The East-West Dialogue

The East-West Dialogue

Many sincere and peaceful individuals in the East and the West desperately want to make a comprehensive dialogue as a step towards fruitful and flourished coexistence especially when the world become localized as a result of information technology. The question is how to do it. And how to start it in the first place. Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of Commonwealth gives us a recipe worth reading and considering. In an interview with an Indian newspaper The Hindu he talks about various topics including the current danish cartoon controversy, political development in West Asia and West-East dialogue. As far as the interview goes, we easily conclude that he’s the kind of honest and sincere person we’d like to talk to.

Here are the excerpts of the interview with Amit Baruah, editorial board of the Hindu:

You’re the Secretary-General of an organisation that straddles both the West and the East. On the cartoon issue, the objectionable depiction of Prophet Muhammed, it appears that sections of the West are not at all sensitive towards questions of religion.

We just have to work much harder to get to know each other. Those of us who have come from the so-called liberal West do get used to a large amount of freedom. But nothing that I can think of can make me go out and burn flags or buildings. I would be very offended if I saw a cartoon image of Jesus Christ in a similar kind of way.

So, we do have to learn a little bit more about each other. In some things, you have to be more sensitive. Despite the fact that we will always talk about the freedom of the press, media and speech, we always know that there have been inherent boundaries on ourselves as individuals, on our communities, within our media.

There’s never been a defined boundary; there’s always been the knowledge that there’s a kind of a boundary. There’s some things, which you just wouldn’t report on; wouldn’t photograph or put in a cartoon. Here, we have a situation where one cartoonist, one editor, and one fairly innocent country went over that boundary.

But other newspapers published the cartoon “in solidarity” …

I would think that they would now be thinking that it was a kind of stupid thing to do. I’m not sure if anyone, anywhere, is going to be stupid enough to create a new cartoon, or a cartoon of a similar nature in future. Now, we know there’s a certain boundary about an issue we need to be more sensitive about.

Everyone now is probably repositioning themselves. It’s a bit sad that the objections have gone on for such a long time. And, now people are being killed. I’m not sure if that is really justified. That people should lose their lives.

All this is happening in a post-September 11, 2001, context. Just because you happen to belong to the Muslim religion, you become a target even when you have nothing to do with extremists at all.

There is a post 9/11 [context]. The issue of Iraq is all wrapped in it. But, also we are living in a far more inter-dependent world. We are bumping into each other on many more issues. The number of nations that are now involved in international trade negotiations is almost double that of the last Uruguay round.

Despite all that, more people are living in circumstances where the people next door to them, or working with them, are of a different race, religion, linguistic group or ethnicity than ever before. We seem to be surviving that despite everything else.

The answers given by Mr. McKinnon obviously meet the criteria of an honest person who wants to make dialogue and sincere recognition of plus and minus point we both have as the only solution towards sustainable peaceful coexistence.

Moderate Muslims, as the majority entity in the community, should respond back to the good gesture offered by the kind of Mr. McKinnon in the West, not only as quid pro quo; but more than that to keep the momentum going by condemning, in a strong word possible, any physical violence done by extremist Muslims as well as the provocative stupidity done by the right wingers in the West.

Giving them (the right wingers of both sides) no chance to mingle in between and interupt the “on-going dialogue” means we should make clear what we–the moderates–stand for and what we want to achieve.[]

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