Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Evil and Good Tongue

Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 33:1

A rabbi sent his servant to the market with the general instruction, “Buy the best thing there that one can eat.” The servant returned with a tongue. Later, the rabbi asked him to go back to the market to buy the worst thing that one could eat. The servant again came back with a tongue.

“What is with you?” asked the rabbi. “Here I’ve asked you to buy both the best and the worst, and you come back with a couple of tongues.”

“That’s true,” responded the servant. “After all, cannot a tongue be one of the best things in the world and an evil tongue be one of the worst?”

The power of words is the entire point of journalism or blogging. Information is the most powerful tool we have to create or destroy almost anything. We must first be convinced by information to go to war or to create peace. We spend hours tweaking and organizing our ideas and forming the perfect sentence to convey our passion, dismay, or infuriation. But this power is not without a price.

Throughout history the student has brought the teacher both pieces of the tongue. We have seen what the ideas of Locke can produce but also the works of Machiavelli. Today we do not have such thinkers. However millions of people around the world pretend to have opinions as poignant and important as the great thinkers of old.

There is a man, like many, who has been incarcerated for his words. "Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman, better known by his Internet pseudonym Kareem Amer, is a 22-year-old native of Alexandria, Egypt. He grew up in a very religious family and attended the Al-Azhar religious school system his entire life. He began to rebel against the religious extremism he perceived in his school and began to express his opinions on a blog. When the Al-Azhar administration discovered his blog in late 2005, he was expelled from the school and his case was referred to state prosecutors. On February 22, 2007, Kareem was sentenced to four years in prison: three years for ‘contempt of religion’, and one year for ‘defaming the President of Egypt’." (source)

Now the people responsible for this outrage against simple human rights, such as life, liberty, and property, have resorted to absolute power and control – even in a corrupted state.

Speaking up for such people has never been easy and the ideas that are put forward by those who fight can be interpreted as either a good tongue or the evil. However when the intentions are pure the tongue is good, but the accusations of evil hurt even more.

As of late there has been some negativity towards the Free Kareem campaign in the blogging world. I am not privy to it, but I take my friend’s word for it. The Mid East Youth blog, of which I am a member, has worked hard to bring awareness to the incarceration of Kareem. I had actually heard about it through the main stream media a while back. Yet the fact that this purely good campaign is being defamed is the perfect example of the power we have with words.

Kareem expressed an opinion. Now thousands have come together to support his right to do just that. However, those who want to simply forward themselves are choosing the path of least resistance towards power and hence the evil tongue.

Keep in mind the power we have as doctors of words. We are only as credible as our connections to the world. We are only fighting with words here so once more people learn of this campaign – regardless of their connections to the West or the East –those who are in the camp of rights will be seen as the victors of those hungry for power.

"After all, cannot a tongue be one of the best things in the world and an evil tongue be one of the worst?"

Free Kareem


DK said...

"We have seen what the ideas of Locke can produce but also the works of Machiavelli. Today we do not have such thinkers."

We do, but it often takes time for them to emerge, or for them to be recognized as such. Sometimes they are never recognized, at least, not as they should be.

Liberal Jew said...

Fair but I don't think there are very many more ideas like that out there...I know that is very defeatist, but I don't see it happening.