March 14, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 478

Discussion on Al-Jazeera: The Arab Rulers

March 14, 2003
Special Dispatch No. 478

The Qatari television station Al-Jazeera broadcast a discussion titled "Why the Arabs Have Become the Joke of the World." Participants in the discussion, moderated by Dr. Faysal Al-Qassem, included Algerian journalist Yahya Abu Zakaria, identified as an Islamist and resident of Sweden, and Egyptian historian Ahmad Othman, identified as a liberal. The following are excerpts from the discussion:[1] 'The Arab Ruler is a Thief, an Agent, a Slaughterer, and a Contemptible Ruler'

Yahya Abu Zakaria: "…I am completely convinced that the Arab ruler, in his cruelty, repression, and oppression of the peoples, bears most, if not all, the responsibility for the collapse of the Arab [world], politically, economically, and culturally. The Arab ruler has not managed to come up with a political plan to advance the country and the people. This Arab ruler made the country his, and his alone; he turned it into a commercial company and appointed his sons and relatives to be supervisors. In addition, the Arab ruler treats the Arab people with disdain. We have rulers in the Arab region who came to power on a tank. Some came out of a British tent, and some out of an American tent, and they have ruled us for decades."

"If they had even a grain of shame, they would withdraw from the political arena and leave it to the young political leaders… But the Arab ruler has turned into a slaughterer and a thief, and he gambles with the livelihood of the peoples. He has become a thief who steals the people's bread."

"I have a document that states that some Arab rulers have between $10 and $15 billion. [Even] if their monthly income was 1$ million, they couldn't accumulate such phenomenal amounts. They stole the oil money. They stole the money of the people. When a simple Arab citizen, a simple peasant, asks for a plot of land to plant potatoes or tomatoes, they place dozens of obstacles in his path… but when America asks them for land, they tell her: 'Oh, our benefactor, our land is completely at your disposal. Our benefactors, take our geography, take our history, enslave these people whom we have already ourselves enslaved."

"The Arab ruler who goes to sleep with his slave girls, and whose prisons are full of prisoners, is a contemptible ruler. The Arab ruler who sleeps with his masseuses while the people lie on the open ground and sleep in the streets is a thieving ruler. The Arab ruler who murders his opponents in the streets, confiscates minds, and pushes the people into exile is a ruler of dubious origin. The Arab ruler who opens his borders, on land, sea, and air, to the Americans, is a bastard ruler."

"The Arab ruler confiscated all our powers and laid us low. This Arab ruler must now withdraw. They ruled us for 30-40 years, and nothing has changed. The debt increased, the prisons filled up, the number of universities shrank, the number of those exiled reached the maximum, the number of those living in grave[yards] increased, the Arab citizen began to look for bread and cannot find it."

"Oh Arab ruler, before the Americans enter your palace to search it, let the Arab street enter this palace to trim your mustache.[2]Get out, because you are the reason for our cultural, social, and political catastrophes, and all our catastrophes, the last of which was that the American master is coming to gnaw away at the region directly, after some of its rulers were CIA officials…"

'The Problem is Not With the Ruler But With the People'

Ahmad Othman: "I disagree with this completely. The problem is not the rulers… If we replace the rulers and bring new ones tomorrow, they would do the same thing, because the people itself and the Arab nation are in a state of cultural and moral collapse."

"If we look at the beginning of the last century, we will see that a revolution has taken place. Then there was cultural activity, there were moral values, there were political values, there were [political] parties and organizations in the [Arab] nation. There was British and French occupation. But the Arab nation struggled to build itself. There was a flowering of ideas… We expected to attain independence after World War II… but what happened? Today we are in complete collapse in the sphere of ideas. How can you say that the Arab ruler is responsible? Who enabled this ruler to sit on his throne? We did. Who knelt before this ruler and made him a demigod? Who turned the man who is an officer, the man who is a prince, or the man who is a sheikh, into an emperor and leader? We have done all this."

'Why Do We Want to Defend Saddam Hussein'

Ahmad Othman: "The Arab has no honor, no thought, no culture. We have turned these images into regimes, and were we to replace them, others just like them would come in their stead. We must, first of all, change ourselves. We must establish cultural values…"

"Why do we want to defend Saddam Hussein? Why do all the Arab regimes use the Arab people as a human shield for the greatest dictator of them all? If you object to dictatorships – who in the [Arab] regimes is a greater dictator than Saddam Hussein? How can the Arab people, who are persecuted by their regimes, be asked to defend the murderer who killed hundreds of thousands of the Iraqi people...? How can we defend Saddam Hussein and remain a free people ourselves? [A people] that defends a dictator is not a free people…"

'The Arab Ruler is in No Way Elected by the People'

Yahya Abu Zakaria: "…From Tangiers to Jakarta, our peoples are miserable. What can those who live in the grave[yards] of Cairo do? What can the starving residents of Algeria do?… The Arab ruler is in no way elected by the people. When he encounters international pressure, and the U.S. dictates that he must democratize political life, he holds false elections and appoints a goose to be his opponent… Can anyone say that the Arab ruler has come from the womb of the people? Let him at least not live in palaces, let him at least not steal the money of the people and deposit it in private European accounts in his own name, his wife's name, and his children's name."

"Had this Arab ruler emerged from the womb of the public, he would have felt the people's pain. There are Arab citizens who cannot find bread; there are Arab citizens who cannot find medicines – while the Arab ruler becomes, unfortunately, addicted to Viagra. One Arab ruler is a womanizer; another sleeps all day and lets his wife run the affairs of state. These are the facts…"

"There is an Arab opposition member who tried to rise up against a certain regime. They put him in a closed room and he left it with his memory erased. He came out knowing no more than his name. Free people have wanted to act, but what happened to them? They were put to death. Our Arab ruler is a murderer who kills in the dead of night. He sends his agents and intelligence personnel…"

"You live in London. How many [Arab] intellectuals have been murdered in London? How many people were murdered on the sidewalks of London?… [In the Arab world] if an intellectual belongs to the regime they give him a villa, they give him a car. But if he is like me, who sings the songs of the people and of the public, he lives in exile…"

'The Truth is That We Do Not Want Democracy - We Are Against America…'

Ahmad Othman: "…Colin Powell said, 'We are willing to help the Arab people and pressure the Arab governments so that they will allow a kind of democracy for the Arab people.' The Arab people attacked Mr. Powell. All the Arab press and all the spokesmen of the Arab people attacked America because it wanted to help them achieve democracy. The truth is that we do not want democracy. We are against America…"

"How did the French revolution come about? The people itself, the shepherds, went out into the streets. The sheep became wolves, and broke down the Bastille and freed the prisoners… Were the Arab people to rise as one, no one could withstand them…"

'There Are 250,000 Security Personnel… Who Said There's Unemployment in the Arab World?'

Yahya Abu Zakaria: "I am amazed that you believe America. America promised to support the Palestinian cause, but it was the first to humiliate Palestine. America promised us that it would trim the dictators' claws, but ultimately it gives legitimacy to all dictatorships in the Arab world…"

"I have in my possession a document that talks of an Arab security apparatus with 250,000 personnel. Who said there's unemployment in the Arab world? In a single apparatus, there's someone who chases the people, someone who chases the high school students, someone who chases the newspapers and journalists… "

"Since the Arab ruler is illegitimate… he has decided that he must surround himself with military personnel and policemen. The state budget that is meant to create economic stability…, he spends on the security apparatuses and on the army so that they will enable him to terrorize [the people in his land]… In our Arab reality, the father fears his son, the son fears his brother, and the mother fears her daughter…"

"When our Arab people want to assemble [for a demonstration] they are beaten with a stick. Our ruler knows only the stick… Every time the citizen wants to shout out, 'People, I am in pain, by Allah, I do not want my country to be sold. By Allah, I do not want the Americans to rule me. By Allah, I do not want oppression,' he is told: 'Quiet!' As long as the Arab ruler eats, as long as the Arab ruler has millions of dollars, as long as the Arab ruler has mistresses, as long as the Arab ruler murders, destroys, and shatters our minds, our history, and our geography – the nation is in good shape."

"It is a disgrace that the Arab regime says to students who want to go out into the street and express their natural rights, 'Don't leave the university' [and then] a little while later, the rotten police enter the university and beat the students… I say to these students beaten by the police: Don't break the policeman's arm. Break the arm of the ruler, who annihilates you, despises you, who has confiscated your minds and has been injecting you with 'yes' serum since your birth. They want us to say 'yes' to everything. But this is the beginning of the storm, and if the people arise, they will consume everything."

"This accumulated sadness engenders revolutions; prisons and exile engender heroes; blood spilled in vain, only because the Arab leader wanted to be alone in the arena, will one day boil and overturn the pot that will cook the Arab ruler…"

'The Entire World Lives in Fear of the Terrorists That These Regimes Produce'

Ahmad Othman: "If the Americans enter, change the regime in Iraq, and bring in a democratic regime, it will be possible to replace the other regimes later. This is what Napoleon did. When he reached Egypt, the Mamelukes fled and a democratic movement arose, and the Egyptian people began to talk for the first time. The modern Arab renaissance began after Napoleon."

"[Today, the intellectuals] have become government officials, and they defend a dictatorial regime. All the Marxist intellectual groups defend the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The Arab people no longer understand… our intellectuals have sold themselves to the dictator… But what happened is that after September 11, the Americans realized that the dictatorial regimes in the Arab region produce terrorists who attack America and Europe. The entire world lives in fear of the terrorists that these regimes produce. The Americans realized this. They do not want to establish democracy for our sake, but in order to defend themselves. If the Arab people have an opportunity to learn, to participate in the rule of its land, and to participate in building society, it will not destroy America and Europe."

'The Children Who Went to Destroy America Were Educated in Our Societies'

"They do this for their own interests, but we have a genuine opportunity, an historic opportunity… The children who went to destroy America and threatened the entire world [on September 11] were educated in our societies, in our homes, in our schools. They studied what was said by our media and left our schools with the main thing interesting them being killing others. Who made them so barbaric?…"

"Religion, as I understand it, is belief in Allah, in the Day of Judgment, and in ritual [through prayer]. But now they don't talk about it any more [in the mosques]. A man goes to convert to Islam and he tells the sheikh: 'I attest that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger,' and that is it. But now they have turned the Islamic religion into warfare, martyrdom, Jihad. That is, whether you believe or not, whether you pray or not, it makes no difference…"Yahya Abu Zakaria: "I believe that the people will do what Al-'Izz bin Abd Al-Salam did in Egypt. He caught the Mameluke ruler of Egypt and sold him in the slave market. The day will come when the people will catch their rulers and sell them in the slave market, and we will establish a democracy, Allah willing, that will be based on two principles: justice and the Shura…"

[1], February 15, 2003.

[2]The mustache is a symbol of honor and manhood.

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