Monday, April 25, 2005

Freedom, a Blessing and a Curse

Arab News
The Middle East's Leading English Language Daily

Freedom, a Blessing and a Curse
Ibtissam Al-Bassam, Arab News —

Freedom is not a 21st century discovery nor is it a fashion that lasts one season and fades away the next.

People everywhere cherish freedom and want to be free. This is true of Arabs, Americans, Asians and Europeans. It is true of nations whose history is fraught with wars against colonization and who have made hefty sacrifices to gain independence. It is certainly true of people who give up their lives, wealth, and comfort to free their land from occupation and to resist invasions.

No sane person hates freedom and places obstacles in its way. No person in his or her right mind prefers the fire of slavery and servitude to a rising flame of freedom and liberation. No nation resents or hates leaders, who place freedom at the top of their political agenda and show determination to promote it around the globe.

But the world has learned from experience that freedom is similar to cholesterol and to diamond. Just as there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there is good freedom and bad freedom, and just as there is real diamond and fake diamond, there is real freedom and fake freedom.

Good, real freedom is a rare blessing. It makes people masters in their own lands and gives them the right to choose and nourish the democracy that befits their culture, suits their nature and can grow and blossom in their society. It prevents divisions in societies and shuts the door against invasion and hateful occupation. It protects lives, preserves world cultures and respects world religions.

Good, real freedom condemns the use of force against unarmed civilians. It prevents collateral punishment and the demolition of homes and livelihood. It forbids sale or shipment of sophisticated weapons to places where they are used to destroy the innocent masses of civilians.

Good, real freedom respects faith and exposes lies that promote hatred, hostility and suspicion. It reinforces solidarity, protects social cohesion and national unity. It extinguishes conflicts before they flare up into full-fledged civil or regional wars. It respects the sovereignty of nations, opens the door to sustainable development and economic prosperity. It allows citizens to reform their national systems in ways that serve the interests of their countries and does not fly in the face of cherished traditions and values.

Bad, fake freedom is dangerous. It is a Trojan horse that creates chaos, destroys cultures, undermines self-confidence and eliminates national and cultural identities. It creates dangerous rifts in peaceful societies and allows outsiders to meddle in one’s internal affairs with impunity. It promotes alien values, gives rise to social unrest, threatens cultural heritage and destroys family structures. It sets men against women and women against men. It enlarges the gap between generations and kills the feelings of respect and gratitude that children should have for parents. It is a tsunami that wipes away love, respect and understanding, which are the fundamental basis for sound relationships.

Bad, fake freedom is a curse. It stifles honest voices and gives the floor to the dishonest. It supports prejudiced reporters, praises biased reports and, intentionally or unintentionally, overlooks objective, accurate conclusions.

Bad, fake freedom crushes the weak, condones attacks on world religions, does not respect world cultures and has a strange tendency to paint all Muslims with the hated brush of terrorism. It is fertile ground for selfishness, poverty, exploitation, discrimination and harassment. It sanctions the arrest of the innocent and the indefinite imprisonment and torture of “suspects”. It allows deviation from ratified conventions, encourages violation of international laws, and paves the way to money laundering, theft of national wealth, looting and drug trafficking.

Bad, fake freedom promotes suspicion and hatred among people of different faiths and different cultures. It turns the developing world into laboratories for testing lethal arms and deadly conventional and unconventional weapons.

Good, real freedom is the faithful companion of true democracy.

May we all be blessed with real freedom and May Allah spare us the woes, pain and misery that fake freedom is capable of inflicting on its victims.

originally published 24 April 2005