“Rules of Engagement” & the Missing Arab Solidarity [Archives:2000/17/Viewpoint]

April 24 2000

Last Thursday, I attended a demonstration of Yemeni and American individuals in front of a cinema theater against the Paramount movie “Rules of Engagement.” I already knew about the plan for the demonstrations some time before they started.
The demonstrators had all the right to condemn such a movie that has already caused our image much more harm than anticipated. I myself went through an incident that showed me the extent of effect the movie had already inflicted on our country’s image in the USA. I heard two boys talking at a restaurant about the movie, mentioning how interesting and exciting it was, and how terrorizing and monstrous Yemenis are, children, women and men alike. They also talked about the fire guns held by the Yemenis in the movie and how the producers were able to gather those terrorist Yemeni families. I interrupted them by saying, “Did you ever know anything about Yemen before you saw the movie?” They replied, “No, we only knew about it for the first time from the movie.” 

I explained to them that this is no more than fiction, and that Ðunlike what has been shown in the movie- Yemen is not the place where there is no civilization, and that the film was actually not shot in Yemen. I mentioned how sorrowful that such racist films are produced at a time Yemen is enjoying quite a good reputation for its development, and cultural standards. The boys were almost shocked, and only learned from me that the images are not from Yemen. They were surprised to know from me what is contrary to the movie, they thought the Hollywood producers would always say the truth.
This goes on and on, and millions of young people everywhere are slowly knowing about Yemen for the first time from the movie. The demonstrations, which took place in Washington, and previously in Chicago, were all organized by the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee. However, I regret that demonstrator’s number was far less than expected, even though participation of Arabs all over the city were confirmed, according to Hussein Ibish, the ADC’s Communication Director.
During the interview with Ibish, I realized his disappointment and regret for the small number of demonstrators. With agony he concluded his statement to Yemen Times with a very important statement, “We lack the Arab solidarity, and that is why we are where we are today. If we had solidarity, when Yemen’s image is degraded like in this movie, all Arabs would demonstrate. Then if one day Lebanon or any other state runs into similar conditions, Yemenis and all Arabs would condemn and demonstrate. We lack Arab solidarity, and that is why we are weak and humiliated.”As I moved away from the few persons remaining at the demonstration spot, I noticed the sorrow and the disbelief in the few demonstrators faces who were shocked for not seeing the ones who promised to be there for demonstration. I even noticed tears in the eyes of one of them. Indeed, he has all the right to cry. He is not crying sorrowful for Yemen only, he is crying for the lost glory of Arabs and Muslims. He is crying because of the situation we are in today, he is crying for Arab solidarity, the missing Arab solidarity. 
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, 
Chief Editor