Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back to religion. Or maybe Web 2.0? is (yet) another tool for sharing sites you find interesting with your friends - well, actually with the world. Being bored, I searched what websites people saved for the word 'difference'. Amidst the many technical links, one caught my eye: The Religion of Peace: Islam Making a True Difference in the World. The link has been saved by some 200 people, which seems quite a number. I click full of hope. But hope vanishes instantly: the first thing that greets me from the Religion of Peace (no link to hate-speech here, so do your own googling) is the photo of an injured child. And the title: "Islam, the Religion of Peace (and a big stack of dead bodies)".

I am on a news site dedicated to showing how islam kills and how its casualties are piling up!
I am no fan of any religion (see religion post), but confronted with the website I instinctively feel the need to argue in support of the right to your own faith. The website seems a Hate Speech 101: sweeping generalizations (islam=terrorism), offending irony (latest offerings from the religion of peace), the appearance of relying on scientific data (stats), the pretense of objective newsreporting, the use of strong, emotional characterizations in relation to islam (rape, murder, dead).

The site is an example of constructing the difference - a negative difference based on the idea of the Other defined by/through its faith. I remind myself that tolerance includes letting hate-speech being expressed too (or at least that's the liberal democratic argument and the idea of the First Amendment). But as technological capabilities evolve, giving us new venues to voice ideas in a more persuasive way, I feel a bit frustrated that teaching critical skills takes a lot of time and sweat, weakening our capacity as a society to restore peace (and keep such hate-speech in a position of marginality).

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