Tag Archives arabs

Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs book by Jack ShaheenMy son Arif’s Christmas gift to me was the book “Reel Bad Arabs, how Hollywood vilifies a people” by Jack Shaheen (it was made into a film as well – vimeo). It is a fascinating reference which took the author more than two decades to compile. In it, he reviewed over 1,000 Hollywood films which have denigrated Arabs, our culture and traditions, religion and way of life. The films reviewed were from the start of the age of cinema through to the present day. The amount of hate carried through these films – sometimes un-intentioned – is mind-boggling.

The book poses many important questions and premises which are worthy of consideration. The author’s considerable work was primarily to challenge stereotypes propagated by Hollywood because this challenge is extremely important. Left unchallenged, these stereotypes can devolve into violence against a whole people whose numbers exceed 300 million and the vast majority of which are “normal” human beings who want a “normal” life and who abhor violence. The vast majority are peace loving and peaceful and do not deserve to be singled out discriminated against.

He proposes that lobbying is necessary to correct this situation, just as others have successfully done like African Americans, Jews and other minorities who stood up to Hollywood’s vilification.

The author notes that:

Damaging portraits, notably those presenting Arabs as America’s enemy, affect all people, influencing world public opinion and policy. Given the pervasive stereotype, it comes as not surprise that some of us – and the US State Department – find it difficult to accept Egyptians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and other Arabs as friends.

Not only do these violence news images of extremists reinforce and exacerbate already prevalent stereotypes, but they serve as both a source and excuse for continued Arab-bashing by those filmmakers eager to exploit the issue. In particular, the news programs are used by some producers and directors to deny they are actually engaged in stereotyping. “We’re not stereotyping,” they object. “Just look at your television set. Those are real Arabs.”

Such responses are disingenuous and dishonest. As we know, news reports by their very nature cover extraordinary events. We should not expect reporters to inundate the airwaves with lives of ordinary Arabs. But filmmakers have a moral obligation not to advance the news media’s sins of omission and commission, not to tar an entire group of people on the basis of the crimes and the alleged crimes of a few.

Taken together, news and movie images wrench the truth out of shape to influence billions of people. Regrettably, gross misrepresentation abound and continue to plaster on movie screens those distorted “pictures in our heads” that Walter Lippmann bemoaned some 70 years ago.

I agree with this assessment. I have come across this prejudice in this very blog across many threads. My intention right from when I started blogging was to try to address this issue and to show that we Arabs are just regular folks. We have the good and the bad. We have the same aspirations and dreams. And we have the same basic human needs. No more and no less.

I’ve tried to provide a platform to bring our cultures together on the same platform so that people from both camps can come to this conclusion. I’ll leave it to you to decide wether I have succeeded. In fact, success is not really relevant as the issue is immense. What I would be happy with is if I had engendered conversations that allowed people to see the other’s point of view and accept them as human beings and view them as they too could be seen as possible friends.

I highly recommend reading the book and going through some of its observations in the film reference section. You will soon realise how big this vilification problem is to this day in Hollywood and other productions against Arabs.


The Death of Arab Consciousness 

The Death of Arab Consciousness 

So much unnecessary loss of life. At the root of it, one group believes they and only they are right. The others are worthless creatures who should be exterminated. Those people, who I believe fueled war and strife in Syria and elsewhese will not be moved by the horrible images and their conscience one single iota, that is, if their conscience existed in the first place.

In fact, they’ll find a way to justify the exodus, the strife, the desperation, the deaths and not only distance themselves from their inhuman pursuits in their own war mongering, but will celebrate peoples’ desperation and use that to prove – through their own thwarted logic – that they and only they are the chosen ones.

Have we heard one peep from them demanding that the Syrian and Yemeni refugees find temporary shelter in their countries? No. None. The overriding thought in their minds for that eventuality if it ever comes, and I believe that will be highly unlikely, is probably to find a way to filter those whom they will “allow” to enter their hallowed lands and receive their largesse based on purely on confessional beliefs. Humanity and morals be damned.

Austrians coming out in droves, unbidden, to help arriving Syrian refugees

On the other hand, we see Europeans coming out unbidden in their droves to help the refugees whom they share no culture, language or religion with. The refugees being human beings is enough for those Europeans to extend any help they can afford, even if it’s simply a kind word or gesture.

Is it any wonder that even in their desperation, the refugees choose European destinations than any country in the Gulf?

Shame on us. This is official the death of our consciousness as a race, culture and people.

And here’s the picture to prove it.

This is the total sum of our efforts for humanity.

This is what we have become.

REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINEATTENTION EDITORS - VISUALS COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURYA young migrant, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey, September 2, 2015. At least 11 migrants believed to be Syrians drowned as two boats sank after leaving southwest Turkey for the Greek island of Kos, Turkey's Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday. It said a boat carrying 16 Syrian migrants had sunk after leaving the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, and seven people had died. Four people were rescued and the coastguard was continuing its search for five people still missing. Separately, a boat carrying six Syrians sank after leaving Akyarlar on the same route. Three children and one woman drowned and two people survived after reaching the shore in life jackets. REUTERS/Nilufer Demir/DHAATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TURKEY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN TURKEY. TEMPLATE OUT
A young migrant, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey, September 2, 2015. At least 11 migrants believed to be Syrians drowned as two boats sank after leaving southwest Turkey for the Greek island of Kos, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported on Wednesday. It said a boat carrying 16 Syrian migrants had sunk after leaving the Akyarlar area of the Bodrum peninsula, and seven people had died. Four people were rescued and the coastguard was continuing its search for five people still missing. Separately, a boat carrying six Syrians sank after leaving Akyarlar on the same route. Three children and one woman drowned and two people survived after reaching the shore in life jackets. 

May you rest in peace, Aylan Kurdi.

Your death won’t be avenged.

Our conscience, morals and humanity as Arabs have died much before your pure soul briefly existed on this earth.

May you find peace my son.




“Like it or not, I shall remain…”

I’m not very proud of being an Arab at this point in time. Listless and worthless. Amidst a region who spend the most on military and police equipment, yet are happy enough to exclusively direct those inward at their own people while brothers and sisters – within their ready sight – and who need their support, are being annihilated by a terrorist illegitimate state. Would they come to their help? No. They would rather call that terrorist state a friend. And why not when it’s a ready peg to hang the unfulfilled aspiration of their citizens on? Divert the attention from their lavish exuberance, their mismanagement, and the maintenance of the subjugation of “their” people. Palestinians be damned and hurray to Israel. Their thrones are of primary importance.

What is there, really, to be proud of for being an Arab? Living in the most regressive, inebriated, cantons kept at bay by designed in-fighting while unrepresentative lords continue to delude themselves for being the puppet masters while the obvious truth are they are mere, expendable puppets? Propped up by an unending river of paid-for loyalties of sycophantic morons.

Leave! I support any fellow Arab to leave. Leave to live. Leave to have a life. Leave to find respect and never look back. You won’t be missed. You will actually receive a red carpet put in your path to ease your exit. Good riddance! You’re not wanted. Leave and create a life and revel in the realisation that you’re making an acknowledged and appreciated difference in your new adoptive land and amongst your new and more caring people.

Leave! What are you waiting for? You’re not appreciated where you are and to them, you’re not worth anything. Everything around you is superficial. Whether you are sincere, passionately work for your living and try to make a difference is not the issue. They know that their imported help will suffice. You’re irrelevant. You’re unneeded. For your efforts of making a difference you’re fought with tooth and nail, you’re the enemy, you’re the trouble maker. You’re thrown in prison for the slightest infraction, for life. Fifteen years is the initial thanks you get for caring. Adding another fifteen is a simple pen push away.

Rights? What are those? Carry on in your inebriated dreams my friend. Or wake up… and LEAVE!

And you wonder why hundreds of our brothers and sisters are being currently killed, and hundreds of thousands are destitute and surrounded while the only help they can expect is the help they do not require? It’s so easy to give money from funds one hasn’t worked for. Caring enough to do something concrete about their continued plight is another. Unfortunately that will never be forthcoming.



The Typically Arab Politicians’ Way of Resolving Differences of Opinion

10 days too late

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Mona Eltahawy speaking at the J Street Conference 2011 (2.27.11) . These are her complete opening remarks.

History before Our Eyes: Broader Implications of Democracy Movements in the Arab World.

— thanks for sharing Rami.


Domino effect continues… who’s after Egypt?

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With the collapse of dictatorial rule in Tunis and the running demonstrations in Egypt since 25 Jan with Friday the 28th culminating in the biggest series of demonstrations for decades, which other country could follow this popular domino effect?

The regular culprits and the most shaky governments seem to be Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and Yemen, most of which witnessed significant demonstrations since the Tunisian popular uprising. Whether those demonstrations would be sustainable is anyone’s guess. The Egyptian situation certainly seems to have taken the officials there by utter surprise. I’m not sure why; with 30% illiteracy and some 50% of its population living with under the equivalent of two US Dollars per day, the massive amount of human rights variations visited upon them, they should’ve really expected it.

As I watch Al-Jazeera at the moment with it declaring the government issuing a curfew from 6PM – 7AM Cairo time, it seems that they now got the message, but they certainly didn’t read the situation on the ground very well.

With Egypt taking the opportunity of the first celebrated date after the Tunisian uprising to start their demonstrations, I can’t but postulate that others might use the same technique to illicit support for their causes and start the process of toppling their particular domino piece. A quick search of possible “flash dates” in the Arab world resulted in one very close to us; the commemoration of the declaration of these very islands of Bahrain to be a Kingdom. That date of course is Feb 14, just a couple of weeks away.

A smart government would tone down its celebrations at this particular time. A smarter government of course would immediately engage its populace and show them that the long promised reforms are immediately introduced in tangible forms in order not only to momentarily ameliorate their citizens’ senses, but to simply make good on its promises.

What do Bahraini citizens want? Live in dignity and have their basic human rights, and intellect, respected. Translating that into practical terms, I personally think the very first thing that should be enacted is the declaration of an impartial truth and reconciliation committee with all relevant powers, the rescinding of contentious laws, particularly 56/2002 and the enacting free press and respect for freedoms of association and speech.

Will the government be cognizant of these feelings and acquiesce to these reasonable requests? Especially when you consider that these very factors will strengthen their position and perpetuate their rule?

I don’t know. After ten years of promises, I feel its high time that those promises are enacted.

The last thing we need is even more strife in this country. We’ve had enough.


Media Control, Gulf Style

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I can’t get enough of WikiLeaks Cablegate, could you? It’s better than the best and more gripping than a Steven King novel. Delving into the minds of those who rule us is, well, enlightening and could actually give cause to an accelerated rise to democracy in this region. Some cables also attest that hereditary genes alone are not enough to bestow the power of imagination nor do they always aid in raising the intelligence quotient.

Regardless, in the intrigue department, I came across this cable this morning. To me, it’s pretty much symptomatic of the (so called) media industry in the Arab world. No wonder papers and other media outlets care more about cheap entertainment and the advertising dollar than investigative reporting:

The Saudi regulatory system offers the al-Saud regime a means to manipulate the nation’s print media to promote its own agenda without exercising day-to-day oversight over journalists, and Saudi journalists are free to write what they wish provided they do not criticize the ruling family or expose government corruption. In addition, most media in Saudi Arabia–print and electronic–are owned by royal family members, and accordingly self-censorship is the order of the day. In comparison to a few years ago, however, the media business in Saudi Arabia is dynamic, fueled by increased demand by Saudi and pan-Arab audiences, new licensing agreements with US and other international media, and an unprecedented level of openness to outside ideas.

Wikileaks’ Cablegate

Yes, go feast your eyes. There’s more.


Correcting a wrong

Remember that debacle where the Arab world agreed to “protect our traditional values” by curtailing freedoms of expression especially that of news television channels? You know, the news channels who normally criticise established regimes, specifically Aljazaeera and to some extent Alarabia?

That was in February earlier this year, and only Lebanon objected to such a scheme while Qatar expressed some reservations. The rest of the crowd just nodded along and carried on in their slumber. But as you might expect, there were some criticisms against such a move from all corners of the world. It seems that pressure has borne fruit; in today’s paper, I was really happy to read this:

جددت البحرين وقطر والإمارات تحفظهم خلال اجتماع وزراء الإعلام العرب اليوم (الخميس) على وثيقة البث الفضائي بدعوى إن بنودها تفرض قيودا على حرية التعبير في العالم العربي وعلى عمل الفضائيات.

وذكرت تقارير صحافية إن اجتماع وزراء الإعلام العرب الذي عقد في العاصمة المصرية القاهرة اليوم فشل بالخروج بآلية محددة لتنفيذ وثيقة تنظيم البث الفضائي والإذاعي التي أقروها قبل نحو 4 شهور وسط خلافات عربية حول بنودها.

وكان وزراء الإعلام العرب قد وافقوا باستثناء قطر في فبراير/ شباط الماضي على وثيقة تنظيم البث الفضائي في المنطقة العربية والتي جوبهت بحملة احتجاجات شديدة من قبل منظمات صحفية عربية ودولية.

وقال مشاركون ان مصر والجزائر ابديتا استغرابهما من التحفظات القطرية والإماراتية وان الاجتماع لم ينجح في النهاية بالخروج بآلية محددة لتنفيذ الوثيقة.

واكتفى وزراء الإعلام العرب في ختام اجتماعهم بالدعوى الى إعداد قاموس لصياغة المصطلحات التي يتم تداولها في وسائل الإعلام العربية.

Alwasat – 20 June, ’08

This report now states that in their latest meeting, more “reservations” were expressed by the Emirates and Bahrain! Man oh man. Yes, you read it right: “Bahrain” expressed reservations, meaning that, well, we’re not having it any more. This happened amongst different expressions of bafflement by Algeria and Egypt (Saudi was probably absent?).

So to save some face before they bury such an inept concept, they agreed on the creation of a lexicon in which unified definitions of words and concepts is to be adopted by broadcasters. Well, I guess most (but not all) news editors will file this in their rubbish bins on receipt, but at least it makes someone happy that they have saved face. What I would have preferred is just giving the proponents of such an idiotic “code” the bird and leaving the room at the very start, but that’s just being rude and politics and norms should be respected I guess.

Well done Bahrain. I fully expect – that should the new minister carries on like this – our Press Freedom Index for 2008 will be appreciably better. Well done again.


“The Protection of Traditional Values”

I cringe whenever I hear or read those words. Why? Because they are always used as a pretext to restrict an intrinsic freedom or used as a justification for trouncing all over a basic human right.

It is as if “Traditions” are sacrosanct, enshrined and set in gold. They – we are led to believe – are the very essence of perfection.

This is not so of course, just like any other society on Earth, we do have traditions which are shameful, ones that we should diligently work at eradicating. But if we are faced with this oft-used mantra of “protection of our traditional values”, we might as well forget about the rest of the world and be content in our own little cocoon. Our isolation, in this case, is completely voluntary and well deserved.

We all know of course that protection of traditions or values are farthest from their minds. What they want to protect Рnot to put too fine a point on it Рare their well exposed derri̬res!

Witness the latest “protection” visited upon us by the two old stalwarts of human rights and personal freedoms and democracy: Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They have successfully towed 21 other countries – this valuable rock amongst them – to put their thumb-prints on a document restricting broadcasting – sorry, sorry, it’s not restriction, but really at attempt at

organization and putting rules and restrictions to increase the investment opportunities in these channels and ascending by the presented informational message.

Ah yes, of course. The minister of disinformation of Egypt continues:

Al-Fiqi said that there is a state of randomization in the satellite channels which don’t differentiate from the random housing in some countries. The examples of such randomization are many, such as transforming the channel possession without rules and its deviation from the registered form, besides the programs of jugglery and nakedness and so on.

Other than suddenly and categorically understanding what actually ails our own beloved BNA, I have no idea what they guy is going on about. Click the link and have some comic relief, maybe you’ll make head or tails of that erudite piece of journalism. Oh, and his wit and effervescent personality, of course.

The document being non-binding is moot of cousre. Yet, only Lebanon specifically opposed it, while Qatar is “studying” it. The others, well, they follow the piper.

Remembering all of these organisational efforts which we have signed into, you can imagine the tears of mirth pouring down my face while reading Al-Waqt this morning. You see, our illustrious Shura Council are discussing legislation for the establishment of private radio and television stations! [translate]

Now, with “organising” measures which

allows authorities to withdraw permits from satellite channels deemed to have offended Arab leaders or national or religious symbols.

Who in their right mind is going to establish anything in these countries, let alone enter into the highly unpredictable and treacherous world of visual and aural media?

Ah well, let me just be on record in thanking Ebrahim Bashmi & Co. in the Shura Council on their valiant efforts over the last 6 years in trying to codify modern and fair press and media laws which will elevate and protect the basic and most important human right, the freedom of expression, and humbly tell them to not bother. The high blood pressure they and other honest persons endure, is really just not worth it. Leave it to the Internet to give them real heart-burn!

What they want; really, is nothing more than the traditional noddy dog backed by the various excellent musical themes of Monty Python on their screens.

Let them have it, and a wise company would take its money elsewhere.


The Cultural Tsunami is coming

Bahrain labour minister warns of ‘Asian tsunami’

A Bahraini minister has warned of an “Asian tsunami” because of the reliance of “lazy” Gulf Arabs on foreign labour to carry out even the simplest tasks, in an interview published on Sunday.

Labour Minister Majid al-Alawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the presence of almost 17 million foreign workers in the Gulf, mostly from the Asian sub-continent, represented “a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack”.

“I am not exaggerating that the number will reach almost 30 million in ten years from now,” he told the pan-Arab daily.

Alawi has called for the residency of foreign workers in the oil-rich Gulf states to be limited to six years but the leadership of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has not followed up on the proposal.

“The commercial lobby in the Gulf thwarted the project which was in the final phases before being implemented,” he said.

Alawi said that Gulf nationals were “lazy” and “spoilt”, relying on imported labour for the simplest of tasks.

“A lord with billions in Great Britain cleans his own car on a Sunday morning, whereas people of the Gulf look for someone to hand them a glass of water from just a couple of metres away,” he said.

“If the Gulf governments do not watch out for this tsunami of foreign labourers, the fate of this region is very worrying,” he said.

In October, Alawi called for the Gulf’s “sponsonship” system to be abandoned, saying it left foreign workers at the mercy of the individuals or institutions which employ them.

He called for government to oversee visas and work permits to protect the rights of foreign workers, in a region which human rights organisations have often accused of abusing employees in slave-like conditions.
AFP – 28 Jan, ’08

There you have it. It’s official. We – the Arabs – are lazy, greedy and incompetent. Said by the sitting Minister of Labour. The same minister who had his plans to limit the expatriate entry-level worker’s presence in the Gulf to a maximum of 6 years thwarted rather spectacularly by the Board of Directors of the Arabian Gulf.

The passion which was evident in his 6-year-stint plan has not left him, in fact he is now passionately warning of another ‘Asian Tsunami’ which will result in a complete demographic change in these countries. In his latest salvo, it is akin to him gleefully poking eyes and saying ‘I told you so’.

Mansour Al-Jamri, the editor of Al-Wasat in Bahrain agrees with him. In his column this morning, he outlines the legitimate danger [translate] this situation can result in. Al-Jamri suggests that foreign labour we customarily have and as their visas suggest, should not be classified as temporary due to their semi-permanence in our communities. He contends that what we really have is full-scale emigration. And this, denotes the possibility of them soon demanding their human and political rights.

Dubai Labourers with a local in the foregroundWhether we like it or not, international conventions give them those rights. After all, quite a lot of them have already surpassed the requirements to gain the citizenship in the country they chose to work in even by using local constitutions and laws.

When this happens, a big political problem will occur for our communities. This concerted and sudden demographic change left unchecked and uncontrolled will lead to social disharmony at the very least. In Bahrain, we are already experiencing this phenomenon with the supposed “immoral” naturalizations.

What’s the solution then? Just stop development and force a cultural change in the community to be more productive and less dependent? Of course not. A raft of changes must be adopted to change our way of life; inclusive rule, transparency and accountability will go a long way into forming a new society and even a new culture. Social responsibility will prevail and hopefully these problems will slowly come under control.

Whatever the proposed solutions; however, citizens must buy into them for them to have a chance of success. Unfortunately with the prevalent feeling of disenfranchisement that a lot of our fellow citizens feel, this new utopia will not materialise even with the promise of them ultimately being better off. Just like most people, they are concerned with the here and now, rather than accede to medium or longer term panaceas to these problems.

Without a real intrinsic structural and courageous change, the situation might spin completely out of control and the Gulf Arab will be completely marginalised. As Al-Jamri suggests, it is not too far fetched to have India exerting its major power in our countries by proxy. It will apply inordinate political and cultural influence by virtue of the millions of its citizens gaining citizenships, or even just continuing to live and work in our countries without any measure of control and without investing in the local population’s education and rehabilitation. Al-Jamri suggests that India’s political influence might well develop into making our countries a part of a “Commonwealth of India” soon, as its former citizens will gain positions of responsibility in both private and public sectors, even rising to ministerial positions within the Cabinet.

The situation is quite serious. Since 2005, Bahrain’s population has increased from 720k to over 1 million (if the CIO’s figures are to be believed). Foreigners have risen from 38% to 49% of the population. With the limited resources that Bahrain has, and more importantly, with the haphazard and unstudied policies we seem to be adopting, Bahrain most definitely will be at the forefront of Dr. Majid Al-Alawi’s tsunami.