Arab Spring

A barren tree, once full of life
Stands leafless, brown ice in gloom
A barren tree, once full of strife
Stands not a spark, not a flower in bloom
A barren tree, once full of promise
Stands in sorrow, a promise but for tomorrow
As for today, not a leaf dares there stay

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Arab Silent Majority

The term “silent majority” has been increasingly used to describe the Arab public vis-à-vis its stance to Islamic terrorism. It is true that public outrage against suicide bombings, like the protests seen in Jordan last week after the November 9, 2005 bombings, have been limited and criticism of terrorists is seemingly only voiced by the direct victims. It is interesting to note, however, that the Arab public is asked to speak up about terrorism while its silence is requested on everything else. It is a matter of perspective. While the United States sees terrorism as the root of instability and conflict in the Middle East, Arabs are more inclined to see it as a consequence, a consequence of deeply muzzled societies, including those nations that are America’s closest allies like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia; of a pervasive culture of mukhabarat (secret police) that ensures silence on issues important to the public like free speech and human rights; of dysfunctional and corrupt governments that hold rigged elections; of American and European support, financial and intelligence, lent to these same governments; of American foreign policy that is heavily biased towards Israel because of domestic concerns; of the illegal invasion of Iraq and the subsequent unraveling of the nation. In every major catastrophe in the Arab world for the last half century, the Israeli-Arab conflicts, the Lebanese civil war, the Iraq-Iran war, and the two Gulf wars, the United States and its regional proxies have directly been involved, usually to their narrow interests, and to the detriment of the region at large. The fact that the “silent Arab majority” is silent is no surprise at all because we cannot add fuel to the fire and then ask why it is not being condemned. The United States and Europe must change their policies regarding the despots and theocrats in the region no matter how much they acquiesce to our need and no matter how frightened we are of what comes next. The United States and Europe should finally start isolating dictators in the Middle East like they did with Eastern European dictators in the 1970s and 80s. If we are to make the world freer for democracy we should not support dictators when it suits our interest because as we see today only too vividly, our interests will be served best by a democratic and vibrant Middle East.


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