Sunday, 8 April 2007

Human Rights in Iraq?! Give me a break!

The promise of freedom welfare and hope, brought by the Americans in their "just" war, evaporated with the first soldier stepping on the Iraqi lands. Fear, violence, use of banned chemical weapons, mass murder, and rape are the American explanation of a brighter future for the Iraqis. Serious concerns about human rights in Iraq rise and fade out with the endless number of daily violations. News about trials and court martial sessions are propagated but no further coverage is available for many of the incidents that remain 'under investigation'.

More than 10,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the first year as a direct result of the American occupation of Iraq. According to Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, over 12,000 Iraqis were killed from January 2005 - June 2006.

The major scandal of Abu-Ghraib in 2004, in which inhuman acts of torture, murder, and rape of Iraqis of all ages and genders were committed, drew the attention of the international community to what is actually happening in Iraq. The horrifying photos that were released in addition to the testimonies of the prisoners proved the occurrence of unbelievably cold-blooded crimes like:
- Attack dogs snarling at cowering prisoners
- Naked prisoners forced to have sex with each other
- American soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys
- Pouring phosphoric acid on detainees
- Urinating on detainees
- Torture that leads to death
- Shooting prisoners
- Raping female detainees

However, Abu-Ghraib was not the start or the end of the series of abuses taking place every day in Iraq. Here are some examples of the true side of the American face seen in Iraq:

It has been reported that there was a repetitive use of white phosphorus in April 2004, November 2004, and three times in November 2005 in Fallujah, resulting in mass murder of civilians including women and children. The use of White Phosphorus results in fatal burns and the acidic gas can attack the eyes and mucous membranes. Such use is internationally banned against civilians.

The village of Mukaradeeb was attacked by American helicopters on May 19, 2004, killing 42 men, women and children. The casualties, 11 of whom were women and 14 were children, were confirmed by Hamdi Noor al-Alusi, the manager of the nearest hospital.

Abeer and Asma
In 12 March 2006, six US soldiers from the 502nd Infantry Regiment gang-raped and murdered Abeer a 14-year old girl after killing her family and burning the lower part of her body. The crime remains under investigation.

In May 2003, Asma, a young engineer, was abducted in Baghdad. Asma was kidnapped in a car and driven to a farmhouse outside Baghdad, where she was said to have been repeatedly raped. The following day, she was thrown out of a car near her house. No news of investigation was announced.

Haditha Massacre
In 19 November 2005, 24 Iraqi civilians including women and children were killed in the Haditha Massacre when the American marines bombed their neighborhood when searching for a suspect. The massacre investigation remains open.

The "unlikely" Incident of Ishaqi!
InMarch 2006, the US troops were accused of deliberately shooting 11 people, including five children and four women, in Ishaqi, and blowing up their houses. Despite the availability of compelling evidences, the American government refused to continue investigating the crime, commenting on it as "unlikely to be true".

The doomed wedding
In19 May 2004, following a local wedding in the small village of Mukaradeeb, the American forces bombed the village killing 42 civilians. American military claimed that traditional celebratory gunfire was misinterpreted as an attack on American helicopters. The bombing took place twenty four hours after the alleged celebratory gunfire, at 3 AM. The crime remains under invertigation

Respecting the Freedom of Religion!
Al Askari Mosque bombing occurred on Feb 22 2006. Although no injuries occurred in the blast, the bombing resulted in violence over the following days. Over 100 dead bodies with bullet holes were found on February 23, and at least 165 people are thought to have been killed.Most if not all of these crimes are said to be under investigation; an investigation that seems to have no end.

These crimes take place everyday in every part of Iraq, not by the 'Iraqi insurgents' but by the American heroic troops in a severe smothering of the simplest of human rights.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Peace in Palestine

For decades now, we have been hearing about negotiations and people sitting around the peace table to talk about the doomed future of the occupied land of Palestine. With each side blocking their ears and waiting for the other to lean, nothing but more blood and more loss are happening each day. With Israel hiding behind the only super power in the world, with the Vito card in their pocket ready to stop anyone from attempting to find a solution that could have a shred of justice, nothing would ever be done with the scale of power unbalanced to such a deteriorated extent.

Again the Arab leaders joined in their fancy ball room to talk about the future of peace, playing the same old game of hollow rhetoric and superficial patriotism. I sit there to watch them, knowing that a big zero will be the outcome of their big words and lavish banquets. How would they ever feel the suffering of a young girl, lying silent in a poor hospital, who has just lost her family under the fire of bombing, or a helpless young man who has no hope in a simple secure future with a stone in his hand as his only self defence. The irony of the situation lies in the generations that come and go with unshaken belief in their rights, being accompanied by weak leaders sitting round the peace table doing them nothing at all. The faces might change, yet the same attitude remains on both sides.

And here we are again, the leaders are talking, and the people are dying. May God bless the noble land of Palestine standing tall with no protector except the young man with the stone in his hand.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Hijaab Reflections: A Moment of Truth (1)

It was a moment of peace and serenity; one of those moments where one feels detached from their surroundings and involuntarily close to something bigger and more important. It was a moment of reflection and deep connection. I found myself opening the Qur’aan to Surat Al-Ahzab (The Allied Parties). I had just watched a television programme where this ayah (verse) was mentioned in passing and for some reason I needed to read it to myself once again in more detail. I needed to read it with my heart this one time.

“O you Prophet, say to your spouses and your daughters and the women of believers…”

Women of believers! This ayah is talking to me. This message is for me. I found myself in a cautious and attentive mode, eyes widening with anticipation. My heart raced, what will I read next?

“…that they draw their outer garments closer to them…”

Be modest and be chaste. I contemplated for a moment. Cover up and do not expose yourself. I silently agreed as I searched for more.

“…that will (make) it likelier that they will be recognised…”

Recognised?! I read it again – recognised. Why does Allah want me to be recognised and what does He want me to be recognised as? Is it as a Muslim or is it as a true believer? I looked at myself for a second. Maybe He wants me to be identified as one who is close to Him, one whom He loves. Maybe He wants people to realise that I love Him and believe in Him. My heart beat with intensity. The meaning of this ayah is much bigger than I ever imagined, but wait, there is still more.

“…and so will not be hurt.”

The emotions building within me could not contain themselves anymore and my eyes watered instantly. Here was the reason being stated plain and simple. Is this why Allah wants me to be recognised? Allah wants me to cover up so that people can associate this modesty with His love for me. He wants to protect me! He wants me to be recognised and to be specifically distinguished from other women so that I could be protected.

“And Allah has been Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.”(33:59)

In spite of my misgivings and in spite of my weaknesses, He forgives and He is kind.

I never contemplated the meaning of this ayah in that way before. Just reading it with my heart and realising its sweet and poignant meaning brought tears of regret and shame to my eyes at Allah’s blatant affection. Tears that expressed the years I had wasted ignoring and reading this ayah superficially; living my life superficially. I remembered the times I had comforted myself with the thought that I was always conservatively dressed and modest in behaviour. I never felt any different from a non-Muslim who was also conservatively dressed and modest in behaviour. I never felt the need to be different; we are all humans after all. Religion is a way of life, not manifested in the way you look. Yet here was Allah saying it so clearly, that He wanted me to be different. He wanted people to know that these morals - modesty, chastity, dignity, strength of resolve and belief - these high values were inherent and central to Islam. He wanted me to be distinguished and identified in that sense. He wanted me to be protected so people with weak hearts would not hurt me! It was no longer a matter of just being conservative and modest in the regular sense. He wanted me to be identified by everyone, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, as someone who has these values. Yet how else would I be different if I already cover my whole body? How would I distinguish myself as one who is close to Allah? It suddenly dawned upon me like a bolt of lightning. The only way for me was to wear a scarf!

Many a time did I hear this ayah explained in a harsh, forthcoming way as a clear indication of it being an order to cover up and be veiled. It was always firmly indicated not only to cover one’s body but also one’s hair. I had always wondered about the significance of covering one’s hair. Would a head cover make that much of a difference? Surely it must be an over-exaggeration. Then again what about the millions of women the world over who cling to their scarves like it had become a part of them. I never understood it until this moment. It was suddenly all crystal clear! That last part of the ayah, Allah’s Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful nature was always viewed as a warning. Yet never did I consider it as a gentle gesture of affection. The same way one protects a treasure from harm by covering it up and looking after it. How blind and deaf I had been! A stance not shared by any of His creations to be likened to a valuable token of affection.

I wiped my tears as I felt the shame filling my heart at the wasted time and years. How weak one is in reality. How non-obliging and ungrateful we can be as humans to Allah’s boundless blessings. May Allah forgive me. I knew that this was the beginning of a life-changing moment. My outlook to the world would never ever be the same again.

This is the first in a series of reflection on hijaab.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Doublespeak in the Oratory of G.W. Bush

Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell

Countless examples of doublespeak (1) have invaded our daily vocabulary and became an ordinary part of it; these examples usually find their way to the public through their constant use by the media and public political speakers. Among this phrasing we can find ‘collateral damage’ for innocent bystander deaths or injuries, ‘friendly fire’ for death caused by mistaken shooting of one’s own allies, ‘defence’ for war as in the Department of Defence, moreover, we usually hear ‘incontinent ordnance’ for accidental bombarding of civilians or schools, and ‘ethical cleansing’ for genocide, etc. Using such meaningless phrases perfectly fits in Orwell’s analysis of their use:
Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. (Politics and the English language: 12)

Sometimes truth can spring out from a photo, and speak for itself. It can say things that can be comprehended by all. However, what is ironic about the whole matter is that describing the photo in words can indeed be misleading. Talking about the horrifying torture that happened in Abo-Ghraib Prison in Iraq, one would think that these photos are taken from a Hollywood horror movie. But never would it come to the mind that they are real pictures of Iraqis imprisoned by the American heroic liberators who came to free the Iraqis from villains and tyrants, as they always claim. Although, the matter does not seem to be open for interpretation, as the photos clearly show an act of torture, the American leaders seem to hold another view. In political terminology, nothing is certain and everything is open for interpretation, as political words are elastic by nature. President Bush describes this incident as follows:
The American people were horrified by the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. These acts were wrong. They were inconsistent with our policies and our values as a Nation. I have directed a full accounting for the abuse of the Abu Ghraib detainees, and investigations are underway to review detention operations in Iraq and elsewhere. (June 26, 2004: President's Statement on the U.N. International Day in Support of Victims of Torture)

The calculated use of the generic term ‘abuse’ instead of the severer term ‘torture’ is made in order to create a less significant image of a wrong behaviour. We can easily notice how the speaker chooses a lighter word that does not create such a brutal mental image, as the word ‘torture’ would have done. What is actually done here is belittling the subject into a trivial unintentional mistake done by an exceptionally lawless bad soldier; this mistake does not represent an attitude or policy of the administration, but only a circumvention of an individual. The speaker is presenting us with a stark example of doublespeak, as he intends to avoid the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of an act of torture, while ‘abuse’ would only seem tolerable.

His use of the definite tone in ‘these acts were wrong’ implies firmness and finality. This tone is used as a complement of the same sequence, as it shows the speakers undoubted attitude about the unpleasant incident, and thus it leaves no chance for condemning him with its responsibility. As a result, the government leaders will come out clean from the whole matter, and will look honest and peace - loving despite the blood that still stains their hands.

The word ‘detainees’ also presents a less serious impact than ‘prisoners’, as the first implies temporary confinement. Accordingly, the doublespeak of the orator is an act of thought corruption, as it aims at concealing and twisting the truth. The American crime done in Abo Ghraib is a proof of the fear and not the hope brought by the Americans.

The two terms ‘terrorist’ and ‘freedom fighter’ can be said to be nearly synonymous, as both terms mean armed political rebel or fighter. However, the irony that envelops the use of these two terms is emphasised by the fact that ‘terrorist’ is used for the bad guy; the one fighting against us, while a ‘freedom fighter’ is the good guy, as he is one of us or fighting with us.
Terrorists who attack a self-governing Iraq are showing us and the Iraqis who they really are. They're not fighting foreign forces; they're fighting the Iraqi people. They're not just enemies of America; they're enemies of democracy and hope. They're enemies of a peaceful future in Iraq. As Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq said last week, "Anyone involved in these attacks is nothing more than a traitor to the cause of Iraq's freedom and the freedom of its people." He went on to say, "These are not freedom fighters. They are terrorists and foreign fighters opposed to our very survival as a free state." The Prime Minister and I share the same resolve. (June 16, 2004 President Salutes the Military at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa)

The president is talking about the hope brought by the Americans, which turned out to be murder, torture and imprisonment of any person suspected of patriotic feelings. The American law in prohibits the Iraqi citizens to fight against the concurring forces, thus these rebels are labelled as terrorists not just against America but also against America’s vision of Iraq.

MacDill (2) is the home of the U.S. Central Command. The Command was activated in the early 1980s. Back then, America needed CENTCOM (3) to help protect our allies from aggression and to support Afghan freedom fighters. (ibid)
What is ironic about this excerpt is who is here being named as freedom fighters. The Afghan freedom fighters are Osama Bin Laden’s group who were then fighting against the Soviets. At this time, United States’ biggest enemy was the other global force; the USSR. Accordingly, the fighters in Afghanistan were supported as they had a mutual enemy. The same people are now called terrorists, because it is now a new era. The change of interests has also changed the label from one opposite to the other.

Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy. (State of the Union: 2002)
The only reason that the group responsible for calculating the embassy’s bombarding is being labelled as terrorists is that they are working against the United States. They are on the other side, so they are terrorists.

Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. A terrorist underworld -- including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad … -- operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities. (State of the Union 2002)
You have to share the same perspective of the speaker in order to see that all the groups mentioned here deserve to be called terrorists. However, if you are not on the same side, then you can see that they are freedom fighters struggling against an evil mighty power that is Israel, which is occupying their land destroying their homes and killing hundreds of their people everyday. You will find that there is no shame in what they are doing; on the contrary, it is a patriotic act. Therefore, it all depends on where you stand and on whose side. Doublespeak prospers when liberators are seen through the eyes of invaders.

In fact, such labels gain authority from the one who uses these labels. Such phrases do not describe an inner attribute of the one holding this label, but they express the speaker’s own perspective and the way he wants others to think about and evaluate that person or group. Accordingly, governmental official speakers, especially the most powerful speaker: the president, play the leading role in determining the identity of the terrorist, which leads us to the notion that “speaking is governing”. Steven Livingston argues that:
The power to shape perceptions of violent events and their principal actors (both perpetrators and victims) usually rests not with the terrorists but with government official. Who the terrorists are in the first place is a question largely determined by these officials. Those who have routine access to the mass media, those to whom reporters turn when the dust settles and shooting stops, have the ability to shape coverage and perceptions. (Quoted in Silberstein: 2002: 3).
Therefore, it would only be appropriate to think about what the Americans are doing in Iraq from a different perspective than the one they are claiming. Let us see things from the other side for a change. According to the United States Department of Defence, terrorism can be defined as: the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. ( Next, we are going to witness how a different stand of what is being said can lead to a different understanding. The coming excerpts will try to prove how the American doings in Iraq can be considered an act of terrorism according to their own definition of the term.

Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. (May, 1, 2003: President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln)
This excerpt is one example out of many others that state the tactical use of force to dispose of the Iraqi government. Therefore, the Americans have themselves fulfilled the first rule of carrying out a terrorist act: the calculated use of violence …intended to coerce or to intimidate government or society. Of course, the motive declared by the US officials is to free Iraq from the dictator, however, they chose to end the Iraqi tragedy by the introduction of a new kind of tragedy; invasion. Therefore, the Iraqis are now free from a tyrant, but are captives in the hands of their new leaders and invaders. The sentence: “no device of… from war” is very intriguing due to the fact that it implies the accidental loss of civilians in this act of war, which according to the speaker can be justified by a nobler aim; a known Machiavellian law.

We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime… We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq…And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government …We are committed to freedom in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in a peaceful Palestine. The advance of freedom is the surest strategy to undermine the appeal of terror in the world. (ibid)

As has been said before, the label of ‘terrorist’ is now an American trademark that is given to anyone who stands in the way. The American president classifies the world into two groups: with or against. Accordingly, the parts in Iraq that remains dangerous are the parts where Iraqi rebels have chosen to stand in the way of the invader. Therefore, it would only seem inevitable to get rid of any voice asking for a real freedom that is not presented by the Americans, so at first these voices must be labelled as terrorists in order to fit in the scheme. Consequently, the Iraqi resistance of the US intrusion is not tolerated by the Americans, who chose to intimidate the society after the coup d’etat.

A second point raised by this excerpt is one of the political reasons behind the war; the elimination of any opportunity of possessing a nuclear power that would threaten the American domination of the world. A final point is implementing the American vision of the Middle East and the Moslem world at first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, and Palestine. The modern Iraq is being built according to American standards, with a new federal government that would play its role designed in accordance with the American vision. An ideological aim springs out here; the American government is scheming to shape the lives of other nations, specifically in Iraq, in a way that serves their strategic interests. The word ‘freedom’ in the concluding remark of the excerpt can be taken to mean voluntary compliance if we wish to see the other side of the coin: Compliance would undermine rebellion. Therefore, compliance is the safest ground for avoiding the terrorist’s label.

As we have seen the American forces in Iraq have fulfilled all the conditions that represent an act of terrorism. They have used calculated force to overthrow a governing regime, intimidated fear and violence among civilians, and invaded a country for political and ideological reasons. Seeing things from a different angle can lead to other types of labelling that symbolizes the ideologies and perceptions of the speaker or the view holder, and may not perfectly portray the truth. Difference in opinion, beliefs, and interests can create a fertile soil for label exchange.

Silberstein, Sandra (2002) War of Words – Language, Politics and 9/11. London: Routledge.
Orwell, G. (1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four. London, Martin Secker & Warburg.
Orwell, George (1946) Politics and the English Language.
Lakoff, George (1991) Metaphors in Politics.

(1) Doublespeak is a kind of euphemism that is associated with typical phrases used in the political arena as a way of avoiding mental associations.
(2) Air Force Base in Florida.
(3) United States Central Command: is a Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. (

Pride and Prejudice

By: Zeina

Thirteen days have passed since both battling parties have ceased fire. The Lebanese are still worried of a possible Round 2 to this seemingly endless war. Why wouldn't they when Israel has already made two breaches of the cease-fire agreement so far? The first was on Friday August 17th when it attempted to descend its troops in Bekaa area and the second was on Thursday August 23rd when it started bombarding the town of Shebaa in South Lebanon. However, the world is still standing still, unaffected by Israel's attempts to further jeopardize Lebanon's security. But if Hezbollah was the one to breach the agreement, then that would have been a different story. Hezbollah in their eyes is a "terrorist" militia aiming to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth; hence it must be fought savagely and ruthlessly until it's radically terminated. More than 1200 casualties, 20% of whom were children under 12 years of age, more than 60 bridges destroyed, more than 20,000 residential units demolished in the southern suburb of Beirut (Al-Dahiya), entire towns knocked down flat in the South, billions of dollars lost in the financial, industrial and agricultural sectors. The economy is a catastrophe, to say the least. Many companies ran out of business, many factories have been severely damaged or destroyed, several electricity plants, fuel tanks, national airways and major seaports have been targeted. As a result, hundreds of people have become jobless. Even Lebanon's ecology is at stake with the appearance of the oil spells on all Lebanese coasts, as a result of a leak caused by the bombardment of the Jiyyeh electrical plant in the northern South mid-July. Those concerned believe these spells have endangered sea life to an extent that it is now unsafe to eat fish. There goes another source of living for hundreds of Lebanese fishermen. Needless to say, the spread of epidemics and deadly diseases due to water and air pollution is highly possible, feared, and predicted. The list goes on and on. The war crimes and massacres Israel is responsible for go unpunished. And the world is still standing still. Israel has "suffered" to build a state for the Jews to live freely and happily, even at the expense of its neighboring countries' freedom and democracy. Israel's existence is not jeopardized by the presence of Resistance in other countries, namely the Islamic Jihadist groups in Palestine and the Lebanese Resistance. If Israel hadn't used force to establish a state for its people, usurped lands and attacked innocent civilians, resistance wouldn't have emerged in the first place. And if it were truly jeopardized by such anti-Zionist, or anti-Israel groups, then shouldn't it stop instigating so much hatred instead of acting victim all the time? For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. It was never a matter of kidnapping two or three soldiers. Israel has always contemplated wars to terminate its opponents in the Arab world, with the help of their American allies. They boastfully claim they're seeking to attain peace in the world by establishing democratic, autonomous states, where in fact they are denying the Palestinians the right of practicing such democracy by abducting more than a third of the Palestinian Parliament Members. Resistance is "terrorism", while real terrorism is "measurable response" in the eyes of Israel, America and the Western media. It is perfectly acceptable for Israel to detain thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian and Arab prisoners, and to regain two kidnapped soldiers when the price is dead bodies of a thousand civilians or so. If the U.S.A is a country that seeks peace and justice, why would it send such advanced weaponry to Israel, giving it the green light to commit such atrocities? On the other hand, why is it absolutely out of question for Iran to produce nuclear artillery or to export missiles to Hezbollah? If “self-defense” is the term that justifies all Israel’s motives and actions, then why is it unacceptable for Hezbollah to defend their territory as well? The U.S.A has always adopted the attitude of a superior empire, giving itself the right to start "Wars on Terror", attacking and occupying lands without being questioned for its acts. Moreover, they fight in the name of democracy where in fact a great percentage of its population rejects its policies, especially those regarding its economic and political alliance with Israel.

One week of meditation under Israeli fire

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
By: Sawsan Mostafa

What the Israelis taught me about dialogue

In a small neat supermarket in Dhour Ashouier, up the beautiful Lebanese mountains, an attractive woman in her early thirties stood prepared behind her cash desk. A strange-looking group of twenty foreigners stepped down a noticeably big bus and rushed into her store - as if on a serious mission to save the earth. And they did have a mission. Their mission was; to spend all the Lebanese Liras they had, purchase as much snacks and water as they could, and quickly leave. They knew that the Lebanese money they had was soon to become worthless. They knew that they needed food and water supply for the journey that none of them predicted. They also knew that they had little time before Israel would destroy the Eastern road to the Lebanese-Syrian borders – their intended destination.
I sometimes think of that woman behind the cash desk and wonder if her store is still open.

Months earlier I had applied to participate in an ordinary interfaith dialogue camp in Lebanon. Or at least, I thought it was ordinary. But, I thought many things.
I thought that after the camp was over, I would fly back home from Rafik Al Hariri’s international airport in Beirut, and I came back home from Queen Alia's international airport in Amman. I thought that successful dialogue is about open speech, respect and clearing misconceptions – a duty I have as a Muslim towards my religion. Now I know it is much more than is about empathy and human relations.

I though I was attending the camp with a group of thirty participants from ten different origins. I realized I was attending the camp with thirty friends from the exact same origin.

I was not with my Mother and sister as Israel fiercely and randomly attacked the peaceful ports and cities of Lebanon. I was not with my sisters and brothers in Islam as Israel bombed the Lebanese international airport and infrastructure. I was not with my old school and college mates when most Arab leaders stood paralyzed, silent before oppression. I was not with people I would normally depend on when we had to take the dangerous road of "Zahla" to the Syrian borders in the longest journey of my life.

I had to go through this experience with thirty strangers from ten different countries and religions to realize the true meaning of co-existence, understanding and dialogue.
Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Sunni, Shiite, Druze, important is that in times of stress and hardship?

I never thought that people could have that much in common when they appear to be so much different. We shared our same concerns, same fears, same objection to violence and the same ambition for justice and peace. And of course we did… we are of the same creation.

As I look back at the past 12 days, I try to reflect on God’s planning and wisdom. Why did I meet Ruth, the American missionary girl who I felt so much at ease with, just like Nihal, my best friend in Egypt? Why did I meet Richard, the modest Eastern- German guy with the striking resemblance to Tarek Bassiouny, a very dear friend of mine since school? Why did I meet Feras, the religious Muslim Palestinian-Danish guy who I could easily relate to? Why did I meet Meena, the American-Hindu girl who reminded me so much of Sanaa, my favorite cousin currently living in Sudan?

As I look back at the past 12 days, I try to reflect on the meaning of war, purpose of life, God's blessings and Man's ungratefulness. As Israel launched its barbarious attacks against Lebanon, it was amazing to see Hadi, Samiha, Amir and Nancy, the Lebanese participants’ reaction to all the madness around us. They were always positive, always optimistic, and always affirmative. Heartbreakingly, they were familiar with the Israeli aircraft sounds and were no longer alarmed by it. After twenty years of war and destruction they were numb.
And Elise, the Christian Palestinian girl from East Jerusalem. I have never met someone like Elise, always positive, and always smiling. As a resident of East Jerusalem she was not permitted to cross the Lebanese-Syrian borders. With Israel shutting down the airport, Elise was literally trapped inside Lebanon. The country that was soon to become another duplication of her own home – Palestine.

As I look back at the past 12 days, I think of God’s dearest creation, human beings. For four long days before we got on that bus to Syria, the group had no place to turn to but each others’ dinning tables at the camp. We found comfort in each others’ company, and consolation in each others’ presence. An outside visitor would have never guessed that we only met few days before the attacks. It is amazing how war and misfortune can bring people together - something the whole Israeli army can never change.

I look back at this interfaith dialogue experience and begin to hope. I hope that this example of understanding and co-existence that we created in seven extraordinary days could be a reality. I hope that people would get to acknowledge their differences, appreciate their diversity and learn to live together - with justice. After all, the day will come when we all stand naked before God with no distinction between us but our good deeds. No one can escape that…not the Arabs, not the Israelis.

Biased Media - The Dilemma of Stereotyping

By Amira El Wattar

On July 18, 2005, fourteen year old Ragheb al-Masri sat in the back of a taxi with his parents at the Abo Holi checkpoint. An Israeli bullet penetrated his back and cracked open his chest. His mother screamed as his body lay lifeless. Have you heard his name? I wouldn't expect that you have because CNN, The New York Times, and the Washington Post didn't report the killing online. If they had quoted his parents, their readers would have been able to feel their tears and envision the heartbreak. Ultimately, no Israeli soldier was arrested or even reprimanded.

Every time a suicide bombing strikes Israel, mass coverage of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether landing on the front page of The Times or taking up the headline block on, the pain Israeli people endure is shown endlessly. Israelis do suffer. Suicide bombings are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian pain occurs far more frequently, and yet often overlooked by the mainstream American media.

You open any news channel to find news about the war in the Middle East, whether Israel against Palestine, Israel against Lebanon or the war still going on in Iraq etc. If it is a western news channel you find them most of the time trying to portrait Israel as the victim and the "Arabs" as the enemy or the "fanatics" … the ones who just won't stop fighting!!!

This establishment of stereotypes encourages people to react and behave in a manner that is both judgmental and biased.
The word Arabs is used to describe an individual from the Middle East. Despite the fact that these individuals are from different countries, with diverse cultures, beliefs and a variety of religions, they are characterized by one term, "Arabs." The word Arabs reduces individuals and countries to a distinct target, open to stereotypes and bias.

The Western media has often projected individuals of Arab descent in a negative manner. Currently, Arabs are seen as terrorists and murderers due to how the media presents them. Newspapers use key words such as extremists, terrorists and fanatics to describe Arabs. These distortions of the Arab people have created a general mistrust and dislike for Arabs among Americans and Europeans.

To identify Arabs with terrorism is to classify them as enemies. In research conducted by L. John Martin (1985), results showed that the word "terrorism" was used by the press in describing events and individuals they disapproved of. Yet, when describing these same acts by individuals who are not Arabs, the media was careful to appear neutral and unbiased.

A good example of media coverage which presented facts of an actual event in a prejudicial manner was the Oklahoma City bombing. In 1995, within minutes of the event, news reporters were insinuating that the bombing was an act of terrorists. Raised with unpopular stereotypes of Arabs, the American public was quick to develop images of Arab terrorists destroying American property. These views were fueled by the fact that it was a state building containing several government agencies. For example, "Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert, told viewers not to believe Islamic groups when they denied involvement."
Furthermore, CNN, a major news channel, gave the actual names of Arab suspects being detained for questioning in connection with the bombing (Alter, 1995). This type of reporting was a departure from the normal objective stance CNN usually takes of protecting the identity of individuals involved in criminal activity until the facts have been confirmed. It was impossible for the American public to conceive of the word terrorist in application to citizens of their own country. The word terrorism is synonymous with Arabs. Yet, the arrest of an American citizen for the Oklahoma bombing forced them to look at mainstream America and its ideologies. It is the mass media's inability to handle a forced examination of their own people that forces them to look outward for scapegoats.

Moreover, this projection of views is further fueled by current events such as the Palestinian Arab - Israeli conflict. American media and also the European media for that matter coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict paint a distorted image between victim and aggressor. The unbalanced coverage in the mainstream media places the Arab states in the position of violence and power, while Israel is left as a nation attempting to protect its freedom and people! Similarly, bias is evident in a disproportionate number of favorable references to Israel. Such distorted representations of Arabs have a direct consequence upon Arabs living worldwide. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee reported a 250% increase in hate crimes against Arabs from the previous year (Bazzi, 1995).

The news media allows television journalism to play a major role in setting the political agenda. Portraying Arabs as fanatics or terrorists all these types of views allow the general public and public officials to dehumanize Arabs. And those negative stereotypes of Arab nations, societies, cultures and institutions regulate foreign policy and attitude.

This inability to separate stereotypes from reality governs not only political policy, but economic policy as well. Newspapers and television media are always ready to justify oil price hikes by depicting the Arab nations' persona as money hungry, seeking to control the world's natural resources. For example, the world perceives OPEC as synonymous with Arabs, however; only seven of the thirteen OPEC members are Arab nations. Furthermore, of the five largest oil-producing countries, only one is an Arab nation, Saudi Arabia. This is validated by statements such as "the world's supplies of oil and price levels are manipulated and controlled by greedy Arabs" made by an Editor of The Washington Post. Other themes which follow along the lines of the Arab nations' attempt to dominate the world through their massive oil reserves include "blackmailing" the United States, in order to accumulate arms.

In a variety of studies, the age of television viewers is examined and the results show that children and young adults watched the most hours of television. These results are crucial since this age group represents individuals who are still in the process of developing and forming their perceptions of the world. Thus, when television programs present shows which offer "an image that can best be described as 'The Instant TV-Arab Kit, the kit suitable for most TV Arabs consists of a belly dancer's outfit, headdress (which looks like tablecloths pinched from a restaurant), veils, sunglasses, flowing gowns and robes, oil wells, limousines and/or camels," they are creating stereotypes which will mold the viewer's perceptions of Arabs as a whole.

A stereotype or the reinforcement of a stereotype removes the need to examine individuals on the basis of their character. Television executives can take a stereotype and perpetuate that stereotype, instead of doing research or presenting images which might create controversy. When they perpetuate the stereotype, this unfortunately, causes children to adopt misconceptions such as "Arabs are rich and have oil. All Arabs are named Mohammed. All Arabs are nomads." (Morris International). While these may seem to be minor misconceptions, they are the foundations upon which stereotypes and judgments are based.

Take for example television cartoon shows which are popular with young children such as "Richie Rich, Scooby-Doo , Porky Pig, Popeye, Heckle and Jeckle, Woody Woodpecker and Superfriends. At one time or another, each of these cartoon shows has projected Arabs in a negative manner. In Richie Rich, the hero "outsmarts an outlandish sheik." On Scooby-Doo, they "outwit Uncle Abdullah and his slippery genie." On Porky Pig "Ali-Baba bound, dumps a blackhearted Arab into a barrel of syrup." Bugs Bunny "escapes from being boiled in oil by satisfying the whims of a sheik with an unnamed goat." Accordingly, these cartoons define the world in very narrow terms, good vs. evil, "to a child, the world is simple, not complex, superman versus Arabs."

A good example of cartoons depicting Arabs in a negative manner is Walt Disney's animated feature film, Aladdin (The Walt Disney Company, 1993), which is now also a Saturday morning cartoon show on CBS-TV. In its attempts to make the film more appealing to the Western world, Disney Americanized the names and appearances of the characters. The Sultan, for instance, did not look like he was from an Arab country, unlike the antagonist, Jafer. Jafer, the only character with exaggerated Arab features, was displayed as the epitome of evil throughout the film. This depiction of the evil, manipulating Jafer, is an example of the Western view toward Arab people.
The name of the Princess in Walt Disney's version of Aladdin was changed from the one in the original tale. "Buddir al Buddor" was renamed "Jasmine," to help children identify with the character. Additionally, Aladdin was an orphan in Disney's version; his parents were never mentioned throughout the film. In the original story, Aladdin has a father. When the current film presented him as an orphan, this gave the impression that a backward country did not have social programs to take care of its dejected. Moreover, Princess Jasmine's attire was not that of a Princess, but the traditional attire of a belly dancer, or someone of lower status, which gave her an air of sexuality instead of royalty.

Returning to the issue of television for a minute; when asserting the influence of television shows on the propagation of stereotypes, programs geared toward adults and mainstream America or Europe cannot be ignored. Television writers and executives have employed and still employ several myths about Arabs including themes such as--"Arabs are buying up America. OPEC is synonymous with Arabs. Iranians are Arabs. All Arabs are Muslims. Arabs are white-slavers and uncivilized rulers of kingdoms. All Palestinians are terrorists. And Arabs are the world's enemies. Some have no basis in truth or glimmer of reality.

Stereotypes extend beyond those of Arab people; they also encompass the Muslim religion. In an attempt to place Islam in a category that Americans can understand, the media portrays images of Muslims as "belonging to a faith of millions of people, consisting of strange, bearded men with burning eyes, hierarchic figures in robes and turbans, blood dripping from the striped backs of malefactors, and piles of stones barely concealing the battered bodies of adulterous couples," according to Godfrey H. Jansen, an expert on Muslims, in his book, Militant Islam.

Television programs and the mass media do not examine the fact that the Islamic religion preaches equality and peace. The distortion of Islam and ensuing misconceptions lead television viewers to believe that it is a mysterious religion prone to acts of terrorism, violence and fanaticism.

This type of stereotype exists and is allowed to continue to exist because of the continued acceptance of myths. A myth is a fabrication created from an analysis of half-truths. A good example is the myth that it is Arabs who belong to the Islamic faith. The truth is that half of the world's population belongs to the Islamic faith. Muslims come from nations well beyond the Arab region, places such as China, Indonesia, India and the United States.
It is the myths about Arabs which often inspire directors, producers and screenwriters to develop a product which is then based on stereotypes. While producers, executives and others in entertainment industry deny playing a role in current stereotypes, a negative attitude toward Arabs persists due to fact, "a conspiracy is not necessary to continue the cycle of stereotyping, complacency is enough". Until the creators of films and television programs establish guidelines which include the depiction of both positive and negative aspects of Islam, of Arab Nations, and of their peoples, stereotypes will continue to exist.

As for the news media, there are five major reasons why it fails to cover and portray Arabs fairly: "cultural bias, the think-alike atmosphere within the impact media, the Arab-Israeli conflict, media ignorance of the origin and history of the conflict and a determined and sophisticated pro-Israel lobby (Morris International).

Israel commands larger media coverage than all Arab countries combined. Furthermore, the press regards Israelis as the "good guys" and Arabs as the "bad guys," due to the fact that "Israel is viewed as an extension of Western Civilization and culture (Morris International). The terms used in the press to describe Israelis tend to be positive, versus the negative terms used to describe Arab nations. Research analyzing accounts of the Israeli-Lebanese border conflict found that the Israelis were described as "troops, commandos, security forces, all neutral terms, while references to the Palestinians included terms such as guerrillas, infiltrators, raiders, all negative to pejorative terms"(Morris International). Political cartoons also distort and exaggerate facts to promote a particular editorial position about Arabs. This type of stereotype-formation will last as long as imbalanced and biased news reporting proceeds, since "the drawing of cartoons encourages the people of one country to support hostility against or friendship toward another group" (Morris International).

As seen by all of the mass media, Arabs are a menace to society, degenerates from an uncivilized culture. It is a continuous bombardment of negative images and falsehoods, creating myths and stereotypes. All of this negativity and disregard for the formation of stereotypes of Arabs encourages a multitude of judgments and perceptions by individuals. The media must accept responsibility for being a major force in the creation of such discriminatory views. One way to accept such responsibility is to dispel the current myths by presenting a more balanced image of Arabs. Writers should focus on providing images that depict Arabs as individuals, rather than as a homogenized group.

Arabs must demand change also, especially when stereotypes are presented in the entertainment arena. The NAACP, an African-American association, played a great role in securing diverse and unbiased portrayals of Blacks in films. Arab-Americans must demand the same respect and dignity.

Television can change perceptions by presenting the heritage of Arab-Americans, focusing on children's programming. According to Franklin Trout, a producer of documentaries, "you cannot ever understand a people or a country, or their subsequent actions unless you understand their history". It is necessary to humanize and individualize the inhabitants of the different Arab Nations. It is also essential to come to an understanding of a people's religion, in this case, the fundamentals of the Islamic religion. Contrary to the myths, for example, Islam is not a religion founded on secrecy and mystery.
In conclusion, the continued existence of a myth or a stereotype diminishes an individual's worth and character. It is the responsibility of all individuals to assure that not only they, themselves, are perceived fairly, but that all individuals are judged without bias. The media is a large factor in the formation of stereotypes and ideologies. Therefore, it is their responsibility to allow their audience to form opinions that are free from the influence of bias and negative stereotypes.

The mass media must accept this fact: they are the oracles of our time. An analysis of how Arabs are portrayed in the media has shown the existence of myths and negative stereotypes, perpetuations, projections, a vicious cycle, a cycle created by the media, allowed to continue by the media. It will all have to be countered by the mass media's destruction of fallacies.

*ARABS AND THE MEDIA By Narmeen El-Farra
Journal of Media Psychology

By Remi KanaziNew York, NYMarch 30, 2006


Welcome to the Glaring Truth

Thank you for your interest in our initiative. In the Glaring Truth, we believe that helping others to see the truth is a most needed task and a hard challenge of our time. Yet, it is the duty of every civilised person who has the ability to see through biased information and recognise the truth among the dominating stream of lies. We are a group of people from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds and ethnic origins. Yet we share in the same belief that we refuse to be misled and we refuse to allow this continuous cycle of masquerades that are shaping our lives, and the lives of others who remain unaware, of proceeding any longer. The Glaring Truth is not a political group, and it does promote or affiliate itself to any particular organisation of whatever kind. We respect difference but we refuse insult. Glaring Truth does not promote hatred, but it encourages freedom of thought and refuses brainwash, stereotyping, and ideological domination. We have started this group last August due to our feeling of responsibility towards the truth. We are all responsible and we are all going to be asked about it.

In Glaring Truth, we are currently moving in two directions. First, we are gathering correct information, filtering the uncountable sources of data, and putting our hands on the corrupt ones. In our prospective website, which is currently being prepared, we will present the undistorted facts we gathered, and we will locate and cooperate with similar groups that are fighting on the same side. Second, through the use of these facts, we have a group of volunteer writers who are attempting to further explain the reality of a number of crucial incidents that are usually ill-presented.

We want also to stress that we do not only welcome new members, questions, new ideas, and suggestions that can enhance the quality of our work, but we do need them to carry our cause a step further. Please feel free speak your mind.