The caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that have inflamed the Arab and Muslim world in recent weeks are no different than the anti-Semitic cartoons published from time to time in European and Arab newspapers.
All are based on one central idea: Delegitimizing the Other as an equal partner for cultural and political dialogue. If Muslims are born with bombs on the brain, if Jews drink the blood of children, then there is nothing to be done; that's what they are like, and it will never be possible to treat them like equal human beings deserving of consideration.
The boundaries of free speech are wide, and rightly so. In my opinion, it would be foolhardy, as a member of Muslim culture, to attack the fact that the cartoons were published. I believe this is an expression of free speech.
But I also believe that free speech should not be used to promote hatred and maliciousness fueled by racism and fear of the Other.
Today's Europe maintains a "ghetto" agenda, a program of ethnic cleansing, and a program to purge Muslims from the continent to protect Christian and Western values.
Europe has no right to want to cleanse itself of immigrants (the vast majority of whom are Muslim), because Europe itself wanted these immigrants for their cheap labor. It is a sort of reverse colonialism: Instead of conquering the world and using the resources of subjected people of Western "mandates", today we can bring in cheap labor and put people in poor, isolated ghettos.
Just do your work, nigger (for starvation wages), get back to the ghetto and be quiet. Or you can leave!
The cartoons in question use free speech to advance a war against the Muslim minority that has grown daily in the cities of Europe – and here the story gets complicated: Even if they accuse me of disrespect for the prophet, I believe religious figures (even Mohammed) are legitimate targets for satire.
What makes the incident in question illegitimate is the agenda behind the publication. The fury that has exploded throughout the Muslim world is seen through "enlightened" Western eyes as just one more example of Muslim barbarity and primitivism, but I believe it symbolizes the arrogance and complacency the West feels towards Muslims wherever they are.
No moral right
I am shocked by Western (including Israel) countries that condemn the demonstrations by saying Muslims simply don't know what free speech is. Let's remember that not too long ago, most Muslims in the world lived under the yoke of occupation and imperialism.
The West has no moral right to lecture others about democratic values, about freedom or humanism, without first re-paying the injustice, the torture and the theft it conducted in Islamic countries, in Africa and the Far East, for hundreds of years.
Self-righteousness in this matter is disgusting and infuriating, and it seems to me that the fury one sees on the street today is a restrained, cumulative effect of all the things Europe did to us, as a culture and a nation.
Shocked by Muslims
On the other hand, I am shocked that the Muslim world has set out to burn anything in sight because the Prophet has been degraded, but won't lift a finger to the Western occupations and its control over Muslim peoples, in so many ways.
When was the last time Muslims demonstrated in an Arab capital against the American occupation of Iraq? Who was the last Muslim anywhere to oppose Israeli and American assassinations?
The debate in the Muslim world today must focus on processes that get people out on the street: Are insulting cartoons of the Prophet more dangerous than the occupation of Muslim countries?
The debate that must take place now in Europe regards the limits of free speech with relation to other cultures: It this supreme value meant to become a right-wing/fascist propaganda weapon? And if it does become one, should the right be protected at all costs?
Ala Hlehel is a writer and journalist