Image Credit: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

Words carry a great invisible power that many might not realise. Words can be very powerful especially when they spread so vastly and create emotions, or become means to manipulate thoughts and ideologies.

Whether written or spoken, words become a force in our lives. They can have a magical effect by lifting our spirits, healing our hearts and changing our perceptions positively. Words can also be dangerous by breaking us down, tearing us apart and creating hatred. 

Individuals are responsible for the words they use, and should be responsible for the consequences of their words. They can inspire solidarity or start unwanted wars.

In a case recently, the Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari mimicked a disrespectful conversation with Prophet Mohmmad (PBUH) which has outraged thousands of people who demanded his prosecution for being outrageously offensive and for being blasphemous.

The journalist retracted his words and apologised but for many it was too late. The words have left a deep scar. The reactions to his apology differed, some accepted it, some rejected it, and others questioned it.

Islam calls for tolerance and mercy, and that was the argument for those who have accepted the journalist’s apology. The ones that have rejected it, were mostly hoping for revenge for the Prophet and wanting to set an example for others who might be thinking the same thoughts the journalist was. The third group who questioned his apology are torn between the two. Activists around the world who are deeply concerned are calling for the journalist’s release in the name of freedom of speech and expression. They have signed petitions and contacted the UN to pressure the release of the journalist.

All of this could have been avoided if only the journalist thought about the words he wrote. Understanding what the law constitutes and where to draw the lines is critical for writers. “I am sorry!” as a follow up to what we spewed simply doesn’t erase the effect of what we wrote or said as it has a lasting effect and it entails consequences.

If your words are read then you are responsible for the reactions that you will receive from your readers and you need to be mature enough to be able to handle it.

Another instance that is social took place just recently, when the columnist Nasser Al Daheri writing in Al Ittihad newspaper decided to condemn an area in the country based on a recent incident of police shootouts in an undercover operation against drug traffickers. He stated in his column how the area is now becoming a hotbed for drug dealers, and for many countless crimes. He basically called it a centre from which criminals graduated.

You can imagine the outraged reactions of people who lived in the area who felt that they were insulted and stung by the words of a fellow national. His words caused pain and anger. I don’t believe that the columnist realised that his column will be fought all the way through. Forums across the internet and social media tools saw comments mushrooming and defending this little city.

The columnist could have made a better judgement in his usage of words. He could have used a better positive approach instead of now being crucified by the majority. 

We need to start thinking that the words we articulate have an effect. Whether positive or negative, our words can define us. The columnist wrote words of judgement and in return was criticised with the same intensity. Emotions are attached to words and can often become very personal for many.

Lasting impression

In politics, words can make governments fall or can be a reason for people’s unity especially noticeable during the Arab Spring. A speech by the state president had a profound effect on people and the following speech from the same state president used the wrong words and backfired with the same group of people. The selection of words must always be done carefully and sensitively. Words can make us or break us as a country. They can build alliances or start wars.. Words in politics can be used as an invisible tool for manipulation of thought to reach certain goals by changing perceptions, promoting certain ideologies and serving hidden agendas. A reader should be intelligent in telling the difference.

The power of words can’t be underestimated in the financial world. The wrong comments regarding any company can cause the fall in the value of  its shares the following day and can cause unwarranted losses.

In marketing, we notice that most successful products have always being tied with a positive powerful word. Words can create a lasting impression in our memories and consumers are prone to buy those products that trigger good emotions.

In the virtual world, individuals can become online celebrities because of what they write and how they write it. They can attract an audience worldwide and have a sweeping effect. With their words they turn from ordinary to extraordinary by inspiring people, encouraging them, and sharing their life experience that others can relate to. They have discovered and unleashed a powerful medium for communication. Writers should always leave a good legacy behind as this will be left in the memories of many, in their hearts and minds. It is a documented evidence of the writers’ thoughts and it better be spoken of positively.

Writers must take control of the words they speak and should ultimately align their thoughts with the change that they want to see in the world around them.  They should always aim at making a difference in the world because they are able to. They can create momentum that will take issues forward.

The late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of UAE and late president once said: “If people didn’t use their energies, and their mental and intellectual work to serve the world by the teachings of Allah, they will only reap diseases that will affect their mental and social development.”

Choose your words carefully. Choose to encourage and uplift in your daily life. Choose with wisdom and love. 

Sheikha Al Maskari is an Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi.