Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Opposition is only for the strong

This article by the Tunisian columnist, Zyed Krichen, consists of excerpts from the French original. Most of the English version is made up of a list of acts of censorship and worse in Islamic societies, the majority of which occur after 1973. There are a lot, and as he says, it is an incomplete list.

He begins by noting how different it all was in Islam's first three centuries.

However, without glorifying the past, [it must be pointed out that] such things did not happen during the first three centuries of Islam, [which was] the golden age [of Islam]. [True], the political authorities killed dissidents and revolutionaries - but no one saw books burned, and freedom of thought was at its peak. No controversial topic was avoided in philosophical or theological debate. From the authenticity of the prophecies to the very nature of divinity - each doctrine had its proponents, its platforms, and its leading [thinkers]...

And consider the delightful freedom that pervaded Arab literature [in those days]. One could say anything, write anything, sing about anything... the love of women, sex, and wine, and even [the love] of boys... [Even] the sacred could be laughed at, and [religious] devotion as well... This golden age was also the age of that eclectic and refined aestheticism of which Abu Hayane Attaouhidi wrote so beautifully.
Why was it different then? They were strong, and the strong are less afraid. Why do you forbid things? Because you are afraid of them. Because you think they will hurt you. Just as the Ottoman authorities frustrated the introduction of printing for three hundred years as the empire grew weaker and weaker. Unsurprisingly, among the first books to be printed were military studies examining why it was that the Europeans always won the battles.

I realise this is pointing out the obvious. It's just that sometimes, after the nth Baghdad suicide bombing with tens of victims and people over here throwing up their arms and bowing their heads to surrender to the first candidate, it is salutary to remember that suicide bombings and oppressive censorship are alike signs of weakness.

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