What is Wrong with the Arab World?

Like the carbon paper in a notebook, the Arab world has tried to be but a mere carbon copy of its Western counterpart, and failed miserably, blindly emulating ideologies without fully understanding them.

There are a myriad of cases to further commiserate the truth behind this claim; celebrities, local media, law enforcement etc. let us explore some of those now.

Celebrities and The Media; In the Arab world, we strive so hard to emulate our Hollywood counterparts, yet we fail miserably. Our “cinema” is a joke. Our “celebrities” and I use the term loosely, spit out a movie every public holiday, whereas in Hollywood, a film can be teased 3 years prior to its release.

There is no sense of Social Responsibility, with our “celebrities” lending their endorsements to food items and junk, where their Hollywood counterparts are actually taking interest in global events. Fundraisers, concerts, charities for those victims in Haiti, Pakistan, Katrina etc. When was the last time you heard of an Arab celebrity taking interest in the less fortunate? Giving up their free time to help those in need?

Never, all we hear about is their scandals and tax evasions, failed marriages and failure soap operas.

Angelina Jolie, the UN Ambassador of Goodwill, takes her job seriously. You can find pictures of her in Afghanistan, taking an interest in the plight of women there. What do we have? Haifa Wahbi is thinking about donning a veil. Adel Emam is or used to be an “ambassador of goodwill”, what did he ever do?

I believe the only person we can be proud of is Egyptian Actor Hussein Fahmi, who resigned that post [Ambassador of Goodwill] in protest of the UN’s inaction to halt the Israeli aggression against innocent civilians in Lebanon, especially the most recent heart wrenching Qana bombings that kill over 60 civilians, mostly women and children.

The movie World Trade Center (starring Nicholas Cage) was recently playing on MBC 2. Director Oliver Stone took the tragic events of that fateful day and molded them into a movie that is meant to inspire hope, and show the world exactly how hard the USA was hit.

Is it any wonder why they hate us? Children will watch this movie, watch how “helpless” the US was against these foreign harbingers of terror and destruction. In a nutshell, it elicits sympathy and empathy from the world. What of the thousands who die in Iraq as a result of those same harbingers? Afghanistan? Gaza? Are they not victims too?

The veil of secrecy and decency is pulled over our eyes, and we see not but failed, slapstick comedies or attempted thrillers. No one ever discusses the important issues. Our attempt at humor is dry and ill-mannered at best, and attempts to raise social awareness are so apparent in the scripts they come off as idiotic, if not moronic and completely out of character, with the actors going as far as to gaze off into the distant horizon, as if at some distant yet unreachable Utopia.

I believe the latest issue of the proposed burning of the holy quran is testament to my point. The entire western community condemned the acts of this lunatic; Public Relations at its best. Representatives of other Religions, other Government Agencies, NATO, the Pope, Secretaries of States, the President even! They quickly disassociated themselves from this madman. Had the Arab world, either as a whole, or separately, risen up to condemn the acts of those vile, wretched harbingers of terror, immediately after the happenings of that tragic day, maybe we Arabs would not be viewed as evil today.

Nut how could we? Would it not be hypocritical for a government to condemn the acts of such villains, whilst at the same time arresting a “wizard” and planning his execution? Or inquiring whether a doctor would be able to medically paralyze a person as a result of them paralyzing another individual in a fit of rage at one point in time? Or sentencing a 75 year old woman to lashing as a result of her entertaining unrelated male guests in her house?

Take for example the recent incident in Arizona regarding the legislation that would allow law enforcers to randomly stop anyone in the street and ask for their identification documents. They viewed it as a breach of civil liberties, and let us face the facts, when it comes to illegal aliens residing within a country, I believe the USA trumps all the Arab world.

Here in Kuwait for example, is it not commonplace for a police officer to stop anyone in the streets and ask for their civil ID? Or stop a bus at random and check that everyone has their civil ID? At times I would live in fear of going to the grocery store right across the street, for I would need to carry my civil ID with me, and losing it is a whole other hassle.

One time, me, both my brothers and a friend we hadn’t seen in ages were sitting outside our building near a shop that is adjacent to it. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time, it was late and we lost track of time, a patrol car passed by us and stopped, asking for IDs. Now, I was standing right infront of my building, but the officer wouldn’t allow me, a child, to run upstairs and fetch my ID. He even went as far as saying he could pin a felony on us and say we were attempting to break into the shop we were standing by.

Civil liberties?

Human rights?

Are these terms virtually nonexistent in the State of Kuwait?

Here is another example, also recently, a blogger posted a picture of a garbage dump near their house, and how a bulldozer would come in to take the trash away. Mere days after its posting, the trench is cleared out and filled, and the Governorate sends him a thank you note. Good, right? Something is being done? What of the residents of a building whose owner went as far as pouring CEMENT into the sewer system, causing houses to flood with filth, in an effort to get them to move out?

I believe the key word I am looking for is DUALITY. The existence of duality in the Arab world. The hunger of those who have to stand in lines for hours on end just to buy a loaf of bread that is subsidized by the government, which is not fit for consumption by swine, much less people? Whilst others host wedding receptions for their daughters by flying in catering from Europe. Unbelievable? Believe it. It is true.

We in the Arab world do not value human life. Is it not commonplace to find laborers on a building site with no hard hats? Forget about that, what about welders, handling flames that cut through steel cables, at an intensity of hundreds of degrees, with no proper eye gear, with those steel filings flying like a plethora of fire-flies around them?

There was a great show during Ramadan on MBC1 called 5awa6er, or خواطر for those who wish to view it on Youtube, and I was so shocked at the comparison of muslims in the arab world to their counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia. We take Islam for granted; it is our historical heritage as opposed to actual way of life. Is it also not commonplace here to find a dictator of a CEO who cuts costs by underpaying employees and is extremely rude to his subordinates, prostrated on a prayer mat begging for mercy and wealth?

It has reached such a point as to people actually invoking the name of god and the idea of whatever is fated to happen will happen. Ask any foreigner in Kuwait what does the term “inshallah” mean. They will respond, “it is another way of saying you have a snowballs chance in hell.” Where in actuality, it means insha’a إنشاء “if wills”, allah الله “god”, if god wills. It is a more covert way of saying no. On 5awa6er, when restaurant cooks were asked why they do not wear gloves or hair nets when handling food, they simply answered leave your health to god, instead of the more logical, to me at least, explanation of them not making enough to cover the costs of these utensils. A moot point, yes indeed, but atleast it is more relevant than simply saying leave it to god.

I apologize, there has been and there are incidents of social and moral responsibility awareness through media, the very case I just mentioned was shown on TV, along with a woman who disrespects and torments her maid, not to mention the current ones showing how locals believe they can trample over the rights of expats. However, these are not endorsed by “celebrities”, and are shown in merely one venue. More needs to be done; it is not a hopeless case, but an uphill battle that with the proper determination and drive, can be overcome.

We need a dose or reality, social and moral responsibility. We must take a look in the mirror and see the problem, not ignore it.

In the Holy Quran:
[.. إن الله لايغير مابقوم حتى يغيروا مابأنفسهم وإذا أراد الله بقومٍ سوءً فلا مرد له ومالهم من دونه من والٍ ﴾[ الرعد:11)

[Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls) But when (once) Allah willeth a people’s punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him any to protect.] Ar-Ra’d: 11

So the question now is, are we blessed, or cursed?

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