Sunday, February 12, 2006
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There is a kind of euphoria spirit going on here. A spirit of victory which is something rare in this nation and this region. The victory is not over some disease we managed to cure or an economic indicator we managed to increase, the victory is over a small Scandinavian European country that makes butter and toys. The victory is over a western country that in our minds represents the entire west. In other words, the victory many of us are feeling today is over the west as a whole.
From my conversations with my friends and the articles I read in our papers, I felt that there is a sense of victory after the apology of both the Danish government and J-Posten (neither apologized for publishing the cartoons however). A feeling that we finally managed to defeat Lurpak and Legos after we dreadfully failed to defeat Boeing and Coca Cola. As someone who longs for my region to experience a triumph after another, I cannot partake in this illusionary “victory” because, just like many of what we consider as victories, it is fake and has done more negatives than positives.
We are a defeated nation. Defeated in almost all areas of life. This is the reason why we search, in fact we sniff, for any victory, no matter how fake it turns out to be. Our inability to achieve real and beneficial triumphs forces us to accept illusionary victories that we accept without any rational thinking. In addition, we have the horrible habit of blaming others for our defeats, and since these days we look at everything through the prism of religion, we direct our blame at the Western world.
We are the complete opposite of the Japanese who lost their empire yet made a U-turn and became a world economic superpower once again. They made their U-turn by asking themselves the crucial questions of “what went wrong?” and “how can we fix it?”. They didn’t blame the west but rather copied the west and excelled over it in many areas. The Germans have done the same thing. They have looked in the mirror and accepted defeat and worked on finding a solution out of it. Our problem is that we don’t have a mirror to look at. We think we, such poor wretched souls, are being attacked from all directions and the whole world wants to suck our oil and terminate our religion. We are consumed by these thoughts, we definitely have no time to look at the mirror.
Now, why do I think the “Battle of Denmark” was a total defeat for the Arab/Muslim world? The Danish government and the paper issued an apology. The Arab/Muslim world were united against Lurpak and Legos, they don’t unite themselves behind a common cause that often. The entire world knew that Arab/Muslim anger is something to be reckoned with, and papers around the world will think twice before offending Muslims because what happened to Lurpak gave them a lesson. Aren’t all the above facts victories? The answer is no.
First this cartoon issue was another misstep in which Arabs/Muslims tarnished their image even more. The idea to boycott an entire nation and vilify an entire people just because of what a single independent paper there did was childish and stupid. This boycott of all Denmark and not just the companies that advertise in J-Posten showed that up till now the Muslim world is foreign to the concept of free speech and freedom of expression. This leads to the assumption that we have a long way to go before accepting the values of liberal democracy that will give our “Voltairs” the right to lambaste our religions and walk down the street without fearing for their lives.
Second, we failed to understand how things are in Denmark and we ended up vilifying a country that was once supportive of our causes. The vast majority of Danes are tolerant people and Denmark itself is one of the most open societies in the world, much more open and liberal than the UK and the US. This majority believe the cartoons were insulting yet they also believe J-Posten had the right to publish them. Our failure to understand this simple logic led us to demonize the same people who once supported our causes and opened up their country for millions of Muslims. And once again the Arab/Muslim image was tarnished by the same hands that tarnish it every time: the Arab/Muslim hands.
My fellow Arabs and Muslims. You managed to bring Denmark to its knees? Bravo! You managed to bring a western country to its knees by boycotting butter and milk? Bravo! Yet, your knee jerk reaction, coming 4 months late, created a fool out of you and showed how weak your faith is because as Andrew Sullivan said “a self-confident faith is not this defensive and touchy. It can and must brush off provocation, or be consumed by it.”
And the illusion lives on.
N.B For another good read, The sandmonkey’s 7 questions.
Update: Norm wrote this comment to the above post:
BP...you are absolutely correct. Both the image of Islam and the Arab nation has been tremendously damaged.From my conversations with people whohad been neutral or actual Jew hatersshow a change in attitude. Freedom to express one's thoughts is a right taken very seriously by the entirepolitical spectrum. Now is the time for all Arab liberals to enter this fray and open their mouths...even if it means danger and jail. Time is running out.
To the Arab/Muslim nation: Bravo! Excellent achievement!!