Wednesday, February 08, 2006


From the comments, Winston brought to my attention a website in the "We're Sorry" vein entitled: Sorry Norway Denmark. It features a guest book which contains a broad range of opinions, from those who are supportive of the initiative to others who are highly cynical.

Given that the owners of the site do not identify themselves (and a WhoIs search reveals they've registered the site anonymously via Domains by Proxy Inc.), it's hard to tell exactly who is saying sorry, other than by taking at face value their statement that:
In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs. We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed. We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades.
There's a lot of stuff I think we can all agree with:
The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise. Voices that seek tolerance, dialogue and understanding are always drowned out by the more sensationalist loud calls, giving viewers the impression that these views are representative of all the Arab public’s view. This website is a modest attempt at redressing this wrong. We would appreciate it if you could forward the word to as many of your friends as possible.

We will note that we find the cartoons to be incendiary, insulting and very abrasive. We also take issue with the general stance of the Danish Newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which has a reputation for publishing inflammatory material. Yet, it would be wrong to take away their freedom of expression, regardless of how horrid their material is. We affirm our belief in freedom of expression and people’s right to express whatever opinions they hold. However, at the same time there is a need to realize that freedom of expression is a responsibility that should not be used to gratuitously insult people’s beliefs.

When confronted with such a situation, we deplore the use of violence in all its forms, as well as threats of violence and derogatory and racist remarks being thrown in the opposite direction. We condemn the shameful actions carried out by a few Arabs and Muslims around the world that have tarnished our image, and presented us as intolerant and close-minded bigots.

Anyone offended by the content of a publication has a vast choice of democratic and respectful methods of seeking redress. The most obvious are not buying the publication, writing letters to the editor or expressing their opinions in other venues. It is also possible to use one’s free choice in a democracy to conduct a boycott of the publication, and even a boycott of firms dealing with it. Yet an indiscriminate boycott of all the country’s firms is simply uncalled for and counter-productive. We would be allowing the extremists on both sides to prevail, while punishing the government and the whole population for the actions of an unrepresentative irresponsible few.

We apologize whole-heartedly to the people of Norway and Denmark for any offense this sorry episode may have caused, to any European who has been harassed or intimidated, to the staff of the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Embassies in Syria whose workplace has been destroyed and for any distress this whole affair may have caused to anyone.
So far so good. In fact, I was left wondering why they felt the need to apologise at all; simply stating their moderate position would surely suffice? I suppose they figured the "We're Sorry" line would generate more exposure.

However, regular commenter Stewie who, I think it's fair to say, falls into the cynical camp, highlights out the Palestinian flag which is draped down the side of the page. And the next paragraph in the statement is quite intriguing:
There is a strong tradition of friendship and cooperation between the Norwegian and Danish people and Arab people. Of most note is the continued support that these governments give to the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and liberation, and the brave stance that these governments have often taken to defend Palestinian rights. We sincerely hope these special bonds will not be broken. We hope that our Scandinavian friends would not be convinced by the actions of a few to believe that this is how Arabs and Muslims feel about them. There are racists, bigots and criminals in all countries, and it is the duty of the respectful and reasonable to reach out to each other.
It would seem that they are a tad worried that Norway and Denmark might not look on the Palestinian cause so favourably given the events of the past week.

A little research shows why they might be worried:
Between 1994 and 2004, Norway donated NOK 3,2 billion ($480million) in aid to the Palestinian Territory (excluding the annual support of NOK 100 million ($15million) to UNRWA). In 2005 Norway has allocated NOK 373 million ($56million) for development aid to the area. The Palestinian Territory has been one of the largest single recipients of Norwegian development assistance.

Norwaychair the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of International Assistance to the Palestinian People (AHLC), consisting of PA and major international donors to the Palestinian Territory.
whilst Denmark donated $10million to UNRWA in 2003 and pledged a further $7million in 2004.

Norway witholding its contributions alone would create a fairly large hole in the PA budget.

So are the folk behind this website more concerned with Norway and Denmark cutting aid to Palestine than with the acts of destruction we've been witnessing? Who knows.

But the lack of real weasel words in their statement has me veering towards the "Nice idea, but you really didn't need to apologise; perhaps now's the time to get together with other moderates and take on the nutjobs who are giving your religion a bad name" camp

Easier said than done, I know.


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