Mar 10, 2006 4:37 pm


Freedom House issued a press release warning about new dangers to freedom of expression:

Some argue that these two core democratic principles - free expression on the one hand and respect for religious diversity on the other - are at odds in the recent controversy over the Danish cartoons.

We disagree. At the heart of the cartoon controversy is the right, now and in the future, of an independent and uncensored press - and artists and writers in other venues - to comment on the issues of the day without interference from the state or threat from discomfited or aggrieved groups.

The timing is not accidental. At this very moment, Muslim and Christian scholars and clerics are conducting a dialogue in Denmark. The Muslim scholars are hard liners:

"We request an official apology from your government to the Muslim nation and to the Muslims in Denmark," said Tariq al-Suweidan, an Islamic scholar from Kuwait.

He also demanded that the European Union enact a law"that forbids the insult to religious figures."

But neither al Suweidan nor young popular Amr Khaled who helped organize the dialogue are not extreme enough to please Islamists such as the Egyptian Sheikh Youssef El-Qaradawi, who heads the European Council on Fatwa and Research and who insists that"dialogue is an unwanted compromise for the time being." Why? Saudi journalist Mshari Al-Zaydi explains:

When Qardawi shouts,"revenge, revenge; rage, rage," he is in fact maintaining the survival of the Islamic movement. Had the Danes apologized according to the conditions of the Muslim masses and had for example taught the full biography of the Prophet Mohammed by Ibn Hisham in their schools, then this would have been less of a gain than having the masses perpetually aligned in a state of religious anger.

Naturally, in the eyes of the global"protectors of the religious rage of the masses," mobilization and religious tension are great results of the Danish crisis for the shrewd Islamists. Perhaps, this is not realized entirely by the younger generation and those who do not realize are an embarrassment.

Sheikh Qardawi in fact is re-enacting a pre-Islamic scene from our Arabic heritage. He is imitating Al Zeer Salim who saw revenge as the reason for existence. He had the chance to take revenge on several occasions however; he preferred to continue fighting which became his reason for existence. This state of mind is not something especially akin to Qardawi and those like him, but is rather salient in the Arab culture as a whole with its varied political trends. Like Amal Dunqul's words in her poem to assassinated Egyptian president Sadat, that warned him not to sign a peace treaty with Israel, Qardawi repeats this warning to Amr Khaled, to"not make peace."

Islamists are standing guard to insure that the cartoon issue stays alive and appeasement fails. The cartoons have emerged as a mobilization tool similar to the Israeli one. Sadat was assassinated for attempting to deprive the Muslim Brotherhood of that tool and comparing the dialogue in Denmark to Sadat going to Jerusalem is nothing but a veiled death threat.

Once again it has become clear that there is no alternative to the Bush doctrine: You are either with us or against us. And we better make sure that the"us" remains loyal to values such as freedom of expression that make"us" worth fighting for.

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