The award winning Palestinian American humorist, Ray Hanania, gives food for thought in his columns, History of Recognizing Palestinian Rights, We can’t surrender our sense of humor and Defining The True Moderate. All the more, I appreciate the freedoms in America. There are heavy penalties for humor in Malaysia if one happens to laugh or poke fun or even discuss what is deemed serious by the Muslims and Islam.
It is an interesting situation to consider because unlike the Palestinians, Muslims in Malaysia are in the unique position of having special or bumiputera or son of the soil rights as Muslims but they are unwilling to confer those special rights to their non-Muslim countrymen. In essence, the non-Muslims in Malaysia are drawn into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in innocence and ignorance. The only ways to keep the peace in these circumstances in Malaysia are to either leave the country or silence our civil rights/liberties to a free conscience, expression or reason.
Here in America, Mr.Hanania is free to make a living laughing. That is a privilege extended to him by the U.S Constitution. Padma Jared Thornlyle, the American editor of Mad Blood, an Evergreen, Colorado literary magazine is careful always to cite the First Amendment on the back of his magazine:
Congress shall make
no law respecting
the free exercise thereof;
the freedom of speech,
or of the press;
or the right
of the people
peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances.
Although Thornlyle and I have many opposing views, we both honor the U.S Constitution. These precious and holy first amendment rights do not exist in Muslim countries. Let us take for example the current outcry by Muslims to the Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks in Germany and the Palestinian American Ray Hanania’s excerpted quote at the beginning of his article, History of Palestinian Rights. He quotes the late poet Mayor of Nazereth Tewfiq:
“If Israelis’ don’t make peace with us, and recognize Palestinian rights, we will remain a piece of glass, a thorn, and a blazing fire.”
Taken out of context in the wrong environment, these words could be more inflammatory than poetic.
The Pope Bendict XVI’s speech in Germany -where he merely quotes a discussion that takes place between two people long deceased- was also taken out of context. Full Text of Benedict XVI’s speech in Germany.
The Pope’s remarks have much in common with the Palestinian American Ray Hanania’s remarks in his column “Defining The True Moderate.” I quote here Mr. Hanania’s definition of a moderate, “A moderate is someone who reasons, not hates. A moderate is someone who believes in peace more as the cries of conflict and violence increase. A moderate is someone who recognizes that the only answer to conflict is peace, and that peace, as I said before, is the only thing worth fighting for.”
Muslims and non-Muslims around the world need to consider both the Pope and Hanini’s statements in context as we seek an end to Islamic extremism. It is easy to blame the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq and easy, in essence to be anti war when there are these rights to either bear arms or not. We are, however, dealing with a common enemy that does not believe or subscribe to either civil liberties or civil religion. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Peace has its victories but it takes brave men to win them.”