Thursday, February 23, 2006

Letter to Leon de Winter

Dear Leon,

Through all of the Netherlands you are well known as an experienced writer and filmmaker, with an impressive career. Mister Kat, my former high school literature teacher, was unstoppable when promoting your talent and writing style. Even so that everyone in our class practically felt obliged to put at least "Dürer" on their shortlist of books for the oral exam. You are a talented and skilled writer, your opinion is heard and respected.

It is probably for those reasons that I first felt pretty angry, and later on merely disappointed after reading your column "Return to the Darkness and Silence". (feb 15, 2006)
It must be feared that Mr. Kat will probably share these feelings with me.

For the most part of your article it is quite clear when you are quoting an opinion or a fact and when you state your own opinion. However, the three questions you open with, as well as the way you word those seem pretty offensive to me.

"How often do I need to repeat the question?

Once more then. Again.

Why are muslims more upset about a couple of cartoons than they are about the thousands of muslims that have been slaughtered by other muslims on behalf of their Prophet?

Why are these cartoons about fundamentalists so much more offensive to Muslims then those mass killings by fundamentalist groups?
(Translation by Nico Moenens, not necessarily approved by the original author.)

When a high school students writes a passage like this in an essay, the appropriate response would be a small red mark and a comment like "clumsy generalization". No problem. But when an author with your level of experience and your language skills writes a sentence like this, and then decides to actually leave it in, it can only be seen as a very conscious decision. A decision to employ the almost undetectable weapons of rhetoric in order to try and pass a personal opinion of as a well accepted fact.

Twice you make out 'Muslims' to be more upset about cartoons than they are about mass killings by Muslim fundamentalists. Yet, you as a writer, ought to be aware of the fact that this statement cannot hold true for all 'Muslims' in general, but merely for a small group of 'extremist Muslim fundamentalists'. By choosing to not make this important distinction, you hold about one billion Muslim people all over the world accountable for the actions of a minority of a couple of hundred nut-cases.

Would it be fair for me to try and brand hundreds of millions of different types of Christians all over the world as barbaric murderers?
After all, they are Christians, just like the 'Army of God' say they are. And the 'Army of God' was the organization that published a step-by-step guide to explosive-making on the internet, and that now proudly claims over 1700 attacks on abortion-clinics as well as as the deaths of seven abortionists. Also, these are the same swell guys that on sept 23rd, 2001 (sic!) send out 150 envelopes containing white powder and the following message:
"...You have been exposed to anthrax..."
"...We are going to kill all of you...”
So is this a reason we should start body-searching all Christians who want to enter a clinic?

Or could anyone hold Elton John responsible for damages done by drunk Watford supporters after the team has lost a match?

So why is it that you feel you can hold all Muslims accountable for the noise of a couple of extremists?
Do you realize that by doing so you lend your name, your voice and your pen to the ideology of a minority of dangerous fools, claiming to speak on behalf of the entire Islam world? You just ought not stand for that!

You then try and defend this generalization by claiming your questions have so far gone unanswered:
We get no answers. It is a shameful silence.
(Translation by Nico Moenens, not necessarily approved by the original author.)

You write this on february 15, 2006. Funny thing is that two days before, already forty-one influential Muslim leaders had send out a joint statement condemning the violence.

Forty-one is just about over one for each of the forty hate-mails received by a Dutch populist politician after he published the cartoons on his site.

By the way, not only did they condemn the violence, they also send out a message of reconciliation.
And even more importantly, the message was accompanied by a text which pulls an important rug out from under every active extremists' beliefs: “No Soul bears the sins of another Soul”.

What more is it you would like to hear?

More important than that, why is it that you choose to ignore this conciliatory reaction? Obvioulsy, you have the capacities to maintain a Blog and to surf the Net, so in those two days you ought to have been able to find out that the long awaited answers to your burning answers were in. Incompetence can be no excuse when it is one's job you one is performing.

It could also be that you had practically finished this piece when the news broke, and that you just could not be bothered to go ahead and write a new article. Or update this one. However, you do not seem to come across as a lazy person.

So, as far as I can tell, the only other possible explanation that remains for you omitting this statement of reconciliation from your article, is that it could only serve to disprove the impression of an entire Muslim world supporting the violence.

However, instead of even mentioning a word about reconciliation, you decide to go ahead and write the following:

... Insulting the differently believing and the non-believing is a day job for the people working in the Arabic and Islamic media...

... The country is bursting with hatred of Christians, Jews, Hindu's and Buddhists...
(Translation by Nico Moenens, not necessarily approved by the original author.)

It is very well possible that you feel that you can justify these actions to yourself, but authors have been branded 'hate-monger' for less sweeping generalizations and less blatant omissions. Is it that you are on a mission to make us believe that each Muslim is a bloodthirsty barbarian waiting to take away our freedom of expression, and more? And if so, why?

Of course I do realize that the list of forty-one contains some very conservative clerics. However, conservatism is not extremism. But as far as I am concerned, even Osama Bin Laden himself could have put out a statement. Crazed fanatics simply cannot be convinced by happy softies playing tambourines. The more sturdy the reprimand, and the more serious the sender, the better the message will come across.

And I am aware that Amr Khaled, about whom Sara posted the article 'Ambassadors of Islam' on this Blog, is not uniformly supported amongst all Muslims alike, amongst other things because of his stand on women wearing veils or headdresses. Well, should there ever be a debate about these headdresses I would be more than happy to discuss my feelings about that with Mr. Khaled. However, at this point he counts as one of the few influential Muslims capable of reaching an audience of millions. And he seems to be taking his responsibility, call for calm, dialogue and reconciliation.

Currently, you are the person fanning the flames of hatred and fear in our country with generalizations and the omission of facts, be it consciously or sub-consciously.

Do you really need to do that?

Kind regards,


Nico Moenens,
bridgethegapinblogspace.blogspot.com


The Dutch version of this letter to Leon de Winter has been posted in our Dutch language home at the VK-Blog.
If you have the time to cross-post (a translation of) your comment, please do so.

17 Comments:

Blogger Stellar said...

This is indeed an interesting read. It really saddens me to see people just refuse to open their hearts and minds to see what is truly is going on... That goes for people in both sides of the problem.

One thing that caught my attention is that, issue of the Hijab (headcovers)...

I wear it and proudly. Noone has forced me. It was done by conviction.

Amr Khaled brings the subject a lot in order to help guide sisters to follow that obligation in Islam. Isn't it better than him saying that all non Hijabis are going to hell and parents should force their daughter to wear hijab? He and people like him are really aware that some non hijabis are even better than hijabi girls.

The point is this. Yes, it is an Islamic obligation to woman to wear the hijab but it is seriously wrong to "force" her to follow it. Althought MANY do it but doesn't make it right at all. This is something between her and her creator, just like any other obligations in any religion.

A basic Qur'anic Principle we should always follow is:

"There is no compulsion in religion."

That priciple goes for dealing with Muslims and Non.

23 February, 2006 06:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something to consider:

How many protests did we see in Ireland of civilians against the bloody battle of the IRA against the English? How many Basques (French and Spanish) went out on the streets to protest against the ETA after their bombing another target for a free Basque contry.

Most Irish, if not all, were furious to be governed by the English, even though they didn't agree with the methods of the IRA. Many Basques dream of a free country, but abhor the use of bombs in their name! The paralells seem clear o me.

The author Leon de Winter draws the conclusion that, when their are no big protests of thousands of Muslims in the streets against a little group of Muslim extremists, they probably all agree.

What do 45.000 football supporters do when 25 people start throwing stones? They don't organize a demonstration the next match, to show they want them to stop. They are unorganised and don't take action. Yet are they responsible for the violence of 25? No. Are they pissed off with the people who damage their club? Sure they are. Out of these 45.000 people, is their anyone who, given half a chance, will condemn the violence of these hooligans? Absolutely!

Are there any Muslims who are pissed off at the violence of a minority of extremists who use violence? Yes! Are they responsible? Ofcourse not! Out of over 1 billion Muslim, is there anyone who says they hate this violence? Yes! The only thing you have to do is listen!

At this moment the only thing Leon de Winter seems to be interested in is to spread fear and polarisation. If he is truly interested in dialogue between Muslims and Westerners, or Muslims and Jews, he would join us and become a volunteer at Bridge the Gap!

xlbart

23 February, 2006 11:35  
Blogger Helena said...

I agree with Nico, Stellar and xlbart!
Leon de Winter thinks all muslims are the same...

Leon de Winter is not informed about the regimes (iran, Syriah) who are in fact stimulating, supporting angry muslims.
Furthermore, Thomas L. Friedman wrote an interesting article about oil dependency, oil-prices (60 dollar 1 barrel) and the power Iran can having (and other countries) because of this high prices..
"Well, I say, Give me even $30-a-barrel oil and I will give you an Iranian regime that is a lot less smug – an Iran that will need to be tied into the world much more in order to create real jobs for its exploding population.
That’s why we need an urgent national effort, starting with a gasoline tax, to move the U.S. economy onto a path of more fuel-efficient cars and renewable energy. If we do it, everyone will follow.
If we don’t, then say hello to the post-post-Cold-War world and say goodbye to the post-Cold-War world. It was fun while it lasted".

See the article here: Friedman.

I would ask to Leon de Winter: get well informed, go blogging, talk with Thomas L. Friedman, with Kader Abdolah..

23 February, 2006 13:10  
Blogger Omar said...

great post, and a great effort!
xlbart, that seems to be the harsh reality of things these days. I'm glad to hear voices like yours, it shows me there are sensible people out there willing to investigate, think, and listen to the other side.

23 February, 2006 14:23  
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