Letters to the Editor [Archives:2001/48/Letters to the Editor]
Being an American, I can relate to your viewpoint “We Have a Public Relations Problem.”
I am interested in hearing Arab viewpoints and so are most people that I know, in fact, almost all of us. I have spent time in three Arab countries and know that the pictures I see on American TV are not completely accurate views of all the Arabs (the American hatred protests). I have made friends in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and the Arab people basically want the same thing as the Americans – peace and opportunity. From what I’ve seen on TV, I want to say to Arabs, being an American, nobody I know is interested in destroying Islam. The suggestion that we are willing to do so is ridiculous. Religion is an extracurricular activity in the US, and nobody here cares about what you do in your spare time. So you cannot say that we are a nation of Christians and Jews, because we are a country of all religions. Between our very different worlds, we both have extremely ignorant people among us that are our own. We can’t let them start a war, or we are just as ignorant as the ones that create hate.
In reply to your editorial, “We have a public relations problem” published in issue 46 (12 November, 2001 thru 18 November, 2001, Vol XI), let me say that this article, in my opinion, clearly defines the main problem that the Arab world is confronted with, that is disseminating information regarding the main regional issues. I am one of these average American citizens who is hungry for “real” and “true” information on those issues. American citizens have always relished truth and despise any attempt of self-serving and biased reporting.
I, like most of us, do not understand why the “Palestinian cause” can be of such “prime” importance to the people of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, or any other nation not a direct neighbor of Palestine/Israel. Not that it is not important, but it appears to supercede everything else. I do understand the Israeli/Jewish position, primarily because it is presented in a forthright, erudite and consistent manner. I do not always agree with the positions taken but I can understand them.
This is not often the case when these issues are presented from the Arab/Muslim perspective. Many times, the spokesman attempting to solve an issue presents himself in a decidedly defensive and confrontational manner. This leads the viewer/reader to the question and conclusion: “Why so defensive? There must be something to hide!” This seems clearly to be the result of ineffective public relations abilities, for whatever reason.
I truly would like to understand the real issues, as there are always “two sides to EVERY story.”
I encourage the Arab nations to work on their PR image. Americans are not against them, they just don’t understand them – and want to!
I know that you have received numerous letters addressing current US foreign policy within the Middle East. Many have given scathing criticism of the US, while others have outright criticized you, as well as the view held by some within your region. I would like to take this opportunity to try to explain how the people in my part of the United States, upstate New York, feel about the Middle East. Contrary to the belief of many within the Middle East, most of the people, at least within my region, do not really have an opinion on Israel and Palestine. It is not because they are uninformed citizens, but because this issue does not concern their daily lives. We, as individual citizens, do not have much control over US foreign policy, which is delegated to the Executive Branch of our government. The only time an American has a voice on our foreign policy is when we elect the President. Now, this rule is not set in stone. The House of Representatives has been delegated by the Constitution with the task of controlling how the levied taxes are spent, and they have the power to withhold funding for specific programs. During the Reagan Administration, the House voted to withhold funding for the Contras in Central America, which in effect was supposed to prevent the US from funding these individuals. The White House decided to fund them through other means, which is how the Iran-Contra scandal occurred.
The Middle East is very far away from the Southern Tier of New York, and because of this, the majority of people in my area weren’t interested. However, this changed after September 11. People are now beginning to ask questions. They want to learn. Many people, like myself, want to have a dialogue with the Middle East. America wants to get its message out to the Middle East, but many also want to hear what the Middle East has to say.
In regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we understand the grievances of the Arabian Peninsula. However, this can only be resolved in a way in which both parties are satisfied. We recognize that both sides have religious zealots that are bent on achieving victory though violent ends. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank contain individuals not far removed from the so-called Palestinian “martyrs” that choose to blow themselves up, not at a military target, but at a pizzeria at lunch time with children inside. We need to resume talks and find an acceptable solution. Just imagine what the region would be like if peace was achieved. Just imagine how many people would visit Yemen if the kidnappings were eliminated and the tribal conflicts were solved. The United States does not want to impose itself on other cultures. Rather, we want to work together with them. I would like to study Arabic in Yemen, but I am reluctant to do so because of security concerns. It is important for everyone to think in a critical manner and not dehumanize each other and think of others in a stereotypical way. I wish all of you a happy Ramadan. May peace be with you.
Thank you for publishing my letter in your esteemed magazine. My letter is about the current crisis the world is living in after the suicide bomb attack on the United States. As a result of publishing my letter with my e-mail address, I have received a flood of E-mails (17 E-mails so far). As I read them, I could clearly see how my letter has been misinterpreted.
Through your magazine, I want to make one point clear, that is that I am by no means trying to justify or celebrate the death of the innocents. No rational person should think in this way. But one should be reasonable and realistic. What you do expect from the oppressed ones who tried every means to change their miserable situation but without any result (this applies also to the Palestinians)? The moment of explosion would be imminent, even if the price to pay is their life, since without dignity their life will be meaningless. However, the reaction of the attacked ones is of great importance. The wiser the reaction, the greater the possibility to smooth out the differences and avoid future terrorist actions. But if the reaction is (as we are seeing now) a quick retaliation without even sufficient evidence, I think this will solve nothing and rather worsen the situation.
Addressing the problem properly by answering the questions: “Why did this happen?” and “Why America and no other country?” would be more useful and better than wasting time in accusations and blaming one another for being responsible for what happened. The next stage will be through working in light of the appropriate and reasonable answers to these questions. Eventually, terrorism in all its forms will disappear from the face of the earth, and all people regardless of their race and religion will enjoy everlasting peace.
Email: [email protected]
“The Answer” you publish is laughable. I could not believe it was written by an American, or perhaps by the Taliban Propaganda Minister. I also cannot believe this represents at all the American opinion as you claim. I dare you to publish this.
In this “answer,” America is criticized for being hypocritical in maintaining relationships with non-democratic and repressive Middle Eastern regimes. Other than Israel, they are ALL non-democratic and repressive regimes. To blame Israel for the deaths of Palestinians is disingenuous. Israel has the inherent right, as do all nations, to defend itself. If the Palestinians stopped their violence, there would be no more deaths. But, if the Israelis stopped violence, there would still be continued violence by the Arabs.
The Israelis moved substantially from their previous position in an attempt to achieve peace. If the Palestinians felt that was inadequate, they could have submitted a counterproposal. Instead they prefer to resort to violence.
After 50 years, it is obvious that the Arabs don’t want and never did want peace. They would rather suffer for eternity than make peace. The sad part about it is that they are granted their wish.
I would like to explain that the root of ‘Jihad’ is ja-ha-da. The radical verb is ‘jihada,’ meaning to strive, to make effort. ‘Jihad,’ one of the verbal nouns, is basically to make efforts and to struggle against all evil, in one’s self firstly and then around. Armed struggle is an extreme implementation of this concept. A ‘Mujaahid’ is someone who makes jihad. The plural of the word is ‘Mujaahidoon’, and when declined in the accusative or genitive cases, it becomes ‘Mujaahideen.’
So, basically the ‘Mujaahideen’ are Muslims who, conscious of their duties as creatures of God on earth, struggle against any form of evil and injustice. The struggle starts within one’s self. The first enemy, after Satan, is one’s self. This struggle then extends to the surroundings. Means to conduct jihad are mainly intellect, good words, good actions, mutual encouragement, preaching and reminders, the pen (and lately Internet), etc., and as a last recourse, in case all the previous fail, are arms. This is made only on a defensive basis, against injustice and tyranny. Since Muslims are constantly, everyday, in self-jihad. The appellation ‘Mujaahideen’ is normally conferred to those who fight militarily for the cause of God.
The world of today knows the soldiers of the Northern Alliance as Mujaahideen. This nickname has been given to them by the world’s media, but WRONGLY so! My call is to refrain from calling these people Mujaahideen, as the word would be vulgarized and defamed.
Soldiers of the Northern Alliance are people of a brutal nature. They rape, kill, massacre, and loot unjustly. People with this kind of register will dishonor such a noble word as Mujaahideen. Mujaahideen struggle for the establishment and maintenance of God’s word on earth. Where they enter after victory, goodness is spread and evil goes away. It was the contrary when the Northern Alliance entered Kabul and the other cities. When they came back, satanic music started being heard, pornographic pictures were displayed, many women gave up on their chaste behaviors, and many men abandoned themselves in wine drinking and so on. To top it off, hundreds of people were massacred in cold blood, after being humiliated and paraded. These are satanic acts totally against the principles of Islam.
Relatively speaking, the Taliban far more deserve to be called Mujaahideen than the soldiers of the Northern Alliance. If you don’t want to call the Taliban Mujaahideen, at least stop calling soldiers of the Northern Alliance Mujaahideen. Keep that word noble and let it be given to noble people.
Abdullateef Sheik Uthman
The editorial “We Have a Public Relations Problem” is right on the mark: “Arabs have a public relations problem.” But it isn’t just limited to how politicians interact with news media. Probably the best thing to happen to Arab public image in America in recent years was the Disney release of the animation film “Aladdin,” not that it represents life in the Middle East any more than their subsequent “Tarzan” illustrates life in the jungle. But it introduced a human, caring image of Arabs that was previously absent in American consciousness. If Osama bin Laden wanted to win peace and a beneficial outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he should have spent his millions buying a studio and produced movies that won hearts. A few action thrillers and a few love stories and the American consciousness will have shifted. Then get some incredibly famous stars to take part in an epic religious-struggle movie and there’s no telling what might follow.
Seattle, WA, USA