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Opinion: Every society has its own problems—and solutions - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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How do we frame protests in New York and other American cities against excessive police violence towards the African-American community, and particularly the youth, in light of the unrest and deteriorating security situation that is taking place in our own region?

We have seen countless protests in our region against violence and oppression, calling for dignity, respect and social justice. We have also seen countless US presidential spokesmen and members of congress come out to lecture us in the media on social issues. Now Americans are taking to the streets to demand justice in the US itself, calling on the authorities to respect the lives of African-American youth. So, how are we in the Middle East supposed to understand this situation?

For those who don’t know, these protests in American cities are taking place over the deaths of two African-Americans at the hands of police officers. First, there were protests over the killing of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black youth in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer last August. Protests escalated after the grand jury in the case decided not to bring charges against the police officer who shot him. Just nine days later, a New York grand jury also decided not to bring charges against a white police officer who placed a black suspect in a chokehold, a suspect who subsequently died. The policeman’s use of an illegal chokehold was captured on video.

Very well, so how can all of this happen in the world’s greatest superpower, which also claims to be the world’s greatest democracy? A country that believes that it’s divine mandate is to export freedom and democracy, not to mention all the other empty slogans that we have heard from successive US administrations?

Therefore, if the story in the US is one of racism, and it is, despite the fact that there is an African-American president in the White House, then the other lesson that we can draw from this is that every country and society has its own specific circumstances and issues. More importantly, this is something that applies regardless of however much a country has developed or advanced, or wants to. This point of view may be provocative, but this is a reality that we can see with our own eyes, particularly in the US, which, despite all its progress, continues to suffer from issues surrounding race.

This means that every society’s problems, whatever they are, must be dealt with specifically in line with that society’s own special circumstances. All these issues are affected by geographical, cultural and other factors, and so we must bear these in mind when trying to reach a solution. It is not important whether you agree or disagree with the extent or origin of these problems, or whether you view them as being important or not, what is important is to understand that every society has its own circumstances, and a society’s problems must be addressed according to these same circumstances.

While it is true that the wise everywhere support reform and want more openness with the outside world, particularly as this is the natural way that states’ advance and make progress, unfortunately there are no magic cures or easy answers. The most important thing is to help each community or society understand the gravity of the problems that it is facing, and work hard to solve these according to the capabilities of that society itself.

Let me also clarify here that I am talking about things generally, I am not talking about how to deal with Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the region or the criminal Bashar Al-Assad regime, rather I am talking generally about social issues that require patience and perseverance in order to resolve.

In the United States of America, for example, a grand jury is made up of ordinary citizens, not government employees or the like. While we cannot compare the crimes of Iran or Assad, for example, to the decisions of grand juries in Ferguson and New York, the latter clarify the depth of the racial crisis in American society.

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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