Response to Rod Barbo’s “Evil” IGNORANCE [Archives:2001/45/Focus]

November 5 2001

Sadaf Shah
Dear Editor
You printed a letter by Rod Barbo without comment in issue 42 dated 15th Oct 2001. This is the American gentleman who referred to your newspaper as “steadily downward- spiraling,” and I, as a Canadian, have many comments in response to Mr. Barbo’s ignorance.
Firstly, Mr.Barbo declares that there was “no open condemnation of both the hijackings/bombings and the calls by some Muslims for jihad” by the Arab world or news agencies. I am appalled at his observations, as most Arab channels were focused on the terrorist attacks for about a whole week starting immediately on September 11th when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. For example, on Al-Jazeera, Future Television, MBC, and LBC international, there was “open condemnation” by Yasser Arafat of the PLO, Husni Mubarak of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, Col. Gaddaffi of Libya, President Saleh of Yemen, and Gen. Musharaf of Pakistan. Moreover, the PM of Lebanon – Hariri – and Saudi Arabia also condemned the attacks. These are leaders representing eight Muslim countries that appeared on CNN. Others have appeared on Arab channels, mainly Al-Jazeera, so my question to Mr.Barbo stands:
What type of condemnation do you require, sir?
As for the call for jihad, if you, sir, have been watching the news closely, specifically CNN, you will have heard that the Taliban themselves have admitted that they are not receiving much response for “mujahideens” from the Muslim world.
Moreover, none of the leaders of the Muslim nations have supported the Taliban or Osama bin Laden by providing the U.S., which helped train Osama and his so-called followers during the Cold War when Russia occupied Afghanistan. The U.S left Afghanistan, hoping it would disappear and showing complete disregard for the nation when its purpose was served.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE withdrew diplomatic support for the Taliban. Pakistan, the Taliban’s closest ally, is providing logistic and intelligence support, as well as the use of two army bases to the coalition. If this is not “open condemnation” of terrorism, when I do not know what is!
As for jihad, Muslims have not yet marched to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. Even if they do, they cannot be labeled as “evil” or “terrorists” for trying to restore some amount of dignity to the Afghan people. The Taliban has and continues to face opposition from among its own citizens. This opposition includes the Northern Alliance and RAWA, a revolutionary women’s association which is secretly fighting to liberate Afghan women. If the Afghan people believed the Taliban to be representative of a truly Islamic government, they would not flee the country by the thousands, and millions have already fled seeking asylum elsewhere.
Secondly, Mr.Rod Barbo, if you, as a “white Christian American” want to adopt the citizenship of any Arab country, you do have the right, not all governments have distorted policies that are supported by your government. I will remind you that during the Prophet’s lifetime, there were many Christians and Jews living in Arabia, and the Prophet never mis-treated them or took away their citizenship. Even today, Syria, Lebanon, Tunis, Algeria, and Egypt have a sizable Christian population. They may not be pure “white” like yourself, but they are, nevertheless, Christian Arabs. There are even Jews living in Yemen today.
They may be poor, but at least the Yemeni government does not occupy their lands or kill them in retaliation for the situation in Palestine.
Thirdly, it is a shame that Mr.Barbo has been treated “unfairly or with prejudice here in Yemen on a regular basis” I, on the other hand, not a Yemeni nor an Arab, have been treated with respect and welcomed into the homes of the Yemeni people. As I made an appointment with a Yemeni manager of a Yemen commercial band to open an ordinary account, I was taken to his private office and offered tea! This type of treatment is not available to the average Yemeni, which is a shame.
And it was not because of my finances that I was only depositing US$100. It was because of my Canadian appeal. Moreover, I do not pay more for taxis or bus fares. However, every foreigner (to any country) does pay more for visas, airline tickets, and work permits than a citizen. A traveler to Canada has to pay more for dental or medical privileges. This does not account for prejudice, but rather benefits the citizens of that country. Even Palestinians and Iraqis have to pay more for some things like Mr.Barbo. Let us clarify another issue: foreigners in Yemen are paid much more than a year’s salary compared to an average Yemeni. The average Yemeni cannot afford to eat at Pizza Hut in Sana’a or Aden while he/she is struggling to survive and raise a family on a measly salary, which is not even given to him on time every month. So, please do not blame the anguished Yemeni for thinking all white folks are rich, for to the Yemenis, even the Pakistanis, Lebanese, Indians, and Saudis are rich.
Finally, America’s refusal to label Israel as racist was not a wise decision as implied by Mr. Barbo. If America was “to agree across the board to label Israel as racist” they would not have to apply the same standard “to at least twenty other Islamic countries, because Israel is the only one in the Middle East practicing ethnic cleansing to guarantee its existence,” see “The Iron Wall.” Hence, Israel was rightly labeled racist by the world community.
Innocent people lost their lives on September 11th, but let us not be foolish enough to call the attacks and their perpetrators “evil.” Who says the whole world must conform to our Western framework of morality? We cannot expect oppressed, dispossessed, and exploited people to keep quiet while their houses are destroyed, their lands confiscated, and their family members jailed, tortured, and killed for throwing stones. At some point, these people’s anger and frustration will explode, and rightly so. Look how fast the U.S. has retaliated, and look again at how many years the Palestinians have been suffering. The American government promotes justice within its own borders, but fails to uphold justice around the world, and that is why America is hated so much. The airstrikes against Afghanistan have yielded no results except to increase the suffering of innocent people and their children. Poor Mr.Barbo is trying to live a righteous life in Yemen by responding that tongue lashing is first as evil. He has called your newspaper “steadily downward spiraling.” You were not obligated to print his letter, but you chose to, and that shows courage. I commend you, Yemen Times, for making the right decision. You have shown that you do not hold a double standard. By practicing in deed what you preach, freedom of speech. My respect for you has increased.