What They Are Saying week of 2/16/06



Attention, Arab Brothers and Sisters: It's Time to Put an End to Hate!

Writer Nonie Darwish says in London's Sunday Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk) on Feb. 12 that generations of Muslims teaching their children hate have brought about the current situation:

"The controversy regarding the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed completely misses the point. Of course, the cartoons are offensive to Muslims, but newspaper cartoons do not warrant the burning of buildings and the killing of innocent people. The cartoons did not cause the disease of hate that we are seeing in the Muslim world on our television screens at night – they are only a symptom of a far greater disease.

"I was born and raised as a Muslim in Cairo, Egypt, and in the Gaza Strip. In the 1950s, my father was sent by Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to head the Egyptian military intelligence in Gaza and the Sinai, where he founded the Palestinian fedayeen, or 'armed resistance.' They made cross-border attacks into Israel, killing 400 Israelis and wounding more than 900 others.

"My father was killed as a result of fedayeen operations when I was 8 years old. He was hailed by Nasser as a national hero, and was considered a shaheed, or martyr.

"In school in Gaza, I learned hate, vengeance and retaliation. Peace was never an option, as it was considered a sign of defeat and weakness. At school, we sang songs with verses calling Jews 'dogs' (in Arab culture, dogs are considered unclean).

"Sadly, the way I was raised was not unique. Hundreds of millions of other Muslims also have been raised with the same hatred of the West and Israel as a way to distract from the failings of their leaders. Things have not changed since I was a little girl in the 1950s.

"Palestinian television extols terrorists, and textbooks deny the existence of Israel. More than 300 Palestinians schools are named after shaheeds, including my father. What sort of message does that send about the role of terrorists? That they are heroes. Leaders who signed peace treaties, such as President Anwar Sadat, have been assassinated. Today, the Islamo-fascist president of Iran uses nuclear dreams, Holocaust denial and threats to 'wipe Israel off the map' as a way to maintain control of his divided country.

"Indeed, with Denmark set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, the flames of the cartoon controversy have been fanned by Iran and Syria. But the rallies and riots come from a public ripe with rage. From my childhood in Gaza until today, blaming Israel and the West has been an industry in the Muslim world. Whenever peace seemed attainable, Palestinian leaders found groups who would do everything to sabotage it. They allowed their people to be used as the front line of Arab jihad. Dictators in countries surrounding the Palestinians were only too happy to exploit the Palestinians as a diversion from problems in their own backyards. The only voice outside of government control in these areas has been the mosques, and these places of worship have been filled with talk of jihad.

"Is it any surprise that after decades of indoctrination in a culture of hate, that people actually do hate? Arab society has created a system of relying on fear of a common enemy. It's a system that has brought them much-needed unity, cohesion and compliance in a region ravaged by tribal feuds, instability, violence and selfish corruption. So Arab leaders blame Jews and Christians rather than provide good schools, roads, hospitals, housing, jobs or hope to their people.

"It's time for Arabs and Muslims to stand up for their families. We must stop allowing our leaders to use the West and Israel as an excuse to distract from their own failed leadership and their citizens' lack of freedoms. It's time to stop allowing Arab leaders to complain about cartoons while turning a blind eye to people who defame Islam by holding Korans in one hand while murdering innocent people with the other."


Cartoons Lead to More Cartoons, Punctuating the Idea of Muslim Truths

Columnist Michael Kinsley writes in The Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com) on Feb. 10 that Iran has quite a sense of humor:

"Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the noted wit, expert on freedom and unelected religious leader – the leader who counts – of Iran, observed the other day that in the West, 'casting doubt or negating the genocide of the Jews is banned but insulting the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims is allowed.' He apparently thought that this was a devastating point. Touché, Ayatollah Khamenei.

"The worldwide fuss over 12 cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad (some mocking, some benign) that ran in a Danish newspaper has already killed a number of people. Many self-styled voices of Islam have made the bizarre comparison between showing pictures of Muhammad and expressing doubt about the Holocaust. A government-controlled Tehran newspaper announced a contest for cartoons about the Holocaust, asking 'whether freedom of expression' applies to 'the crimes committed by the United States and Israel.' In a spirit of 'see how you like it,' a European Muslim group posted on the Web a cartoon of Anne Frank in bed with Hitler.

"Muslim complaints about a Western double standard would be more telling if the factual premise were accurate. But it is not. In fact, it is nearly the opposite of the truth. Nothing is easier and more common in the West, including the United States, than criticizing the United States – except for criticizing Israel.

"Meanwhile, whatever point these European Muslims were making with their cartoon of Hitler and Anne Frank is more or less disproved by their very exercise. No one tried to stop them from putting the cartoon on the Web. The notion that jokes about Frank are beyond the pale is provably false. There's a play running in New York right now called '25 Questions for a Jewish Mother.' It's a monologue written and acted by stand-up comic Judy Gold, who says on stage every night that her mother used to read to her from a pop-up version of Anne Frank's diary, and would say, 'Pull the tab, Judith. Alive. Pull it again. Dead.'

"Maybe you had to be there. But The New York Times reviewer called the play 'fiercely funny, honest and moving,' and did not demand that the author be executed or even admonished.

"By contrast, in a spectacular exercise of self-censorship, almost every major newspaper in this country is refraining from publishing the controversial Danish cartoons, even though they are at the center of a major news story that these papers cover at length every day.

"Of course, it is not Western values that are trampling freedom of expression, it is the ayatollah's own values, combined with the threat of violence. The other problem with his little joke about double standards – and with the whole, supposedly mordant, comparison between denying the Holocaust and portraying the prophet – is that the offended Muslims do not want a world where people are free to do both. They don't even want a world where people are not free to do either, which would at least be consistent.

"They want a world where you may not portray Muhammad (even flatteringly, slaying infidels or whatnot), but you may deny the Holocaust all day long."



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