Raw Feelings

When I woke up this morning, this page  2015-02-01 06.18.54 of the New York Times’ weekend edition lay around openly. It carries the highly pixelated shape of a person in an orange jumpsuit, hands tied behind his back, on his knees.

It brought back immediately my memories of a specific moment yesterday. When the news exploded into the world that this black clothed butcher with the deep British accent, the executor of IS, had decapitated Kenji Goto, the Japanese journalist who had been captured earlier, I looked up the video that had been put on the web by IS. Here is a link to the news and facts from yesterday.

On the other hand, the open page of the NYT that I found this morning, it is about a book review: “Guantanamo Diary“, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Mark Danner reviews the book for NYT, starting with the following: “On or about Sept. 11, 2001, American character changed. What Americans had proudly flaunted as “our highest values” were now judged to be luxuries that in a new time of peril for the country could ill afford.”
The text continues, making reference also to former Vice President Dick Cheney, when asked recently about an innocent man been tortured to death in an American “black site”, did not hesitate. “I’m more concerned,” he said, “with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”

I wrote about torture, cruelty, and why I believe that certain acts of utmost inhumanity need to be banished for all accounts and purposes, not leaving any ground for legal or ethical justification, earlier.

But here is the thing:

I would certainly claim that I am hardened by uncounted situations, and pictures and movies thereof, what human cruelty can do to others. Yet, none of those experiences leaves me cool, unaffected. Yesterday, I decided to look up the propaganda video of IS before it would be removed from the most accessible sites again. I wanted to understand more about what is referred to as a highly professional propaganda machinery. IS is acting through intense use of media, far away from amateurish make, brushed up with professional effects, using an identifiable style guide. So I assumed that this is not just a simple broadcasting of cruelty, but that it carries deliberate messages, likely tailored for different target groups.

Well, I am certainly having difficulties to understand those in the target group of potential supporters for whatever the cause of these devils are, I can’t really relate to the mindset of somebody who might be tempted to become what we name a “Foreign Terrorist Fighter” in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014).

But I do understand the feelings of those who are target of the antagonization which sits at the heart of this media strategy. I refuse to give these criminals the legitimacy they aspire, what they want to be seen as, like fighting for a caliphate with authority, brutally enforced legitimacy, and territory. I continue to name them torturers, heinous murderers, or, let me just be a little politically incorrect, heartless beings with no soul.

Felling better, having said that.

However, I also refuse to name them “animals”. That is a trick which is frequently used by those who want to establish legitimacy for their own unethical and horrible action. The Nazis created the word “Untermensch”, shamefully staining the German history. Many others did, and continue to do, exactly the same. By depriving somebody from being considered a human being, genocidaires and mass murderers can justify action that otherwise would be morally or ethically questionable, and it makes it easier for the killers who they need, to kill for them.

No, this butcher may be whatever curse I can find for him (feeling better thereafter), but he remains a human being. As such, my rules of the game apply for what I stand for: Humanity.

However:

When I saw the video yesterday, I was immediately overwhelmed by a complex mixture of feelings including rage, despair, deepest sadness, shock. I cried and needed to compose myself immediately again, because some children were in the other room.

From then on, I literally obsessed for hours, when ever I had a minute, about what I would do if I would get my hands on this black clad coward butcher. Yes, coward, because he is hiding his ugly face. I do not. I had all sorts of day dreams about how to torture this man, in detail.

It took me a hard time to recover into my spirituality, into not only understanding on an intellectual level that this is EXACTLY what they want us to feel, but also to admit on my spiritual level that any such retaliation would be wrong for all intents and purposes.

We only have one chance to demonstrate our values: By adhering to them. So I am talking about my values here.

I remember my father. I was young, and he would refer to Jesus’ sentence saying that if one gets slapped on one cheek, one should offer the other cheek to the offender, too. My father often said that he would have difficulties with that. Instead, he considered some situations justifying the principle “An Eye for an Eye”.

I have two answers, one with my heart, one with my brain:

My heart tells me that I would give up my soul, and my spirituality, if I would give in into ripping that butcher’s nails off his fingers and toes, one by one. Well, it gives me some relief thinking about it, though, frankly. But that’s about it, that’s about as far as I can go, and it already makes me praying for that this resentment is taken away from me with the help of my Higher Power.

Secondly, my brain tells me that this is exactly what these groups want us to feel: They thrive from this. Because, amongst other reasons, think about what they did, too: They requested 100 Million USD ransom money.

They are not only a bunch of terrorists. They belong to an organized crime organization, they capture people in order to make money in order to exercise power. They are true sociopaths, like every organized crime group is, because they give an ethical and moral damn about how to generate money, how to establish power. If they can make more money by legal means, they will just do that. If they can make more money by chopping heads off, well, they will just do that.

That is who they are. In their cold and well crafted strategy, they aim at taking our values away from us, by making us doing what they do.

They are sociopathic criminals. They don’t feel anything like empathy. So, we treat them as such. We apply the rule of law to them. Because that is what is protecting our values, and our humanity.

Never. Never again.

“Thank You” – Instead of “Yes, we succeeded!”

When I read the first breaking news on BBC on that “the case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king’s office”, I shared it with my little group of personal friends on FaceBook immediately, and just adding the word “Thanks!!!” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-30856403).

Referring to my previous blog entry “Je suis Charlie – Je suis Raef” I then thought about the issue a little more in depth.

Since the horrible attack and murders which began in Paris in the offices of the magazine “Charlie Hebdo” January 7, the world saw outrage and intense discussion. Millions gathered in Paris and elsewhere, demonstrating under the logo “Je suis Charlie”. Public discussion saw a wide range of positions, across various communities, including communities of faith. I find it noteworthy that important moderate voices came from everywhere, including, sometimes, from where I would not have expected it. Here is an example: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6443530.

Friday, January 09, the Saudi blogger Raef Badawi received the first 50 lashes from a sentence of 1,000 lashes. The public outrage was immense. I referred to some in my recent blog entry, and I wrote “Je suis Charlie – Je suis Raef”.

January 14, the media began to report about a new cover illustration of Prophet Muhammad in the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/01/15/world/middleeast/new-charlie-hebdo-muhammad-cartoon-stirs-muslim-anger-in-mideast.html?_r=0&referrer=).

Again, there was a wide spectrum of opinions flooding the blogs. Again, I also want to note that there were serious concerns offered in moderation, across the whole spectrum of communities. The above link serves as an example.

What I want to draw attention on here is the fact that, in my personal view, the decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia carries remarkable signals, and I would hope that this is supporting a dialogue which I find extremely important. The world faces a lot of antagonisation right now. This escalation of antagonised, often radicalised, and very often very emotional expressions of outrage supports that views become polar. Polar views support a selective perception which makes us looking for more of the bad news, as we seek support for the position that each of us holds.

Meaning: Dialogue becomes more difficult.

So, here is my take on the news on Raef Badawi: I hope this goes widely noticed. I hope it’s not used in a triumphant manner. I hope it’s used as an example for that listening to each other really works.

And that is what we need more than anything else, right now. So, trusting that this decision is based on including the understanding that dialogue and willingness to understand are so important, I say “Thank you!”. The world never is black and white only, what ever some would want to suggest.

Je suis Charlie – Je suis Raef

May 15, 2014, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the following statement (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47797#.VLT9xkY8KJI ) on Raef Bandawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a 1 million Saudi riyal fine:

“This outrageous conviction should be overturned and Mr. Badawi immediately released,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion, Heiner Bielefeldt; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue; the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez; and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mads Andenas.”

But it is happening.

It started last Friday. Here is what, like many, The Times of India reports (http://m.timesofindia.com/world/middle-east/Saudi-blogger-lashed-in-public-for-insulting-Islam/articleshow/45824671.cms ):
“JEDDAH: Saudi blogger Raef Badawi was flogged in public Friday near a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, receiving 50 lashes for “insulting Islam”, witnesses said. In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for Badawi, and he is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete. The United States, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have denounced the flogging as a horrific form of punishment, and said Badawi was exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

This is why it is so incredibly important to continue with a public discussion on torture, following the release of the U.S. Senate’s report on coercive interrogation methods by the CIA amounting to torture: Cruelty is a family member of Torture, and I identified Sadism and Rape as other brothers and sisters in it, in earlier statements on this blog. The legitimacy of condemnation of such methods applied by others critically depends on how one deals with own behavior, and history. Once we allow ourselves to do whatever we want, disrespecting international Conventions, we mute ourselves when we are being confronted with outrageous action of others.

So, here is the US Department of State’s public statement ( http://m.state.gov/md235704.htm ) as of one week ago:

“Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
January 8, 2015

We are greatly concerned by reports that human rights activist Raif Badawi will start facing the inhumane punishment of a 1,000 lashes, in addition to serving a 10-year sentence in prison for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. The United States Government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. The United States strongly opposes laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of these freedoms, and urges all countries to uphold these rights in practice.”

Yet, despite this and others joining in, it is happening. Raif Badawi received the first 50 lashes last Friday. Watch the crowd gathering, the video stops there, (thank you!): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ISRaSduJNOI

It will continue if hearts remain merciless. Every Friday he will be taken out of prison, displayed in public, receiving 50 more lashes. The American PEN organization decries it ( http://www.pen-international.org/newsitems/saudi-arabia-editor-raef-badawi-sentenced-to-1000-lashes-and-10-years-in-prison-plus-10-year-media-participation-ban/ ). It will bring his body to his limits, every Friday for the next twenty weeks. He may die.

And you know what?: On occasion of millions joining into last week’s demonstrations against the killing of fifteen journalists of Charlie Hebdo, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the row of dignitaries, excellencies, and ordinary people, expressing their sadness and outrage. Exercising their right to be free expressing their opinions, journalists had been brutally killed by extremists who felt this is an insult of Islam. ( http://www.jewishjournal.com/hella_tel_aviv/item/the_10_biggest_hypocrites_marching_in_paris ).

So what is this about? Is it that you can say what ever you want as long as it is not against us?

I join the statement by the European Union ( http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2014/150109_03_en.htm ).

Je suis Charlie. Je suis Raif. Et j’adore Senator Feinstein.

More links below.

http://m.ndtv.com/article/world/saudi-blogger-gets-first-installment-of-1000-lashes-for-insulting-islam-646541

To me, the most heartening one: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/6125244