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memri
February 8, 2016 No.
6296

Arab Writers Following Election Of Muslim Woman As Speaker Of Netherlands House Of Representatives: She Proves That West Can Accommodate The Other; We Should Learn From Western Democracies, Israel To Do The Same

Following the Netherlands House of Representatives' election of Dutch-Moroccan Labor MP Khadija Arib, a Muslim, as speaker, the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi called this move, in an editorial, a resounding response to racism, adding that it shows how well Arabs and Muslims can assimilate in the West despite their marginalization there. Also commenting was a columnist for the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, who bemoaned the fact that the Arab and Muslim world has none of the pluralism and democratic values of the West and Israel that allow minorities and women to be elected for central roles.


Newly-elected Dutch Parliament President Khadija Arib (Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, January 14, 2016)              

Following are excerpts from the articles:

'Al-Quds Al-Arabi': Khadija Arib Is The Arab Answer To Western Racism

The Al-Quds Al-Arabi editorial stated: "Arabs and Muslims awaken each morning to disasters, occupying armies, tyranny, wars, conflicts, and massacres and starvation from all sides - making them feel like they are being constantly plotted against and that Allah is testing them as he tested Job, or, alternatively, making them feel guilty for the torrent of disasters that afflict them.

"From China, Thailand, Myanmar, Pakistan, Chechnya, and Afghanistan to Palestine, Iraq, greater Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, millions are fleeing in trucks and death boats, dreaming of emigrating to the Western paradise. They find themselves trapped between the terrorist threats that hound them to their destination and the racism that greets them wherever they end up.

"This daily, unending war of Arabs and Muslims explains why they are endlessly searching for a window of happiness and hope to distract them from the endless waves of funerals, coffins, and death and mourning processions. They find [solace] in a talented child who proves his abilities - for example, the Sudanese boy who invented a clock that his school thought was a terrorist bomb; Steve Jobs, son of a Syrian immigrant from Homs; the Palestinian particle physicist Munir Nayfeh who helped lay the groundwork for nanotechnology; or Iraqi structural engineer Zaha Hadid, the first woman to be awarded the Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Or even when an artist wearing a hijab, such as Nidaa Sharara, wins The Voice Arabia contest.

"The news of the election of Khadija Arib, a Dutch MP of Moroccan origin, as speaker of the [lower house of] the Netherlands parliament is one of these reports that touch the heart and prove how Arabs and Muslims can find their place in the sun despite the horrible attack on their image around the globe and their systematic marginalization. Global terrorism operations carried out in the name of ISIS and others contribute to this [attack on them and their marginalization]. The mirror of this terrorism, and one of the main contributing factors in creating it, is the extremist, racist right wing in the West, which makes a living from it.

"As anticipated, the leader of the racist Dutch right wing, Geert Wilders, quickly expressed his displeasure at Khadija's election, calling it a dark day in the history of the Dutch parliament because she represents everything that is opposed to the racist right wing's humiliating patterns [of thought] vis-à-vis the Arabs and Muslims.

"The racist image [of Arabs and Muslims that the West] requires is an image of tyrants who oppress women and children, and cannot peacefully coexist with democracy (because their genes are Arab and Muslim). But here is a Morocco-born woman who came to Europe as a teen, who coexists with Western democratic bodies, who was elected first as MP... and ultimately as speaker [of the House of Representatives], while maintaining her Moroccan citizenship and pride in her native culture.

"The irony is that this MP's name has Arab and Islamic significance. Khadija is the name of the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and Arib is a diminutive, or variant, of 'Al-Arabi.' This deeply symbolic meaning, taken together with her birthplace of Casablanca as well as her immigration, her assimilation, and her extensive activity in her new home, combine to create a wonderfully positive image, showing how people coming from a [Muslim] country such as ours are capable of combining their esteem for the cultural identity of their birth - not just a religion but also language, culture, home, emotions, scents, cuisine, gestures, etc. - with their affinity for the values, morality, and culture of the land in which they reside, and whose laws, systems, and lifestyle they respect.

"Khadija Arib is proof that Western culture and its humanistic values can incorporate the other - and she is one of the best responses by us Arabs and Muslims to the Western racism and the tyranny against Arabs in all its forms."[1]

'Al-Ayyam': How Would The Muslim Brotherhood React If A Jew Were Elected President Of Morocco's Parliament?

Hamada Fara'aneh, a columnist for the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "Can you imagine a woman being elected speaker of the Jordanian parliament, or a Copt being elected head of the Egyptian parliament, or a Christian as head of the Palestinian National Council and Legislative Council, or a Shi'ite as head of the Bahraini parliament, or a Jew as head of the Moroccan parliament? What would be the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood, or of the parties in Iran, of Hizb Al-Tahrir, of Al-Qaeda, and of ISIS?

"This is the paradigm that we are lacking in the Arab and Muslim world. We search for it and yearn to attain it - and by so doing, we seek to understand that the three types of ethnicities living amongst us - the Kurds, the Africans, and the Amazigh, as well as the Chechens, the Circassians, the Armenians, and others - are part of our people and are our partners in administering the Arab state... and that all citizens have equal rights regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or school of thought.

"The left, the pan-Arabists, and the Islamist parties have failed to present a paradigm worthy of imitation for spreading pluralism and democratic values in... the countries where they have taken power. Moreover, in most cases, they did not attain [their positions] through the ballot box, but with tanks, that have also helped them cling stubbornly to [their power]. In the few cases where they did come to power through the ballot box, like Hamas in Palestine, they [subsequently] adopted 'military victory' as a means of preserving their autocracy. They used elections one time only [i.e. to gain power] - and now oppose them...

"Israel has something that strengthens it and helps it maintain superiority: It provides for continuity in government [while allowing] the leadership [itself] to change and new blood to be pumped into the veins of its institutions, by accepting the results of the elections [that are held] regularly and sequentially.

"In all the Arab regimes, there is an absence of pluralism, of expansion of the basis for partnership, of continuity of rule, and of acceptance of election results. This malady, with its impact and its ramifications, does not stop at the borders of the official Arab state, whether it is a monarchy or a republic. It affects the leaders of the left wing, the pan-Arabists, and the Islamist parties, who will remain in power until they die.

"This is the reason for the failure, the regression, the erosion, and the inability [to adopt] the values of this new era and its demands. It is one of the reasons for the failure of the Arab Spring, for its collapse, and for its swing towards violence and terrorism."[2]

 

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 14, 2016.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 17, 2016.