Friday, January 07, 2005

Arab World slow to respond to Tsunami victims 01-07-05

Arab World slow to respond to Tsunami victims
Creators Syndicate Friday Jan. 7, 2005
By Ray Hanania

Indonesia is supposedly the most populace Islamic nation in the world. More than 60 percent of the estimated 150,000 fatalities reportedly come from Indonesia, located in the heart of tsunami.

So why haven’t Arab/Islamic nation’s led the relief campaign for the tsunami victims, especially since the Arab World is located right around the corner from the disaster?

While the focus has been on the response of Western nations, with Europe and the United States duking it out over who is stingy and who has given more, the response for the Arab World has been even slower.

Kuwait increased its donation from $2 million to $10 million. Saudi Arabia increased its donation from $10 million to $30 million. The United Arab Emirates is giving $30 million. Qatar has pledged $35 million.

League of Arab States spokesman Secretary General Amre Moussa expressed sorrow and condolences for the victims of the Tsunami. He can’t do much more because the League of Arab States is basically an empty shell based on an outdated notion of Arab Nationalism. He can’t even get one million dollars budgeted to help organize a PR campaign to straighten out the mess called the image of the Arab World.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference also expressed sorrow and urged its members, which include many of the Islamic nations hardest hit by the Tsunami to do whatever can be done to help the victims.

Several major American-based Islamic organizations like CAIR have nobly announced fundraising campaigns for the victims, despite the fact that most Islamic charities in the West have been devastated by anti-Muslim world animosity driven by Sept. 11th. The U.S Patriot Act has decimated most Arab charities and unjustly imprisoned their leaders while casting a malevolent pall over all Arabs and Muslims in America.

Still, the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim backlash of Sept. 11 is not a good defense for the Arab or Islamic worlds. If the first obligation of Islam is to help those in need, then the response from the Arab World has been pitiful and lacking.

The slow response and low numbers reflect a problem that exists among many Muslims and the Arab World in general. The fact is Muslims in the Arab World, where Islam originates, often look down upon the non-Arab believers.

At numerous conferences I have attended over the years, the most poorly attended sessions were those involving non-Arab Muslims who complained that the Arab Muslims don’t take their issues seriously.

In contrast, the non-Arab Muslims are often at the lead of championing the rights of Arabs, especially the Palestinians.

Arabs, as a culture, don’t like to discuss the "dirty laundry," which might be one reason why the Arab and Muslim nations were also the slowest to respond to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s massacre of 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11.

Worse, the Arabs are so dysfunctional as a society they can’t seem to organize anything. They have no common front towards Israel. They lack one regional policy against increased terrorism from fanatics who have hijacked and insulted the very fundamentals of Islam and the Prophet Muhammed.

They have demonstrated time and time again that they make great dictatorships, but are lacking when it comes to bracing the civil rights of individuals, women and their non-Muslim minorities.

As an Arab, I am ashamed of the response. Here is a perfect opportunity for the Arab and Islamic Worlds to stand up and lead and instead, their political mouthpieces have been silent.

I should note that I am a Christian Arab, a community that is disappearing fast from the Arab World and coming under great persecution in many Islamic nations. Christian Arabs are being pushed aside in the rise of Islamic empowerment, although ironically, most non-Muslims assume I am Muslim when they learn I am Arab.

Americans are holding telethons to raise funds for the victims. President Bush has pledged $350 million and is sending two former presidents, his father George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to spearhead fundraising efforts. Bush has already sent outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell and his brother, Jeb Bush, to the region to report firsthand on the cataclysm and correct the misperception that the U.S. is slow in response.

For all the abuse that Bush and the American people have taken because of their biased stand on Israel and insensitivity to the rights of Palestinians, when it comes to helping tsunami victims, Bush and America are putting the Arab and Islamic Worlds to shame.

They should stand up and do what’s right, not what’s politically correct. And they certainly should demonstrate that when disaster strike in the heart of their own region, they should be leading the drive to provide relief, not following another nation’s lead.


No comments: