Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | February 9, 2006

Respect, man! It’s all about respect!

Is it just me, or does the world truly seem to be falling apart? Society, already frayed at the edges, is unraveling at an alarming rate, and instead of celebrating and learning from our differences, we are allowing them to suck us in and destroy us. I am, of course, referring to a certain series of cartoons, originally published several months ago in Denmark, and the chain of horrific reactions that has followed in their wake.

We all speak about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. What form should this freedom take? Are there lines that should not be crossed – lines of good taste, lines of respect, lines of sensitivity? Does freedom of speech mean that it is acceptable to lampoon the holiest aspects of religion? And, let us suppose that it is legally acceptable to cross these lines. Is it morally acceptable? Are we not to expect that such actions will spark some sort of reaction, or are we to believe that those whose sensibilities were offended will quietly sit back and choose not to respond?

I cannot imagine that the newspaper editors in Denmark actually expected that the Muslim world would not react when the cartoon series was published. There is no doubt that the cartoons were intended to be provocative; it is one thing to poke fun at a nation’s politicians, but quite another to poke fun at a religion’s holiest icons or play up its stereotypes. Don’t we Jews become incensed by any television show, political cartoon or newspaper article that even hints at anti-Semitism? Have we not mounted massive campaigns in protest to the governments of Arab and Muslim countries that have deigned to portray Jews in the worst possible light, playing up all the usual stereotypes? Thankfully, those who resort to violence in response are few and far between. Most of us would never dream of holding an entire country accountable for the acts of one newspaper or any other media outlet, simply because it is irrational, and because we realize that the governments in most Western countries do not control the media.

And this brings me to my next point. The fury. The unbelievable, white-hot fury that has been unleashed and threatens to engulf us all. It has snowballed out of control, with property damages, injury and death, spreading from country to country, territory to territory. My question to these Muslims who are waging these battles is this – how is what one Danish newspaper (and subsequently other publications) “did” to you any different from what the Arab media “does” to Jews on a daily basis? Is your outrage more valid than ours? Are attacks on Jews acceptable, while attacks on Muslims are not? Is the chasm between Muslims and other religions so great that you cannot respect us, cannot accept our existence as equals? Can you not accept that all societies are not like your own, and that you cannot and should not try to control them? What purpose will be served by vilifying the entire nation of Denmark (not to mention Norway and a host of other countries)? Most Danes played no role in the publication of the cartoons. Why blame them? I never imagined that Denmark would become the new Israel.

This whole situation is disturbing on so many different levels that I am having trouble defining my own thoughts. What is right? What is wrong? Even if it is right on one level, is it wrong on another? And what about the repercussions? Do we show sympathy if it is not reciprocated in similar instances? I can’t decide. The only words I can say with conviction are that the violence is utterly deplorable, beyond all proportion, and serves no purpose other than to feed into the stereotypes portrayed in the cartoons. Whether people like it or not, we are all here on this earth, and nobody is going anywhere. We are a mishmash of religions and cultures that must learn to coexist and respect each other. One cannot just use violence against those with whom one does not agree, and demonizing or vilifying an entire nation or religion for any reason is just stupid. If the mob mentality wins, we will all lose. Live and let live, and for God’s sake, respect your neighbors!



  1. To respect others, one must have self-respect. To have self-respect, one must have a “self” apart from the collective. Am I on to something?

  2. Ma shlomkha!

    There is no universal meaning for freedom. One’s freedom is always understood as crossing others who don’t have it, no matter what.
    But I think having the freedom is better than having none.

    Freedom means being able to choose, choose between what is right and wrong. Then again, what is right for some is wrong for others, and vice-versa.

    Respect, that’s a wise use of freedom.

  3. Ahlan, Rami! Walla, everything is al ha keifak! 🙂

    Freedom must be used wisely – it is not something to be taken lightly. And, people must remember that there may be consequences to their actions taken under the guise of freedom. I can choose to print something inflammatory, and indeed have the freedom to do so. However, I should also be prepared to take responsibility for my actions, and realize that my “freedom” may come with a price.

  4. I think that most Jordanian bloggers, me included, are suffering from cartoon-fatigue by now, and will find it hard to cough up a response 🙂

    I’m against the cartoons themselves, and against the violent responses to them. I’m also against cartoons that are derogatory to Jews as a people.

  5. “I cannot imagine that the newspaper editors in Denmark actually expected that the Muslim world would not react when the cartoon series was published”, neither can I.

    This entry is very balanced, She. I salute you for the depth of thought. Often I find a voice inside me yearning to scream out “STOP!”,to all this insanity. Muslims and Jews are actually very close, in principle, this should be emphasized by people like you and me, and used to divulge a more tolerant image. I do not think the public subscribe to all the views of their governments, this applies to the Jewish society as well as most Arab/Muslim societies.

    Therefore, I personally do not “hate” Jews, nor do I hate anyone on the basis of race or religion or what other labels may exist. This does not mean I do not feel with the general public (and any sane person) when Jewish soldiers hurt Palestinians, this pains me as much as do attacks on innocent Jews. I am pleased that I have, one way or the other, gotten to know you, to open up channels of common understanding and “talk”.

    P.S I actually took two levels of Hebrew, now it is rusting because there is nobody I can use it with. The tragedy!

  6. The world, sadly, seems to fall apart repeatedly and there are only brief periods when any pieces manage to get somewhat haphazardly put back into place.

    The curse of freedom (and of secularism) is that there are multiple and overlapping shades of gray in between the black and white poles representing right and wrong. Actions can be both “right” and “wrong” at the same time and it can be hard to distinguish if there is more of the “right” to it or more of the “wrong.” I have sometimes envied those who are “true believers” of a religion (pick your favourite) because they all seem to have very solid ideas of what is right and what is wrong. There is no ambiguity for them to deal with. They have a manual for life. It is much more difficult and uncomfortable to pick your way without such a manual, without such certainty, through the swirling mists. Still, I prefer my little rudderless ship because out of those grays some very good and wonderful things can emerge –friendships and respect, tolerance and connections with good and decent people whom some of the manuals say belong to the black simply because they are not following the “right” manual.

  7. Allow me please to quote you
    “”I cannot imagine that the newspaper editors in Denmark actually expected that the Muslim world would not react when the cartoon series was published. There is no doubt that the cartoons were intended to be provocative; it is one thing to poke fun at a nation’s politicians, but quite another to poke fun at a religion’s holiest icons or play up its stereotypes.””
    I would not have made any better stand than what you said ,thank you for the right thought .
    I am still awaiting to read about your Little one ,nice to have back .

  8. tololy-
    “…attacks on innocent Jews”

    I’m sure this is merely a slip of the keyboard in a language not your first rather than that familiar attempt to segregate innocent Jews from guilty Jews whilst at the same time blending Jews and Israelis. Who was it recently who said that attacks on all Israelis were justified because there were no civilians as everybody was in the army? This goes dangerously along the lines of the ‘deserving poor’ or ‘innocent HIV sufferers’ (vs those who bring it on themselves, are dehumanised and can thus be killed, not helped or not treated).

  9. I can feel your frustration just screaming out from this post.

    I sit here in Oslo and am bombarded by everything from SMSes encouraging people to boycott muslim drivers (do we determine this by skin color, or shall we ask their religion when they stop to pick us up…what a ridiculous boycott suggestion)on the one hand to muslims writing editorials about how unfairly they are treated here in Norway when they were given asylum from their home country who was treating them so unfairly that it was no longer safe to stay there. When they come to a country that has a state religion (Christianity) but is open enough to allow Mosques to be built here and Islamic religious leaders to come here and guide their religious flock. Where their freedoms are protected, their families cared for in a socialist system. Where efforts are made to help in an assimilation process that must be very difficult. I am so torn. I think the drawings were tasteless and respectless. They were also not representative of the average DAne or norwegian. THey were also printed in Sept and religious leaders from Denmark traveled to the middle east with those and other inaccurate and outright falsified drawings to ignite outrage, to insight people to violence, to tell one side of a multi-faceted story. And it took 4 months to accomplish this and to awaken a reaction that is so out of proportion to the initial action that I can’t make room for it in my mind.

    I cannot imagine that a norwegian moving to the country of origin of many immigrants here would be given the assistance and religious freedom that has been shown to them here in Norway. I am angered by the ease at which all of the benifits that are enjoyed here are ignored and how eager people seem to be to judge a nation because some of it’s inhabitants are racist, or tactless, or just plain stupid.

    I am so tired, so empty from the contact barrage of generalizations, mud-slinging, stereotyping, blame-laying and complete lack of compassion, understanding, and, yes SHe, “Live and let live” attitude.

    Can’t write anymore now… I just hope that somehow saner minds will prevail here…

  10. happy Tubeshvat

  11. Meant to post this earlier, but Blogger has been giving me grief…

    savtadotty: Interesting perspective!

    Ziad: A very legitimate response. It doesn’t surprise me that you feel this way, given some of the things you’ve written.

    As far as the Jordanians responding, well, three of you so far and counting… 🙂

    Tololy: The feeling is mutual! One of my favorite parts of blogging is the connections I’ve made with people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet. I enjoy it so much!

    As for your Hebrew going rusty, I studied Spanish for six years, from 7th-12th grades. Was it helpful when I was in Madrid several years ago? Hardly! Every time I tried to think in Spanish, I thought in Hebrew! From one year of high school Latin, I remember almost nothing. I don’t care too much about the Latin, but I wish I still remembered my Spanish!

    Yael: I know what you mean about envy of the “true believers”. I’ve often felt that way with regard to medical issues, thinking that it must make things easier to believe that something is simply God’s will, to be able to trust in that and ease one’s suffering as a result. Still, I’m in agreement with your rudderless ship analogy, and that is how I see myself as well.

    anonymous: Thanks for the compliments and the interest! Care to tell me a little about yourself? I’d really like to know where you’re from. Any chance you’ll share?

    Cathy: I’m sure that Tololy didn’t mean anything by her comment. She’s one of the most interesting people I’ve come across on the blogosphere, as well as one of the most open-minded. While I can’t speak for her, I imagine that she meant it in the sense that these were innocent victims, and not to differentiate between Jews who might be innocent or not innocent.

    nrg: Actually, there is talk that the cartoons (at least some of them) were originally printed in an Egyptian newspaper in October 2005, prior to their being published in Denmark ( Not a peep was made, and makes me question why it is acceptable for the Egyptians to do this, but not the Danes?

    You raise some interesting and legitimate points, questions that many people in the West (as well as moderate Muslims, I imagine) are asking. This situation highlights the great degrees of misunderstanding that exist between East and West, I think, and has played directly into the hands of certain Arab countries that are using the cartoons to divert attention from their own issues. It’s all so complicated and messy, and unfortunately, I can’t see the situation improving anytime soon.

  12. Sh, Allow me to conceal my I identity for a the time being ,I am an Arab from the Levant always have been on the other side and further ,but enjoy perceiving you ,and learn from your post.The side I dont know , your side and the like was and still enigmatic given the blessed hostile media from both sides ,never showing the ordinary normal life ,that you and I lead , like yours or mine and many many others who lead the same , every day and toil for a better life .
    Those who like me on the other side interest me to learn about them ,and I respect faithfully instead than hate for no reasons only because they are there or the vice Visa-Versa ,Events out side my home and your home (domain )dose not bother me ,I am from the other side as much as you are from your own other side ,you are very different from what I came wrongly to perceive how the other side live daily ,I am sure there are many many like you and I ,but fortunately I know only you from your blog ,and learn from you and through you ,I lead a very ordinary life to an extend you many pass me unnoticed where, I am I valued by what I offer not how do I think ?I am leaning as I said from you through you ,it dose refresh me ,
    not to be disappointed as others think ,at times I feel concerned about your absence and look forwered to learn about your little one to compare notes over my 3 own little ones ,its very much your prerogative to allow me stay as anonymous or wave me away ,but I promise to come forwered when you wish , by asking me questions and I will answer for you to construct my image and self through what you need from me to know ,I will sign as Levant for you to recognise me .Thank you for your tolerance ,and balanced mind .

    How about ,you as a blog-er ,start one for those who are not politically driven to write about their fears ,hopes and how do they live as a family not driven by politics !! care to comments thank you for patient and time .

  13. Levant: Thank you so much for sharing! I won’t ask for any more revealing information, as you certainly have a right to your privacy and anonymity. I just like to get an idea of who is reading here – it makes things more personal and allows me to connect with people, which is one of the things I like best about blogging. With so many people commenting as “anonymous”, it is hard to keep track of people.

    Through blogging, I’ve had an opportunity to read about day to day life of Jordanians, Iranians, etc., and I love it. I love learning about these other cultures, traditionally on “the other side”, so I understand exactly where you are coming from. I always knew that there must be people on both sides who want to get to know each other, and now I know that’s true. All these blogs are helping us to break down stereotypes, and I think that’s great.

    I keep saying that I’m going to start writing more personal stuff, but then something outrageous happens in the world (seems to be happening a lot lately), and I am torn on what to write about. I’ll make the next post personal. I promise!

  14. The world around us continues to ask for peaceful protests in response to the Blasphemous cartoons published a few months back. From the gloomy day of 9/11 the Muslim community has continued to take accusations for a good five years sitting quietly taking punches and have generally adopted an apologetic attitude even for an action that IS NOT a part of a peaceful religion. Please do not equate or generalize the radical approach of a select few individuals as Islamic, they are the extreme end of our religion which sadly is NOT Islam.

    When these cartoons come forth, we have now been forced to scream Enough is Enough, and have come onto the streets in protest, call it a boiling-over of all the anger built up over these five years finally let loose. We don’t mean harm, and I on behalf of all Muslims sincerly apologize for the actions of a radical few who have resorted to rioting and vandalism but in the same breath as followers of Islam we will do our part to inform the world of the grave offense against our beliefs. Muslims, like followers of other religions, are extremely emotional when it comes to disfiguring a religious their idols. Especially when the Editor-in-Chief of Jyllands-Posten talked so boldly when there was no pressure back in October confidently defending his publication.

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