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
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
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!