Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Amazing What Freedom Can Do

This is from Dubai Al-Fayha Television in Arabic in Arabic 1510 GMT 18 Oct 05--sent to me by a person who has access to these translations. I think it is exceptionally revealing about the consternation that many people feel in the Arab world about a free and democratic Iraq:

At 1510 GMT on 18 October 2005, Dubai Al-Fayha Television in Arabic carries an episode of its daily program "Space of Freedom," moderated by Hashim al-Iqabi.

The episode addresses reactions by some Arab journalists on the 15 October draft-constitution referendum. At the outset, the moderator calls on Arab intellects to "respect the mentality of the Iraqi people." He then reads the following sample of headlines as published in some Arab newspapers: "The constitution, a chapter of the game;" "the hastily-drafted constitution;" "the constitution of Iraqi religious authorities;" "the new American Iraq;" and "the Zionist constitution and manipulating the sentiments of the Iraqis."

The program hosts Karim Badr, an Iraqi media expert; Sayyar al-Jamil, an Iraqi historian and political analyst; Maryam al-Rayyis, a National Assembly member; and Su'ad al-Jaza'iri, an Iraqi media expert, to comment on these headlines.

Al-Iqabi reads the following excerpt from an article by Abd-al-Bari Atwan, chief editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi: "What seems to be going on? This year started with the January parliamentary elections, followed by the referendum on the constitution last Saturday. Two months ahead, the Iraqis will head for polling centers again. Three elections in less than a year? This does not happen even in the most anchored democracies in the world."

Commenting, Badr refers to "such writers as advocates of conspiracy who still live in their imaginary world." Atwan's article, he believes, is a confession by Atwan himself of the process of political change which Iraq is currently undergoing. Describing such writers as the "product of the Saddam's corrupt political elite," Badr stresses that the new Iraq will give birth to "a new and honest elite" of journalists and writers.

As for the reasons of "hatred some Arabs have toward Iraq," Badr accuses them of "suffering from schizophrenia." Such people, he adds, are not worth paying attention to because they are "internally defeated," and unable to foresee the future.

While Umm-Sana from Al-Najaf thinks that the roots of hatred toward the Iraqis "are now over 1,400 years old," Muaffaq from Basra argues that "it is better to let those people criticize us as they wish, but they have to know that we will not allow anyone to take our freedom of opinion away from us." Terming Al-Jazirah channel as "a forum of terrorism and bloodshed" he calls on "such writers" to "think of their future relations with Iraq" because the Iraqis "will never forget these stands."

Commenting on "why almost all Arabs hate the Iraqis," Al-Jamil says that Iraq represents "a unique historical case. It has always been rejected by regional forces. In addition, Iraq reflects a complicated strategy in this region because it functions as the heart of the Middle East." He notes that "there are noble feelings toward Iraq," but politicians and media outlets are to blame because they "spoiled" the public opinion.

Referring to claims that the constitution is "a Zionist charter that has been tailored in the US," Al-Rayyis, says that "these statements will not shake the dignity of the Iraqi people as they confirm beyond doubt that there are gigantic conspiracies against Iraq so as to hinder its political process."

Al-Jaza'iri says that the Iraqis have to give up words like "hatred" as such words "can intensify negative feelings." She blames Arab media, and to some extent Western media, for misleading the Arab public opinion. This role, she elaborates, reflects the official discourse of Arab regimes that use media to mirror their stands. She calls on Iraqi media to play an effective role against "this media onslaught."

Other Iraqi citizens phone the program to voice their opinions over this issue. Some callers refer to some Arab media outlets as "yellow channels." Others attack "those who have sold their pens to serve terrorists." Callers seem positive that Iraq will "defeat them."

Isn't it interesting how optimistic the Iraqis are (compared to most Americans--particularly those on the left, who are more interested in bringing down Bush than in defeating the terrorists). The difference is that in the US, many people have forgotten what it is that has made our country the greatest in the world. They have forgotten that when people are free to pursue their own happiness--because they have the political and economic freedom to follow their own bliss-- that it unleashes the best within the human spirit.

It is truly amazing what freedom can do for one's outlook on life....

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