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September 28, 2004



Maybe it's the Fouad Ajami virus making its way through the ranks of Arab-American communicators. The wind is blowing nasty out of the West, full of hatred and ignorance against Arabs and Muslims (as you so well document). Perhaps Mr. Ibrahim has heard Bush's message "If you're not with us, you're against us" and is trying to prove which side he's on.

If this isn't the reason, I'll bet it's the first one most Arabs would think of.

I feel for the guy. He may be worried for his career. It just ain't so good to have an Arabic name in the West anymore. A lovely lady in my short fiction class in Marin County, California, joined in on the criticism of a name choice for one of my characters. He's a Palestinian refugee in South Lebanon. She felt all the alternative Arabic names I suggested were problematic, and when I said "these days, my own name, Leila Abu-Saba, is a problem for people" she said, "Yes, it is."

What the f**k can you do with attitudes like that? This lady is pretty run of the mill, a California liberal.

And I'm not even a Muslim. Hey, just being an Arab puts me on some kind of a black list. Sheesh.

Walter Sobchak

I think you really have to take commentary like this with a extremely generous grain of salt. These Arab guys who write in English-language papers have to know that their writings will be read and used as fodder by the right wing in this country ("See, all you terrorist-sympathizing lefties, look at this bright little Arab savage pointing out how horribly awfully bad bad bad al-Jazeera is!"). So, they tailor their message to the target audience, sit back, and wait for the accolades to pour in. No, I don't think there's any real consideration of the hypocrisy inherent in his call for censure of al-Jazeera; he knows the Dittoheads will accept his opinion at face value, without considering the implications, because of its rhetorical "toughness". Can you honestly say this kind of thing surprises you right now?

Walter Sobchak

Should be "with [an] extremely"... doh!


"Ideas like Ramih's are out there in the Arab world, whether or not al Jazeera broadcasts them. This way, the crazy ideas are brought into the direct view of a wide public - Qassem's program is the most popular political program in all Arab television - and confronted with counter-arguments and reason. Maybe that's too idealistic, but is there a better way to deal with these ideas? Banning discussion of them just drives them underground, where they circulate on clandestine cassette tapes and samizdat videos and pamphlets - with no chance for voices of reason to respond or engage them in argument."

I think this is actually a pretty tough problem, and one worth debating. After reading this post, I remembered something and went back to my copy of Richard Holbrooke's "To End a War." Just as I recalled, there was a section with some commentary on how television played a key role in fanning the flames of ethnic hatred. Granted, this was a situation of state-directed propaganda rather than an open debate, but one could imagine that by giving Ramih a platform, AJ is lending him a larger audience and greater credibility than his ideas deserve. By setting up a dichotomous debate, AJ may be implicitly giving Ramih a boost. On the other hand, I can see how merely establishing that religious dogma ought to be subjected to questioning and the application of reason could be a good thing in its own right. But couldn't this be accomplished some other way?

No Preference

I used to subscribe to a list service named MSALIST which distributed a wide array of articles by Muslim contributors and/or about Islam or items of interest to Muslims. It was published by someone at the University of Ohio, IIRC. It was very lightly edited, so sometimes items most Americans would consider objectionable would appear.

MSALIST was shut down shortly after September 11, as I knew it would be. I miss it. It was a door to a world that we desperately need to learn more about. Shutting up those voices doesn't do us any good. To the contrary, it hurts our ability to understand "the other".

praktike, it sounds like Ramih's exposure on Al Jazeera didn't do him any good. It sounds like he got the treatment a liberal Democrat would get on O'Reilly, though fairer.

As`ad AbuKhalil

I saw the show in question, and while I am not a fan of Tal`at Ar-Rumayh, he did NOT support the beheading. In fact, at several points, he said that he was opposed. But these are details, of course.

the aardvark

Asa'd - maybe... but after going back to the transcript to check, I'll stand by my account of the show. Tala'at Ramih said in his opening statement that the resistance had the right to attack and kill not only American military in Iraq, but also anyone who cooperated with them including drivers and translators. That's what Qaradawi was accused of saying - but didn't. When Badr condemned the beheadings, Ramih's response was to complain that the clamour over the beheadings distracted attention from the mass killings of Iraqi civilians by the occupation forces - not exactly a forceful rejection of them. He did say that he was against the beheadings, but this was always followed by a "but..."

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