vendredi, septembre 29, 2006

Reply to Imam El Sadi

For David (Peace be upon his dead blog). The reply appears in the Have Your Say section of the 26th September. Unfortunately for some weird reason direct links to the section do not work and will only open the maltastar main page. So here it is (after the next few comment paragraphs). In case you are wondering, Imam El Sadi's original comment appeared on the Maltastar the day before.

Incidentally, I agree with Fausto that Maltastar's comments section is rather too open and anyone can write on it without too much censorship. I am not too sure that that is a bad thing - so long as the right of reply still exists. Such an open comments section is the closest we get to real web opinion columnists, since none of the mainstream papers have hooked on the idea.

Which also reminds me of this. Much as we may be happy that a fellow blogger is actually nominated for some kind of award, I feel that the Maltese blogosphere has failed to advance sufficiently in the same manner as other blogospheres in the world. What I mean is the influence of blogs is marginal to non-existent in Malta and they have failed to penetrate the realm of public opinion.

I appreciate the work of the nominee but frankly it will remain a blog that operates on the basis of a google blog search with the term "Malta" thrown in. All too often the linked sites have been up on the net for ages - which also denies the blog posting any immediacy which might be remotely linked to journalism. Last year's award for Pierre was merited in the sense that it was awarded for a couple of interviews that appeared on a site. Now we might be stretching our imagination a little. So as I said, this years nomination from the blogosphere smacks more of a failure of the blogosphere than anything else. In the battle vs conservative media we are losing ground.

And in case you were wondering that this is a case of sour grapes (because that is how us Maltese tend to think)... I do not consider myself a journalist - so I do not see any way how J'accuse could ever be considered for such an award. On the other hand the only sour grapes I have is that we have not been able to convince mainstream media to add blog columns (comments and all) to their sites - and get employed by them as ethereal columnists. I know one or two bloggers who could fit that bill easily.

Ah yes. Here is the comment to Imam El Sadi:

On reading Imam El Sadi's Comment "Mutual respect: The foundation of permanent friendship", Jacques Rene` Zammit wrote:

I welcome Imam El Sadi's comments regarding the Pope's speech at Regensburg. It is only through efforts such as these where a reaction is put down on paper and there is an engagement towards reasoned dialogue that we can start to avoid fiery and violent reactions such as the world has all too often witnessed.

I am afraid that the Imam's comments, as good-willed as they may be, are also based on the wave of misinformation that quickly followed the Pope's speech. This misinformation is based on the wrongful (and in some cases malicious) attribution of intentions as well as misinterpretation of the speech itself that was entitled Faith, Reason and the University: memories and Reflections.

My first reaction when the news broke out was to read the Pope's speech itself since although I do not count myself as a fervent Catholic I still believed that Benedict should be given the benefit of the doubt. The result was astounding. The Pope's speech had one intention, in the Pope's own words: "(...) not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application... Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. "

It is therefore surprising that a speech intended to build a dialogue of cultures and religions would include offensive material. An intelligent theologian like Benedict would know better.

Imam El Sadi might rightly question the necessity to quote from a Medieval text. The justification lies not in the utility or otherwise of the demonstrative tool that Benedict intended to use but rather in the public perception (including all misunderstandings) that Benedict and his entourage might have predicted.

The dialogue between the Emperor and the Persian Muslim was an illustration of the possibility of dialogue as well as of the perceptions that the religions might have of each other. At no point does the Pope seem to endorse the Emperor's reasonings - not even in the controversial statement which is introduced by the Pope as being "brusque", which is not a positive qualification in any case!

In an effort to encourage reasonable dialogue it would also be encouraging to avoid comparisons such as "Imagine what would be the reaction of our Christian brothers and sisters if a prominent Muslim spiritual leader used the same context of that statement regarding Jesus, peace be upon him?" This kind of question will encourage contests of comparing atrocities. Where do we begin? The crusades in the name of Christ? The modern face of fundamentalism? The dead nun in Somalia? The innocent victims in the war on terror? What kind of dialogue is that Imam?

As for the meaning of 'Jihad', Imam El Sadi states that: "In his lecture, His Holiness the Pope, interpreted ‘Jihad’ as holy war, a term which does not exist neither in the Holy Qur’an nor in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, the two main sources of Islam." In the full text of the speech (available here: one does not find any mention of the word 'Jihad'. The attribution to the Pope of the Emperor's description of Holy War is wrong. At no point does the Pope endorse the Emperor's statement. This wrongful attribution of endorsement is as though I would be attributed the intention of George Bush if I quoted a statement of his. Quoting someone does not mean endorsing his beliefs. Even more if the purpose of the quote is to illustrate the contrary.

As a layman, I would like to appeal to religious leaders who share the world we live in to act more reasonably and continue to engage in reasoned dialogue that rejects all forms of violence.

There is no place for violence in religion. There is no place for violence anywhere.

8 commentaires:

david a dit…

Cheers Jacques (p.b.u.y). My blog did some demenagement and set up shop here:

The thing that irks me most about the 'local' blogging scenario is that the elusive 'debate' is, well, as elusive as ever. One would have expected your blog (which tends to 'argue' with the world, as opposed to limiting itself to describing what you did, heard and bought) to provoke comments, a discussion. Instead you get the impression that people are happy to dig out their own little clever cave and sit there admiring the cave paintings. Fair enough I guess, but a pity too.

The fact that 'anonymous' comments are often shut off doesn't help of course...

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

Good to see you have not abandoned blogging david. I agree with the cave analogy (always better than the usual "navel-gazing"). Trouble is that as I have had occasion to mention before, the blogosphere will reflect the way Maltese think and act. And we all love to criticise (a bit), comment ( a lot), blow our own trumpet (every time) and sit on our asses (yep).

I am not happy to have to criticise Robert's nomination, especially since I know that Robert is always full of well-intended initiatives.

Incidentally, the Robert incident reminds me that I still have to reinstate a sort of linking system to blogs from mine. The problem is that I still cannot solve the orphaning issue of the right column in IE Explorer. Once that is over I promise that all blogs that are updated frequently and are interesting will be included.

This might also be a time to mourn Xifer, Maqluba and all other blogs that seem to have hit a dead-end.

PS: My blog allows quasi-anonimity. So long as you register a name with blogger (even if a nome de plume) you can comment. My reasoning is that ppl who have genuine comments to make (no matter how heavily critical) will find time to create a blogger persona. Others who (like the anonymous comment on Micallef's nomination post - which isn ot mine) simply click on post to submit rubbish once in a while are not worth reading!

Arcibald a dit…

Hi all...

About any disillusions and feelings of failure created around the blogosphere, I think it comes down to expectations.

For example: I do not intend my blog to be neither a competitor to mainstream media nor as some sort of influencial agenda setter. It's just a little site in which I write what I like, in the ways that I like it, and that's it. Sometimes it's intended to be funny, other times serious and other times just is. It's not a full-time job like that of real journalists, which get paid for their thing, and the content is surely not for everyone's tastes.

I mean what's the problem with people "digging out their own little clever cave and sit there admiring the cave paintings" if that is what they want to do? If people don't like my cave paintings, life goes on anyway.

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

Spot on Baldu.
There is nothing wrong with doing your thing. I agree that it is all about expectations. I am just taking a western media standard and comparing it to Malta. Unlike the development around bloggers in say the US, UK, Italy or France we have no big public profile blogs.

And it's apity. Because the fact that blogs can suffer less establishment censorship might provide new arguments to the general agora.

david a dit…

As I said Arcibald, 'fair enough I guess'. But I would prefer to have both activities going on at the same time: the periodical renovation of one's own clever little admirable cave and the occasional engaging in some sort of debate. Some UK and French blogs I read are attractive because they've managed to host and provoke proper debate which is worth as much as the blog itself. I've always had this feeling about Maltese artists/musicians/writers -very interested in their own formidable project and far less interested in possibele links with what other people are doing or saying. Maybe it's just survival instinct in a land of one bone per one hundred dogs, who knows.

Bottom line - would love to have one or two blogs where real discussion can take place. The sound of individual trumpets is great too of course.

Arcibald a dit…

I agree - OK - but I think we're giving too much weight to blogs. Think about this: the reason behind not having blogs like Beppe Grillo's, for example, is simply because we don't have any Maltese Beppe Grillos around. It's the same with arts in general as you (David) rightly said. The problem, then, is one of carismatic leadership in the different areas and not a problem with blogs, which is just a tool.

Fausto Majistral a dit…

The most pressing problem with the Maltese blogosphere at the moment is a high mortality rate and a low fertility rate.

Very few people are still a-blogging and there are no new kids on the blog. And that's a more pressing question that the one on the Maltese blogosphere having any effect on Maltese public life.

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

Darwinian evolution?