Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The choice is yours

By Sabria S. Jawhar
Saudi Gazette

THE other day I received an e-mail from a Saudi brother who told me that Netto market, which is less than a block from where I live, is owned by a company in Denmark. He didn’t have to tell me to boycott Netto. I already made that decision once I looked up the market’s ownership and found it to be true.

You won’t find me in the streets protesting the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or demanding the heads of the Danish cartoonists. No, I’d rather use my pocketbook. Boycotting goods and services of a business in a country that seems to think it’s okay to hurt and humiliate one-fifth of the world’s population, and then hide behind the right to freedom of speech, is the right way to protest. Nothing hurts more than depriving people of money.

In fact, I’m not very happy with those noisy demonstrators who seem to think that violence is the solution to stop the publication of the cartoons. It makes us look rather foolish. But a well thought out campaign to stage boycotts, write letters and use good old-fashioned diplomacy is a more mature, intelligent and effective device for demonstrating my anger.

Now I must take the train to Tesco, buy my stuff there, and haul it back in plastic bags like a beggar. All my fellow train passengers will know that I have a weakness for Kit-Kat bars and frozen cheese cake. I just hope the Danes don’t buy a majority interest in Tesco anytime soon.

But I must confess that I am more than a little curious about the boycott and the protests occurring around the world over the cartoon issue. I admire my brothers and sisters who have taken up this burden to spend considerable time attempting to educate the world about what it means to be Muslim and why publishing these cartoons is so wrong.

What I don’t understand is why similar efforts are not made to boycott products and countries that are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Muslims worldwide. If a cartoon is so offensive to us, isn’t murder of a Muslim in an illegal war or occupation equally or more offensive.

I’m referring, of course, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continuing Israeli assaults on Gaza. We have been boycotting Israeli products for decades now, as we should. But when scores of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, the vast majority Muslims, are killed daily, we do little to rise up and demand action against those responsible.

We have discovered that boycotts are effective. We’ve learned that Danish businesses have lost millions of euros due to the Muslim boycott. The Swiss-Danish company Arla Foods reportedly lost 1.3 million euros a day in 2006 due to the boycott. Danish business leaders estimate losses between February 2006 through this summer will reach as much as 36 billion euros. In other words, it’s working.

So perhaps it’s time that we expand the boycott to include businesses that aid and abet the slaughter of Muslims.

For example, although British troops evacuated from Basra late last year, did you know that more than 125 Muslim women doctors, lawyers, activists and just plain housewives were tortured and murdered on the streets of that city? Most of these murders occurred under the coalition’s and the local government’s watch.

American soldiers each day kill Iraqi and Afghan civilians and attribute it to unfortunate collateral damage in the pursuit of insurgents. Private American companies charged with providing security for American businesses have killed innocent women and children. The most famous abuses have been perpetrated by the firm Blackwater.

Why is it that we do not boycott businesses in these countries? Should we boycott General Motors and Ford for building vehicles that transport troops to small villages where Muslims will certainly die? When Muslims purchase a Hummer, or Humvee (and you know who you are), they are buying the most recognizable symbol of the US military in Iraq. The Hummer is built and sold by the same people who send vehicles to Iraq to aid the war effort. Shouldn’t Muslims consider a boycott of General Motors products?

Are we boycotting Sara Lee and Tyson Foods for feeding the men that kill Muslims? Next time you buy a frozen pie look at the manufacturer’s label. Is this company feeding the man who killed your Muslim brother or sister. Rolls Royce, owned by the German automaker BMW, manufactures engines for military aircraft, including helicopter gunships, to send troops to kill. Why do rich Muslims continue to purchase Rolls Royce cars?

Boycotting products is a personal choice and we do it for a variety of reasons, notwithstanding the original intent of the protest. We either engage in a boycott or not depending on convenience and whether it’s practical.

Maybe it’s not practical to boycott General Motors if the only affordable car you can buy at the time is a Chevrolet. But it’s easier to boycott Sara Lee. Just move to the next freezer and get another frozen pie from another maker.

The choice is yours.

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3 comments:

Abdullah Al Alasmari said...

A good read indeed. Protesting against any offensive is a civilized act. But, they problem is with the masses getting mobilized by a "spiritual leader" or a "special religious edict" but not by a spontaneous reaction.

Mirza nawab said...

Good piece. "Boycott must be expanded" I agree with you. And your suggestion at the end "Choice is yours." Very fine. Unfortunately buyers don't rely on choice but on what is available. Should not there be a way to hit that "available" and make the "choice" practical?

You are pursuing higher studies in a land which part of most attempts on Muslims. Should then not be European destinations for higher education be boycotted by Muslims and they should go Eastward? East was not once BUT still center of learning and the Prophet, peace be upon him, pointed at East for educational pursuit.

Nuri said...

Unfortunately for us in the west, we cannot boycott oil, but there would be thousands of reasons to do so!