UNITED NATIONS.

 

DIALOGUE BEGINS AT HOME

15 March 2006

One could easily quip about Danish bad sense of humour that drove millions of protesters to the streets of the world. But offending religious beliefs is not a joke. It is a serious offense which should be reviewed by international laws. Freedom of expression is never in question. Insulting one billion believers in Islam is certainly cause for remedial action, not just rhetorical expressions of concern. After all, it did create a situation which threatens international peace and security.

Islam is not at risk of being eroded. Neither is Christianity, Judaism or Buddhism. Those who attempt to tarnish them are eventually tarnished. God is greater than those instigators. But it was freedom of speech that was put to a risky test. It is the Danish government that seemed ineffective and the Danish Prime Minister that acted more like a local politician rather than an enlightened statesman. The result was that Danish interests were severely hit. One million dollars a day were being lost by its dairy industry alone. It is a great pity that a country that was once perceived as a symbol of considerate decency suddenly became a symbol of blasphemy in the Moslem world. The sight of those earnest Danish diplomats striving to explain themselves to an outraged public would break one's heart. But, then, you claim freedom of expression, you get freedom of expression -- with a vengeance. Extremists feed one another. One pokes fire with a cartoon, the other expands it with fuel. One provokes, the other destroys. Both should be condemned. However, appeals and "dialogue" meetings will remain irrelevant unless lessons are drawn and laws enacted. Presumed dialogues will remain multi-monologues until they lead to concerted preventive accord. All this media posturing will go nowhere until there is widespread respect for everyone's human dignity.

Let us begin from the basics. Let us accept each other's right to agree or to differ. Our human destiny is one and our path will be brighter if we shared respect, honesty and affection. We can then claim a right of passage to that blessed haven of freedom dignity and justice where no one is denied entry because of difference in race, language colour or creed. Let us draw on our diverse history to enrich our joint future. Let us begin with what matters most. The only resurrection is that of our spirit. The first dialogue is within ourselves. It is only there that you can have an effective, fruitful dialogue.

The rest is choreography.