This week's editor
Could democracy be the ultimate antidote to terrorism? In the face of violence, how should democratic values be put into action? openDemocracy writers present their views - join the conversation in the forum to add yours.
This debate is an extension of arguments presented by openDemocracy in the run up to the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security, held in Madrid in March this year. To access the online forum discussion from this earlier period of debate, which is hosted on the Summit site, please click here.
It was the worst kept secret in the world. The "extraordinary rendition" system, established by the United States, is a web of agreements with countries in Europe, north Africa, the middle east, and Asia to host secret prisons or to hold "outsourced" detainees for indefinite lock-up and torture. It is a system that allows the US to conduct its "war on terror" outside regular channels, without democratic or judicial oversight.
"I think the terrorists have already won to a certain extent …. Without planting an actual bomb, they have forced everyone to think the unthinkable." Planning officer, Westminster Council, London, January 2005
On 29 June 2006, the United States Supreme Court struck a blow for the rule of law, deciding in every respect against the Bush administration in the case of Hamdan vs Rumsfeld . The court sent a clear message that President Bush's policies in Guantánamo are unacceptable.
Two years after the 11 March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people and injured around 1,900, Spain lives in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, most citizens have absorbed in a peaceful, non-vengeful way the overwhelming evidence that a transnational, radical Islamist network had targeted Madrid on that terrible day. On the other hand, a group of politicians, journalists and demagogues have attempted to poison the public mind by spreading paranoid conspiracy theories.
In January, two prominent and rival thinkers on Europe and Islam, Tariq Ramadan and Dyab Abou Jahjah, met in Rotterdam for an eagerly attended debate. Rosemary Bechler pursues and examines their views on democracy.
Zakaria Hamidi is surprised at how many "Dutch people" have come along to the first public debate in Rotterdam organised by New Horizon, a newly-launched platform for discussion focusing on Islam in the Netherlands.
The attitude of many of those responsible for publishing the hostile cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (praise be upon him) can perhaps be best understood by a Marxist analysis. I refer to the quip by (Groucho) Marx: "How dare she get insulted just because I insulted her?"
The supporters of the publication of the cartoons appear to be surprised that many Muslims found the cartoons offensive; at the same they claim these cartoons are part of an effort to throw back the forces of multiculturalism in favour of national (i.e. European) cultural restoration. The conflict between those who see in the publication a noble principle at stake and those who see just another episode of European racism disguised as high moral principle has itself become a metaphor for other conflicts that exceed the xenophobia of a tiny statelet.
The origins of the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed do not lie in an attempt to offer contemporary comment, let alone satire, but the desire to illustrate a childrens' book. While such pictures would have been distasteful to many Muslims – hence why no illustrator could be found – the cartoons are in an entirely different league of offence. They are all unfriendly to Islam and Muslims and the most notorious implicate the prophet with terrorism. If the message was meant to be that non-Muslims have the right to draw Mohammed, it has come out very differently: that the prophet of Islam was a terrorist.
The row over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed raises profound tensions – between freedom of speech and mutual respect, ethics of satire and sacrality, shared values and coexistence, perceived western arrogance and Muslim victimhood. openDemocracy writers respond to the dispute and seek ways forward.