Following are excerpts from an interview with Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The interview aired on BBC Arabic TV on November 7, 2008:
To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1906.
Interviewer: "Is it really so difficult to achieve a breakthrough in the Arab ruling system, similar to what happened in the U.S? Will it take decades or centuries, Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan?"
Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan: "By coincidence, at a time when a black president was elected in the U.S., President Bouteflika amended the Algerian constitution so that he could remain in power for the rest of his life.
"What a paradox this is. In the U.S., not only is the change of power carried out by peaceful means, but there is [now] a black president - [who came] from the lowest ranks of society to the top.
"If Obama was in an Arab country, like Saudi Arabia or one of the Gulf states, they might have required him to have a 'guarantor' [like any foreign worker]. Under no circumstances - even if he died - would they have given him citizenship. They'd say to him: You are a slave, you are black, you need a 'guarantor,' you are a Kenyan, and your origins are unknown.
"I'm sad to say that we Arabs are the epitome of racism. Look at the foreign [workers] in the Gulf - they have no rights. These workers demonstrate, demanding to be placed 10, rather than 20, in a room, demanding to be transported in buses like human beings, rather than in trucks like beasts.
"We are the epitome of racism, and I believe that Obama will demand that these Arab countries carry out reforms: First, to abolish the 'guarantor' system, and then to grant rights not only to the blacks, but even to the Arabs themselves, to the whites. The whites in the Arab world are humiliated. Unless you have the 'holy' citizenship of a certain country - you are humiliated.
"Obama should impose the American model of equality, rights, and opportunities on all the Arab countries."