Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Good Boycott!

The boycott against Danish goods by righteous believing Muslims all over the world, albeit hardly justifiable on any logical ground in this case, does, nonetheless, signal an interesting development that should in principle be encouraged.

For while we need to point out that resort to this procedure in this case may not be correct, the method itself, we should notes, is a very legitimate, effective and downright civilized manner for expressing discontent – one that is far superior morally and tactically to rioting and arson.

Now that Muslims can see how effective this method is, and now that liberal forces in the region can see that as well, recourse to this practice should be encouraged more and more but with regard to a different set of issues that are fare more relevant to our lives than Danish cartoons and caricatures: rising prices of basic goods, lack of effective anti-corruption mechanisms, government neglect of certain rural and urban areas and populations, continuing recourse to repression by security forces, etc.

Our countries can offer plenty of choices in this regard as we know, and while boycotts may not seem to represent the right tactic here, the concepts of civic action and people power are the very things that need to be stressed here.

Yet, even boycotts can actually have a role in this regard. For when certain services and certain goods seem to be monopolized by specific figures and institutions in the country to the detriment of the common good, boycotts may indeed represent the most effective tactic to protest these monopolies.

Syrians, for instance, can resort to occasional and/or long-term boycotts to express their anger with the corruption affiliated with the mobile phone services, which, as every Syrian knows, are monopolized by the President’s maternal cousin and are unreasonably expensive.

But even if expense is not an issue here, the corruption of the President’s cousin is too well-known and has long become the subject of daily conversation that calling for a boycott against one of his most profitable businesses might still be advisable, as it would send a strong message to the regime that the people are getting fed up with their corruption.

But will the Syrian people be willing to cooperate in taking part in such an activity when the target is so close to home that it can actually cause them serious trouble? Or is their jihadist zeal reserved only for use against far away adversaries, and empty structures, ones that have no chance of fighting back, or so they may seem?

My money is on this latter possibility of course. But my hope naturally lies in the attempt to help people break through the barrier of fear and see the relevance of using civil disobedience tactics against the real blasphemers and their all too real oppressors.