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Intro to Arab Democracy
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
September 18th, 2012 (2 Comments)
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Well, America, welcome to democracy in the Arab World.  This is what it looks like.

Breaking News: Arabs are not that crazy about America.  Yes, you helped get rid of some of their dictators.  But you still unconditionally support some of the worst. So this is the democracy you’re going to get.

Try to imagine how it feels for an Arab to see the American-backed king-dictators of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, & Jordan cry for democracy in Syria.  Right message, wrong messenger.  Kings and queens are for children and fairy tales.  They’re not for grownups.  As long as you categorically back and sustain Arab monarchs, this is the democracy you’re going to get.

You ask for democratic partners in the Arab world.  Well, here they are.  New Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi might not be the model Arab leader in American terms, but he was democratically elected.  He might not even be the best answer for the Egyptian people, but he got there fair and square.  Sometimes, the smartest and most rational guy doesn’t win the election.  No society is immune from that.  I seem to remember a guy named George W Bush winning here… twice!

In the wake of the silly film everyone is talking about, Egyptians took to the streets, albeit not in huge numbers.  And Morsi did what a democratically elected president has to do.  He responded to the outrage of his people.  Surely, we Americans wish he could have done more in ensuring the security of our diplomatic buildings there.  But he echoed the indignation of his constituents, denouncing the film and criticizing American policy in the region.

By the way, the more I watch the video, the more insulted I get.  But I’m not insulted because it denigrates Islam and Arabs.  That happens everyday on the news.  I’m used to that.  I’m insulted because it looks like they made the movie in someone’s garage on an iPhone.  I thought we were worth more than that.  I’m insulted that they put so little energy into insulting us.  CNN and Fox have whole office buildings dedicated to it.

Many commentators have responded to recent events in the Arab World by saying things like, “Democracy takes time.”  That is definitely true.  But too many people here in America seem to think a truly democratic Arab World will automatically mean a pro-American Arab World.  Everyday Arabs now feel secure letting their voices be heard.  The fear is gone.  Well, not everywhere.  Where leaders are still fully American-sponsored, we haven’t heard a peep.

Aren’t things much better when the leaders are just a bunch of gangsters on our payroll?

Arabs, like anyone else, love freedom and democracy.  They’ve been leaving their homelands for decades to taste it.  There’s millions of Arabs living right here in America.  You think they came here for the Kardashian sisters?  OK, some did, but mostly it was for the freedom and democracy.

What the US must understand is that Arabs, with a true democratic voice, will not be extending America any credit, at least until some things change.  As long as America values oil over freedom, this is the democracy you’re going to get.  As long as dynastic Arab kings are on the president’s speed dial, this is the democracy you’re going to get.  And as long as Israel’s military gets more money from American taxpayers than it gets from its own, this is the democracy you’re going to get.

Being supportive of democracy in the Arab World is like being pregnant.  You either are or you aren’t.  There is no middle ground.  We Americans cannot choose where to support democracy and where to support dictatorships, at least not if we ever want Arabs to view us with any integrity.

In all the madness, one thing has become clear.  A democratic Arab World might share our American values, but it might not share our American conclusions.

 

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (2)
  1. It is a fact that to America, democracy means pro-American in EVERYTHING. Not just fast food, sitcoms and the GAP, but even America’s confused idea of justice. ESPECIALLY America’s confused idea of justice. And they wonder why we don’t bow down to them in gratitude after being ‘liberated’ from these said dictators, and consider the fact that they have destroyed entire countries’ infrastructure, humiliated their people on the streets and in their prisons, backed puppet-governments to execute their own agendas and lied about just about everything and anything, is all normal. And that an Arab and/or Muslim life is not worth the toenail of an American insect, and therefore should not be the cause of any annoyance or argument, let alone hatred towards them. For all the good America has done to the world of medicine, science and technology, the fact that it has appointed itself the policeman of the universe and abused the hell out of that title makes me, and many other people, quite sick. America needs to realize that not all business is its business, and it’s not all ‘with us or against us’, and if against us you get bombed along with all those other ‘terrorists’. And idiots like that Hirsi Ali can bark all they want about this, but the fact remains that America does not own the copy rights to ‘democracy’ and therefore no one is obliged to comply with its standards for it.

  2. Thanks for your insights and perspective. I love reading them. I have to say-I’m not Arab or Muslim and everything about that “silly” film offends me.


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