- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Arab Bloggers Take on Danish Cartoons

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia

As the debate rages on over the publication of controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Arab bloggers are reacting with their own take on the events that have unfolded over the past few days.

Early on Jyllands-Posten stated that the cartoons were a test of whether Muslim fundamentalists had begun affecting freedom of speech. Haitham Sabbah [1] was one of the first to question this argument, saying: “It’s ‘freedom of expression’, and they express that the way they see fit. But if you do the same, you will be called all names. So, don’t dare call them racist!!”

In an enquiry on the rise of Islamophobia, Tololy [2] asks “How far can one go with one's right of Free Speech? Are there no red lines that one ought to respect such as, say, the Holocaust, or Prophet Mohammad wearing a bomb-turban?”

While Eman [3] articulates the Arab point of view in a heated exchange with a company client at work, Khalidah [4] attempted to investigate the other side of the argument by taking a journey around the blogosphere. Concluding: “Isn't the way we deliver the message is as important as the message itself? Sometimes delivering the right message using the wrong method defeats the purpose and kills the initiative.”

While international media has focused primarily on the violent voices of a few Arab and Muslim mobs around the world, many Arab bloggers are indeed angry with the reactions of their countrymen and particularly the economic boycotts. Some are questioning their purpose while others support them. Farah [5] from Saudi Arabia isn’t “crazy about how Saudi Arabia jumped at the chance to play the Muslim hero”, while the Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey [6] isn’t too happy about the boycotts either. Silly Bahraini Girl [7] wonders: “Why the Fuss?”

The Big Pharoh [8] swims against the current and is even promoting Arla Foods, the Danish company most affected by the boycotts. “Some people might ask me why I am doing this? I consider this boycott one of the most childish things I've ever seen.”

Naseem Tarawnah of The Black Iris [9] notes “What does some food company in Denmark have to do with cartoons published by a newspaper in its country?”

However Tunasian blogger, Subzero Blue [10] claims “I'm against any violent reactions or death threats, but I'm totally for peaceful protest and political or economic boycott if necessary.” He goes on to say [11]: “Isn't it normal for us too to express ourselves and say that we're unhappy about these cartoons and act upon it in peaceful ways like demonstration or boycott?”

Highlander [12] says: “I have always been under the impression that boycott is a civilized way to express disagreement.”

As bloggers receieved numerous cellphone messages [13] and leaflets [14] urging them to spread the word about boycotts, a few Arab bloggers have banded together to start a campaign urging readers to instead: “Buy Denmark” [15]. In a similar campaign, a website has been launched [16] as a “small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs”.

Some bloggers have focused on the political moves made by their governments.
Mahmood [17] calls the parliamentary decision in Bahrain to boycott “childish and ridiculous”, while Natasha [18] shows some concern with the parliament in Jordan calling for the punishment of the Danish cartoonists involved. “Moving from a body that gives voice to the people's concerns to a congress bent on holy revenge is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.”

More reactions have emerged lately since Jordanian authorities arrested two editors of local newspapers, Al-Mehwar and Al-Shihan, who were the only ones in the Arab world to publish the cartoons. Naseem Tarawnah [19] wonders if the intentions of the editors must be taken into account. While Batir Wardam [20] sympathises with the Shihan’s editor, feeling it has given way to a degree of sudden self-righteousness amongst some people and organizations.

In Syria, while the only reports and images seen on the news revolves around the burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies, many Syrian bloggers are condemning the violence. “Not in Our Name” says Ayman Haykal [21], who lists several Syrian bloggers that share his outrage. “They had no right. Islamically this is seriously NOT acceptable”, says Sara [22].

Omar [23] offers a perspective as a Syrian living in Canada, while Ihsan Attar [24], who is also furious at the chaos says he is “100% convinced that the “Syrian Regime” had a hand in what happened”. Omar Faleh [25] shares similar sentiments about the government.

Violent protests and the burning of embassies also took place in Lebanon [26] and Lebanese bloggers have spoken out in anger [27] against the mob mentality as well as their government. Kais [28] for example thinks the entire Lebanese cabnit should resign, especially those that sanctioned these protests. Rampurple says [29]: “I could care less where the demonstrators are from. It is the Lebanese government who is supposed to ensure the security of all civilians”

Ahmad Humeid [30] wonder’s how the Prophet Mohammad would have responded to these cartoons; recalling stories from his religious classes as a child he offers 5 ways the Muslim world can respond. In the same spirit Naseem Tarawnah [31] sees this as an opportunity for engaging in dialogue between the eastern and western worlds. While Haitham Sabbah [32] is hoping that the sanity of the bloggers can help and is soliciting suggestions on what would bring this situation to a peaceful conclusion from his readers.

Last, but not least, Samir [33] from Morocco asks: It is truly sad, though not unpredictable, the way this entire sorry mess has spiraled out of control. Some of the language being used in the world press and in the blogosphere is almost as damaging as the original publication of the cartoons. “A clash of civilisations.” Not very civilised, in my mind to publish cartoons that will inflame already tense Islamic sensibilities. “A war of ideologies” – possibly true, but a “war”?