By now, most of us know the narrative of the Danish cartoon scandal. We know about the offensive cartoons themselves, and the cartoonists who by their own admission were out to provoke and offend. We know about the violent actions of some Muslims in reaction to those cartoons. We know about certain Muslim leaders who are manipulating this crisis, to attempt to achieve their own ends. And we know about the cowardly actions of the Bush administration
and the Vatican
, who have condemned the cartoons and the choice to publish them (yet another thing President Bush has in common with the terrorists he claims to be fighting: both of them depise our freedom).
My hero below the fold.
Most of us have come to the same conclusion, despite where we find ourselves in the debate over this issue: this is a story with plenty of villians and few, if any, heroes. But there is a true hero in this story, a partisan on the side of freedom, who has made a great sacrifice. His name is Jihad Momani.
Jihad Momani was the editor-in-chief of the Jordanian weekly newspaper Shihane. On Thursday, Jan. 26th, Mr. Momani published three of the Danish cartoons in Shihane, running them alongside an editorial penned by Mr. Momani which said "Muslims of the World, be reasonable."
" What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?" asked Mr. Momani.
Mr. Momani was arrested the following day, after which he was sacked by the paper and the publisher pulled all issues from newsstands. A few days later, another Jordanian, Hashem al-Khalidi, editor-in-chief of a weekly tabloid called Al-Mehwar which also reproduced a few of the cartoons, was likewise arrested.
In all the things that I have read about the Danish cartoon controversy, the best and most inspiring has been from Tim Cavanaugh, who wrote "If freedom of expression isn't dangerous, than it isn't worth defending."
Like most of the axioms of childhood, the old fable about sticks and stones and our invulnerability to the dangers of words is a lie. Most of us know that before we've finished middle school, and have learned how words are often far more hurtful than fists. But for reasons failing comprehension, many of us forget the lessons of youth as we enter into adulthood, and believe somehow that words can't hurt, or at the very least that words shouldn't hurt. And because of that, we turn against hateful speech and attempt to suppress it, while at the same time claiming to still embrace the notion of freedom of speech.
My new hero, Jihad Momani, understands that there are more dangerous things than words, and that the danger is that essential things will not be said in a society that disallows dangerous expression. He has made a great and personal sacrifice, something that no Danish cartoonist did by choice, to speak forbidden words.
If we are friends of freedom, we will stand united with Mr. Momani. I urge each of you to contact the Jordanian embassy, and let the Ambassador, Mr. Karim Kawar, know that neither Mr. Momani or Mr. al-Khalidi should go to jail. They will be having their next hearing in the next ten days, so I urge you to act quickly. For the sake of all human's right to freedom.
Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
3504 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone number: (202) 966 - 2664
Fax number: (202) 966 - 3110
Thank you very much for your time.