Photo: AP
Anti-Denmark protest
Photo: AP

Harnessing power of Muslim World

Arabs need to come together not only to punish those who offend them

This week, we witnessed the power of the Islamic and Arabs Worlds to bring a Western nation virtually to its knees over an issue that the nation’s government had nothing to do with.


I was amazed at that power. All I can wonder is why the Islamic and Arab World doesn’t harness that power more effectively and change policies that directly impact our causes and our beliefs?


A newspaper in Denmark, Jyllands-Posten, published a series of cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammed in a derogatory and libelous manner. Few Arabs or Muslims had ever heard of the newspaper before the controversy, yet they were rightly angered.


Ironically, the cartoons were published in September 2005, more than five months ago. But this week, the issue came to a head after it surfaced in the Arab World media.


Arabs and Muslims are justified in their anger against the action of the newspaper. The publication of the cartoons may constitute a Hate Crime, which is considered an offense in most Western Countries. They certainly should not have been brushed off as being protected under the universal right of free speech as they were initially by the Danish Government.


Not an unjust religion


In their justified anger, Arabs and Muslims have begun boycotting not only the newspaper but also many products that are produced in Denmark. That power has caused many of Denmark’s largest corporations to reel in shock, forcing many to absorb massive profit losses and lay-off employees.


That power to act was mobilized in less than two weeks, although it should have begun as soon as the offensive material was first published five months ago.


In response, the newspaper offered a luke-warm apology. The Government of Denmark also claimed it had no power over the newspaper. But we know that is not true and the government could have stepped up and denounced the depictions.


Sadly, many innocent companies and people who might otherwise support the just causes of the Muslim and Arab Worlds have been punished. That is unfair. Islam is not an unjust religion.


The Arab and Muslim Worlds, despite being the target of a constant and unyielding campaign of hatred in the Western Media, should stand as examples of how right and wrong can be addressed correctly.


The entire episode reminds me of when the Arab and Muslim Worlds joined together in the 1970s to launch an embargo of oil against what were clearly unfair foreign policies against the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab World.


Plagued by disunity


With the power of unity, the Arab and Muslim Oil producers put great pressure on the world’s greatest powers, reminding all that right is not always based on might but is instead based on justice and fairness.


Today, Arabs and Muslims are plagued by disunity. The only time we come together to exercise our moral and principled strength is when emotion has overcome our reasoning and we act to punish everyone. Unplanned and spontaneous acts of anger and emotion are not strategic. They may even cause a backlash.


The protests and boycott against the Danish Newspaper are the result of spontaneous emotion rather than strategic action. We reacted rather than acted.


Everyday, newspapers throughout the world libel not only Islam but everything the Arab World stands for that is principled and just. Everyday, the righteous Palestinian cause is victimized by hate incitement in newspapers throughout the world, and especially in the United States where free speech has exceptions when it comes to Arab and Muslim voices.


Yet we do nothing about these offenses.


Ironically, we sometimes help the offenders in their libel. In several major American cities, mainstream newspapers are often sold to the American public over the counters of hundreds of thousands of Arab and Muslim owned stores. These newspapers depend on us to help them sustain their circulation.


Power to make a difference


In some places like Chicago, newspapers could not survive without the support of Arab and Muslim owned grocery stores located in the inner-city. The reality is that Chicago newspapers depend on Arab and Muslim owned grocery stores to sell their newspapers in poor communities because the newspaper owners fear their newspapers will be stolen from news boxes placed on the streets of those communities. The sales policy of the newspapers in inner-cities is itself racist.


Why do we Arabs and Muslims allow this? Why do we allow the American mainstream newspapers that we sell to Americans continue to slander us, defame us and essentially incite hatred against us?


Emotion and anger are easy. Planning and strategic unity is more difficult and requires effort.


We need to come together not simply to punish those who offend us, but to also strengthen our community and insure that our voices are included in the American mainstream news media.


The controversy in Denmark should remind Arabs and Muslims that we have the power to make a difference.


But can we harness that power when it really counts?


Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist and author and is a regular contributor to He can be reached at


פרסום ראשון: 02.04.06, 13:42
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