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It is not important if the [new] Miss USA Rima Fakih comes from a city that is affiliated with Hezbollah, or even belongs to the party itself, even if that would be a good way to cover up the party’s ugly image with a beautiful one. Rather, the importance lies in the celebratory reactions in Lebanon to the crowning of one of their women as Miss USA. As a result, the Arab condition was content to celebrate for a while instead of asking the question: why do they do well abroad and not at home?

The Lebanese press for example celebrated the crowning of the beauty queen and wrote: “Rima Fakih reflected the bright image of Lebanon in a country where a dark image of Arabs in general prevails.” Another newspaper stated, “The most beautiful of all American women…is Lebanese…tanned with defined Arab features.” Meanwhile, the Lebanese President embarked upon congratulating the beauty queen for [winning] the title and believed that her crowning “once again shines a bright image of Lebanon’s glory abroad in a number of fields.” The question here is: where is this bright image inside Lebanon itself?

So that we are not unfair towards Lebanon, we must look at the broader picture on the Arab scale; how many Arab men and Arab women have been crowned around the world whether as scientists, novelists, economists, artists, sports figures, or even beauty queens, and then we see waves of happiness and celebration sweeping our countries and cities as an expression of joy for those figures who are evidence of our distinctiveness and intelligence! We have seen this in all fields; in the field of sports for example there is one case that is fresh in our minds and that is the case of the football star and former player of the French national team Zinedine Zidane who is of Algerian origin and [we all remember] how Algeria celebrated him on all levels because of his creativeness in France!

One thing reminds us of something else and what’s odd is that in the words of the Algerian national team’s coach had it not been for France then Algeria would not have qualified for the World Cup because most of the national players were born and raised in France and as a result they became talented and qualified! Just as we mentioned above with regards to Lebanon, let us say that this matter does not apply to Algeria alone but to all the states in our Arab world. Just look at how Dr. Ahmed Zewail, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was received in Egypt and how he was celebrated, or how Dr. Ghada al Mutairi, a Saudi, was celebrated after it was announced that she won a prize for scientific creativity in the US.

Celebration is not a bad thing in any way; but the question here is why is it that all those people did excellently in the West and not in their own countries? Some might say that some innovators excelled [in their fields] in the West because education is more advanced there. This is true but what about art, all kinds of art, and what about sports etc? A well-known [person] who was talking about the reality of plastic artists in Saudi Arabia once told me that he was happy when he saw one of their works of art [on show] in an area in London but he was surprised at how they had become renowned in London when they are relatively unknown in their own country. I said that this was only natural as long as the media is preoccupied with the “Abus” of destruction such as Abu Musab al Zarqawi, Abu Qatada, Abu Ayoub etc. rather than founders.

Therefore, the question is why do Arabs in general excel in the West and not in their own countries?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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