portraying itself as the “guardian of our faith”? Given the results of the parliament elections and the popular appeal that Islamists have, will we see more “religiously inspired” measures and laws initiated not by the Muslim Brotherhood but by our “secular” government? I won’t be surprised if that will turn out to be the case. The government has a long history of appeasing political Islamists ever since the late President Sadat used them against his nationalist and communist rivals. Just 2 or 3 years ago, the government gave the religious authorities that ability to confiscate literature they don’t approve of. The question is: will we see more of these measures as the government tries to portray itself as holy?

N.B. Several other Muslim countries reacted in the same manner, but it was interesting to notice how active the Egyptian government was in this particular case.


Are they equal?

On a different note. Turkish prime minister Racep Tayyib Erdocan stated that “anti-Islamism should be treated as anti-Semitism”. I totally disagree. Anti-Muslims should be treated as anti-Semitism. Anti-Islam is equal to anti-Judaism. Hate speech towards a particular people which might hurt this group of people is quite different than criticisms and mockery directed towards a religion or a historical religious personality.

Even though I believe what the newspaper did was so stupid (even if the editor said “the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark." ) the paper had the right to publish cartoons about a historical figure such as the prophet Muhammad.

Another thing. Visit any bookstore in Europe and you’re most probably going to see books lambasting all sorts of religions. So when will we grow up?

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