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The Change That Should Occur Soon - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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First, I ask the U.S. presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, to excuse me as I borrow the title of his election campaign “change” to my article. I did that because I believe that the change suggested by Obama is essential not only for the US but for the entire human family. Definitely, however, the “change” I mean in this article is not the same “change” of Obama.

The aggravated political, social and intellectual scene during the last weeks is the reason that pushed me to write this article. I will start from the lecture of Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In his lecture “Civil and Religious law in England: a Religious perspective” at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, February 6, 2008, Williams advocated the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Britain. This proposal provoked the rancor of leaders of all main political parties inside the mentality of European superiority. They made clear that they did not accept Dr. Rowan Williams’s assertion that the incorporation of some aspects of Sharia was “unavoidable”. (The Times, February 8, 2008). Critics, politicians and media people from all over Europe decried the speech of Dr. Williams showing their ignorance of Islam, and Muslims. Even though they boast and talk as if they are experts in Islam and Muslims, and this is the most dangerous thing ever.

I found the most suitable description of the state of politicians and media people who roared and released the alarm sirens towards what Williams said in Seumas Milne’s article in the Guardian February 14, 2008. Milne says: “The media and political reaction has been hysterical and ugly: from the Sun’s declaration that Williams had “handed al-Qaida a victory”, to the Express claim that he had “surrendered to fanatics”. In the meantime, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, banned the leading Islamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi from Britain. The pretext given was his support for Palestinian suicide attacks, despite the fact that Sheikh Qaradawi has been to Britain several times since then. Another reaction to Williams proposal is that many Danish Newspapers insisted on reprinting the offending caricatures of the “Arab” prophet Muhammad. The pretext given, this time, is that a Moroccan man and his two friends were suspected of “plotting” to kill the Danish cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, as a protestation on drawing the vile caricature. This was coincided with the tussle that flared in Oxford City, home to the University of Oxford, the oldest, and one of the most prestigious universities worldwide, when Muslims wanted to call for prayer and broadcast the Azan from the minarets of the Central Oxford Mosque. Allan Chapman, a historian at Oxford University and a local resident who described himself as a practicing Christian told Reuters: “We are very angry that they are presuming to inflict this on a non-Muslim community,” He added: “We see this as an attempt to impose Islam on a Christian-culture community,”

I have never thought that a British Christian, practicing his religious rituals in a society that claims freedom of religion, could ever “dare” to prohibit his Muslim Citizen from practicing the Islamic rituals. Doesn’t this remind us of the former French President, Jacques Chirac, who issued a legislation banning Muslim schoolgirls at the French schools from wearing the headscarf and he still claims that France is a country of religious freedom?! At the same time, County Council of Carinthia, a state in the South of Austria governed by the fanatic Jorg Haider has approved a bill that bans the construction of mosques and minarets within the borders of the county. In an interview to the Austrian TV, Haider declared “we are pioneers in doing this. I just want to encourage everybody to have an effective stand in facing this progressive islamification of Europe that represents a completely different culture”.

What kind of religious and secular freedom, and what kind of equal rights for citizens does exist in Europe! Islamification of Europe is the danger that threatens those fanatics confined in their “Christianity” The expression “Islamification” appeared in the Israeli Front Page Magazine, in an interview titled “The Islamification of Europe”. In this interview, the guest Bat Ye’or, says: “any coexistence or conciliation with Muslims in Europe would put the freedom of the Europeans at risk”. She considers that “showing endearment toward Muslims in Europe is a policy of self-destruction; this means that the Europeans are making concessions about their basic security and freedom”.

This very close-minded school, which considers Muslims a “danger, threat and terror”, encourages violence and fanaticism against them all over the world. This school advocates the “solution” in confronting Islam and Muslims, rather than in trying to find a way to live securely together. This is the source of the racist extremist policies of double standards, between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this context, I will mention this example of the 500 Palestinian Children who were killed by the Israeli troops during the last few years. No western newspaper had ever mentioned any name or published any photo of these Palestinian children. Nobody condemned the crime of killing these kids. However, when two Israeli children were slightly wounded in Sderot, there was no difficulty in finding their photos in a plenty of western newspapers under bold headlines that wrote “Struggle in the Middle East reaches Children”. This struggle destroyed the lives of the Palestinian, Lebanese and lately Iraqi children. So, does “children” just mean the “Jewish” Israeli children and the “Christian” Western children? Does “Freedom” just mean the freedom of Israel and the West to take over the land of the Palestinians, and to annihilate the lives of million Iraqi people? Israel is proud of its terrorist operations; it spreads hate and malignance against Muslims over East and West. What the US National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, said about the necessity of reviewing American Foreign policy in the Middle East is applied to the theory of war on terror, and to the relation between the West and Muslims. Here in the Middle East, Muslims have always embareced all religions. Here you enjoy the view of churches and mosques entwined in the the most fascinating scenes ever in our civilized Middle East. Would the West reach the level of the civilization of the Arab world to treat all worship palaces equally without differentiating between a mosque, a church or a synagogue? It is the duty and responsibility of everyone to face the campaigns of hatred, racism, and fanaticism waged against Muslims in the East and West, because after all we share the same boat and the same future.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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