Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Analysts in the Middle East give their take on how Sept. 11th has affected Arabs. This is well spoken and reasonable. This is where 'dialogue' should be used, there are rational issues for Arabs who have limited news access.

What exists in the Arab world today, that did not exist September 11 2001, "is a wave of fear." That is the assessment of Abdel Moneim Sa'id, the head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. Mr. Sa'id says there is fear of terrorism, economic depression, loss of democracy, and political oppression. "You have all kinds of uncertainties here, so this issue of Muslim terror is not something to be taken lightly,"he said. "It showed us that we are not as good people as we thought, at least on the side of liberal people."

According to Mr. Sa'id, many Arabs feel that they have been indirectly victimized by terrorism.

There is no shortage of statistics to support that feeling. Income from tourism has been nearly cut in half. And new foreign investments dropped as much as 40 percent in some Arab states. Democracy is also suffering while various Arab regimes use military laws to crack down on terrorism and fundamentalism.

This is good point that we have to handle carefully. Bin Laden and his supporters do threaten the governments of the Middle East. At the same time those governments tend to be fairly unpopularwith their own populations. But we should be talking more about the danger that terrorism poses in Arab countries. Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have had incedents and it should be addressed openly and included in the discussions about the War on Terror.

Milad Hanna, a religious expert at the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says the majority of Muslims believe "fanaticism has no place in religion. "Religion is like fire," he said. "If it is ruling the house it will burn the house. If the fire is slow in a fireplace it brings warmth. Therefore, we do need religion, but a small amount of religion gives people security and happiness. A big amount of religion will end up by fanaticism." Mr. Hanna says many Muslims throughout the region believe the war against terrorism is really a U.S. war against Islam. As a result, many political analysts in the region say some Arab regimes are reluctant to support the campaign against terror for fear of angering their people.

We hear this alot and we say well of course it's not a war against all Muslims and expect the average guy on the streets of the Middle East to take our word for it (if that word even makes it to the state sponsored media). The say Islam does not equal terror, yet we ask for proof. It si reasonable for them to ask this. We should be vey firm with our 'allies' and tell them to moderate their media and allow us to make our case to their people.

Although many Arab leaders share the U.S. desire to stamp out extremist violence, it is sometimes difficult for them to support the effort enthusiastically and publicly.

Hassan Nafae, an analyst who heads the political science department at Cairo University, says leaders throughout the Arab world want to fight terrorism, but not on American terms. "You have a problem in the Arab and Muslim worlds and deep reform is needed, but this does not mean we, as Arabs and Muslims, have to resolve it the way the West wants it," he said. "It has to come from within to have a real consensus from the major players and the United States and the West has to understand this."

During the past year the Arab world has seen an internal crackdown on fundamentalist organizations. Arrests of Muslim fundamentalists are almost routine. And while that might help fight terrorism, it has also raised some concerns.

Cairo-based Arab affairs analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal says, "in the name of state security and suspicion, democracy has been the greatest victim of September 11". "The security is taking the utmost importance,' he said. "You are giving new justification for the dictators to use their power and justify their dictatorships. So I think now democracy orientation is suffering a lot in the Arab world and nobody can talk about democracy because they say it is the security of the regime, security of the whole nation."

This is reasonable and relates to what I said above about a balance when tryng to work with fairly repressive governments while trying to appeal to their people. I accept that they may need a different strategy for fighting terrorism but, from what I have seen so far there needs to be more open cooperation and a cleaning up of their own security forces which some of these governments themselves fear (the ISI for example).

Many Arabs, the majority of whom say they were overwhelmingly saddened by the events of September 11, say they feel a greater sense of tension than they did a year ago. Some have become fearful of flying. Others say they worry about the security of their bank accounts or have concern for their own safety and the safety of their family and friends. One man told VOA, "in a heartbeat your life or your family's, can be wiped out by ghosts who possess evil minds."

This is something we should exploit, to begin a real dialogue with the public in these places. The representatives from all of these nations are given a great deal of exposure in American media, we should demand no less from them. Bring our case to them let them no the terrorist pose a threat to them to. As far as al Qaeda is concerned their lives mean nothing, too.

< email | 9/05/2002 07:50:00 PM | link

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