Muslim Action Committee

Thursday, March 30, 2006

786
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ORGANISERS OF THE MARCH FOR FREE EXPRESSION
(In response to an open letter to the Muslim Action Committee at http://marchforfreeexpression.blogspot.com/)

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your letter, we would like to thank you and the other organizers of the March for Free Expression for showing sensitivity towards Muslims concerns and asking people not to bring the Danish cartoons. I understand your rally went well, as did ours. Although I do not agree with many of the sentiments expressed at your rally, I appreciate people felt strongly about the issues involved. As we have said from the outset, we are not against the right of freedom of expression. After all it is the principle of freedom of expression that enables us to carry out our own peaceful protests and rallies. However it is also important to remember that in a civilised society other values such as tolerance and civility are also of great importance.

I can understand and see that you feel threatened by the MAC, and this is not right. Our purpose is to open up a genuine and real dialogue in society. That’s why our campaign is called "Global Civility." It is not about forcing anyone to do anything.I find it somwhat distasteful that you are still attempting to bracket us together with terrorists by suggesting that if we should decide to peacefully protest against your exhibition (which will doubtless be a public affair) that we are somehow facsist or fanatical. I think you should be aware that after 9/11 Shaykh Faiz Siddiqi convened a conference of Ulema who categorically condemned the atrocities and suggested some important steps that the global community could make to prevent further terrorism, especially a reduction of military interventions. Our shock and horror at the events of 7/7 are as one with the rest of society.

You say you are intending to exhibit these cartoons and have a public meeting and debate about them. I have to ask you Peter, what good does this serve? Anyone who wants to see the cartoons are able to do so by searching on the internet and will probably have done so by now. It is also quite possible to hold a debate and discussion about them without them being displayed. I hope you are not merely seeking to gain publicity at the expense of embracing an unique opportunity to melt the climate of fear and mistrust that is being encouraged lately by our own government to put through legislation, such as the Legislative and Regulatory Reform bill that will affect us all.

You ask us not to stir up controversy, but you must realise that your own actions in exhibiting them will do exactly that. The world’s spotlight is on the cartoons now. We’re both aware of a deepening rift between our communities, and would like to do something about that . The cartoons issue only serves to emphasise to me what a huge gulf in understanding has been allowed to develop between our communities. One of the best things that has come out of this I think is that Muslims and non-Muslims have begun a dialogue about issues that are emotive for many and we can unite in opposing government attempts to exploit our fear of each other to effect sweeping legislation that will impact upon the fundamental freedoms and human rights of us all.

We are not trying to impose shariah law or Muslim taboos on you or the wider society. We are asking you to have civility towards your neighbours who have been profoundly hurt by these insulting images. I doubt many mothers of soldiers who’d died in Iraq would appreciate it if you were to display pictures of their corpses on the battlefield. I’m sure they would protest because they felt deeply hurt and angered by their display whether they saw them or not.

We have said that we are willing to debate with you on these issues and any other issue regarding our faith. To hold these debates and discussions in public will be an important step forward. To display these cartoons which have no academic or artistic merit can only cause controversy which will only further damage trust and understanding between
communities.

regards

Ismaeel-Haneef Hijazi
Spokesman
Muslim Action Committee (MAC)

Postscript: Clarification about the Danish Cartoons Affair:

Your description of how the cartoon controversy started misses out a number of facts, which we trust you have not done on purpose. Therefore I’d just like to take this opportunity to highlight them. When the cartoons were published in Denmark, the Imams took recourse to the legal system, as it is actually an offence in Denmark to attack religious symbols. This was thrown out of court by the Judge who said that despite the law existing, the right to freedom of expression had precedence. The ambassadors of the Muslim world then called upon the Danish PM to hold a meeting with them to discuss their concerns. He refused to meet any of them, hardly a diplomatic move. When they had exhausted their avenues of redress in Denmark, they toured the Middle East with a dossier including the original cartoons and others sent as hate mail to Danish Muslims. This was out of a concern about the growing trend of post 911 Islamaphobia in Europe.There was then a period of time when a boycott set in across the middle east, it was not however until twelve newspapers in Europe reprinted the cartoons on the same day that we saw widespread demonstrations. If we are going to condemn trouble makers, let us condemn these newspaper editors.

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