TARIQ RAMADAN | September 11th 2008
On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Tariq Ramadan laments what's been lost in our pursuit of security ...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Autumn 2008
Intelligent Life asked 11 eminent people from different walks of life to look back over their adult lifetime and name the freedom we have gained and lost that means the most to them. They were free to take freedom in any sense, political or cultural, social or technological. What mattered was that it mattered to them.
THE THEOLOGIAN: TARIQ RAMADAN
Aged 45, professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University and author of "Islam, the West and the Challenge of Modernity"
As we are celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the UN Declaration, one remains doubtful regarding the progress in the field of our freedoms. Sometimes it is as if we are witnessing an effective regression. For the last 20 years, and more efficiently since the attacks in the United States in 2001 and the so-called "war on terror", we have lost our right to privacy. The security policies in both America and the European Union are undermining our legitimate rights to "a protected private life": we are checked and checked again, all our details (travels, credit-card numbers, etc) are known and registered. In Britain, for instance, one may be photographed and filmed more than 300 times within a single day. We are all monitored, but some more than others.
Security measures are producing new discriminations and, with their privacy, some are losing their dignity, if not their personal integrity. The scenes one can witness in airports, especially in America, are worrying: the Arabs and the Muslims seem to have less right to freedom and to be treated with respect and in a dignified way. All these rights are interconnected and our security obsession is going as far as to accept, "for the more dangerous ones", to resort to torture which is dangerously acceptable for 53% of Americans. Scary indeed.
FREEDOM GAINED (with a condition):
Is global communication a kind of standardisation? America and the European broadcast channels used to dictate the form and substance of the global news networks. During the first war in Iraq, in 1991, the American strategy had two main objectives: the battlefield and its media coverage. It was difficult to know what was really happening and it was a success. During the past decades, new private and worldwide TV and radio channels have been challenging this monolithic coverage and vision. One may be critical towards al-Jazeera and the others, but one has to acknowledge that they give another angle, a new perspective on specific issues (Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Tibet, etc).
We may add to these phenomena the alternative means such as the internet where the ordinary citizen, from South America to India and all the way through Africa, can reach multiple sources of information and news. It is not an absolute gained freedom, for mainstream media remain very powerful. Nevertheless it is clear that no government, no despot and no society can dismiss the power of these alternative media. It is a freedom gained for all of us if, and only if, we take the committed decision to look for it. This kind of freedom by no means fits with passivity and laziness.
Up next: the freedoms gained and lost by Peter Tatchell, a human-rights campaigner and Green Party candidate for Oxford East
Picture credit: Larsz/flickr
Co-ordinated by Horatia Lawson