Monday, February 21, 2011

Gorbachev Says..

For too long, conventional political thinking about the Arab world was based on a false dichotomy: authoritarian regimes or fundamentalism, extremism, terrorism. The leaders of those regimes also seemed to believe in their roles as guardians of stability. Behind the fa├žade, however, severe social and economic problems kept mounting. Stagnating economies, pervasive corruption, the widening chasm between rich and poor, and a life of frustration for millions of young people fueled social unrest.

Egypt's Agonizing Choice -

Just as everywhere else, the only way forward in the Arab world, with
its tortuous history, unique culture and numerous risks and dangers, is
toward democracy, with the understanding that the path is difficult and
that democracy is not a magic wand.

It would be a mistake to see Islam as a destructive force. The history
of Islamic culture includes periods when it was a leader in the
development of world civilization. Its contributions to science,
education and literature cannot be disputed. Islamic doctrines strongly
advocate social justice and peace. An Islam that emphasizes those values
can have great potential.

One needs to muster courage for real change, because power without
accountability cannot last. This is what hundreds of thousands of
Egyptian citizens, whose faces we’ve seen on television, stated loud and

Looking at those faces, one wants to believe that Egypt’s democratic
transition will succeed. That would be a good example, one the entire
world needs.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rented Countries

I spent part of the morning in the square watching and photographing a group of young Egyptian students wearing plastic gloves taking garbage in both hands and neatly scooping it into black plastic bags to keep the area clean. This touched me in particular because more than once in this column I have quoted the aphorism that “in the history of the world no one has ever washed a rented car.” I used it to make the point that no one has ever washed a rented country either — and for the last century Arabs have just been renting their countries from kings, dictators and colonial powers. So, they had no desire to wash them.

Out of Touch, Out of Time -

This reminds me of the time when Kuwait was under occupation by the Iraqis. All Kuwaitis volunteered to serve their country. There was the barber, the street cleaner.. etc. When Kuwait was liberated, the youth fell back to their comfort. Adversity made people cling to their country and gave them a sense of ownership when the enemy was trying to take it away from them. Once this adversity vanished we returned to renting the land.

The events in Egypt and Tunisia before that, and God knows who is next, are once in a lifetime monumental events. The people have awakened and asserted their ownership of the land! May this spirit spread to every repressed corner of this universe be it a country or otherwise..