Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Siddiqui: Our dance with Arab dictators


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By Haroon Siddiqui Editorial Page, thestar.com, March 27, 2011
 
When we allow ourselves to be pushed into thinking about a people and a region as a monolith, sans diversity and differences, we view them only in stark stereotypes. We allow racist notions to become respectable.

Thus “the Arab street,” a contemptuous phrase the media dare not use for public opinion elsewhere. There is no “Canadian street.” No “American street.” No “British street.” No “French street.” But Arab public opinion, emanating in the street — emotional and irrational — is to be dismissed.

Similarly, we are told that all Arabs/Muslims are hard-wired to mistreat women. Like blacks being prone to violence and Catholics to abusing boys.

And in the middle of this glorious Arab spring, we are instructed to keep our enthusiasm in check and ponder instead that democracy may not be part of the Arab DNA.
These crude formulations do serve a purpose. They keep the focus of Arab troubles exclusively on Arabs, as though we have had no part in the mess.

For decades, Arabs have been denied democracy mostly by client regimes of the United States and Europe that financed and trained the dictators’ security set-ups. The mandate of these dreaded outfits has been to keep “the street” quiet, lest it resonate with what we did not want to hear.

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