Sunday, May 09, 2004

No to Terrorism, No to Collective Punishment

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

I am sorry. I feel ashamed. I am very sad. Unfortunately, I couldn’t express my feelings any better to my American, British and Australian friends when I heard the details of what happened to their fellow citizens during the savage terrorist attack in Yanbu, last week.
It made me feel guiltier when my friends started to comfort me. Imagine. Those wonderful hearts were telling me not to be so upset, and that it wasn’t my fault.
Megan Stack of the Los Angeles Times went further to express her own feelings after she learned of the gruesome and shameful treatment to the Iraqi prisoners by American and British soldiers in Iraq.
Here we were, two representatives of great cultures and nations, feeling helpless, hurt and ashamed of those who put us in this position. What had happened to our world, we wondered? How could any human, let alone members of great religions and civilizations commit such horrible crimes?
Megan and I are sane people who won’t fall into the trap of stereotyping and collective guilt and punishment. We understand that a few do not represent the overwhelming majority of decent Arabs, Muslims, American, Christian and Jews. We applauded Crown Prince Abdullah, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair when they expressed their disgust at what had happened, promised tighter measures to prevent repetition, and assured us that the few who committed these horrible crimes do not represent the rest of us.
Yes, the bad American and British apples do not belong in the great American and British gardens. As don’t the Arab terrorists belong in ours. As Bush and Blair have put rightly on many occasions, Islam and the great Arab nations are not to be blamed for the acts of the few who commit such terrible crimes against humanity and their own nations.
Let’s hope that the wider spectrum of Western media, legislative and security apparatus will be more aware of this basic fact and treat Arabs and Muslims with less suspicion and more understanding. And that Western intellectuals will not confuse Islam — the religion of peace, tolerance and cooperation — with the acts and interpretations of the fanatics and extremists which exist in every civilization.
On behalf of Megan and myself, and all decent Americans and Saudis, Christians and Muslims, we condemn the acts of barbarism as aggression against humanity and civility.
I asked my good American friend Megan to convey this message to her audience, while I convey the same message here to Arab News readers.
I hope all who agree e-mail us their solidarity.
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