Claiming Back Our Arab Spring
We’ve come to the real test of an Arab awakening that awed us, inspired us, energized us and gave us much hope in a future we’ve only been able to dream of before.
The test came in a simple, naïve, uncomplicated straightforward form, and we failed miserably.
At the bottom of the deadly demonstrations lies an insignificant failed production that no one showed up to watch. It didn’t get any attention for months since its release. The main aim of the unworthy film is to offend and anger. A cheap production by an unknown person with a shady past succeeded in taking off all masks and exposing our darkest attitudes and the lowest image of Arabs to date.
A group of angry haters and murderers helped the obscure production make headlines in the world media. The shadowy failure of a film became known the world over as the “Anti-Muslim” film and even the “Mohammed Film!” If the film itself offended some, extremists in turn offended me and million other world citizens who don’t appreciate the criminal reaction that ensued.
It offends me that some people are still trying to justify the actions of a few murderers who belong in an asylum not in a civilized society.
It offends me that a few mad losers can hijack all the hard work of the masses and create havoc in our cities and at American embassies around the Arab world.
It offends me that senseless killers are on the loose and governments are unable to swiftly control them and keep the peace.
The Arab Spring is ours and we should defend it with all the means available to us. What I never expected is that we would have to protect it first from ourselves. I regard all of us as one people. The crazies among us just as much as the sane. The extremists among us just as much as the liberal. The religious among us just as much as the secular. The kind-hearted among us just as much as the mean and hateful. We must find a way to live together, accept one another and allow each other to live and prosper in any way s/he sees fit. Our world is ours, not mine or yours or his or hers or theirs. It is ours and we must find a way to live together before it is too late.
We need to re-invent a way to dialogue with one another. It is everyone’s responsibility. It starts with the individual, the family, the community, the school, the place of worship, the workplace, club and every place where people meet for whatever interests them.
I hold each and every one of us responsible for this rash behavior of the few. We need to change our ways with each other before we ask the world to take us seriously. We ask for the west’s help, we consume its products, we accept its aid, and we never stop to demand more. We want the west to act fairly in dealing with our issues and causes. Let us pause for a minute and ask, “Why?” Why would the west take a more supportive stance on the issues that matter to us? What have we done lately for our own causes other than the lip service we have become experts on over the years?
Oh people of the Arab world, answer me this: Where do we stand on our own issues? What have we done to Palestine lately? When was the last time we examined our pathetic record on human rights? When was the last time a law was passed to protect children or women’s rights? When did we voluntarily include our youth in national conversations or given them the chance to run our countries? Do we even notice how badly migrant workers are treated in our “compassionate” cultures?
Still, with all our failures and lack of modernity and civility, we want the world to respect us and treat us fairly. The good news is that the entire world was awed at our youth movements that turned the status quo upside down, toppled regimes, removed dictators from power, destroyed decades of tyranny and instilled hope across borders and across continents. How did we reward them? We pushed them to the side as quickly as we could instead of making them an integral part of our future planning and solutions.
Now the mad actions of a few have reinforced old stereotypes many of us work tirelessly and diligently to correct. This recurring uncontrolled violent reaction to “offensive” things is becoming old and should be stopped using all available means. Criminals must be brought to justice and we should reflect our true beliefs in the way we educate and raise our children. What we have seen in the past week from violent demonstration, murder and arson reflects a narrow education of hatred and violence rooted deep in our culture.
The Arab Spring should be about raising responsible world citizens who know how to negotiate and don’t resort to violence as a first option or the only option. The Arab awakening must be about listening and conversing in a civil manner like the human beings we strive to be treated as. No matter how much we disagree with the actions of the few, we will not escape being lumped in with them in the eyes of the world community.
I applaud all those who condemned the violence and the senseless killing. I join the many sincere apologies and the efforts by the reasonable Arabs who speak up through any means available to them. We need to keep raising our voices to drown out the hateful noise. As for my reaction to the offensive film, I dealt with it as I do any cheap hateful attack on me personally, anything I respect or anyone I revere. I dismissed it as the piece of trash it is!