The truth is not always what it looks like at first glance, the truth can be inconvenient, the truth can have several faces, there can be a formal truth with another informal truth at the same time.
Where are we standing?
We live in times where even in a developed country election counts and recounts are mistrusted by losing parties. As social scientists we want to come as close to the truth as possible and we use a wide array of techniques to achieve this. In fact, we are truth finders. We observe, we question, and we present opinions; we do not impose our opinion at any time in this process.
But presenting is not good enough, we need to step out of our bubble and explain more. Explain to the media, to policy makers, to politicians to the public what we have found. How opinions in society work.
According to its Constitution WAPOR promotes in each country the right to conduct and publish scientific research on what people think and speak about. And we do by presenting in this Conference the Seventh edition report on The Freedom to Publish Opinion Poll Results.
We, as WAPOR respect equal human rights, and make no difference to gender, ethnicity, religion, skin color or sexual preference. Since we are independent members, we can safely and freely talk and sit next to each other; Russians and Ukrainians; members from Palestine and Israel; we are better off than the Climate Negotiators in Sharam-el-Sheikh today, they have to return to their country with positive results for their home country in the first place.
WAPOR cooperates with the UN, UNESCO, ESOMAR, AAPOR and a great many other organizations and share these values of mutual respect. Gathering in the Arabic Emirates is new, both for WAPOR and for the United Arabic Emirates.
Do we share the same values?
In this respect I want to quote a recent PhD study of Mr. Razi Quadir. He clearly states that freedom of speech is very well possible within the Islamic culture. Closely together with finding truth and human dignity freedom of speech is needed to make shura effective.
People need to consult each other, speak freely in order to reach the best for the group, for Society. Complete freedom of speech does not mean that one can say or shout just anything to anyone, this counts about equally for western liberal culture as Islamic culture. The big difference is that not all Muslims are aware of this freedom and that dictators have a habit of setting their own rules, and only respecting themselves.
Historically it can be very well explained that the Islamic culture when still in its nomadic phase needed to protect themselves from outside threats by fighting offence and renegade (believers stepping out). Razi Quadir expects a growing democratic role of western Muslims, within the democratic rules of Society.
WAPOR has always been a platform to exchange experience, to improve methodology and a source for inspiration and learning. This is great but not enough. WAPOR should speak out clearly and loudly to governments that do not allow free speech to their people.
We fully support our colleagues from Iran, who could not join us because of the suppression in their country. We compliment the governments of the United Arabic Emirates with their fast integration into the dynamic, modern World of today; but there is still room for big improvements.
And I would never say this, if the following would not be a reason to be arrested and thrown into prison on this very day; I am a gay, homosexual man, legally married to another man for almost thirty years. Although this phenomenon does not (yet) exist in the United Arabic Emirates, it is my own solid truth, confirmed by the King of the Netherlands.