Thursday, June 19, 2008

You've Got To Go To The Source

A TV show I enjoy is “Minbar” on Al-Jazeera. The host chooses a different subject each week and people call in from all over the world to express their viewpoint. “Minbar” means pulpit, also equivalent to the English “soap-box”, and the show indeed allows people to stand on their soapbox for a few minutes.

In an episode on torture in Arab prisons the host asked a caller if he thought the Arab governments had made any progress in human rights during the last 50 years. The caller replied they had not and then said, “Real progress would be to let people say whatever they want. I don’t question the patriotism of anyone else. But we just want the opportunity to express ourselves, to say ‘Let me disagree with you, let you say something and me say the opposite, let’s disagree but reach a solution.’”

That’s a longing that exists throughout the people of the Middle East. But in looking at why it is not there, they never seem to go very far. They will acknowledge their governments do not allow freedom of expression, but that’s all. They seem unwilling or unable to take the next logical step, which would be to examine what it is in their cultural or religious heritage that makes criticism unacceptable. Which would of course eventually lead them to how Muhammad dealt with critics Ka'b Ibn Al-Ashraf, Abu Afak, and Asma Mint Marwan.

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