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.

6 thoughts on “The Good Boycott!

  1. Ammar, Our daily decisions on how we allocate our scarce resource, money income, is a reflection of our preferences and values. We are constantly sending signals through the market that culminate in determining what to produce. That is why boycotts are an effective and civilised mechanism of signaling our approval or displeasure with say Coca Cola, Nike or carpets weaved by children.Your suggestion to apply the same principal in the political field is ultimately what brings about change. That is the essence of civil disobedience. Do we as people have the courage to act upon our beliefs and boycott coruption? Again unfortunately I agree with your conclusion. We are still acting like the slaves who constantly praise their master.I believe that Gibran has touched on this issue when he said that if freedom is a goal then it is an indication that we are not free i.e.those who hold freedom to be dear behave in a free way. They boycott and show displeasure with their exploiters. What does it mean when we do not show openly our dissatisfaction? Maybe we don’t want to be free.

  2. Ammar,The reason why I do not see a ripe ground for civil disobedience against the current regimes is because Syrian society (and dare I say it, most Middle Eastern/Muslim society) is a society based on negatives.Unlike our Western and Zionist friends, who, contrary to popular Eastern belief, who are driven by a philosophy of positives, ours is one that relies on annihilation of the West, destruction of Israel, and death to the infidels.The Western countries and the Zionists do not have philosophies that are inherently anti-Arab or anti-Islam. Their philosophies are driven by positives, and that is, whatever suits their own well-being is the path that they follow. If in the future the situation arises where cooperation with the Arab/Muslim world (and this must come from us) is what is best for their own countries, then I gather they would probably take that route as opposed to one of confrontation. That is why they have been so successful.If we can adopt a mentality that will transform our goals from “anti-America” and “anti-Israel” to “pro-Syrian,” then there will be room for this boycott against the nepotistic monopolies of our country. Until then though, until the idea of cooperation with the West and Israel seems as a perfectly viable and acceptable means of advancing our own conutries, we will have “biased” civil disobedience. That is, we will only disobey those that are perceived to be enemies. Of course, such boycotts and protests are categorically useless.The question is this, then. How do we transform our negatives-driven mentality (which has been advanced further by the propoganda machines of our oh-so-respectable overlords) to a positives-driven mentality?

  3. “I believe that Gibran has touched on this issue when he said that if freedom is a goal then it is an indication that we are not free i.e.those who hold freedom to be dear behave in a free way. They boycott and show displeasure with their exploiters.” Great point. “How do we transform our negatives-driven mentality (which has been advanced further by the propoganda machines of our oh-so-respectable overlords) to a positives-driven mentality?” This is indeed a good question Yaman.

  4. Two points:I agree that boycotts IF AIMED AT THE RIGHT TARGETS are a legitimate target. Had Muslims boycotted the paper, or those companies that advertised in the paper, I might have disagreed with them, but would have still cheered the way they chose to impliment their protest. But boycotting the goods of an entire country, with the implication that it was the job of a government in the west to control its press was simply wrong. There are cases where the policies of a country deserve boycotting — the apartheid-era South Africa, for example. But not in this case.And I very much like the distinction Yaman makes between negative and positive driven mentalities. It shows an understanding that I have rarely seen in Muslim comments.Keep up the good work.

  5. Indeed Jim, the current boycott is completely unjustifiable for the reasons you mentioned, an entire country is being targeted for the action of a few people, who represent no one but themselves. The point, however, and as Yaman and yourself have noted, is to find a way to channel such impulses in the right direction.

  6. I can see your point, but unless economic protests can be targeted sensibly they could prove highly destructive precisely because they can be so effective. I think the effectiveness of the anti Danish campaign will not have gone unnoticed by the extremists, particualrly the craven way in which western companies such as Carrefour and Metro caved in immediately. If economic terrorism i used to further restrict the freedoms of those in the West, this will ultimately only result in huge amounts of resentment. Of course if it could be channeled to protest against dictatorships that would be great, but I think the scope for misuse will be far greater than the scopefor positive change

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