Monday, December 17, 2007

Language and war in the Middle East

Published by AlARAB newspaper, London, 12/12/2007
Published in the Arab News, 12/19/2007. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. www.ArabNews.com

http://english.alarabonline.org/display.asp?fname=2007\12\12-16\zopinionz\960.htm




Language and war in the Middle East


By Ali Alarabi

Last November 26,President Bush signed an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Malki that will regulate the presence of US troops in Iraq as well as the presence of American military bases in that country. Signed through a secure video conferencing system the agreement or the “ declaration of principles” as it was termed, called for an “ enduring” US presence in Iraq. As to why the US administration used the word “ Enduring” is of no mystery. The word “ Enduring” which according to Oxford English dictionary means among other things “ Permanent” or “eternal,” or “forever” it is pretty and seemingly harmless word comparing to the more politically charged word like “ permanent” which if used instead it would likely raise a firestorm among certain segments of the Iraqi people. For Bush and for others, the battle over words is apparently as important as the battle over nations.

On this peculiar use of such word, Tom Engelhardt wrote in Tomdispatch, of the Nation Institute on June 7, 2007 that:
“For a while, to avoid the taint of that word “permanent,” the major American bases in Iraq were called “enduring camps” by the Pentagon.Five or six of them are simply massive, including Camp Victory, our military headquarters adjacent to Baghdad International Airport on the outskirts of the capital, Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad (which has air traffic to rival Chicago’s O’Hare), and al-Asad Air Base in the Western desert near the Syrian border. These are big enough to contain multiple bus routes, huge PXes, movie theaters, brand-name fast-food restaurants, and, in one case, even a miniature golf course.”

Along the lines of using friendly terms that would not irate the Iraqis and in order to paint a friendly or even a happy face on American bases in Iraq, the US military opted to change the names of all of its bases in Iraq into Iraqi-friendly names. Names, Iraqis could relate to, at least on the subconscious level, and hopefully would see it and get used to it as part of their new reality.

Old bases names such as Banzai became Al-adala (Justice), while Eagle became Al-Amal (hope), and Headhunter became Al-Istiqlal (independence), Highlander became Al-Izdehar (prosperity).

Iraq today is country cannibalizing itself on a daily diet of blood and gore, yet we hear US politicians and their Iraqi minions speak of “ democracy” in Iraq and “ liberation of Iraq (a country is liberated and occupied at the same time)

The US administration hailed the Iraqi election in 2005 as the first Iraqi “democratic election”. It is unclear however how can that be called a “ Democracy” in the real sense of the word when we have Kurds vote for Kurdish politicians and Shias vote for Shia politicians under strict orders from the Iranian Ayatollahs in Najaf, and Sunnis vote for Sunni Politicians. This was religious tribalism in the first order where each community voted for its religious tribe without any other consideration.

This would be the same if American Mormons voted for a Mormon presidential candidate, Protestant citizens voted for a protestant candidate and Catholics for a Catholic candidate. This would be unthinkable and certainly no one in America would call that a “ democracy”
But whether for public relations or political considerations, often times, political language is dressed up in neutral or positive terms in order to cover deceptive and manipulative goals.

Such is the case of Israel, a country notorious for making up friendly and innocent-sounding names and words for its brutal and inhumane policies. Israeli settlements for example, though illegal to start with, yet mushroomed to become cities on Palestinian lands. Settlement building and expansion is termed as “ natural growth”.

On the other hand any Palestinian who is building an additional room to his house, or on his property is termed “ illegal” or “ building without permit” which in any cases will not get even when he applies for it. The results are demolishing the Palestinians homes for being “ Illegal”
Another example is the word “ terrorist” a much-contested term and its application depends on one’s worldview. Palestinians who resists the Israeli occupation are automatically labeled as “ terrorists” regardless of their affiliations or motivations. As if Palestinians, for fear of being labeled as “terrorists”, should be thankful for the Israeli occupation!. Israeli violence against Palestinians is never termed as terrorism by the world media or international bodies, despite it terrorizes the Palestinians on a daily basis, but rather, the words used are : “ self defense”. A biased use of language.

Another example of language manipulation by Israel is its medieval-looking wall that Israel simply calls “ a fence” The word fence normally conjures up an almost romantic imagery of a country home surrounded by white picket fence, or small wire fence to either keep animals in or out or for beautification reasons.

The reality of this Israeli “ fence” however is anything but romantic. it is actually a massive system of deep trenches to prevent the movement of vehicles, a 27 foot high concrete walls, rings of barbed wires, high watch towers, massive gates for people and vehicles and is supposed to be 436 miles long when fully completed.

It is very hard to imagine such medieval system of high walls and deep trenches as an innocent ‘ fence” but some people believe such obvious deception.

Despite the manipulative use of language, the realities in the Middle East, however, are still ugly and bloody and it takes more than sugar-coated words to change them.

Ali Alarabi is an award winning columnist and managing editor of TheArabDesk.com. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sweet talk at Annapolis

Published by the Omaha world-Herald

Sweet talk at Annapolis

By: Ali Alarabi

Although the speakers meeting in Annapolis were optimistic and almost encouraging in their speeches regarding bringing lasting peace to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a peace, in the words of president Bush should usher the establishment of a viable Palestinian state side by side with Israel. President Bush speech, though was peppered with references to freedom of the Palestinian people and a “real” and “viable” Palestinian state, but in reality, however, Israel is making every effort to undermine the freedom of the Palestinian people and making the “reality and viability” of any future Palestinian state a virtual impossibility.


Ever since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem in 1967, it had embarked on building illegal Jewish settlements on occupied lands, in itself a flagrant violation of international law, then populating those settlements with heavily armed Jewish militants, at the same time kept up pace to depopulate Palestinian cities from it residents through forced expulsions, economic hardship and military rule. Moving rapidly to change the nature of any possible future Palestinian state, Israel took over other arable lands and water resources from its Palestinians owners converting it to benefit illegal Jewish settlers.

Meanwhile the Israeli government is steadily with the building of the huge Spartan and medieval-looking wall, declared illegal by the International court, that is snaking around Palestinian towns and cities, galloping up Palestinian lands in its path and strangling Arab Jerusalem isolating it from the rest of Palestinian cities. Listening to president Bush in Annapolis, The most important aspect of his speech, however, was his wall-to-wall adaptation of the Israeli positions, as oppose to an independent American position in line with international laws and agreements, with regards to its settlement polices, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the conversion of Israel from a supposed democratic country for all of its citizens, Christians Muslims and Jews alike into an exclusively Jewish state.


The idea of Israel as ” Jewish homeland” for the Jewish people” as asserted by president Bush during his opening speech is a serious issue with serious implications especially that this idea if it were to be made a reality, would make over one million Arab citizens of Israel, Christians and Muslims an instant foreigners in their own native country.

Bush also used the term ” unauthorized outposts” in his speech and not illegal settlements, reflecting his acceptance of the presence of those settlements; illegal under international law on the very land he envisions it to be a Palestinian state. This position not only contradicts the president’s own vision but it also represents a departure from the traditional American position of opposing those illegal settlements.

Ehud Olmert on the other hand exploited the Annapolis gathering to extend Israel’s hand to Arab countries by sweet-talking them to open consulates and trade offices and normalize relations, regardless of the status of its occupation or the establishment of Palestine state. This, however, is the real goal of Israeli politicians from this meeting.

Negotiating with the Palestinians has been dragging on since 1993, and it has amounted to neither a Palestinian state, nor the promised prosperity nor a foreseeable end of occupation, but rather it led to increase of illegal settlements, 11000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, building a Spartan wall, an adamant refusal to admit its responsibility for the creation of Palestinian refugees problem and a complete destruction of the Palestinian economy.

Israeli politicians envision a normal diplomatic and trade relations with Arab countries while Palestinians will be reduced to a state chopped up into disjointed pieces dependent on Israel for its survival.
The only real thing Israel is offering the Palestinians, at this point, is more negotiations that eventually will drag on forever. Meanwhile it seems that there is no end in sight for its illegal settlements expansion, or its refusal to end its occupation.

Mahmoud Abbas, perhaps the most unpopular Palestinian leader ever, has nothing to offer the Israelis that he did not offer before. The problem however is that Abbas has lost control of Gaza to his arch rival Hamas, and his West Bank fiefdom is ravaged by Israeli check-points and military positions preventing the movement of people in and out of their homes, which left its economy shattered. For the Palestinian people A solution that does not include all of pre-1967 borders, and a just solution for the refugees which will offer them the right to return to their homes would be a hard sell, if not impossible to accept.


(Ali Alarabi is Arab American writer and journalist, he can be reached at: alialarabi1@aol.com. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, www.ArabWritersGroup.com.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The origins of Turkey

(president Bush pardons May)


Ever since President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving day an official national holiday in his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, and Americans have been celebrating the day that marks the original pilgrims who in 1621 celebrated their first Thanksgiving by cooking the Turkey Bird, a truly native American bird.
Yesterday, President George W. Bush, in line with American presidential tradition spared the lives of the National Turkey and pardoned May and her alternate Flower declaring ” May they live the rest of their lives in blissful gobbling”

But how did this huge and colorful bird we call Turkey, came to be known as “Turkey” which is actually the name of a country.

Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis wrote in the New York Review of Books in 2003 that the reason Americans or “westerners” named the exotic bird they encountered in the new world “Turkey” because for one it was a strange, exotic and unknown bird to them, and since the Ottoman Empire at the time, the 17th century, was an unfamiliar and exotic landscape for most westerners especially that the Ottoman “Turkish” Sultan was also exotic looking with his colorful turban and attire. So according to Lewis analysis, the Western pilgrims named the exotic unknown bird they encountered “Turkey” because Turkey also represented an exotic unfamiliar place to them.




In everyday American lexicon, I noticed that when someone calling another a “ Turkey” often times it is said in ridicule by drawing on the original strangeness and exotic looks of the bird when Europeans settlers in America encountered it.

Interestingly, however, the Turks in their country Turkey, do not call the Turkey Turkey” but rather “ Hindi” from “ Hind” which is India, so it is called the Indian Bird.

The reason is that the Turks thought the Bird was originated in India.



In Arabic the bird is called the Ethiopian bird “ Deek Habash” (Deek is rooster or bird) because Ethiopia was called Abyssinia and Habash is Arabic for Abyssinia. One reason could be because Arabs thought the bird-originated Ethiopia, and another reason, which I think is more plausible, has to do with the black-feathered body of the bird itself. Ethiopia is a black African country which is right a cross the red sea from Arabia proper, the term Habash/Habashi is used alternately as being from Habasha (Ethiopia) and black.

In Egyptian Arabic the bird is called “ Deek Roumi” which means a Roman/western/European Bird. In line with Bernard Lewis analysis, the Egyptians associated the bird with the westerners or even the Roman Emperor because the Roman Emperor, much like his Ottoman Sultan counterpart, sported a crown and colorful attire.
In Iraq, though the bird in general called “ Habash’ but there are other local names for it like “ Ali Sheish” more commonly used by the Shias. “ Ali Sheish” is perhaps a corruption of the words “ Ala Sheish” which perhaps has to do with the way it is cooked on charcoal, like a Sheish kabob.

(Charelamn,Holy Roman Emperor)

In Macedonian Slavic the bird is called simply Misir which means “the Egyptian bird” (Misir, for male bird and Miserika for female) the Arabic word for Egypt is “Misir”

But what do they call this worldly bird in India?

By now I thought India would have the answer to this chase, but to my utter surprise, I found that the bird does not exist in India.
And I also found that there is no word for it in any of the Indic languages I researched!

I asked few Indians I know about it who told me that there is no Turkey or a name for it in India.

However, the common theme I found when digging the archeological etymology of the word “Turkey” was that in most European languages,in several variations, the Bird is always called or referred to as an Indian Bird or the bird from India or from the Indian city Calcutta.

The reason for that I think it had to do with the Greeks who originally called it “Indike ornitha” which means Indian Bird, which influenced many other European tongues afterward.

Therefore In polish its called “Indyk” while in Russian its “Indjuk”
while in Portuguese the bird is called “Peru” named after the country Peru.

The Chinese call the bird hu ji, in Chinese Mandrine, which roughly translates into “fire chicken”, while in Japanese it is called shichimenchoo, which means “the Seven-sided bird”


The common theme of the naming this bird in all languages and cultures has to do with they way people see and perceive the bird itself. This is of course a character in language itself and the way we human invent words and meanings to correspond with our cultures,perceptions and imagination.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nonie Darwish. The native informant and Islamophobia





A recent weeklong campaign undertaken by anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racist David Horowitz in university campuses across the US designed to intimidate and terrorize students and professors who do not share Mr. Horowitz views when it comes to Israel. Horowitz created an organization called Campus Watch group against what he calls Islamo-facisim. Islamofacists are anyone, student or a professor, Muslim or Christian, Arab or not whom does not share Mr. Horowitz nationalist support for Israel or dare to criticize its aggressive policies.


Aided by equally militant supporters, Horowitz is engaging in slandering college professors and defame their characters, and creating a list of those who simply, unlike him, do not hold Israel above criticism, or above the law, or put Israeli interests ahead of American interests.
Among those recruited to participate in Mr. Horowitz hatred campaign is an Arab and a former Muslim woman, named Nonie Darwish. Darwish is an Egyptian who is going around the country defending Israel’s right to occupy Arab lands and kill Arabs. She is also speaking against Arab and Muslim Americans accusing them of supporting terrorism.


As if it’s not enough for Arab Americans and Muslims in this country to deal with bigots, racists and extremist pro-Israeli militants, they now have to deal with Nonie Darwish, who joins the racist cacophony in order to blemish the faith and culture of Arabs by falsely claiming Arabs and Muslims in America are about to or desire to “declare war” on America.
As ridiculous as this lie may sound, not surprisingly however, it finds fertile ground and receptive ears among those who has made it a career to tarnish Arab and Muslim Americans.

But you really have to be very stupid or just got off a spaceship from Mars to believe Darwish’s and Horowitz’s bucket of lies. To the usefulness of pro-Israeli militants, Nonie Darwish functions as the Native Informant who uses her knowledge of the Islamic faith and Arab culture to twist and bend the fact to serve her purposes.


As a supporter of Israel and founder of “ArabsforIsrael.com,” which I suspect she may be is the only member; Darwish’s stories do not measure up under close examination.
For one, she is biased, and one-sided. She claims on her web site that she wants peace and blessing for Israel and the Jewish people in “our neighborhood.” Ironically, her concept of a “neighborhood” is one cleansed of Arabs, Muslims and Christian Palestinians. In her view, only Jews deserve to live in peace, but not Arabs.
She also boasts that she renounced “Jihad” for America, which is the sub title of her latest propaganda book. But what Jihad did she renounce? And who asked her to declare this alleged “Jihad” as if a person can wake up in the morning and “declare Jihad”, a ridiculous notion, and malicious deception if you ask me.
Moreover, there are over 56 Muslim countries in the world and no Muslim country or its citizens have declared “Jihad” or a war against the United States. Only terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida are fighting the United States and wrongly claiming their fight as “Jihad.”

The truth of the matter is that Nonie Darwish is a one alienated and driven former Muslim woman who is angry at her former country Egypt and angry with the Arab/Muslim culture. Her anger for whatever reasons drove her into the arms of Horowitz and other pro Israeli supporters. Therefore she is not motivated by principles but rather by anger, greed and her desire for revenge.
Despite Israel’s policies of building illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands, and continuing its illegal occupation of Palestinians, Darwish sees no injustice or harm done to the Palestinian Christians and Muslims alike.


To put Darwish’s work in perspective, imagine if those Americans who are disillusioned with George Bush’s policies turned against their country and its citizens and went on to join the ranks of Al-Qaida and bin laden terrorist networks. It would be high treason to do so. Along those lines, I can only think of Adam Gadahn, an American citizen turned Al-Qaida spokesman, who betrayed his country and embraced the terrorist organization Al-Qaida that killed Americans and declared war on his country. For many of the Palestinian and Arab victims of Israeli violent occupation and aggression, Nonie Darwish is an Adam Gadahn.

Though in her web site she cites issues such as “honor killing” genital mutilations, and hate, as the primary reasons for her to work for Israeli interests. But it is very strange however and hard to understand what does honor killing or genital mutilations have to do with Peace or war with Israel?
Moreover, one must question Darwish’s motives for making Israel her primary country to defend, rather than America.

In light of Darwish’s behavior of turning against her country of birth, Egypt and the country her own father was killed defending, what if, one might ask, Nonie Darwish became disillusioned with her new country, America, or its justice system or culture? Would she betray her new country America just like she betrayed her old country Egypt!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The meaning of Ramdan for Muslims




The month of Ramadan, which started last week, is perhaps the most celebrated event in a Muslim calendar year. To think of the significance of Ramadan and what it means to hundreds of millions of Muslims across the globe, American Christians might think of the significance of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays combined, and then extended for thirty days. Then add another 5-day holiday immediately afterwards to celebrate the “breaking of the fast.” Combining its religious and social cultural significance, Ramadan for Muslims, is an everyday Thanksgiving and an everyday Christmas, that lasts thirty days.

Ramadan, however, first and foremost, is a religious month. Muslims believe that God (in Arabic, Allah) revealed the Quran to the Prophet Mohammad during this month. To recognize this event, it is marked by abstaining from all food and drink from sunrise until sunset accompanied by devoted worship and reciting the Quran.

Though the religious principle of fasting is found in all major religions, in Islam, however, it is for an extended period of time. Muslims are actually required to do more than just abstain from food and drink, or at least that’s the way it is supposed to be for all Muslims. But, of course, some people, like me for example, think of nothing else but food all day, just as many Christians might only think of food at Thanksgiving, rather than the historical significance of the holiday, or only on presents at Christmas time.

My Ramadan days normally consists of imagining how will I devour all kind of foods, and which deserts I will eat first. I am always looking at my watch, calculating when will I start eating!

A good Muslim, however, ought to take the month of Ramadan as an opportunity to purify his soul and body and devote an entire month to worship God and contemplate faith. Food deprivation, during the day, is supposed to make Muslims think of others who are less fortunate than they are, thus putting the rich on equal plane with the wretched. It is essential therefore that fasting should not just become about only food deprivation, but should rather be accompanied by deep commitment to faith, to moral Islamic goodness, and to the well being of the community.

Because Muslims are supposed to abstain from food and drink from sunrise until sunset, work activities become less, and people tend to work less during the day. I personally could hardly think of work while I am thinking of what am I going to eat in the evening.

One might argue that economic activities during day time might tend to slow down during this month, especially in the Islamic World. That’s true, but other economic activities associated with the Ramadan season seems to promote a boom in trade and business. People stock up on food items such as rice and meat during the day, for example, in order to prepare elaborate dinners at night after the fast is broken. Thinking of food all day, like me, they will tend to over eat.

This dynamic has shifted main economic activities and trade from daytime, were people are less energetic due to not eating or drinking, into the nighttime. Nightlife during Ramadan, therefore, becomes colorful and restaurants get decorated and filled with those who decided to break their fast by eating out.

So most of activities during Ramadan occur during the evening hours where it has evolved to become distinct culture for the whole month. As a result, Ramadan days and night have their own special foods, drinks, sweets, candy and even its own television shows.

In Egypt for example, Ramadan is observed in every aspect of life, Mosques are filled with praying and devote believers well into the night, Quran is recited extensively. At the same time, the city of Cairo takes a colorful approach and it becomes a beautiful panoramic city. Cairo’s streets are decorated with ribbons and colorful candle-lit-lanterns called “Fawanees” which are hung on the streets and around the houses to mark the special occasion. Other Egyptian cities might hang one big “Fanoos” (singular of Fawanees). For Egyptians, hanging Fawanees is a thousand years old Ramadan tradition that started during the rule of the Fatimied State which ruled Egypt more than ten centuries ago.

During Ramadan, Muslim families gather around for elaborate meals and specially prepared foods consisting of beef, lamp, rice, chicken and sweets, and sweetened drinks. This tradition, of course, fosters and strengthen familial ties, as families invite each other for dinner to break the fast, called “Iftar.” This togetherness, religiously encouraged, as a result, bring family members to become closer to each other as they share a meals every evening with each others or neighbors and other relatives.

The month of Ramadan also ushers in its own TV shows. Arab countries and TV production companies compete with each other to produce the best Ramadan shows vying for the most viewers for shows of drama, comedies and children shows.

After the fasting month is over, Muslims would celebrate the end of Ramadan and breaking the fast with a 5-day holiday called “Eid el-Fitr” which starts with “Salat el Eid,” which is the “Holiday Prayer.” Children put on their best clothes and receive gifts from adults. Families visit each other.

As for me, the end of Ramadan will mark starting a crash diet to shed some of the pounds I put during my thirty day long fasting!

Copy rights Arab writers group syndicate. www.arabwritersgroup.com

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Take, September 11

Published by the Chicago Daily SouthTown

http://www.dailysouthtown.com/news/opinion/guests/549331,091007anothertakealarabi.article

Another Take

September 10, 2007


Sept. 11 is perhaps the single most important factor that has changed and shaped the American peoples' views and opinions - as well as prejudices - when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs and Muslims.

The war in Iraq was made possible as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy in which the victims of this terrorist act were exploited in the battle cry to launch and execute a war on a country that had committed no act of war or act of terrorism against the United States.

Iraq, ruled by Saddam Hussein, had no ties to the international terror network of al-Qaida. There were no terrorists present on Iraqi soil except in northern Iraq, which was a Kurdish-controlled territory and where the notorious terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi initially was based.

Though Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant and a criminal by all accounts, from an American perspective, and as far as American interests were concerned - he was not a threat to the United States nor to American citizens either at home or abroad.

So what are the factors that made it possible for the Bush administration to be able to convince half of the American people to accept its reasons to invade a foreign country that has done them no harm?

Those who populated and operated the halls of power in Washington were able to create an illusion of a connection between Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization and Iraq, which happened to be an Arab and Muslim country. With the help of a cowed media, the administration was able to weave support for the war by tapping into an under-current of racist and bigoted views of Muslims and Arabs.

Americans, in general, are conditioned by popular culture to view Arabs and Muslims suspiciously and as the enemy.

Some Americans were motivated by their fundamentalist and apocalyptic religious views, which are pro-Israel and anti-Arab, while others were consumed by their desire for bloody revenge in a sense that so long as the person at the receiving end of the blows is an Arab and/or a Muslim, it matters not where or who or when we strike.

In the meantime, well-meaning Americans were led to believe that invading Iraq and ravaging the entire country would somehow be equivalent to extracting revenge and, by extension, a measure of justice for what occured on Sept. 11. This, of course, is far from the truth. We now know, thanks to many official investigations into this matter, that neither Iraq nor Saddam Hussein had anything to do with Sept. 11 or al-Qaida terrorism.

On the contrary, this war has transformed Iraq into al-Qaida's main base of operation and its proving ground and in the process has gifted the country to Iran through Iraq's corrupt Shia leadership and its "holy" Ayatollahs.

The nearly 3,000 victims of Sept. 11 were used, immorally and shamelessly, to the advantage of those who planned for this war. The victims' murders have been exploited to justify the psychological connection between the state of Iraq and bin Laden's terrorism. The terrorism of Sept. 11 and the victims have become a convenient justification to wage war, a justification we only recently learned has nothing to do with terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Sept. 11 or even democracy or freedom.

Despite what now are discredited objectives of the war, much of the support for the war continues to come from certain segments of American society that view Iraq and other Muslim and Arab nations as an "enemy" that deserves to be punched back, just as bin Laden did to America on Sept. 11.

Never mind, however, that bin Laden, Zarqawi and al-Qaida have collectively killed more Arabs and Muslims than Americans. Yet, the supporters of this war still desire to punish all Arabs and all Muslims simply because bin Laden is an Arab and a Muslim. Fueling this racist attitude toward everything Arab and everything Muslim is popular culture and the constant badgering of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans on TV and in the mainstream media by racist commentators and writers.

On this sixth anniversary of this tragic event, we should realize and remember that Sept. 11 was neither a spontaneous act nor an act that occurred in a vacuum. Those who killed Americans did not wake up one day thinking we should kill Americans; men are not born terrorists or suicide bombers.

We need to address the underlying reasons and circumstances that created a fertile ground for the evil of terrorism to take root. America should honor its victims by bringing those who were responsible for this crime to justice and embark instead on a self-critical examination of its bad policies in the Middle East rather than continue to punish the innocent in order to satisfy a nation's thirst for vengeance.

Ali Alarabi, of Chicago, is managing editor of The Arab Desk at www.TheArabDesk.com. He can be reached at alialarabi1@aol.com. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The usual suspects



There you go again, a woman traveling from Californian to Chicago yesterday, Wednesday, August 29 went to the flight crew and reported suspicious Arab-looking men who were “possibly speaking Arabic” after she boarded the plane heading to Chicago. The woman was reported to have told the crew that there were 4 to 7 men possibly speaking Arabic who acted in an “ odd behavior”

Later on, the woman wanted to get off the plane causing the plane to go back to the terminal and was delayed until the next day.
It was not known what constitute an odd behavior in the woman’s mind!

It turned out that the Arabic men were Iraqis who according the Associated Press were contracted by private company to train US marines, possibly, my guess, on Arabic language, cultural sensitivities and the significance of special Shia rituals in Iraq.

The most “ Odd” thing about this story was how in the world did that woman know that the men were speaking Arabic? It was a lucky guess of course because obviously the woman does not know or understand Arabic. The men could have been speaking Mongolian, Hebrew, Armenian, Bulgarian or Persian or even Martian language. But maybe, and I am speculating here, the moustaches gave them away as being Arabs!

The truth and the significance of story and countless others like it, is that the woman acted with a racist disposition when it comes to Arabs and Arab Americans or anyone who looks like an Arab.

Popular culture and Hollywood feed Americans a relentless and shamless daily diet of anti-Arab racism and hatred in shows and movies that portray Arabs as always villains and terrorists.

The TV show, 24,for example is a fantastical stupid show that the very reason of its existence is to portray Arabs and Muslims as the evil ones, the villains and the terrorists. Always. Hollywood role here is being the fountainhead that provide the racists, and the criminals with mental ammunition to perhaps go ahead and harm an innocent Arab American or a Muslim American whose only guilt is his ethnicity or religious belief. Hollywood is guilty of manufacturing deception and planting a culture of fear, racism, and hatred in the minds of millions of will-meaning Americans.


With that said,only the Arab money,however, is welcomed in America, as the gulf Arab countries are ready to pump over 20 billion dollars worth of worthless military hardware into the American economy thus putting and keeping millions of Americans at their jobs. Other than that, An Arab who comes to America, according to Arab press reports, would feel un-welcomed, disrespected, looked down upon, and often times treated with the most undignified fashion.

So when ordinary Americans get suspicious about something at an airport or a train terminal, they immediately look for the usual suspect, an Arab or someone who looks like him.

It would be very stupid to think that terrorist syndicates would send an advance surveillance team to any American city wearing fluffy white robes, sporting colorful turbans with a peacock feather coming out of the middle of it, and having nametags that reads “ Sheik Mombasa Bin Babil”

Anti-Arab stereotyping and racism, however, might prove to be lethal and an Achilles heel for which the real terrorists whose skin might lack enough pigmentation to look pleasing to any racist person in which case would cause him to pass as “Whitey” himself. And imagine a new wave of terrorists who have blonde hair and green eyes who then would be able to conduct surveillance, plant bombs without raising an eyebrow from ordinary people who are looking at an innocent man who happened to go the bathroom (odd behavior) or talking to his wife Fatima or his cousin Ali Baba (another odd behavior) or, God-forbid, speaking Arabic (the oddest behavior of all at any giving airport)

I bet if Barak Obama was not famous enough or running for national office, he would be taken off the plane for an odd or suspicious behavior such as reading a newspaper or going to the bathroom or for the oddest behavior of all; having a dark skin!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Restore Iraqi nationalism

Published in Providence Journal, Monday,8-27-08


http://www.projo.com/opinion/contributors/content/CT_nuali27_08-27-07_QM6QP2Q.10af9af.html



U.S. must restore Iraqi nationalism
01:00 AM EDT on Monday, August 27, 2007

ALI ALARABI

CHICAGO

FORRMER NEW YORK Times Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Hedges wrote on Aug. 12 that “the war in Iraq is about to get worse . . . much worse,” especially after the Democrats washed their hands of responsibility to end this war. As Mr. Hedges put it, this war “will sputter and stagger forward until the mission collapses.”
One of the most conspicuous things about this war is that it has brought the words of Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis into full realization when he said in a 1991 essay entitled “Mideast states, pawns no longer in imperial games” that:

“It may turn out that the civil war that destroyed Lebanon was a pilot project for the whole region, and that with very few exceptions states will disintegrate into chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes and regions.”


Mr. Lewis was referring to the civil war that ravaged Lebanon in 1975-1991. Iraq today is a failed chaotic state of feuding sects and tribes and precisely what Mr. Lewis had in mind of what could happen widely in the Middle East.
Those who planned for this war in Iraq, long before Sept. 11, 2001, appear to have worked to fulfill Mr. Lewis’s prophecy. The results have been disastrous both for the region, for the U.S., and for international peace and security. The threat of terrorism against the United States, as well as other countries has increased, and Iraqis are doing far worse today than they ever did under Saddam Hussein.
The problem that bedevils Iraq today, and is seldom mentioned in the press, is that it is no longer an Arab country, in terms of its national identity, despite being a majority ethnic-Arab country of Muslims and Christians with a significant Kurdish minority population.


The war has let a segment of Iraqi Shias realize their long-held dream to convert Iraq from an Arab country into a Shia country — that is, a country with a narrow Shia identity that will essentially serve as an extension of Iran. It also let the Kurds slice off a piece of the country for themselves, thus converting the modern state of Iraq into a dysfunctional failed state that belongs more to the Middle Ages than to the 21st Century, exactly what Mr. Lewis foresaw in 1991.
Mr. Hedges was right when he labeled the notorious Iraqi politician and former CIA operative Ahmad Chalabi an “Iranian spy.” Similarly, no significant Iraqi Shia politician can make any major decision whether to run for office or join the government without consulting Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iranian ayatollah whose words are taken by Iraqi Shias to be almost as holy as God’s and whose priorities and agendas are more important to them than the state of Iraq itself.


Most Shias, Arabs or not, have greater loyalty to Iran and its ayatollahs than their own countries. We see evidence of this phenomenon in the writings of such Shia nationalists as Fuad Ajami and Vali Nasr. Both teach at respected American universities and are proponents of a separate Shia identity as the basis for Shia nationalism under global Iranian leadership. It is worth noting, however, that Shiaism is basically no more than a political party that acquired religious thought and an intellectual argument over the centuries.


The United States is in a lose-lose situation. If it withdraws now, Iraq will plunge into total inferno. If it remains, American soldiers will continue to die for ever-changing objectives. A beacon of hope could emerge, however, if the United States encourages Iraqi nationalism to be once more the identity of Iraq for Shia, Kurds, Sunnis and other Muslims, and Christians. Only then Iraqis will look beyond their narrow religious and ethnic identities, stop slaughtering each other and embrace each other as equal citizens of a modern state.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Youssif, the face of Iraq



Youssif is a small five years old Iraqi boy who was grabbed by terrorists, earlier this year, while playing outside his house, who then doused him with gas and set his little body on fire. “ I felt I was burning” said Youssif as he was talking to Arwa Damon CNN reporter in Iraq.

Youssif’s mother,Zainab, heard the cries and ran outside to see her son on fire. "His face was melting and his nose was pushed inside and then fainted” said the horrified mother.

The once playful outgoing boy has become withdrawn and traumatized because of his injuries

Youssif’s burnt face and the faces of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children exposed the collapse of an entire country from a stable secured country into a heap of rubble of what once was a proud nation called Iraq.



Good hearted decent Americans, individuals, organizations and hospitals came out in droves to help Youssif recover his once smiley face. CNN was overwhelmed by the out pouring support and offers to help, CNN.com reported.

The Children’s Burn foundation in Californian has offered to treat Youssif, and pay for all expenses including all of the travel and accommodations for his family to come to the US for treatment.

Dr. Peter Grossman will donate his services for free to help Youssif
Thousands of other Iraqi children have suffered the gruesome punishment similar to Youssif. Many lost limps, eyes and most of the time their young lives. Those are the silent innocent victims of this dirty war.

While Iraqi grown ups; from criminal leaders to thieving politicians to crook Ayatollahs are busy looting, burning and destroying their own country at the expense of young Iraqi children. Youssif and children like him will have to continue to suffer in silence with their faces melted down or their limps cut off.

One of the most shameful things about this war is that many politicians and states have collaborated in destroying Iraq and its people, non is interested in helping the Iraqi citizens children and adults alike.

As for Youssif, he will now have another chance to show his innocent smile once more away from the Hell-zone.

But in the clutch of circumstance, in the sinking depths of man, and in the foggy thicket of war, we became a beast of nature and forgot our humanity.

Youssif's melted face descended upon us to ask us; what have we done to his beautiful face? But we have no answer to give him; we are too ashamed to even look him in the eye.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Muslims of the West, discontent and alienation



When the British authorities discovered that the plotters and terrorist masterminds behind the attempt to blow up British airports, early this month, were trained doctors, it was a shocking development in some respect, but it is also a wake up call for governments that terrorism evolves and spawns keeping pace with anti-terrorism measures. In light of those terrorists incidents in Britain you just never know who could be or would be terrorist thus turning terrorist’s profiles upside down.

The negative aspect of these events, on the Muslim community as a whole, is that it once again refocused the watchful gaze of security and intelligence services on Muslim communities in the west but it is impossible for security services to watch every person or have a way to know what people hide in their hearts and minds. Therefore governments ought to take a different approach in dealing with terrorism threats, something along the lines of “Sociology of terrorism”

In the case of Britain, one place to look at is the relations between the Muslim immigrant community with the larger British society which parallels to some extent the relations of the US Muslim community with the larger society and its media, political and social institutions.

The source of Muslim discontent in Britain or in the US, in my opinion, is “Alienation" which is a shade of racism, with that I mean that Arabs or Muslims in general tend to be demeaned in the public domain, by the media or Hollywood and sometimes by ill-conceived government policies. Muslims views are under represented in western societies despite their large numbers as in the case of France and other European countries.

To have a Muslim or an Arab name is a sure guarantee to make you a suspect sometimes blatantly and sometimes in a subtle way depends on the location and circumstance.
Alienation impedes upward mobility and the progress of the community, it could also lead to gradual radicalization of individuals of whom terrorist organizations and their recruiters might find a fertile ground to recruit in their ranks and provide them with a vent to strike back at the society that they perceived alienated and discriminated against them.

The war in Iraq has exasperated the sense of alienation among Muslims in that they see their governments i.e. Britain or the US are waging an "unjust war" in their opinion, against a Muslim country without legitimate justification. They see that as an assault on their values, holy places and without an outlet for them to express their dismay or objection to this type of polices, they therefore find an easy vent or an outlet in extremist groups that eventually, perhaps, would evolve into acts of terrorism through exploiting their discontent and anger.

Alienation of person(s) from his surrounding and the larger society is certainly placing the individual in a mental ghetto that impairs vision and reason. A person who is placed in such environment will end up becoming an easy prey for terrorists to harvest.
It is prudent upon Western governments that Muslims in their societies must be assured of their place in the society without being prejudiced or looked down upon as suspects simply because they have foreign sounding names or because they look “different”


This could be done through integration not assimilation for the community does not need to melt down or dissolve into the larger society so it can be accepted.
Integration could be done through various government programs designed to foster a relation of trust and good citizenry between government, individual and community.
Assimilation on the other hand might create a backlash between two different set of value systems that not necessarily in conflict on all issues, but like everything in life, have some differences between them.

Lack of opportunities for Muslim in Britain and in the US is one way to prevent Muslim integration in that society and therefore increase their Isolation and Alienation. How can you feel like an American or British or French when you are constantly reminded that you are “an Alien” foreigner” or an “Arab” Muslim” and sometimes denied jobs and better opportunities because of who you are or where you come from.

The war in Iraq has my opinion increased the risks of terrorism in the western world almost ten folds. PR gimmicks by the US government officials like Karen Hughes who is trying to “win the hearts and minds” will not work. In the mind of Muslims across the globe, the US or British polices are designed to win them over is like when an accused notorious murderer who is trying to change your mind about him by taking you out to a steak dinner. You’ll eat the steak, but you’re not going to change your views of him.

Western governments must deal with their growing Muslim population as an integral part of the society that has its own problems and concerns which must be addressed and dealt with, not as an alien outpost or a security issue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Palestinian tribalism: Fatah and Hamas



Hamas military takeover of Gaza strip,last month, and its defeat of Fatah-controlled security apparatus ushers the Palestinian politics into a new round of chaos and more crises that divert the attention from the real issues of Israeli occupation and peace negotiation into Fatah-Hamas war. It is a dangerous state of affairs that the Palestinian people as a whole have found themselves victims of power struggle between two groups over a feckless Palestinian Authority that has little or no control or power over its own supposed territories.

As the fighting erupted and Hamas militants routed their Fatah adversaries, Hamas gunmen behaved as if they were storming the Bastille or liberating Al-Aqsa mosque when TV footage showed them praying on the ground or burning government buildings, killing off their rivals by throwing them off tall buildings alive which was a thuggish display of power. Hamas called its victory of occupying government and public buildings a “second liberation”

Hamas “victory” in Gaza is however hallow and an ominous sign not just of Hamas but also for the entire Palestinian people who found themselves in a situation that might undermine the goal of establishing a Palestinian state and rid the Palestinians of the Israeli occupation.

Humanitarian crises might ensue if Gaza remained blockaded by Israel preventing food supplies and fuel and medicine from entering Gaza in enough quantities for the whole population. Gaza which is more like a big prison than a normal place to live is about 45 miles long and between 6-10 miles wide inhibited by almost 1.5 million Palestinians most of them are refugees who lost their homes and property when Israel was founded in 1948.

Hamas however is not the only one to be blamed here; Fatah Movement which is now largely a shadow of its former self, is led by Mahmoud Abbas, a weak and spineless leader and is ravaged by internal divisions and large scale corruption. Its incompetent leadership has not been able to deliver to the Palestinian people neither a state nor security from Israel ever since the Oslo accords in the early nineties. Mohammad Dahlan, one of Fatah most notorious and corrupt leaders was universally condemned by both Hamas and some Fatah leaders as the one responsible for escalating this recent conflict with Hamas through his own private armed militias.

Dahlan is a much-hated figure within the Palestinian body politics for his corruption and mafia style leadership. He nevertheless has the support of some members of the US administration and the Israeli government.
( Dahlan and Israeli PM Olmert)

Ever since it won the election a year ago, Hamas was unable to behave as government that should deliver to its consistency a state through negotiations or deliver to them the basic needs and security. This happened partly because Hamas government faced cruel and unjust sanctions against its government and also because it found itself in a schizophrenic situation. Hamas stood to decide between two difficult choices whether it should keep its armed resistance to Israeli occupation and thus remain a perpetual opposition group or enter peace negotiations with Israel under some kind of Palestinian national umbrella and behave like a political party despite constant Israeli aggressions.
Hamas chose neither.

Having reached this point of having Gaza under its control and if Hamas insist on having its way especially that its political leaders in Damascus cannot escape the shadow of Syrian dominance and interferences the Palestinians might find themselves in a precarious situation of having their long desired state restricted to Gaza only while the West Bank will remain fragmented territory in Israeli orbit.

Meanwhile Israel has successfully played off the Palestinians against each other by supporting elements of Fatah against Hamas which is an Israeli and tactic that has proven working so well since 1918 when then Zionist leaders supported some Palestinians group against others.

Almost a century later, the Palestinian leadership is still fragmented and unable to deliver a minimum victory for its people or alleviate their suffering either in Palestinian areas or elsewhere.

Israel is of course is directly responsible for making this situation as it is now when it refused to deal with the PA led by Hamas organization or dealing with Abbas and his PLO the parent organization of the Palestinian Authority that came about as a result of the Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel

While Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the PA stands helpless to face Hamas growing power and boldness, he himself is dependent on Israeli and the US support and generosity and has little to offer to the Palestinian people. Israeli policies have practically reduced Abbas into the status of a “ beggar” begging for negotiating with Israel to resume peace talks, or “ begging” for some prisoners release, or “ begging” for the release of Palestinian Tax money collected and held by Israel but only to receive either outright rebukes or lip service from Olmert and other Israeli politicians.

With the forming of a new Palestinian government by independents headed by Salam Fayyad, a respected finance minister, the United States and the European Union have lifted their sanctions and resume aid to the Palestinians. This aid however will not be reaching Gaza any time soon and will be used by Abbas new government to pressure Hamas into submission or starve Gaza. Both choices will be very difficult to achieve in light of unified and clean Palestinian leadership and in the absence of genuine Israeli desire for peace.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kuwaiti writer calls for killing of all Palestinians



Reading what Kuwaiti writer Abdalla Hadlak wrote in the Kuwaiti daily Alwatan on 5/27/007 http://www.alwatan.com.kw/Default.aspx?MgDid=505814&pageId=80 ( for Arabic text)on the Lebanese crises of Fatah-Islam, I thought I was reading a neo-Nazi manifesto that wants to murder and exterminate the entire Palestinian people!(see below for my English translation)

Borrowing a passage from the Quran Mr. Hadlak titled his rampage against the Palestinians “Fight/kill them and Allah shall torture them through your hands” .

Not only did the writer twisted and corrupted the Quranic verse to serve his twisted purposes but he did not leave a rock unturned without hurling insults and accusations against the entire Palestinian people calling for their mass murder and torture and their total destruction.

Much of Hadlak rampage does not make any sense however. His arguments were very incoherent and flat out false and lack any sense of historical accuracy or sound logic, and neither were supported by any facts. His facts are, in fact, were non-existence and more, his entire piece had nothing to do with Lebanon or the crises brewing there, but rather it was an anti-Palestinian murderous manifesto.

He for example claims that “The majority of the 30,000 Palestinian refugees in the Nahr el-bared camp are terrorists”

Every time Hadlak uttered the word “Palestinian” he made sure to precede it with several adjectives such as “terrorists, lowly, backstabbers, hateful, untrustworthy in order to drive home his point that the entire Palestinian people are the lowliest creatures on this earth and they deserve nothing but to be “killed” tortured” and “their heads chopped off”

He claims that the Palestinian refugees are traitors to the Lebanese government, and traits such treason, backstabbing are inherent in them and that the Lebanese government, according to him, provides food, shelter, safety, comfort, security and leisurely life style for those refugees.

Therefore and because of Palestinian “terrorism” he calls on the Lebanese army to “chase them down (the Palestinians) cut them down, kill them down, and chop their heads off”


“O’ heroic Lebanese army, attack the Palestinian terrorists who follow the orders of Baath and Persian terrorism ,chase them down, cut them down, be severe on them and teach them a lesson they shall not forget (Fight/kill them and Allah shall torture them through your hands, embarrassing them, rendering you victorious over them thus quenching the chests of the believers – the Quran)”

The truth is that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty stricken camps, squalid conditions of open sewers and no running water system and a Palestinian refugee cannot bring in a bag of cement to the camp to fix his home if it needs t be fixed. On top of that the Lebanese law forbids Palestinians to hold over 70 jobs and profession.

However, not only did the entire Lebanese political class as well as all of the mainline Palestinian organizations inside or outside the camp say that the Palestinians and the refugees had nothing to do with Fatah-Islam. This piece of crucial information was conspicuously absent and did not register in the blood thirsty and twisted mind of Mr. Hadlak.

I am surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t) that such writings are considered “mainstream” in the Kuwaiti press. And if may venture to say that I have not heard even the staunchest Israeli extremist racist had ever said such murderous words comparable to what Hadlak had to say. Moreover, what Hadlak said of the Palestinian people in his recent and older columns are worst than what Hitler and the Nazis had said of the Jews.

The level of rhetoric of Hadlak and other Kuwaiti extremists such as another Alwatan columnist Fuad Hashem, would make Hitler sounds more like mother Teresa.

We can discern the source of Hadlak’s extremist views if we substitute the word Lebanon with Kuwait in 1990 during the time of illegal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Kuwaitis accuse the Palestinians of supporting Saddam’s army during the occupation of Kuwait in 1990/1991, however this is far from the truth.

I spoke with “Abu Ala’ of Chicago, a Palestinian-American who moved to Chicago after living in Kuwait for 29 and owned a sheet metal fabrication factory there prior to the Iraqi invasion. Abu Ala’ told me that the Iraqi occupation authorities asked the Palestinian in Kuwait to come out and demonstrate in support of Saddam Hussein. The Palestinians there refused to do so.

One small Iraqi-made Palestinian organization called “Arab liberation Front” did support Saddam forces there because they were for all intents and purposes an Iraqi organization.
This “Arab Liberation front” was an Iraqi funded group made to serve Iraqi propaganda which like other Arab regimes uses the Palestinian cause to legitimize their rule in the eyes of the Arab peoples.

Much of the looting and killing, according to Abu Ala’ who remained there during the occupation and news reports during that time were done by the rag tag Iraqi popular army. And some of the looting of Kuwaitis homes were done by other Kuwaitis who knew that their neighbors had fled the country.

The late Yasser Arafat the object of intense Kuwaiti hatred and smear campaign did not support the occupation of Kuwait; however he did not support an American intervention and war and called for an intra-Arab solution to the crises.
Kuwaitis could never forget this of course and they are holding the entire Palestinian people responsible for the occupation and the destruction and death occurred in their country.

After the liberation of Kuwait by the American forces in 1991, the Kuwaitis turned around and started killing off Palestinians residents randomly, raping Palestinian women, kidnapping small children, raping them and according to stories of survivors of that period those young children ended up as body parts to older Kuwaitis in need of body organs. Abu Ala’ told me of “Abdel Karim” a Palestinian who worked for him at his factory when he came to him distraught and disoriented telling that his 13 years old daughter had disappeared.

Abdel Karim searched for his daughter frantically and never found her.
Over 400,000 thousand Palestinians who lived in Kuwait were expelled in a mass exodus out of that country to live yet another exile in another country.
The Kuwaiti police, army and civilians did all those horrific things with complete sense of righteous vengeance. No international body investigated the Kuwaiti crimes of rape, murder and stealing and looting Palestinian homes and properties.

For Abu Ala’ the invading Iraqi army hauled off his sheet metal factory that had over $ 1.5 million worth of machinery to Iraq. He was left helpless and penniless and had to leave Kuwait fearing for his life soon after.

While the United Nations made reparation and compensation to Kuwait and Kuwaitis after the war, Abu Ala’ saw very little of that money, because his factory was under a Kuwaiti name because Kuwaiti law forbids non-Kuwaitis from owning anything, and properties had to be registered by a surrogate Kuwaiti citizen.

Kuwait which was one of the most progressive Arab countries that had embraced the Palestinians and their organizations and causes physically and financially has been transformed into a bastion of intense anti-Palestinian hatred and animosity and the most Pro-Israeli sentiments in the Arab world.

For Abu Ala’ the irony was that the UN reparation commission had compensated the Kuwaiti surrogate citizen for Abu Ala’s own factory. That Kuwaiti citizen was glad to keep the money Abu’ Ala’ had to work 29 years of his life in Kuwait to make!
Now a succsful Palestinian-American business man, Abu Ala’ traveled to Kuwait for the first time since he left in 1991 using his American passport, he told me that Kuwait has changed a lot. “It is no longer the country I knew for 29 years”

“We used to love Kuwait and yearn for those years we lived in there in peace. But this time around I found that the love for Kuwait is no more”
Abu Ala’ still does not know what happened to Abdel Karim’s daughter and probably no one will ever know.

Kuwaiti writer calls to kill all Palestinians-English Translation

Translated from Arabic text Alwatan newspaper published 5/27/2006 ( my translation)
http://www.alwatan.com.kw/Default.aspx?MgDid=505814&pageId=80 (for Arabic text)

By : Abdallah Hadlak

Is it Lebanon’s fate to keep suffering? Is it his fate to be afflicted by his ungrateful sons and the vindictiveness of those of whom it was generous to, helped, welcomed, sheltered, providing them safety after their fright, and were fed after their hunger, and sheltered after their wandering-life and their homelessness!

This is exactly what happened to Lebanon. After Allah had put out the hatred fire of the hatred Party which controls south of Lebanon and where it transformed the streets of Beirut into Hotels.

From the camps of those wandering refugees, a new terrorist organization appeared, naming itself “ Fatah-Islam” which is in reality “ Fatah-Satan” and its aims are to rebel against Lebanon the country that was generous to them (the Palestinians), and gave them shelter after their homelessness.

This is an organization that is supported by international terrorism twins, the Persian entity in Tehran, and the Baath party in Damascus and has strong connections with terrorists Al-Qaida and Hezbollah.

This “ Fatah-Satan” was born out of the womb of terrorism of Nahr el Bared near Tripoli in Northern Lebanon, has killed several members of the Lebanese Army.

This terrorist act reflects how vile, how treacherous, how lowly, and the betrayal and ungratefulness many Palestinians are known for.

The Lebanese Army however, responded to the terrorists and bombarded their positions inside the camp and arrested several of them who were involved in a bank robbery.

There are about 30,000 Palestinian refugee live in the Nahr el Bared refugee camp, most of them are terrorists who follow a terrorist group headed by Shaker Absi who was sentenced to death in Jordan for killing the American diplomat Laurence Foley in 2002.

Sabri Al-Banna “ Abu Nidal” headed another terrorist organization in the Jalil camp in Baalbek east of Lebanon. {This camp} was surrounded by the Lebanese army in September of 2002 after Abu Nidal terrorist group killed Lebanese soldiers in an operation similar to what’s happening now in the camp of Nahr el Bared for Palestinian terrorists refugees.

Iraqi intelligence agents killed the terrorist Abu Nidal in 2002, but not before he taught the Palestinian refugees the art of treachery, betrayal, treason, and lowliness and terrorism.
The clashes of Nahr el bared and Jalil camps were not he first. In August of 2002 the Lebanese army clashed with Palestinian terrorists in Ain Helweh which is the biggest camp for Palestinian refugee near Sidon in south Lebanon in a battle between two terrorist groups each one is follows a different war lord.

O’ Lebanese army, attack the Palestinian terrorists who follow the orders of Baath and Persian terrorism.

Chase them down, cut them down, be severe on them and teach them a lesson they shall not forget (Fight/kill them and Allah shall torture them through your hands, embarrassing them, rendering you victorious over them thus quenching the chests of the believers)
( The Quran)

Did these terrorists in the refugee camps forget what happened to people like them in Black September in Amman at the hands of King Hussein, may Allah’s mercy be on him. When the tanks of the just Jordanian army rolled over, smashed, and flattened the bodies of the Palestinian terrorist in the refugee camps. Those who tried to rebel, to commit treachery, and ungratefulness, the swords of the “ Hajaj” however, were their to meet them, and it exterminated them, it eradicated them, and chopped their terrorist heads off which was due to be chopped off anyway.

The organization of Fatah-Satan includes many Syrian terrorists and it belongs to the Syrian security organs, and was planning to conduct major operations on Lebanese soil.

Those clashes however are considered the heaviest since the Lebanese civil war 1975-1990.
Those are the Palestinians whom wherever they go, terrorism, corruption, unrest, sedition goes with them, and wherever they are, treason, hatred, and ungratefulness stays with them.

There is a relationship however between the violence in the Nahr el bared and the latest movements of the Security Council that aims to convene an international tribunal to try those involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Deciphering MEMRI'S spin

After the story of MEMRI translation unfolded and it was found out that MEMRI’s translation were erroneous, a bigger story in my opinion should have been addressed.

It is a story initself of how the US media jumped on MEMRI's version of “truth” like a predator leaping on its prey without double-checking the facts and verify the translation.
One thing should have raised a red flag was that MEMRI is an Israeli organization headed and founded by former IDF and Mossad officers. That alone should have put question mark in the mind of any objective journalist.
Another sub-story is why no major media outlet is willing to address such outright forgery and blunder on part of MEMRI.

Brian Whitaker columnist for the British newspaper the Guardian wrote a column on the story and how language could easily be twisted or misunderstood and thus changing the whole dynamics of events.
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/brian_whitaker/2007/05/arabic_under_fire.html

Mr. Whitaker column generated so many responses some of which were very insightful, and in here I will try to address some of the questions raised.

But why, I wonder, the US media rushed to cover a story about clumsy-made children show that supposedly a young girl said on it “we want to annihilate the Jews” but the same media never cover or even mention the avalanche of racism and hatred emitting from the Israeli press and government officials that treat Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians as little better than insects!

And why MEMRI, one ought to ask, don’t translate any of virulent comments made in Hebrew that call to kill and annihilate all the Arabs and were made by some of Israeli’s extremist Rabbis.
You see, the US media covered the story with a sense of shock in essences saying “how dare those savage Palestinians teach their children a thing or two about the occupation and resistance to it, children should live in a happy world of their own”

I agree with the notion that children should be shielded from those things, but that requires for a society to be stable and normal. The Palestinian society is anything but stable and normal. Thanks to Israel’s long and brutal occupation that traumatized the adults and the children alike.

I wonder if the media was actually expecting a Palestinian children show, in a society extensively brutalized by the Israelis to teach the children to throw flowers at the Israelis, or teach them to be submissive and accepting to a country that has taken away their land and homes! This of course, from an occupied Palestinian point of view is unthinkable. That’s why we hear the children on the show say stuff like “resist” I’ll be a martyr” and comments as innocent as “I want to draw a picture” (of course MEMRI never translated that)

Responding to Whitaker’s column, one reader asked if the girl on the phone could possibly have said “ Ihna Bidna xxxxx elyahood” ( We want…………….. the Jews) of course girl never said that at all, her words came out very clearly “ Bitookhoona elyahood” ( The Jews are shooting us)

But looking at this assumption with forensic linguistics in mind, we might uncover MIMRI’S linguistic deception

But even if we suppose the girl said “ Ihna bidna…… Elyahood) which again is only a supposition and for the sake of argument, still, that does not amount to “ we want to annihilate the Jews” But this supposition should offer us a clue as to why MEMRI went as far as falsely claiming that the girl had actually said “ We want to annihilate the Jews”

For MIMIRI, it looks like that they imagined that the girl said “ Ihna Bidna….elyahood” and then on this faulty assumption they built their whole story which is very sneaky to say the least.

Key to this clue is the word “ Bidna” which means, “ We want” But it could also mean a past tense of the word “ Ibada” (annihilation or extermination) which is a stretch and highly unlikely because such word is not in the common usage, and still does not make any sense because according to MEMRI’s translation the girl would have to express those words in the future tense and not in the past tense. Something like: (Ihna bidna Nubid Elyahood) “ Nubid is future tense of the word “ “Ibada” but there is no word NUBID at all anywhere.

The other thing that shows how sneaky MEMRI’s translation is their translation of the word “ Bidna” twice in the same sentence, once as “ we want” and the second as “ annihilate” even though “ Bidna” is past tense, supposing it was used, still MIMIRI made it a future tense.

So not only MEMRI invented those words but also translated one word twice to mean two different things in one sentence. I mean the girl who I think is about 3-4 years old has to have a college degree in classical Arabic literature to be able to utter such words with such organization and sophistication.

The word “Bidna” is originally two parts, the letter B is used to indicate present tense in the popular and slang usage of Arabic such as the words “ B-akul” I eat, B-amshi” I walk.
The letter B came from the word “ Budda” which means “ will” as in the will to do something after dropping the rest of word which is a common practice of slang usage of Arabic.
We thus arrive to the word “B-Tokhona”, they are shooting us, by adding the letter B to indicate present tense to the verb of “Tokh” shoot undermining the entire MIMIRI’S argument and translation.

( Thanks to Abdel Hamid for his advice on this column)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More on MEMRI'S forgery

Here is an update on MEMRI’S flawed translation of Aqsa TV children show. In here I include more analysis on MEMRI’S manipulative choice of English words as well as full comparative translation text of the entire clip in Arabic and MEMRI’S English and the correct English Translation.

One major point included in the transcript (Thanks Hamza) is couple of words uttered by “Sanable” the girl on the phone which were left out by MEMRI, but included in here.
MEMRI left out the words (I want to draw a picture) said by the girl on the phone.

I did not conclude, after watching more clips of the show on Al-Aqsa TV, provided by MIMRI, that Farfoor was pretending to be Mickey Mouse, the Disney character, a point emphasized over and over by Israeli spokesman and MEMRI and was the point in some TV stories in the US media.
Farfoor ( a play-word that comes from the Arabic word “ Far” which means mouse) was simply wearing a Mouse costume in Tuxedo outfit.

The clip provided by MEMRI looked disjointed and without contextual continuity and integrity which lead me to think that there was some cherry-picking by MEMRI in piecing together selective clips that will provide a proof or evidence to a certain argument or stereotype. In so doing we are left to rely on MEMRI’s version of the story without having access to the original video in its entirety and contextual continuity and integrity.

This is problematic especially when translating/interpreting words from one language to another without the benefit of considering other factors that will make or doom any work of interpretation.
Since translation is not simply transferring words from language A to language B, it also involves advanced knowledge of the culture, religious references, historical past and political history.

Take for example the Lebanese opposition leader Walid Jumblaat when he was giving a speech in Beirut, on Feb 14th, of last year. The anniversary was of Lebanese PM Harriri Assassination and was carried live by CNN.
Jumblaat was giving a fiery speech against the Syrian president Bashar Asad, calling him among other names that he was from the “Hashasheen”.

The word Hashasheen is Arabic plural for people who use Hashish, a drug. But was Jumblaat calling Asad a drug addict or a drug user!
Hardly!

Of course the word “Hashasheen” was translated at CNN as “Assassins” for any other translation would have rendered the whole sentence wrong in meaning and in context, and even perhaps drawing protest from Jumblaat himself for misinterpreting him.

The reason for this choice was because the English word “Assassin” is of Arabic origin and came from the word “Hashasheen” “Hashasheen was a Shia organization headed by “Hasan Sabah” in the 12th century in northern Iran and spread terror and “assassination” against Muslim state officials throughout the Muslim world. The assassin normally used Hashish before his mission perhaps knowing that this would also mean his death as well.

Moreover, the Lebanese leader Jumblaat is an avid reader, an intellectual and has a degree in history so I am assuming that he was knowledgeable of this kind of historical data. Hence, I suppose, his reference to Asad as “Hashasheen” and on top of all that the anniversary was the “Assassination” of former Lebanese PM Hariri. So the word fits in nicely in meaning and in context.

Therefore there was no way that Jumblaat was calling Aasad a drug user or a crack head! Even thought that’s what it literally means! 

Based on what I have seen from MEMRI so far, they simply cannot claim to be professional or accurate in their translation of Arabic for they are not only non-native speakers who are educated in the ins and outs of the Arabic culture and history, but also treat the work of translation as a fishing expedition.

Though I am not making the argument here that only native speakers of Arabic can do translation work of Arabic, but it helps that the translator is native, an educated and expert in different aspects of the culture of that language.

Manipulation of words and interpreting them for self serving purposes is another aspect I uncovered when comparing Arabic words as they were uttered by speakers and their English translation and interpretation by MEMRI.

For example Yegal Carmon head of MEMRI said on Glen Beck’s show when commenting on the young caller on the phone “Sanable” saying “I’ll be a myrtar” by saying that “we know that this means “suicide bombing” This of course couldn’t be further from the truth. And note (see my previous piece for the transcripts) how MEMRI injected the word “Commit” with the word “Martyrdom” as in drawing a psychological association with the phrase “Suicide bombing” where Hamas and other Islamists call it “Martyrdom operation”

In MEMRI’S interpretations and state of mind, any reference to ‘Martyrdom” is “committing suicide bombing” a deliberate ignorance or deliberate manipulation.

The fact is that when the young caller said “I’ll be a martyr” she is not saying “I am committing” but rather “I am defending” the key word here is here is “defense” and the reason for that is simple “I’ll be a martyr” as in to die for my country, because from a cultural and Islamic religious point of view and law, to be a martyr, one has to die in Defense of his family, property, religion and country. Adding or omitting the word “commit” would put the phrase in an entirely different light.

The work of the interpreter is to get as close and as accurate to the original word in its native utterance as meant by the speaker; not to spin it to suit the interpreter or translator motives.

Also the whole story revolved around a key phrase which was “ we want to annihilate. The Jews”

As I pointed out previously that such phrase was never uttered in the segment posted on MEMRI’S website. But the words “annihilate the Jews” carries with them a huge psychological and horrific meaning especially in the western or European collective psyche for the horrors committed by the Nazis against the Jews and others in Europe.

In fact I have yet to hear any Arabic speaker say the Arabic sort-of equivalent of the word “Annihilate” because it is not part of the political discourse or even in the terrorist or extremist terminology. And after asking some Arab journalists colleagues with over 30 years of experience in the Arabic press, they too said that they never heard any speech or written statement that refers to "finish" of or “annihilate the Jews” Because it does not exist.The only Arabic word I can think of that is close to the word annihilate is ( Ibada) which is normally used with insects as in “ insecticide” ( Mubid Hashari)




MEMRI Clip No. 1442

A Mickey Mouse Character on Hamas TV Teaches Children about Islamic Rule of the World

4/13/2007

http://www.memri.org/bin/opener_latest.cgi?ID=SD157707


Black text: Arabic Transcript.
Blue text: Arabic transcript written in English alphabet.
Green text: My English translation.
Red text: MEMRI’s English translation.
Highlighted red text: Wrong MEMRI English translation.



سراء: سنابل، إنتي شو حتعملي .. يعني .. من أجل الأقصى؟ شو حتفدي .. يعني روحك من أجل الأقصى؟ شو حتعملي؟
Sarraa’: Sanabel, enti shoo hate’mali ... ya’ni ... min ajl el-Aqsa? Shoo hatefdi ... ya’ni roohek min ajl el-Aqsa? Shoo hate’mali?
Sarraa’: Sanabel, what are you going to do ... like ... for the sake of Al Aqsa? What are you going to sacrifice ... like your soul for the sake of Al-Aqsa? What are you going to do?
MEMRI: Sanabel, what will you do for the sake of the Al-Aqsa Mosque? How will you sacrifice your soul for the sake of Al-Aqsa? What will you do?

فرفور: حطـُـخ.
Farfour: Hatokh.
Farfour: I will shoot.
MEMRI: …

سنابل: بدي أرسم صورة.
Sanabel: B’di arsem soora.
Sanabel: I’m going to draw a picture.
MEMRI: I will shoot

فرفور: إيش حنعمل يعني كيف إحنا بدنا يا سنابل إنحرر ..
Farfour: Aish hane’mal ya’ni kaif ehna bedna ya sanabel enharrer ...
Farfour: What are we going to do ... Sanabel, like how are we going to liberate ...
MEMRI: Sanabel, what should we do if we want to liberate...

سنابل: بدنا انقاوم.
Sanabel: Bedna enqawem.
Sanabel: We are going to resist.
MEMRI: We want to fight.

فرفور: و بعدين؟ هادي حفظناها و بعدين؟
Farfour: Wo ba’dain? Hadi hfeznaha, wo ba’dain?
Farfour: Then what? We already know this one, then what?
MEMRI: We got that. What else?

سراء: إحنا بدنا..
Sarraa’: Ehna bedna …
Sarraa’: We are going to …
MEMRI: We want to...

سنابل: بطخّونا اليهود.
Sanabel: Betokhoona el yahood.
Sanabel: The Jews will shoot us.
MEMRI: We will annihilate the Jews.

سراء: إحنا بدنا اندافع عن الأقصى بأرواحنا و بدمائنا، ولاّ لأ يا سنابل؟

Sarraa’: Ehna bedna endafe’ an el-Aqsa b arwa7na wo b dema2na, wella la’ ya Sanabel?
Sarraa’: We are going to defend Al-Aqsa with our souls and blood, or are we not Sanabel?
MEMRI: We are defending Al-Aqsa with our souls and our blood, aren't we, Sanabel?

سنابل (صوت غير واضح): بدي استشهد
( أو - سنابل: باستشهد )
( أو - سنابل: بنستشهد )
Sanabel (audio not clear): Bdi astash-hed.
( Or – Sanabel: Bastash-hed )
( Or – Sanabel: Bnastash-hed )
Sanabel (audio not clear): I’m going to become a martyr. [Literally: I want to become a martyr]
( Or – Sanabel: I’ll become a martyr )
( Or – Sanabel: We’ll become martyrs )
MEMRI: I will commit martyrdom.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

How MEMRI fooled the U.S Media with its Mickey Mouse Translation

How easy was it for MEMRI to fool so many of the US media outlets with its translation of a children program on Hamas TV, where a child was supposedly have said the words “ we will annihilate the Jews”
It was very easy!
The controversy was fueled further when CNN decided to yank the video off the air because of major translation errors on part of MEMRI.

First let me just say that I reviewed the Arabic version of the MEMERI clip which looked discontinuous and disjointed because the context of the conversation in the show did not seem to be coherent. However, at the bottom of this page you will find my corrections of MEMERI translation errors.

The inflammatory words MEMRI blasted the US media with were when the young caller “Sanable” was supposed to have said “we will annihilate the Jews” were not even mentioned by the caller or by anyone else in that clip.

“Sanable actually said “The Jews are shooting us” which is entirely different word and different meaning and which makes me wonder as to where in the world the words “we will annihilate the Jews come from”

Was MEMRI actually playing verbal gymnastics? Yes indeed.
The issue here is not simply some error in the translation of this word or that, but actually making new words up and putting them in the mouth of that child to show defamatory evidence against the Palestinians.

MEMERI which stands for Middle East Media Research Institute was established by former Israeli intelligence agents, the Mossad, to police Arabic media for any evidence of anti-Israeli rhetoric.

Yegal… head of MEMRI was interviewed on CNN’S Glen Beck on his radio show and assured Beck that he stands by his translation and blasted CNN’s Arabic desk and Octavia Nasr head of the desk for uncovering the forgery by claiming that CNN’s Arabic desk do not know Arabic and they are “ hiding” while he is on the other hand out there ready and willing to debate and challenge anyone for his version of the translation.

In my professional opinion, MEMRI’s “translation” is not credible and flat out forgery.

Translation is not simply transferring words from language A to language B, it involves however much more than that. It involves advanced knowledge of the culture, religious references, historical past and political history and knowledge of the subtleties of the language and its usage in different situations by different people.

Here is MEMRI’s transcripts and my corrections are in black letters.

Host Saraa, a young girl: Sanabel, what will you do for the sake of the Al-Aqsa Mosque? How will you sacrifice your soul for the sake of Al-Aqsa? What will you do?

Sanabel, young girl on phone: I will shoot.

( It is rather Mickey’s character speaking the words and hand gestures “ I will shoot” Not Sanable the young girl on the phone)

Farfour, a Mickey Mouse character in a tuxedo: Sanabel, what should we do if we want to liberate...

Sanable: We want to fight. (The word used was we want to resist, not to fight the reference here is to resist the Israeli occupation.

Farfour: We got that. What else?

Saraa: We want to...

Sanabel: We will annihilate the Jews. Actually she is saying: (the Jews are shooting us)

Saraa:We are defending Al-Aqsa with our souls and our blood, aren't we, Sanabel?

Sanabel: I will commit martyrdom.

Sanabel actually said “ I’ll be a martyr” ( as in to die for my country, and the reason for that because from a cultural and Islamic religious point of view and law, to be a martyr, one has to have died defending his family, property, religion and country,although the child does not all of this, however the usage of the Arabic version of the word Martyr, carries in it those references. and not to “ commit” the word used in MEMRI translation to indicate action and/or planning. This point was elaborated further by YegaL head of MEMRI on Beck’s show by saying that the child meant “ committing suicide bombing”

Farfour: We've said more than once that becoming masters of the world requires the following: First, to be happy with our Arabic language, which once upon a time ruled this world. (Excellency in the world, not Mastery of the world two totally different meanings)

Saraa: Of course.

Farfour: Second... or maybe that's it?

Adult host: Farfour, I heard you talking in English.

Farfour: Yes. How are you, Saraa? I hope to be good time.

Saraa: What's with you, Farfour? Why are talking this way? Didn't we agree to talk in literary Arabic? (Standard Arabic not literary Arabic)

Farfour: But Saraa, this is the language of the advanced world, the language of the world that understands and invents things, isn't it?

Saraa: No, Farfour, you are wrong, because you don't know that the Muslims are the basis of civilization. If not for the Muslims, the world wouldn't have got to where it is today.
[...]

Farfour: My dear youngsters, we're back. We always miss seeing you on your weekly program "The Pioneers of Tomorrow," in which we are placing together the cornerstone for the ruling of the world by an Islamic leadership.

In the distant past the Islamic empire was a world power so the allusion was to a world where Muslims were a powerful and advanced nation, hence the references to Arabic language, the advanced western world,excellency in standard Arabic language, Islamic civilization. So clearly the context here was more educational to the children to instill a sense of pride of one’s culture and glorious history. And despite references for “resisting” the occupation, and “ I’ll die for my country, which in my opinion do not find highly unusual for an occupied and traumatized society such as the Palestinian society.Although it sounds here that Farfour is vowing for Islamic leadership of the world, but he actually was referring to a glorious Islamic past when Arabic was a universal language of medicine,philosophy and sciences.
One cannot be objective and say that this show is a representative of the Palestinian society any more than any right wing televangelist American who calls for “dropping a nuclear bomb on the state department or calling for the assassination of a president of another country and say that such outrageous statements are representative of the American people or culture

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Palestinian American columnist wins SPJ Journalism Award



Ray Hanania, a columnist for several U.S. and Middle East-based newspapers, was awarded the prestigious Peter Lisagor Award for Column Writing in the Community Newspaper category last week by the Society of Professional Journalists/Chicago Headline Club.


Hanania, who began writing his column in May 2004, was honored for three columns published last year titled: "Thanksgiving Tabouli Wars Is Now Served," "Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" and "Reavis Reunion Creeps Up Like Receding Hair."

Named as runner-up finalists were Thomas Mucha of Crains Chicago Business Magazine for his "Small Talk" columns and Joseph Aaron of the Chicago Jewish News for "Talking and Listening," "Real Jewish People" and "Jews and Darfur."

The column titled "Graduates Who Defy Stereotypes" was about the 2006 all-girls graduating class of the Aqsa School in Bridgeview in suburban Chicago and how the news media ignores positive events in the Arab community and always focuses on negative issues. The column ran not only in the Southwest News-Herald, where Hanania is a staff political columnist, but also in several Arab American and Arab World newspapers including the Arab American News in Dearborn, the Arab News in Saudi Arabia, al-Mustaqbal in Chicago and in other community newspapers.

The Lisagor Awards are a highly competitive and prestigious journalism achievement representing journalists from community and daily newspapers, radio and TV media throughout Illinois.

In awarding the prize, the judges wrote: "Writing a regular column is a lot harder than it looks. General interest columnists have to be ready to show themselves and share their inner thoughts and beliefs with their readers -- something most of us were trained not to do in the course of our other job as fair and ideally objective reporters of facts. Ray Hanania's columns illustrate how the best of us are able to accomplish that, taking the random and (globally) inconsequential activities of daily life and crafting them into a deceptively simple sounding monologue that touches people with the familiarity of the experiences while shedding light on the serious and significant concerns of the larger world. Mr. Hanania manages that slight-of-hand with both wit and grace, and most difficult of all, a dash of humor that lightens outrage and makes it palatable, causing the reader to think about the greater issues roiling beneath the surface without compelling th em in any obvious way to challenge their assumptions. Instead they think about the world in ways they might have resisted if they were simply being bashed over the head with passionate and reasoned argument."

This is Hanania’s 3rd Chicago Headline Club/SPJ Award. He previously won Lisagor awards in 1984/85 and 2002/03 for column writing. Last year, Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" in a national contest hosted by the New America Media Association.

Hanania began his journalism career in 1976 writing for community newspapers and later for the Chicago Sun-Times. He covered Chicago City Hall from 1977 until 1992, and was also a weekend talk show host on WLS AM Radio. He is the author of eight books. He is a board member of the National Arab American Journalists Association (www.NAAJA-US.com).

The presentations were made at the Chicago Headline Club's 30th annual awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in Chicago.

The awards are named for Peter Lisagor, late Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Daily News. Reporters and editors from SPJ chapters in South Florida (Miami), Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston, Inland California and Western Washington (Seattle) reviewed more than 700 entries published or broadcast in 2006.
Plaques were presented for 65 reports, chosen for such attributes as enterprise, accuracy, scope, style and impact.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Homosexuals in the Kingdom



The monthly Magazine the Atlantic, www.Theatlantic.com ran a story by Nadya Labi in its May issue on homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, and how gay men and women in Saudi Arabia live their lives in a seemingly strict society and yet maintain a thriving homosexual culture and even running a beauty pageant of gay men.

The story, titled " the closet Kingdom" is startling in that it shows a stark picture of Saudi Arabia different from the one we are used to hear about in the media, which is normally a country that is very strict socially and religiously.
Remarkably enough, the writer interviewed many Saudi men who appeared to be shameless about their homosexuality and also Saudi women who engage in lesbian activities with other women though done in secrecy but did not seem to bother them however.
Yasser, a young gay Saudi was quoted saying that “ it is easier to be gay here than straight” Yasser was of course referring to the strict separation of sexes in the Kingdom therefore making easier for Saudi men to congregate and if they were homosexuals to engage in homosexual activities with other men.

Gay westerners, quoted in the story, described Saudi Arabia as “ Gay haven” a gay South African man remarked that even though South Africa allows gay marriage yet there are more gays in Saudi Arabia than South Africa”
That said however, the idea of being gay in an “ Arab” contest is different from the western idea of being gay. Gay in a western sense is a sort of identity, whereas in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries is more like a” behavior” not an identity.
Arab Gulfies are known in the Arab world, the story goes, for their inclination toward homosexual relations with men and boys.
Osama Fawzi, editor of Huston based Arab Times, the most popular Arab American paper in the US and who had lived in the United Arab Emirates in the seventies said when I spoke on the phone for this column that “homosexuality is not unusual in the gulf societies, in fact for any respectable wedding in the UAE the family must bring a band of gay boys to entertain the guests”
In the UAE they call a gay man “ Saroukh” said Mr. Fawzi. “Saroukh” means rocket.
Kuwait is another Gulf country where homosexuality and pedophiles are found almost everywhere. Last year a story made headlines when two gay Kuwaitis got married and threw a wedding party in Egypt.

Fuad Al-Hashem a well-known Kuwaiti columnist for the Al-Watan newspaper is perhaps the best-known openly homosexual Kuwaiti. Though Mr. Hashem was married and had a daughter but that did not seem to prevent him from having sexual encounters with other men according to a public statement he made a few years ago.
In Oman, another gulf country where having sex with boys and gay relationship is not unusual. Oman is well known for those types of activities according to Mr. Fawzi.
This is all sound very strange especially for the manly Arab culture that stresses manhood and valor but for the Saudi and Kuwaiti pedophiles, however, they would still consider themselves as machismo men and not gay men. This contradiction in the way being Gay in the Gulf Arab societies and Gay in the Western sense is diminishing because of Arab Gays exposure to Gay rights in western societies and for some there is a need to be recognized as gays and lesbians.

Yasmeen is another young Saudi female who has sexual relations with another women in her college, and who said this type of behavior is very common in all-girls Saudi schools and colleges.
But the writer of the story made critical errors in trying to show that the Islamic faith did not condemn this type of behavior in more strict and obvious terms.

This however does not mean that Islam endorses this type of behavior, which was not common in the desert society and the Arab tribes Islam was born into. Homosexuality therefore would fall under more general rules of vice and virtue laws such as adultery and extramarital relationships.
Lack of mentioning homosexuality and not having a pronounced and a clear punishment for it in the Islamic jurisprudence system as in the case of adultery between a heterosexual man and a woman, does not give license or imply that such relationships were condoned. Homosexuality was and still is uncommon in the Arab and Muslim world, despite its pocket existence as in the case of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Abu Al-Nuwas (The Atlantic erroneously identified him as Aby Nuwaf) was a famous poet during the Abbasid era, in the eighth century and wrote long poems about Alcohol and the love of boys but that should not be taken, as a representative of something like a “gay culture” as the writer of The Atlantic seemed to insinuate. The writer Nadya Labi gives the meaning in her report that Gay relationships were common and prevalent in those days or that Islamic morality and value system was or still lenient when it comes to such behavior.

The report also missed the whole idea when the writer spoke of Saudi men looking at boys with lust and want as an evidence of gayness or homosexuality instead of treating the subject pedophiles preying upon their young victims.