Tag Archives: Muslim

Freedom of speech versus “Innocence of Muslims”

The past week the world was once again shocked by violent demonstrations in the Middle-East. The reason was the controversial anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims”.  The movie shows Mohammed in the desert with several of his followers. He says they can kill men, take women prisoner and sell children as slaves. He encourages them to do whatever it takes to spread “There is only one God and his Prophet is Mohammed”.  

The real identity of the movie maker is still unknown. The spokesman for the movie-maker, Jewish American Steve Klein, states that “Sam Bacile” is a Christian with Middle-Eastern roots.  The goal of the movie was “to go for the radical one percent (of Muslims)”. The main source of distribution stems from an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the USA, looking for attention for the discrimination and attacks of Christians in Egypt.

Steve Klein says in the interview he does not have blood on his hands. He states that he is an expert on Islamic issues and on what Mohammed did. He wanted to support a movie that told the truth. “If there is blood on anyone’s hands I’d point my finger to (*drums please*) Hillary Clinton and the state department   for criminal negligence for not protecting the ambassador.”

Summing up the price of this week’s freedom of speech:

Libya: On Monday the American ambassador and three of his diplomats were killed during demonstrations.

Yemen: Current death toll is four; at least 15 people got injured. And maybe not related, but interesting enough to mention:  on Monday there was an attack on the Minister of Defense. He survived, 8 of his security staff and 5 civilians did not.

Egypt:  One American flag

Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan: Protest against the movie, no facts found about injuries

Iran: Because there is no American Embassy in Iran the protesters decided to go to the Swiss Embassy. Do not ask me for the logic behind this.

 

Goal Achieved: The world has seen that there are right-wing Islamic extremists in the Middle-East. The Western world condemns the violence and the footage of the protesters creates fear of Muslims.

I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, and I am happy that I live in a country where I can write pretty much anything I want. But with great freedom, comes great responsibility. I do not use this freedom to create hate, anger, nor discrimination. I know there are extreme people in the world; I do not need to provoke them to prove my point. And it is obvious that the movie is nothing more than a provocation, telling millions of people in the world that their Prophet was a raving madman. I assume that most Muslims look at the movie, comment about how shitty it is, take the insult and move on with their lives. But what we see in the media is not most Muslims; it is the small radical group of Muslims. The most dangerous group obviously, but not a reason to believe that the whole Middle-East is filled with only radical extremists.

The role of the media is crucial in this case. Instead of only showing rioting extremists, it is important that influential Muslims from the Middle-East that distance themselves from the violence are heard. Just as you have probably seen Mrs. Clinton distancing the American Government from the movie, the other side should also be shown from a Muslim perspective.  Even though the footage of rioting people is more spectacular, the media should provide a more neutral perspective.

The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures. Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims. The difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims can be compared with the difference between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Catholic churches have many iconic images of Jesus and other saints, while Protestant churches are more sober and without (many) images. The same principal applies to Sunni and Shia Muslims.

I am an agnostic, I believe that truth of certain claims are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable. Therefore I do not fully understand the anger of the Muslims about such a bad movie.  But I have even less understanding for the maker of the movie. It is obvious from the movie that the maker wants to anger and insult the Muslim society.

The tolerance issue here is a difficult one. What should we tolerate and what not? Freedom is speech is a key freedom in a democratic society. So even if you make an insulting film it should be tolerated. Violence and murder should never be tolerated. So what is the verdict you ask? Who is right?

The thing is: both the movie-maker and the Muslim demonstrators are wrong! Freedom of speech is there to make yourself heard if there is something in your society that you want attention for. But the movie-maker is only hate-mongering, depicting all Muslims as vile raving madmen. I believe in being tolerant towards other people’s believes. One could argue that the Muslims want to force everyone to believe the same, but they are not guiltier in that as that Christians. Both religions state to hold the absolute truth. Only one prophet is the “real son of God” and my book holds the true word of God. Battle it out between yourself, but leave the people that just want to live their own lives out of it.

Use freedom of speech for good, not to point your finger to something you don’t agree with.

Demonstrate for something good, not against something your belief states is forbidden.

Take your life into your hands, and stop hiding behind your religion to disagree with other people. Different cultures have different values and traditions. Stop making everyone think the same, eat the same and talk the same as you do. Life will be a boring place if you succeed.

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Filed under Middle-East, Religion, USA

Say no to Racism

Last week was the commemoration of the 1992 Rostock racism riot. It was the worst mob attack against foreigners in postwar Germany. Several hundred right-wing extremist were involved, and about 3000 neighborhood onlookers stood by, supporting them. Supporting them! The violent, racist extremist! What have happened in the decade after this horrible day? Is Europe nowadays a safer place for foreigners? I wish I could say discrimination is gone, but I fear we move more into the old habit of us versus them. Isn’t it time to look each other in the eyes and see we both want to same? Live a happy, fulfilling life?

I believe in equality of all human beings, regardless of nationality, skin-color or religion. I do not care if you are black, white, brown, yellow, Christian, Muslim, Greek, Belgium, Afghan, or American. I do not see myself as only a Dutch person in a foreign country, I see myself as an individual that tries to make to most out of his life. And I work hard to make it happen. But I am lucky. I am man, white, not religious and Dutch. I speak three languages fluently and am open and friendly. Some of my traits were given, some were taught, some I had to teach myself. But I do not think myself better than a woman, black, Muslim and Turkish that only speaks one language. I cannot judge her for I do not know which opportunities were given to her. I think her life is probably harder than mine. I am given plenty of opportunities to work, learn and develop; I doubt she is given the same.

Instead of blaming foreigners for the crisis the country (e.g. European Union) is in, look at what options are given to them. An easy blame-game would be to pass the ball to the husband, the immigrant worker who is not integrating and is sticking to his own traditions and beliefs. But that is too easy. In order to integrate one has to feel welcome, and integration, just as tolerance, is a too-way street.

All to often you hear the “integration problem” discussed by politicians, or maybe even with your neighbor. But what is this problem really? That people from a different culture keep their own traditions? Or that they still have a different skin-color? I do not think that living in a rainy country for a long period will make your skin-color turn white, so stop expecting that! People should stop thinking in boxes, and realize that working together is a win-win situation for the whole world. Provide opportunities for people to make a positive impact on the world, invest in the development of all people. Stop discriminating other people because they look different or have different traditions.

My belief is that tolerance and respect for other people is the stepping stone for the future. You do not have to share my belief; my belief does not require you to. I do not assume to hold the absolute truth, but I do belief that you don’t either.

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Filed under Europe, Foreigner

The definition or meaning of Tolerance

Welcome to BeTolerant. This is my dedication to strive for a better, peaceful world where people treat each other with respect.

Some definitions of Tolerance according to my friend The Internet:statue

  • “The ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behavior that one dislikes or disagrees with.”
  • “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.”
  • “A fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”
  • “Interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.”

I think it is important to point out that tolerance is not a belief system, not does the word contain truth. The word itself is just a word. Nothing more, nothing less. It is up to us to figure out what we mean by tolerance, define its boundaries and create a shared understanding of its meaning. The meaning may vary between cultures and religions, and even neighbors might have a different perspective on what includes tolerance and what “proper tolerant behavior is”.

I am not a prophet. I do not speak unquestionable truth. I am not a religious man, but I can understand the reasons to believe. I will not deny your prophet and say you are wrong, nor will I accept your prophet and promote your belief as the only truth. Not even science can claim absolute truth until we know all there is to know. And every answer science uncovers leaves us with more questions, so I do not think that time will come soon. Every human needs to believe. Whether it is in Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Tom Cruise, or Science, we all seek truth. And once we think we have found it, it is our purpose to convince other people of this truth. This cycle has been going on for ages with many ups and down along the way. Torture and murder, enlightenment and purpose, has been done in the name of truth. I do not say believing is wrong, I think believing is not even a choice. We all believe, we just differ in our belief system.

I believe that every human has value, every human deserves rights. Whether you are Muslim or Christian, black or white, German or Pakistani, I believe that does not matter. What does matter to me is how you treat your fellow man or woman. I believe in simple common sense. You do not steal, murder or rape. You do not beat up your wife. You do not force your truth upon others. You stand up for yourself and your family when threatened, but do not provoke and threaten other people.

I was asked what I thought about the statement: “tolerance ends where intolerance begins”. It is an interesting quote for sure. It tries to establish boundaries on the word tolerance in order to make clear to everyone what “the right way of tolerance” is. Tolerance is context depended. Tolerance is culturally different. Tolerance is individually different. So I cannot make these boundaries for you. The only universal aspect I would like to give to the word tolerance is respect for your fellow man and woman. Where you put your boundaries is up to you. Live as a good person, protect the people that require protection, support the people that require support. Do not assume to hold absolute truth but be open to other beliefs. Discuss. Argue. Get involved. Get angry! But be civilized. Be tolerant.

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Filed under Foreigner