Earn your "wasta" through hard work
Here we go again. Days into Republican President George W. Bush's military campaign against the universally condemned regime of Saddam Hussein, and across the Arab world TV commentators, academics and men and women on the street are busy blaming the "Jewish lobby" - and seemingly blaming it for everything. Be it in Jordan, Lebanon or Syria where I have spent the first week of the war, that's the word on the street, in the air and on the internet. This is an Israeli war, not an American one.
E-mails are circulating with old statements signed by Frank Gaffney, Richard Perle, and Bill Kristol condemning bin Laden, Saddam and Hizbullah. And I recently got a text message from someone very close to me asking if Paul Wolfowitz has Israeli citizenship.
This time of great suffering for the Iraqi people and pain for the Arab world may not be ideal for the following self criticism, but I feel compelled to write: This superficial level of analysis is not only smacks of self-denial, its just plain sad. And the same thing happened a year ago when Bush and the US Congress largely stood idly by as Israel waged a brutal war against the Palestinian people. The Arab world blamed the Jewish lobby in Washington.
America also has failed many, many times over. And believe me, when I go back to Washington, my colleagues will get an earful about that. But it's time for the Arab world to "wake up and smell the coffee." Actually, it's been that time for decades. But coffee hasn't seemed to have worked, so maybe the smell of Tomahawk cruise missile explosions will get people in the Arab world to understand - they need to work hard themselves if they want to see American policy change in way that they like. No one else will do it for them-certainly not the likes of Gaffney, Perle and Kristol.
How can the Arab world change things? Although it is true that many in the Jewish-American community have been very, very effective at advocating for US policies that favor Israel regardless of whether these policies severely harm the Arab world, there are certainly those like the late Jewish-American Senator Paul Wellstone who advocated policies with great compassion toward the Palestinian people and the Arab world. There are also many "neoconservatives" now in the Bush administration who have long been advocating the use of American force against Saddam and Hizbullah and granting Israel a freer hand to use violence as well. True, there are Jews among this group, but there are also people of just about every other ethnicity.
So the "Jewish lobby" is not the issue. True, there are advocates in the US for supporting Ariel Sharon-like policies, and these advocates are effective. But the Arab world has largely itself to blame for the predicament in which it finds itself. And it should stop whining and start working-and working hard to fix the problem.
When I last counted, there were nearly 300 million Arabs. That's a lot of people. And unlike the Arab world I was born into in 1967, today's Arabs are highly educated, have access to satellite TV, the internet and most of the middle and upper classes have friends or relatives living in Europe or North America.
So there is no longer any excuse for the Arab world to not directly engage the political system in the United States and taking matters directly into their own hands.
So what are the steps? First, apply this general rule I learned early on in life: If you don't like something, then learn about how it works and change it.
So if the Arab world does not like the shape of US foreign policy, then its leaders and citizens alike need to undertake a rapid and intensive course in learning about the institutions and mechanisms that formulate US policy. That means opening up institutions of higher learning to study US policy at every university in the Arab world and maybe even requiring every high school and university student to take courses in US and European foreign policy.
It also means that those Arab students who are studying in the US and Europe-whether they are studying chemistry, language or politics-need to personally volunteer on political campaigns. The benefits could be enormous: Arabs would learn about the political process so that they will be better able to influence it. The young Americans who are working on campaigns and who are thus most likely to be future political leaders will get favorable impression of Arabs. And relationships will develop between future American and Arab leaders that will stand the test of time so that decades from now at times of crisis between the US and the Arab world will be able to pick up the phone and call each other to discuss the nuances of policy and hopefully avert crisis. I recently met a young political leader in Syria who studied politics with Americans who now serve as key staffers in the US Congress and in the Bush Administration. It is these sorts of relationships that will bear fruit in the years to come. We needs tens of thousands of them, not just dozens. In Arabic it's called "wasta". In America, the difference is that you don't get it because of who your parents are, you earn your "wasta" through hard work. So get to work.
Second, the Arab world needs to promote creative debate and civic engagement. Forget the buzzwords like "democratization" and "regime change." How about some genuine analysis that recognizes the weaknesses in society? That offers alternative analysis to the roots of problems and offers creative solutions. That breaks the old stereotypical analysis of blaming the West and the Jewish lobby for everything. These analyses have clearly failed. Something else is required. Progress requires a public debate that recognizes weaknesses, failures and plots a way forward. Let the debate begin.
Third, ordinary people and journalists in the Arab world need to engage the US directly. Anyone who can write in English and has access to the internet can and should be writing letters to the editor of US newspapers about their views. Yes, the letters to the editor pages in US newspapers do play a formative role in policy formulation. And Americans are very hungry for Arab opinions these days. Get writing.
Sadly, ordinary people in the Arab world today have nowhere near the capacity to stop this war, let alone pick up the telephone to make personal calls to American decision-makers. But if these steps are followed - quickly and vigorously - you can be sure that decades from now there will be a stronger mutual understanding between the US and the Arab world. If not, there will surely future crises like the Palestinian catastrophe, the war on Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks that will lead to more pain for Arabs, Americans, and the world alike.
Hady Amr was formerly national director for Ethnic American Outreach for Al Gore's presidential campaign. He can be reached at [email protected]. He wrote this commentary for The Daily Star.
Of course we are lost, but we can find the way by changing ourselves.
Learning to behave in a manner which causes people to respect us, not to look down upon us as uncivilized beings.
We have to ask ourselves serious questions. Why is that more than 40% of muslim children lack basic health and education when most of these countries have enough natural resources to last them for centuries?
What happened to the voices of the scholars/intellectuals and so on of muslim nations who can bridge the knowledge gap between poor muslim countries and those of the North rich countries?
Civilization is about sharing knowledge, resources, culture, harmony and so on. However, one must also realise it takes all nations to participate in this.
I hope what is happening in Iraq is a wake up call for every conscious humanbeing so that we can create harmony in this world. Otherwise all our efforts of today be it democracy, peace and so on will simply be a history tomorrow.
Globalsomaliland Women actively participates in promoting ICT(Information Communication Technology) to bridge the digital divide(computer have's and have not's) between the North rich countries and the South poor countries. Information is about people, knowledge and so on and if the poor are marginalised we will never reach our quest for world harmony and peace. It takes decades to build simple logical steps in reaching our goals for creating resources and knowledge to help build our communities across t
Arabs have a spiritual and worldly obligation to remedy their "perpetual ills" today before tomorrow via whatever means there is out there, working with or without the US.
What a noble concept...would be most excellent if it worked.
Unfortunately, Mr. Hady Amr, we also need a plan on how to get the "Arabs" to even stomach EACH OTHER before they take on Western society.
What's UNFORTUNATE is Islam is being drawn through the MUD because ARABS are too stupid for their own good....and they and their actions are UNFORTUNATELY used to judge what Islam is all about.
Guys ,quick fixes don't exist .The fall of the arab world has been going on for over 5 centuries and you are still calling for quick fixes..........because Iraq was destroyed in 2 weeks and we might not have time in years to get where we want to......so let's patch it for a while.
The problem with that argument is it has been used over and over again during the past decades and most are still advancing it today.
One of the main problem is to regenerate this identity of ours as arabs and muslims .I'm always amazed by the brightness,compassion and strength of some of my "arab and muslim" friends and disgusted by some others.We have a great culture , morals, ethics and we fail to use them or we are avoiding them for a less apparently conflictual attitude with the west.
Some tend to think because we are muslims (i'm leaving out arabs here ) we should avoid the west becasue their values might corrupt us .They will corrupt us if we loose our identity ,if we don't cultivate tolerance for other people differences.Things can't be black & white ,there 's a lot of shades of grey in between.
When,I read the prophet Muhammad's(pbuh) life I'm amazed by the degree of love, tolerance , wisdom and intelligence he showed in every matter facing him.
I will encourage all of you to follow his example and learn from his life.
We need deep reforms at and an individual level first ." Wala oughairou Allah shaoy'oun bi qawmin hata youghairou wabi anfoussihim".
Assalamou alaikoun wa hafidakoumou allah.
In addition we must learn to articulate our cause in a more effective manner. There is no point in burning flags, this achieves nothing, we must remove all the fundementals of the Wests argument with regards to their Foreighn Policy with educated arguements and above all with true facts. This will allow their hyprcisey to shown for what it is. In general muslim's in the west are best suited to implemete these changes.
It has become our duty to take this role on, our faith instructs as to act against aggression. Our homeland has been rapped enough we must take a stand against further acts of aggression all muslims must unite after all we all belong to te same family.
These so called leaders maitain a luxary life style for themslevles and provide no incentives for their "Nationals" to work. I recently went to Dubai on business and was shocked that 90% of the workforce is imported from Pakistan, India Maylasia and European countries. No NO-Arab national has any citiztenship rights even regardless of how long they have been there or even if they are born there. I addition Arab nationals are provided with bonds for each shild and are given free health care and education. No Non-Arab is allowed to own property or start Investment without majority share gong to a Arab-national who must sponser the adventure first.
This whole set up removes all incentives to educate one slef or evn pursue some sort of profession. The oil money has provided great benefits to thse Emirates but at the cost of any educated professionals. If you were a citizen why would you change the system that provided you with everything?
All of these small non-geographical Emirates were all designed to foster such ineptness by the Western powers after the WW1. Western companies have probably made more money out consultanancy and professional services to these Arab Emirates than they have in Net OIL revenues. Before the Irani Revolution, the British government was making more money in Tax revenues than the SHAH!!!
By following the sunnah of Muhammad
I tend to think that the same reasons that jumpstarted the implosion of the islamic world in the 15th century ,are still the same causing us to stagnate in mediocrity and hopelessness.
Extremism in one hand and the fear put in the arab world inhabitants by their respective governments have reduced drastically our capacity to take initiative and deal with all problems and questions with no restrictions.
I'm a firm believer that this fall can't go on for ever and we are seeing lately the Symptoms of the awakening of the Arab and Islamic world to the necessity of a change.
I'm aware that this won't happen overnight but it will happen.
Assalamou aalaikoum jamian ,hafadoukoumou allah
For all arabs and muslims to study American and European foreign policy is also a sheer waste of effort. It is better for muslims, whether they are arab or not to study the basics of Islam rather than the foreign policy of their oppressors. It is better for muslims to realize that one muslim is a brother to another. Our route out of our predicament is back to Islam rather than to become well educated hecklers at the court of oppressors in Europe and America.
One cannot expect OIC "Organization of Islamic COWARDS" to help Arab delima.
The Arabs cannot win the west with WMD. They should work towards A)Moving the Public openion and B) Finding ways of neutralizing WMD by advancing in Science. They will find that neutralising WMD is much simpler, cheaper and safer than the weapons themselves.
Stop self pity,and blaming others for your own failures.It is time the Arabs woke up.
The only problem is that most educated Arabs are from the Elite class and very few from middle and working class.
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab".
I am sorry if i have taken the article in the wrong sense, actually i like the article but i thaught this point needs to be addressed.
Thank you and impatiently waiting for reply.
Also I work with various campus Jewish groups in creative Muslim-Jewish dialogues and reapproachment project...focusing on 'Peace Week' events in various universities in Fall 2003.
Hard difficult, emotionally draining, working against the grain work and lots of outreach to bring others to the 'Peace' cause we do.
"If you do what you always did, you will get what you have always gotton."
"Allah does not change the condition of a people till first they change first what is within themselves"
By the way I am entering a graduate Certification in Public Relations in September as frankly among other things the Muslim World has horrible PR skills. ;o)
May the weight of a 1000 stones be lifted off of your shoulders!
I am an American living in California. I apreciate you guys being up front. But, i doubt anything will come true. All the time, I here Muslims saying they are going to insitute reforms, and then nothing happens. Zilcho. Sounds like the old same talk...
I wholeheartedly agree with the author. However, I would take this assessment one step further in saying that it is the Muslims that have no one to blame but ourselves for the state we are in. If Muslims constitute one body, and if one part has pain then don't the others feel pain with it? Isn't the humilation of Arab Muslims my humilation as a Muslim as well? Doesn't Arab corruption and lawlessness reflect on me as a Muslim and upon Muslims everywhere? Unless and until Muslims really and truly inculcate this belief of a true ummah into our thoughts and practices then we will continue to be victims of our own ignorance. Sadly, it has taken us far too long in realizing this. We need to make tawba. We need to be better Muslims individually and demand and assume the best of fellow Muslims.
I am very much impresed by Hady Amr's article. Actually, almost every muslim think that the Muslim world, specially the wealthy countries, should encourage their citizen to work hard to make their country self relient and eventually self defend. It is also necessary that they should have nuclear weapons to balance the military imbalance with their neighbouring countries, I think UN wouldn't mind over the arm race now as it failed to prevent the war in Iraq. They should atleast have waeapons built or bought from America, russia, France, Pakistan or any other country to defend themselves before it is too late. As most of the people in middle east already know the intensions of Israel and if it happened for Israel to wage a war against any country in the name if terrorrism no one might be able to stop. Even America. Israel might finish its work while America and the UN were issuing the warnings, as they did last year when they were attacking Palestine in which many people were killed. Every citizen is very important to his/her country and they can make a difference. This is the best time to think about the future and remove all the differences they have, if any, and work togather to defend their country against the unexpected and to help the world make a peaceful world by removing hatered from the hearts of the non muslim world.
That was a good article. I agree that people need to stop blaming others and look into themselves. It's a good idea to learn about U.S foreign policy but I don't believe that is the reason why the muslim world in this terrible condition. I believe what has happend is that a large majority of us have strayed away from the Qur'an and sunnah of the prophet(saws). This period of afflictions is nobodys fault but our own. History proves this. Spain is a great example of what I mean. The muslims ruled Spain for 800 years or very close to it but became lazy. They became comfortable and were not striving in the path of Allah(swt) as they should... as we all should. What happened to them, Allah(swt) made their enemies to sit on their heads just like what is going on today.
We as a whole to go back to Qur'an and sunnah, reflect on it, and gain some understanding. We need to sincerely beg forgivness from Allah(swt) and try to change our own condition instead of blaming others within or outside of the ummah. We need to seriously ask ourselves what it is that we're striving for. Is it for this temporary and transient dunya or is it for the pleasure of obeying Allah(swt) making it to the paradise?
I don't feel that it is fair to blame the Arabs or the Jews or even America for any of this. It is the muslim ummah as a whole who is to blame for these atrocities and injustices. The only answer is to return to the straight path, there is no way around it. May Allah(swt) reward and guide us all inshaallah.
Arabs have every reason to blame the Americans and Jews, especially the Palestinians of them, because they are being victimized on a daily basis.
I mean why is it when Arabs complain about the agression and racism directed at them from the Jews and their American supporters every smart-alec jumps on the bandwagon and bray that they "should blame themselves?"
Why everybody squirms at applying the same argument about the Jews under Nazi rule? Why nobody pontificates that "the Jews have themselves to blame for the Holocaust"?
The Jews, in spite of their tremendous power in Western societies, never tire of of cuing the violins of endless Holocaust stories to provoke more and more sympathy so that everybody would turn a blind eye on what Israel is doing.
But if Arabs or Muslims claim victim status, everybody barks: "Blame yourselves!"
Villagers poured out to protest as the bulldozers tore down the village market, the main source of income for Nazlat Issa's 2,500 residents.
Some of them threw stones at the soldiers, who responded with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.
The village was once a place of peaceful co-existence. Nazlat Issa is among several Palestinian villages along the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, which thrived under the Oslo peace accords. Israelis from across the Green Line came here to shop and take advantage of lower prices in the West Bank. The village economy boomed.
The market is now the site of one of the biggest Israeli demolitions in the West Bank for years. The Israeli army has been condemned by human rights groups for flattening the family homes of alleged militants and suicide bombers. But that was not the reason for the destruction this time: these shops had nothing to do with suicide bombers. The Israeli authorities said they were demolished because they were built illegally. But the leading Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem accused the government of using that as an excuse.
I am of Pakistani descent and my experience growing up with Arabs has been mixed. There are many who are bright, articulate and very pleasant to be around. However, the majority were arrogant, racist and extremely obtuse. They were lions when it came to fighting other Arabs or Muslims but were little pussycats when it came to confronting anyone that was white, particularly American or British.
The Arab people need to understand that the world has changed but they have not. The Jews and Americans are looking out for their own interests. Arabs and Muslims need to channel the hate and anger, which is rightly justified, into hard work, tolerance and education. We don't need more extreme religious schools, Mosques or weapons but primary schools, universities and civil societies. Only then will we obtain freedom and the blessing of Allah.
Step 1 - Overthrow your despotic tyrants: Mubarak, Assad, Gadhafi, the House of Saud and the Hashemite Kingdom.