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Arab liberals in crisis - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Those in the Arab world who believe in civil liberties and support human rights suffer from double standards as the reaction to the recent arrest of Abu Qatada by the British authorities indicates. How can they defend human rights whilst supporting Osama bin Laden, toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, or the Iranian regime, some of the world’s most repressive and violent leaders?

Leftist intellectuals who dominate liberal Arab politics with its numerous groups and various locations support political viewpoints that contradict their original stances.

It is no longer surprising to watch a non- veiled anchor on an Arab satellite new channel defending bin Laden while hearing a liberal head of a human rights organization defend one of the region’s most bloodthirsty men in the past century, Saddam. Leftist figures can now be found defending Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Qatada, and Moqtada al Sadr and their followers, despite their well-known extremist words and actions, as well as supporting the Islamic Republic because of its opposition to Israel .

Blind fanaticism is behind the recklessness that is filling the hearts and minds of intellectuals in the Arab world and their selective understanding of the world surrounding them. After Saddam announced he intended on burning down half of Israel , he became an exceptional leader. Intellectuals turned a blind eye when Saddam murdered more than half a million of his own people and persecuted an additional 20 million. History repeats itself today as the successful coup against Mauritanian President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya was greeted with cheers, not because Taya was an appalling leader- and he was- but because he had established relations with Israel . Arab scholars never concerned about the ex-leader’s violent policies towards his people and nor will they be troubled about the policies and actions of the new regime. What matters solely is that the new leader lead the coup against a President who had links to Israel . Unfortunately for out leftist intellectuals, the new government includes the ex- Foreign minister responsible for establishing the relations between Nouakchott and Tel Aviv!

Our liberal elites continue to adopt a shallow and superficial perspective when examining human rights issues and fail to hold Arab governments to account. For some time, these scholars have been supporting tyrants who commit crimes in the name of Arab nationalism and Islam.

Some of them stand behind Abu Qatada because the British authorities plan to extradite him, forgetting the man is an extremist no one would wish as their neighbor. Britain was the only country that welcomed him and pledged to help him according to its laws. Yet, Abu Qatada violently turned against British society and became involved in a number of suspect activities.

Nowadays, one can hear Arab liberals claiming Arabs are being targeted, as the example of Abu Qatada and his supporters demonstrates, he who has expressed his support for murder, violence, and destruction. They might even include Israel in the equation and claim the Jordanian-born preacher and Bakri Mohammed are being intimidated because of their clear opposition to Israel !

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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