Civil Courage Prize
for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk

Dynamite on air
Ali Salem

In one of the talk shows, moments before going on air, I got a pen and a paper out of my pocket to write down my remarks. My rival, who was sitting in front of me with a very grim face, greeted me with an ugly smile. It was obvious that he hated me. Then he got out of his pocket a knife and put it on the table between us, and out of his small briefcase, he got a hand grenade, some gelignite fingers and a brick of T.N.T.

I stood up, went to the studio manager, and asked him: "How did you permit this man to come in with all these weapons?"

He answered. "These are the instruments of Dialogue."

"But I am armed only with a pen and a paper."

"Yes, but you are a fierce fighter, we are certain that you will beat him down. Because you have positive thoughts. These are the most decisive weapons in the universe. In any case, we will not allow him to kill you here. We have a program on air exactly five minutes after this one. Therefore, we have no time to waste in cleaning the floor of the studio and removing the stains of blood from the décor and the setup."

Weird! Yet, I had to be calm. I said, "Before I entered the Television building, I passed an electronic gate, which could detect metals, and explosives. How could he pass?"

He answered, "Because he was clean when he passed. These instruments of dialogue were delivered to him here in the studio, They are ours. After this program is aired, he will return them to be used by other guests."

I almost shouted, "What? You have supported him with these weapons?"

He answered, "Yes, to guarantee a successful, thrilling talk show. What excitement is there in two persons exchanging intelligent and elegant words? Do you believe the story about the opinion and the counter opinion? The audience must enjoy watching you while becoming an angel, a meek person or a pigeon."

"How? By terrifying me? By threatening me? In the presence of this arsenal of weapons, I will loose my ability to present my thoughts clearly. Surely, he will crush me."

The man said tenderly: "That's life my friend. A victor and a defeated. Defend yourself."

I said, "O.K. I am out. I quit. And you have the right to tell your audience that I have withdrawn because I'm a very weak person."

He said, "We will tell them that you are an abject coward who is afraid of confronting the other's opinions. More than that, we would put your picture on the screen in between the commercials accompanied by a very deep, touching voice: this is the abject coward who has escaped from the other opinion. Not only that, we may present a special program about you in which our guests will take care of you. They will prove to the audience that cowardliness is the only reason behind your hostility to the idea of Arab unity, and against Arabic public opinion, and you will be accused of promoting thoughts of political settlement and surrender, and calling for western hegemony on the Arab countries."

I was trembling. In that moment, a voice raised in the loud speakers: "Stand by. Stand by every body. We are on air in ten seconds,"

I returned to my place. The program commenced. While arranging his weapons on the table, my rival guest said: "I am against America, against the west, against all foreigners."

I said decently, "Me too."

He yelled in my face: "Do not interrupt me, I did not interrupt you."

"O.K., O.K."

He continued, "I am for peace. But not surrendering. I am for democracy, but before implementing it, we must purge our countries from people like you. I am against the Camp David agreement. Against the Oslo agreement. Against the Road Map. What was taken by force will not be recovered except by force."

I said politely, "I generally agree with all what you've said but with a slight reservation. The sentence as said by Abd El Naser was, 'What was taken by force will not be recovered without it.' He did not mention the word force in the second part of the sentence. Go back to the letter of the stepping aside."

He exploded in anger, "This is sophistry. Who allowed you to talk? Didn't I ask you not to interrupt me?"

He raises his gun. The talk show's host cries, "Not here. Not on the program. Not in the studio."

He put down the gun and holds the knife and the hand grenade as if it was an orange he was going to peel. In that moment, I discovered that there was no use of being afraid. I felt light and free. I said, "It is clear at least to me, that you are one of the followers of Osama Bin Laden ... You are a member of Al Qaeda."

He cried, "No, I am not."

I looked at the host, "Ask this man to shut up, or I will say horrible things that would devastate this program."

The host said, "Guys, we have to follow the rules of intelligent dialogue."

I said, "You are talking of the rules of intelligent dialogue. You, host of hostility, host of a cock fight, if you had presented an intelligent dialogue, you would have been fired long time ago."

He turned to the man and said, "O.K. Let him speak. It is in our interest sometimes to listen to those who have wrong ideas. Sir, go ahead."

I continued, "Dear Sir, Osama Bin Laden is not the name of a person; it is the name of an idea. Al Qaeda is not the name of a place or an organization that gives its members a membership card. It is the name of a bundle of thoughts, covering a great desire to kill and destroy. In fact, you are not a member of Al Qaeda, you are much more dangerous. You work as a recruiter; your job is to spread ignorance, wretchedness, superstition, fear. So, you turn life into a terrible burden for some youths, and then they find the salvation only in joining Al Qaeda to get rid of this burden to get rid of life. You personally, are unable to use these weapons that were given to you here in the studio, because you are unable to do anything, so you will work to turn those youths into killers. You will drive them to commit suicide, and then you feel the pleasure of achieving something you avidly desired. You will go out from here to write an article or to give a speech glorifying death. You know very well that you are a dead person talking to dead persons. Those who brought you here, or gave you a place in a newspaper, or appointed you to a department or in any other place, did so because they thought that they were protecting themselves from your evils, while you use them to spread all evils. You and they are going to become extinct by the force of life. Life has a force to defend itself. You are fighting against life, and it is not hard to predict who will triumph. Nobody can defeat life. The talk show is over. Please give back the explosives to be delivered to the next guest."


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2008 Honoree
   press release
   Ali Salem Satire: Dynamite on Air
Remarks by Ali Salem
Keynote remarks from Lord Hurd

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