Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Dangers of Verbal Terrorism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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We have laws that allow for the arrest, imprisonment and even execution of those who carry out acts of terror, however, there seems to be a different kind of terrorism that nobody discusses which finds its audience in the Arab street, Arab satellite channels, mosques and in the press – namely, verbal terrorism.

Heated dialogue between Lebanese politicians launched accusations of mass destruction: this one is an American Zionist, that one is a Syrian agent, and the other is accused of being implicated in the assassination of one leader or another. In Iraq, sectarian leaders accuse some of being disbelievers, ostracizing them from the creed, while making their accusations by committing crimes such as burning homes and places of worship without any evidence to support their claims. Such allegations sow the seed of hatred amongst the people of one nation.

In Egypt, representatives of the ruling party in parliament competed with their counterparts from the Muslim Brotherhood in what seemed to be a competition of insults at the expense of the Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni who was accused of renouncing Islam, deviance, and of becoming excessively ‘westernized’, assisting the enemy with his plans etc. It is a harsh and brutal language regardless of whom it addresses, or of the nature of the issue at hand.

In Kuwaiti Parliament, two representatives exchanged insults about one another’s tribal affiliation in an attempt to undermine the value and dignity of elected representatives. Such words would be condemned if used on the streets let alone in the respected halls of parliament! There exist those who oversimplify and diminish the danger of verbal terrorism and the ideology behind it, forgetting that incitement, treacherous allegations, and accusations related to faith are the starting point of physical and moral terrorism and murder. What would stop a young man from killing someone that a religious leader has already deemed an infidel or somebody who has renounced his religion? What would stop an overzealous nationalist from killing somebody who national leaders have branded a traitor to the state and who is part of a wider American Zionist plot?

Democratic societies have realized the danger of verbal terrorism by imposing tough laws that could see the American president apologizing for telling a joke about the Irish, which many would consider as racism. The Italian Prime Minister was forced to apologize to Muslims after he caused them offence.

Laws against all kinds of discrimination have been enforced in all democratic societies, incriminating those who practice sectarian and ideological terrorism whilst verbal terrorism is practiced freely in our region through the use of vulgar language and curses.

Reckless words are detrimental to one’s honor yet they are used on a daily basis in the press, television, and parliament, and are issued from pulpits that are accepted by the public – in fact, it glorifies such words as if the nation were engaged in a big wrestling match!

A German philosopher once said “the weaker my opponent’s argument, the more profanity he will use.” Unfortunately, the old philosopher’s observation is correct.