Miss Mabrouk of Egypt

Check the archives too - a lot of good stuff to enjoy. Me myself? Off to new adventures in the blogosphere, if time permits.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Opposing Double Standards

Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, is not someone I agree with, but he does have a point about how we perceive freedom of expression:
What about freedom of expression when anti-Semitism is involved?" asked Mr Mousa. "Then it is not freedom of expression. Then it is a crime.
He accuses the west of double standards:
But when Islam is insulted, certain powers... raise the issue of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression should be one yardstick, not two or three," he said.
I agree with him about the double yardsticks: the people who are opposing the Muslims criticism of the cartoons decepting the Prophet as a mad terrorist and his beheading on a stage do it on grounds of the universal human right of freedom of speech, opinion and expression. They do not recognize that this right already is limited. These limitations have been put in place to protect the fundamental freedom from abuse that would erode it.

Thus: if we accept that the right of freedom of expression can be limited (which it is) we must also ask why we do not accept that a large portion of the population of the world consider it outrageous that picturing and slandering the Prophet is not one such accepted limitation.

The reason why it is not is because it was not an issue at the time when all human rights were drafted by, at large, the West, in the UN in the US after the second world war. Eleanor Roosevelt, if the name rings a bell. The voice of the people in the Muslim world was not the voice that it is today, for reasons of political systems and economic development. Today when a global world require a global sense of justice and with Western societies having to face what integration and multi-culturalism really mean, it is a different situation. It doesn´t provide answers automatically, but it poses new questions.

The limitations imposed on the freedom of expression was not put in place overnight. It is still a grey zone in International Law. There is no reason why we should not have a discussion about what constitute a proper limitation today. With the aim of protecting the right, not taking it away.

I am not arguing for new limitations. I am arguing for a debate about the limitations. The outcome may be that all kinds of limitations are wrong and therefore everybody have the right to say anything at any time, at any place. If not, we must have a valid answer to why we should not protect religious symbols. That the people who are opposing it are not religious or consider those who are religious backwards, is not a valid answer.

Two hundred meters from the Arab League HQ in Cairo, two kiosks are selling anti-semitic books, such as Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As you know, it is not unusual. Anti-semitism - not only anti-zionism - is widespread and nothing that most people think twice about. In some western countries, it is forbidden and those texts cannot be sold in shops. Says the BBC:
But it's clear that some publishers in Egypt do not practise the kind of respect for religious groups that Mr Mousa is calling for from the West.
It is clear that it is not only the people in the West who are practising double standards. Which is also a reason why we should take this discussion seriously, today.

BBC: Contradiction in Arab Cartoon Views

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