Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Fitna of Fitna (Documentary)

Devolution of intellectual thought
By Shakeel Syed

Freedom of expression is an inherent right that many societies protect by law. But that does not make every expression made in the name of freedom of expression, right.

The inflammatory content including the tearing of Quran in the so-called seventeen-minute-documentary, Fitna, is pure anti-Semitism reborn as "Islamophobia," an increasingly popular vocation among secular fanatics. The world is smarter than the likes of Geert Wilders. Thanks to history.

Neither the two World Wars, genocides of Bosnians in Europe, of Native Indians in Americas, and of the Aborigines in Australia nor the killing fields in Cambodia or the just ended apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing apartheid in Israel has any parallel in Islam.

And it was Europe that gave the world the Inquisition and the Holocaust. And it was within the Christian cultures of Italy & Germany that Mussolini & Hitler became heroes. Contrasting Islam and Muslims with such rival cultures and butchers is an intellectual corruption.

Islam’s conquests were by cooptation and conversion unlike thru genocides and extermination camps.

From the Islamic perspective, freedom of speech and expression (hurriyyat al-qawl wa bayan) is "vindication of truth" and "protection of human dignity," with embedded maxims of morality and legality. Slander and libel are not protected under free speech.

Fitna is yet another failed attempt in inciting hatred against Islam that has successfully survived the taunts by the like of Geert Wilders for more than fourteen centuries.

Muslims are well aware of the double standards West places in regard to freedom of speech and expression. Neither the West could tolerate the demonization of any other faith nor the dehumanization of any other people (with occasional exceptions from Hollywood), but seemingly it is all acceptable to bash Islam and Muslims in the name of freedom and secular civility.

The twenty first century has divided the world into two camps – the secular and the religious, living together but without knowing one another. What is sacred in one is deranged in the other.

Fostering an environment where nothing is sacred in the faith of secularism will not help a sage civilization of fifteen centuries in which the sacred is all that counts. Thanks to many leaders of several faith groups and the secular world (UN Secretary General among many) for their calls to sanity.
History does not end with the discovery of what is best in us but after we recognize the worst that we can do to ourselves. Failing to see beyond that imperative will result in a life that sees all within one’s own closed circle as good and all outside as evil. In an ever more interconnected and interdependent world, this is a sure disaster of colossal proportions.

All strands of artists and academics, journalists and politicians must embrace a thoughtful discourse over mindless cartoons and documentaries. The discourse of history ought to continue its conversation but not with the military might or the stoned intellectualism but within the wider rhythms of human experience.

Only then could we as a human society be free, genuinely attempting to engage each other to learn from rather than creating Fitnas.

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