By Saladin Roudani
By Saladin Roudani
Jyväskylä, Finland – Recently in the US, printed anti-Muslim advertisements were posted in 10 subway stations across New York City. This comes only after a few days of another anti-Muslim movie called “Innocence of Muslims” produced also in the US with a very low budget and amateur videographers. The American federal court claims that the ads were protected under the First Amendment, which vouches the freedom of expression encompassing freedom of the press, speech, assembly and religion.
The ads read: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
Many laborious, polemical and invidious terms have been used in this ad’s entailing that the “civilized” is always in war with the “barbarian” and the subaltern. Here the “civilized” is supposedly Israel and the “savage” is the Jihadist, to wit Muslims.
It would be highly unjust to hash out these polemical terms in such a short paper as there are delineations of analyzing and deconstructing the meaning of civilization, savagery and Jihad. Debeljak says: Civilizations “do not have material power or control over a territory, and they do not behave like singular ‘players.’ A much more appropriate representation of a civilization is to imagine it as a cognitive framework or a package of ideas. And ideas have always traveled among civilizations.” He denies that civilizations behave like countries, that is to say there is no civilized and uncivilized country. On the opposite, whatever country we might go to, whatever culture we might experience, we will always encounter cultured people who represent and symbolizes the civility of their home country just as we might also encounter uncouth ones that represent the barbarians of it.
As for the term, savage, according to post-colonial studies the term is used by Westerners to depict everything that is non-Western as subaltern and primitive. Edward Said in his avant-garde book Orientalism refers to the plain binary opposition of the occident vs. the orient, the savage vs. the civilized, the colonizer vs. the colonized and the oppressor vs. the oppressed, a Western metaphysical philosophy that generates the production of otherness. This philosophy is palpable in colonial writings and novels, such as those of Lewis, Conrad, Kipling, etc, where the orientals are seen via the eyes of a self-absorbed and upper crust Westerner writers who view and represent the Oriental culture not as different and hybrid but rather as dehumanized, subaltern and cries out for help to be civilized.
Going back to the term Jihad, it literally means to strive or struggle, the term has been used widely mostly by Islamophobics and extremists, it has various positive meanings and definitions but people tend to use the most wrongly stereotypical form of it, that is Jihad by the sword. Other forms include Jihad of the heart, soul, pen, knowledge, tongue and hand, etc. The holiest one is Jihad of the soul and heart in which one should refrain from the sinful pleasure of life and maintain a strong inner struggle of good vs. evil. Meaning one should keep his soul and heart sublime and exalted and free from all immorality and wickedness.
The ads created a massive cultural shock for the Muslim community and also for other communities who live in New York, generating and reproducing an intense feeling of hatred and animosity among certain Muslim groups and non-Muslims. Considering the diversity of the US in general and New York in particular, one could only say that the message of the ads was rather destructive and provoking the feelings of million of Muslims who live in the US as well as in other countries, splitting the very essence of the US policy concerning diversity and multiculturalism.
It is of paramount importance to consider and reconsider publishing such messages when in an intercultural arena, still people from all over the world excoriate such actions, a great proof was the reaction of many New York street artists, once they saw the ads they spontaneously wrote over them “Defeat Racism” and “Increase Tolerance.” Being tolerant towards others is the only way to have peace with them; it is only after we transcend cultural differences that we become human, otherwise we are mere bodies of flesh and bone, animalized and dehumanized faunae.
By overstepping our disputes and reaching out for others we execute ignorance, misunderstanding, prejudice and segregation, as a result, we bridge over tolerance, understanding, fraternity and ultimately altruism, something Quran brought up thousand of years ago; asking us to favor others over ourselves, this means that you favor their interests over your own, such as when you feed them while you are hungry, dress them while you are still unclothed and offer them water while you are thirsty. What an impeccable universe we would be living in!
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