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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Monday, February 06, 2006

Der Standard interview

*Welcome Der Standard readers. Make yourself at home and take a look around* I was interviewed by the austrian online newspaper Der Standard over the whole Boycott the Boycott campaign. The link for the interview is here fuer euch die deutsch sprechen oder lesen kann. Since not all of you can read and understand german- yeah, I am so bragging about my multilingual status right now in case you were wondering- I am posting the englisch transcript of the interview right here. You are getting the better deal by the way, cause a lot of it was edited out or cut slim. So even if you read the interview in german, you can read the full interview here, exclusively availible for the Sandmonkey readers. Enjoy (and don't forget to play the game afterwards)!

Why did you start the boycott of the boycott?

Because it is utterly stupid to boycott a whole country because of what a newspaper in it published, no matter how offensive it may be. I found the cartoons to be in bad taste, and I understand how it could be offensive to people, but the reaction to them was incredibly exaggerated. I mean, there were Danes attacked, factories closed, churches in Iraq bombed, declaration of Jihad against Danish targets everywhere. That’s pretty damn stupid. No one deserves to die because of a cartoon, no matter how offensive it may be. And many people agreed with me all over the middle-east, but all of them were too afraid to say or do anything out of fear of incurring the wrath of the super hyper-sensitive amongst us, so I figured, hell, I might as well start it. I mean no one else was going to, and someone has to make the world see that the crazy elements amongst the muslim population are not representative of it as a whole.

Which reactions did your boycott of the boycott provoke?

Well, my Egyptian friends were like “Are you crazy? Do you wanna get killed?” at first, but they too recognized that this whole boycott business was foolish and that someone had to do something. And it did. Many Egyptian and middle-eastern bloggers, both muslim and Christians, joined in the campaign immediately, and we started offering a different point of view to that debate, one that was not being made publicly. It has naturally drawn the ire of some people, who saw that it was necessary to ensure that the west respected muslim beliefs and things that are sacred to us and who saw this as an example of the Muslim world uniting and coming together to do something. My argument to them has always been that there are other ways to handle this if you are that offended, and that we shouldn’t abandon common sense for the sake of unity.

On the European front, on the other hand, the reaction was incredibly and overwhelmingly positive. I received tons of e-mails and comments from Danes who simply couldn’t understand why the entire muslim world was turning against them and burning their flags and products, and who were incredibly thankful that someone was defending them and sticking up to them in this fight. All of them were informing me that they are especially thankful that a muslim was doing this, cause from the impression they get from the media, all muslims were against them and wanted them dead. Finding me and the numerous other bloggers who spoke out against the boycott was a welcome surprise to them they would say, and one that gave them hope that this thing could be resolved through reasonable dialogue. That things are not as Manichean as those who are filling the airwaves are making them to be.

What do you think about the cartoons in general und about the reactions?

The way I see it, this whole hooplah is nothing but a battle of the sacreds: For the muslim world, Islam and the prophet are sacred and non-negotiable; while for the western world, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are scared and non-negotiable, And now the sacred are clashing with each other in a n exercise of stubborn cultural head-butting. It’s not good, because there is no winning in this. Only degrees of losing.

I understand what the Newspaper was attempting to do with the cartoons, and as far as I was concerned, there were only 1 that was really offensive, and 2 that were mildly offensive, or at least were pandering to stereotypes. I don’t like them, I don’t think printing them was a good idea, especially these days, and that they were in bad taste. However, I don’t believe that a Prophet- any prophet- exalted by god would get tarnished or his image damaged by a cartoon. And even if I believed that the cartoon would really accomplish that amazing feat, I don’t expect the world to bend to my point of view on the whole thing. And even If I wanted to do something about it, I wouldn’t have taken the approach that has been taken by the “international Islamic community”. Cause even if the boycott would’ve worked- and it won’t- what did they achieve exactly? Did they clear the image of the prophet? Did they enhance his image or the reputation of muslims worldwide? No, Not really. You just made yourself look as a irrational intolerant short-fused and violent bunch , and any apology you would get wouldn’t be an acknowledgment of an error as much as a way to make you calm the hell down before you hurt anybody. In many ways, what they did and are continuing to do, is doing more damage to the reputation of muslims more than any offensive cartoon could ever do.

What also should be taken into consideration, is that this reaction isn’t really about the cartoon or how offensive it is. Not really. This is actually an outlet to the huge frustration that millions of muslims have accumulated over the years of living in countries under oppressive regimes and bad economic conditions, while watching the rest of the world pass them by in terms of human rights, economic development and standard of living. They are so angry and frustrated and hopeless that they all turn more and more to religion for solace and comfort and it becomes their focus. The Prophet for many of them is the ultimate symbol of the good strong Arab Islamic leader at a time where such leaders are inexistent. It’s the only role model, only Hero, they have left. So naturally they are not exactly the most understanding people when it comes to –what they view- as attempts to mock or discredit him. He is the final red line, the final fig leaf so to speak, and they will be damned to see it attacked without doing something about it.

Do you expect more protests or even violence?

Ohh yeah. The crazy elements of the muslim community have been incited, and they rarely let things go without attacking someone or something. They view this as an unprovoked attack from the west, and therefore they think they have every right to respond, even violently. So yeah, I expect things to get far worse before they get better.

How can the heated situation be calmed down?

Well, reprinting the cartoons or having a freedom of speech protest in which people burn the Koran won’t exactly help, so not having those would be a good start. I think if the situation escalates, then the European leaders may have to escalate things themselves and inform the leaders of arab and muslim countries that if a boycott continues, then Europe will too boycott the middle-east and its products, will also withhold any aid and demand the payments of any loans made to those countries. This would scare the arab and muslim leaders- who have been loving this boycott because it makes them look as defenders of Islam and it diverts their people’s attention away from them- to actually start a media campaign to calm their people down, instead of letting things escalate this way and inflaming them further by calls for apologies and withdrawing of ambassadors. It’s easy to pick on Denmark: they make butter and Lego. Had this been a German newspaper who printed those cartoons, no such campaign would’ve taken place, cause no islamic leader wants to boycott Mercedes. Evidence of this is apparent in the fact that every single European country reprinted the cartoons and yet no one boycotted them. Saudi can not Boycott Gucci, Renault and BMW and they know it. If Europe stood as one, and threatened such a escalation –privately, to allow the muslims and arab leaders to save face- then they will quickly calm things down.

Which Danish product is your most favourite one and why?

LEGO of course. My childhood was spent playing LEGO and I love it, because you can do anything with it. Lego ist Toll man!

20 Comments:

At 2/06/2006 09:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote:"Well, reprinting the cartoons or having a freedom of speech protest in which people burn the Koran won’t exactly help, so not having those would be a good start."

Nobody has burnt the Koran Sandmonkey. Nobody. It's just a rumour.
http://www.jp.dk/english_news/artikel:aid=3538868:fid=11324/

Odin lever

 
At 2/06/2006 09:41:00 AM, Anonymous chris said...

In german newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung", today there is a report about the situation in Cairo. It's german only, but maybe babelfish may help to understand it.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/,tt1m2/ausland/artikel/662/69593/

Very short summary of one aspect of the story:
The journalist visited a shop with a "No dogs or danish people allowed" sign on the door, and entered it as a dane. After having a much heated dispute, he showed the shop owner the caricatures. The reaction: "They are not as bad as I heard they are."

 
At 2/06/2006 10:00:00 AM, Blogger jelsted said...

Wise words SM, you are a true friend of the Danish people in reflecting our feelings in a time were rational voices are hard to hear from all the headbutting going around.

 
At 2/06/2006 10:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anat from Israel said...

SM, your explanation of the crisis of leadership in the Muslim world, and the ideal of Muhammed in that context, is the first that made me understand the Muslim reaction to the otherwise silly and trivial cartoons. I've always appreciated you, but all the more now.

 
At 2/06/2006 10:15:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

"Did you ever know that you're my hero, your everything I always wanted to be. I can fly higher than an eagle..."

Seriously SM, you have really accomplished something amayzing.

Mazel-Tov!!!!

 
At 2/06/2006 10:24:00 AM, Blogger Egypeter said...

Sandmonkey -

Inta habibi!! Mokhak kabeer!

Salaam!

 
At 2/06/2006 10:42:00 AM, Blogger Josie said...

Wowie zowie, Sam. If I'd known you were going to end up such a big-wig, I would've done things differently! ;)

 
At 2/06/2006 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Seneferu said...

Great interview, Sam.

Egypeter, inta sa3eedi?:-)

 
At 2/06/2006 12:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You bloggers are going to end up very famous. Nice interview!

thinker

 
At 2/06/2006 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Crazy Girl said...

Good job mister!!!

 
At 2/06/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger yochanan said...

I was looking on one web site in the past in ottoman turkey is was not always the rule not to use the human form of any profit. and at some time only his face was left blank.

As a westerner i did not find 3 of the cartoons to be offenisve at all they looked like illustrations in childrens books. The others looked like they were on political subjects and if done that why with just a ave person as the subject such as bin laudin then i would be in agreement with them. Euro countries tend to diss all religion as they mostly feel they are post religion. Since you can find rather vile and hateful anti semitic & anti christian cartoon in many arabic newspapers so to me it is rather hipocrital to have these violent demos on this subject. Were is the protest for the be-heading films and were is the reaction to the genocide in durfar.

 
At 2/06/2006 02:03:00 PM, Blogger yochanan said...

In the west esp in euroland and America religion is far game for satire. A famous example of this was in new york city were a statue of Christ was put into urine. or elephant dung was used to make a painting of the virgin mary. People protested this but no building were burned.

 
At 2/06/2006 04:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as if things weren't stupid enough already:

http://www.filibustercartoons.com/comics/20060204.gif

 
At 2/06/2006 05:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These 2 links report the strong possibility that fabricated cartoons, that were much more offensive, were added to the original published cartoons and shown in the ME on purpose to excite and inflame the muslims.

http:// counterterror.typepad.com...cated_cart.html

http:// counterterror.typepad.com...lies_from_.html

 
At 2/07/2006 12:53:00 AM, Anonymous Thomas said...

I love this typo: "...freedom of expression are scared and non-negotiable..."

(Great blog!)

Thomas, Denmark

 
At 2/07/2006 12:56:00 AM, Anonymous Scott said...

Sandmonkey, You are a pretty smart guy. Why are you still a Muslim? Do you actually think some Arab in the seventh century came up with a new revelation of God? A new revelation that is counter to Moses and Jesus Christ? A revelation that looks much more like a political system than a worship of any god? One that embraces violent destruction of other religions and enslavement of non believers? You actually think the Koran is from God?

 
At 2/07/2006 07:17:00 AM, Blogger jerseycityjoan said...

Scott,

I wish you had ended your comment with the first sentence. I'm sure you're not the first person to smile and insult Sandmonkey at the same time; nevertheless, you still owe our friend an apology.

 
At 2/07/2006 10:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandmonkey is alright, but he's not unique in Egypt or the Arabworld. His edge is that he rights in English.

 
At 2/07/2006 11:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, you are brilliant! Of all the things I have read on the subject this week, this:

"The way I see it, this whole hooplah is nothing but a battle of the sacreds: For the muslim world, Islam and the prophet are sacred and non-negotiable; while for the western world, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are scared and non-negotiable, And now the sacred are clashing with each other in a n exercise of stubborn cultural head-butting. It’s not good, because there is no winning in this. Only degrees of losing."

is the most insightful of all.

Bridget

 
At 2/07/2006 11:04:00 PM, Blogger Dan Kauffman said...

"
strong possibility that fabricated cartoons"

It is now known that one of the 3 infanous images the Danish Imams added to their pamphlet was a photoshoped image lifted from MSNBC of a French man in a Pig Squeeling contest.

This whole thing is an arranged set up.

 

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