Tuesday 26 March 2013

A Renaissance gone bad

Once upon a time far away in that mystical place called the Orient, there was a Kingdom in distress. So three Musketeers set out to save the land. One used to be a hero in his youth, many lifetimes ago, troubadours once roamed the land singing tales of his bravery. The second was known as the stuttering star.. in the West. His encounters with the powerful forces of the East couldn't prepare him for what he would meet in the Kingdom of Pharaohs. Long ago, he had worked with the Dark Lords (before they shed their white cloaks) thinking they were on his side, but they eventually turned on him. The third of the Musketeers was of the plebs, but he had one gift, his magical hair wooed the public, that special way he liked to comb it to the left made all the young maidens go wild.

The three Musketeers weren’t always so close, but once the Dark Lords rose to power, they decided to form a union in order to defeat them. Many were not pleased with this union of interests: Greybeard was one of them even though there was a time when he thought of joining in.It didn’t work out well in the end, partly because “The Four Musketeers” just doesn’t have a ring to it.

But that wasn’t the only reason, Greybeard had once been one of the elders in the Council of the Dark Lords, he had sworn an oath of fealty to the Supreme Lord of Darkness, a bond not easily broken. When Greybeard decided to disobey his Lord, he was banished from the pack, cursed to always roam the land, to be everything and nothing all at once. Not black nor white, but always in between, that was Greybeard’s place.

The Younglings were of little stature but with hearts of gold. They followed the tales of the three Musketeers closely, first with joy, but later with growing resentment and disappointment. It became clear the Musketeers were no match to the Dark Lords who had gold and could always count on the support of the Elephant Prince who lived in a far away land. The Dark Lords lived in a big castle on Mount Doom but always maintained close contact to their allies abroad.

The whole story started when the Younglings challenged the Fat King who had ruled the land for many many years. The Fat King was loved once, but as he grew older, his hearing weakened and so did his eyesight. After a long ride, he couldn’t land softly anymore.

When the Dark Lords felt his time had come, they joined the Younglings in their quest for power. The Dark Lords had been dreaming about this for a long time and it would become their first step to world-dominion. Once the Fat King fell, the true nature of the Dark Lords was revealed and they took off their white cloaks. In order to keep the Younglings on their side, they devised an evil scheme. They brewed a yellowy potion and gave it to the naïve Younglings who drank it joyously. The drink tasted good in the beginning, but as with many things in this story, later turned out to be an acidic poison.

And thus everyone waged battles against everyone in a war of all against all in the Kingdom of Pharaohs. Plagues hit the land and locusts left green fields behind as barren places of despair. Even in Mount Doom, confidence and arrogance had made way for discord and frustration. The Heir to the Supreme Head of the Council of Darkness was unhappy that his brother, the Spare, had become King. The Mad King, as he became known, felt unappreciated and unwanted. He had grown up jealous of his brother and thought becoming King would make up for his lost childhood. He used to threaten his subjects with things which cannot be named in a fairy tale such as this, suffice it to say that his threats only brought more misery upon him and his people and they lived happily never after.

Friday 15 March 2013

Everything is relative

It is time analysts and commentators lay off and stop criticizing Arabs for not being 'democratic', 'liberal' or 'human rightsy' enough. The truth of the matter is that Arabs aren't made for the whole democracy thing nor do they care for so-called human rights. In fact, polls suggest that dictatorship comes natural to Arabs and runs in their veins together with the unnaturally high amounts of tea they consume while sitting outside in the afternoons discussing Arab-stuff.

It is also time we are honest about those, from the West or from within the Arab world itself, who engage in public condemnation of actions committed by Arab rulers to protect society from foreign influences. These people are either paid agents or self-loathing Arabs who don't understand or appreciate their culture.

Let's discuss the case of the statement issued by the Muslim Brotherhood regarding the discussions recently held in the UN Commission on the Status of Women. The Muslim Brotherhood, being the only true representatives of the Arab people, as polls suggest, epitomize universally held values in the Arab world. Their rejection of the possibility of marital rape is but a reflection of what Arab and Muslim identity really stand for. We must trust that this is only in the interest of protecting society from "complete disintegration" as they say in their statement.

As the wise Protagoras said back in the 5th century BC (that is before all Western analysts became hell bent on destroying Arab identity) "Everything is relative". We must remember that like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, the right to physical integrity is also a mere Western construct that is not necessarily fit for Arab consumption. When the Muslim Brotherhood sees it fit to legalize FGM (female genital mutilation) or allow child marriages, it is an act of courageous rebellion against Western intervention. Things like police torture and trials of consciousness for atheists are absolutely normal in an Arab context, even if they're frowned upon elsewhere.

To the Western reader, I say, you must understand that democracy and Arabs don't mix. It is an achievement already that they were able to resort to the ballots, requiring them to fulfill the other complex requirements of a fair democratic process is asking too much. Arabs love dictators and hate democracy and this is why they are restoring dictatorships after they fell during the Arab Spring revolts. It was wrong to condemn the rulers then as it is wrong to condemn them now for simply trying to protect their societies. If the so-called human rights of individuals have to be sacrificed for the sake of the collective, then that is their prerogative.

And to those Arabs who advocate for human rights, I say that they must review their position. They must realize that they are tools in the hands of those who want "the intellectual and cultural invasion of Muslim countries, eliminating the moral specificity that helps preserve cohesion of Islamic societies" as the Muslim Brotherhood warns. 

Disclaimer: Just in case it wasn't clear: this is a parody of moral relativists and their dangerous views on the Arab world.

Sunday 10 March 2013

Perverse Paternalism

Recently, the American administration decided it wouldn’t give Samira Ibrahim the “Woman of Courage” award she was supposed to get. The reason for the change of heart was a series of tweets which demonstrated hatred, intolerance and dangerously ignorant thinking. This has caused much controversy and stirred up a lot of debate that deserves some analysis.

Samira appeared in the spotlights last year when she claimed she had been subjected to so-called “Virginity Tests” by the army. In a society where victims of sexual harassment are often blamed for the abuse they had to endure, it takes a lot of nerve to stand up and admit one has been the victim of such harassment. Furthermore, Samira’s case wasn’t just against anybody, it was against the institution which was then still in charge of the country. With over 100.000 Twitter followers, Samira is now a public figure whose case drew a lot of media attention both domestically and internationally.

In her tweets, Samira had wished for America to burn and this on the anniversary of 9/11. Furthermore, she expressed her joy at a terrorist attack which killed several (Israeli – does that matter?) civilians in Bulgaria. She also positively quoted Hitler as saying that the Jews are behind all the world’s problems. With regards to the anti-Islam film which has caused a lot of anger when it appeared last year, she said that the diaspora Copts are not the only ones to blame, but the entire West.

My aim is to discuss the responses to Samira’s tweets and the reactions they got. According to some, Samira was wrong in saying what she said, but shouldn’t have been deprived of the award regardless of that fact. In their view, the award was supposed to be for her courage in her ordeal with the army and shouldn’t be dependent on views she expressed in public. Ironically, Samira’s first reaction after people became aware of her tweets was to claim that her account had been hacked and that all racist or hateful tweets weren’t hers. Courage, as apparently some don’t know, is also about taking responsibility for one’s opinions and admitting the mistakes one makes. When it was clear she wouldn’t be getting any award, Samira made the claim that she had been pressured to apologize to the Zionist lobby for her tweets, claiming the Zionist lobby was the only problem. According to that theory, the U.S. would have gladly and readily rewarded a woman who wished for them to burn if only the “Zionist Lobby” hadn’t intervened.

The next important response is the one in which it is claimed that her statements should be put in context. The argument goes that since many Arabs use that kind of rhetoric, what Samira did “isn’t really that bad”. This reasoning is flawed on many levels. Firstly, there is the assumption that this kind of anti-Western, anti-Jewish, anti-Coptic rhetoric is a natural thing to Arabs and therefore excusable in some way. It’s as if the proponents of this view believe that "Arabs just can’t help it". Needless to say, those who adhere to this idea insult Arab individuals in a very profound way. Secondly, the pseudo-logic of justifying a mistake “because someone else did it” might be expected of children aged 5-7, but surely not of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously in a grown-up world.

Finally, some people rushed to the defence of Samira Ibrahim claiming she is a poor, uneducated girl who simply didn’t know better. Apparently, one needs to go to Harvard to learn that reveling in the death of innocent civilians is wrong. Also clear from this reasoning is the very nasty habit which many (mostly leftist) pundits have adopted in which poverty is used to justify unacceptable behaviour. Again, in the assumption that “poor people just can’t help being bigoted, intolerant and inhumane individuals”. Surprisingly (well, not really) those who claim to defend the interests of the poor by speaking on their behalf, are insulting them in a very paternalistic way.

The fact of the matter is that what Samira Ibrahim did was wrong. And it was possibly even worse to deny it and then claim hero-status for having supposedly resisted immense pressure from the Zionist lobby (nota bene: the tweets mentioned above weren't about Israel or Zionism at all). Thankfully many activists loudly denounced what she did, but there remains a large portion which believes defending such behavior can somehow be beneficial. The reality is that it will only perpetuate the problem. We need harsh self-criticism and strong principles in the realization that we won’t move forward unless we start taking responsibility and demanding that others bear the consequences of their actions as well.

You can read more about the facts of the story here