January 21, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3529

Reformist Columnist in UAE Daily: Why Do Arab Writers Focus on Criticizing the U.S. Rather than Arab Leaders?

January 21, 2011
| Special Dispatch No. 3529

Reformist journalist Dr. Ahmad 'Abd Al-Malik, a columnist for the United Arab Emirates daily Al-Ittihad, attacked the Arab press for criticizing the U.S. while neglecting to condemn Arab leaders. He wrote that since the U.S. is considered fair game, the Arab system of censorship allows attacks on it even when unjustified, whereas criticism against the Arab regimes, however legitimate, is usually censored and its authors punished.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

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"[In Criticizing] the U.S., these 'Renowned' Writers Count on Its [Values of] Tolerance and Free Speech"

"...We read articles by some of our 'renowned' writers criticizing the U.S. and its leaders, and protesting its mistakes and its positions on the Arab world, and not a single government censor or critical newspaper editors [challenges] these articles. Such criticism of the U.S. and of the negligence of its leaders does not bother the [Arab] governments or the newspaper editors, because they support criticism of the U.S.'s mistakes and even print examples of its foreign policy 'failures,' for which the [U.S.] citizens [are said to] pay the price.

"It's not that we oppose any criticism of the U.S. by the Arab press and writers – for [the U.S.] is not above criticism – nor are we against criticism of U.S. leaders, which is legitimate. In fact, we condemn any infringement of peoples' right to self-determination, and oppose any infringement of the sovereignty of countries, for whatever reason. What bothers us is that, [in criticizing] the U.S., these 'renowned' writers count on its [values of] tolerance and free speech, but when it comes to an Arab regime, they dare not criticize it at all, even if it is corrupt."

Arab Leaders have Failed Their People

"It should be mentioned that some governments in the Arab world have ruined their countries' economies and destroyed their infrastructures, [which had functioned] since the days of colonialism. [Moreover,] there are disputes in the Arab world which all the Arab summits have failed to resolve. This is not the fault of the Arab peoples who long for freedom, Arab unity, and Arab steadfastness, but of a few Arab governments and their ties with the West.

"The Arab world abounds in energy sources, fertile lands, and [natural] and human resources, yet it has no industry, agriculture, or clear vision of how to utilize this wealth... [Instead] there is unemployment, misadministration, government corruption, backwardness, terrorism, tribalism, attempts by ethnic groups to secede from the motherland, and political parties that value sectarian identity over identification with the homeland. In the Arab world, there is sycophancy towards the rulers, tyranny of the ruling party, and use of force against anyone attempting to express a different view – just as there is censorship in the government media, which is always [considered] the truest and wisest [voice], and one that does not 'speak nonsense'...

"In the Arab world, there are large and diverse groups still striving for self-determination, such as [various] sectors or the bidoun[2] – groups that are marginalized and [unable] to realize their basic rights."

"Addressing the Situation in the Arab World is Much More Honorable than Leveling Criticism at the U.S."

"Why is it that the 'renowned' Arab writers, who fail to expose the inhuman deeds of some of the [Arab] regimes, deem it fitting to expose the deeds of the U.S. and its leaders?...Why don't [these writers] expose the facts about some of the regimes, which deny their peoples the security, comfort, and wellbeing they deserve?

"Why don't they write about the injustice likely to befall citizens who write against [the Arab regimes], which is the least they can do, even if it contradicts the government's position? Why don't [our] leaders assume responsibility for the backwardness of our economy, education, and society, even though they remain in power for long periods? Why don't [the writers] expose the repeated promises that serve to 'drug' the people for decades, none of which are ever realized? Why don't they write about the collapse of institutions or the stagnation of government during an age of technological development, or about the anti-constitutional legislation that perpetuates class division among the people or contravenes international treaties?

"Why don't they criticize a government that is incapable controlling all its territory and providing security to [all its citizens, but instead] overlooks [terrorist] acts that sow fear and death among peaceful [people]? [Why don't they criticize a government that] pits the international community against the wretched and helpless [Arabs], causing them to face travel constraints and be harassed in European and American airports? And what about the imprisonment of oppositionists? Having you [ever] heard of a European or American oppositionist going to prison?

"Don't our 'renowned' writers have anything to say about all this, instead of flooding us with criticism of America and its leaders?... Addressing the situation in the Arab world is much more honorable than leveling criticism at the U.S. and its leaders. America is not afraid of any opinion or criticism, however bold. [What is more,] we have been directing harsh, scathing, and scornful words at Israel for 60 years now without regaining even a centimeter of our stolen lands.

"... This is the difference between us and them... We can say whatever we wish about [the West], but if we utter a single word of truth about our own [countries and leaders], it is considered a crime that merits punishment."


[1] Al-Ittihad (United Arab Emirates), December 30, 2010.

[2] Bidoun is short for bidoun jinsiyya, meaning "without citizenship," refers to members of Bedouin tribes who are denied citizenship in some of the Gulf states, including Kuwait and Bahrain.

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