Monday, January 24, 2005

How do you spell relief? P-o-l-i-t-i-c-s

Were waves the fault of 'infidels'?

By SALIM MANSUR -- For the Toronto Sun

Canadians observed, at the initiative of Prime Minister Paul Martin, an official day of mourning for the Asian tsunami victims. There have been similar observations, ecumenical prayers, expressions of grief and solidarity from peoples and governments across the world.

More important, words have been matched and exceeded with the generosity of people in Canada and elsewhere to help alleviate the sufferings of the living and contribute to rebuilding the devastated areas of the countries affected.

In the midst of such an outpouring of support for tsunami victims, words from the Middle East, reported in the regional media, sound a strikingly contrary and discordant note.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), based in Washington, has been providing since 1998, as its Web site notes, "timely translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media."

This service of reporting -- unedited and uncensored -- what is said by those who shape public opinion in the region provides a window to the thinking of the people there.

A review of MEMRI's recent translations of statements relating to the Asian tsunami in the Arab media is at once shocking and revealing of the mindset of many religious, academic and political leaders of the Arab-Muslim world.

The Saudi justice minister, Ibrahim Al-Bashar, went on the Saudi Arabian/United Arab Emirates Al-Majd television channel to state: "Whoever reads the Koran, given by the Maker of the World, can see how these nations were destroyed. There is one reason: they lied, they sinned, and (they) were infidels."

In the same vein, Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, a Palestinian prayer leader, announced just days after the tsunami that the waves were sent by a vengeful God against "corrupt oppressors."

A Saudi professor, Sheikh Fawzan Al-Fawzan, at the Al-Imam University in Beirut, Lebanon, observed on television that the tsunami was a divine punishment for homosexuality and fornication: "It happened at Christmas, when fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world come to commit fornication and sexual perversion."

Another Saudi cleric, Muhammad Al-Munajjid, expanded this idea: "Those celebrating spent (the holiday) in vacation resorts, pubs, and hotels. Allah struck them with an earthquake. He finished off the Richter scale. Tens of thousands dead."

An Egyptian correspondent, Mahmoud Bakri, writing for Egypt's weekly magazine Al-Usbu', developed an ingenious, conspiracy-laden theory for the disaster. Bakri posed the question "Was (it) caused by American, Israeli, and Indian nuclear testing on the day of horror?"

Then he answered: "... although so far it has not been proven that secret Indian-Israeli nuclear testing is what caused the destructive earthquake, there is evidence that the recent nuclear tests, the exchange of nuclear experts between India and Israel, and the American pressure on Pakistan regarding its nuclear cooperation with Asian and Islamic countries -- all these pose a big question mark regarding the causes of the severe earthquake in Asia."

These words illuminate the minds of the people who utter them and of those who accept.

Moreover, these are opinions of several members of the educated elite of a part of the world deliberately locked into a medieval mindset.

This medievalism, often in the guise of Islam, rages in fury at the world beyond itself. It extols the virtues of suicide bombers, blames Jews and infidels for the ills of the world, and declares war on the West.

There is a lesson in this. It took Europe centuries to escape the fanaticism and impoverishment of the medieval age.

Today, the West must protect itself from the medievalism of the Middle East.


How do you spell relief? P-o-l-i-t-i-c-s


Let’s not be cynical. Genuine compassion for the Tsunami victims is the main reason why countries around the world have been rushing to help the relief efforts. But let’s not be naïve, either. National interest and pride have also been driving countries to give, and the way they gave, casts an interesting light on their strengths and ambitions.

For the United States, the aid drive is a golden opportunity to improve the way that Americans are seen by others. The U.S. has deployed hundred of troops and scores of warships and helicopters. The pictures of U.S. troops

handing out food and water to victims in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation should help dispel the absurd idea that Washington is prejudiced against the Islamic world. It was the United States, after all, that intervened to end a famine in mainly Muslim Somalia in the early 1990s. The United States that sent warplanes to attack Serbs who were massacring Bosnian Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, and the United States that led the drive to rescue Kuwait after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded the Persian Gulf State.

The relief effort is a chance to show that American power can do good as well as deter evil. Secretary of State Collin Powell called the effort “an investment in national security.” If it helps relieve the unreasoning hatred of the United States that infects so much of the world, it will be money well spent.

For India, the disaster is a chance to show its big power status and regional influence. New Delhi dispatched ships, helicopters and aircrafts to neighboring Sri Lanka with in a day of the Tsunamis, bringing doctors, water and medical supplies. The message was clear: Even though India itself suffered in the disaster, it has the power and the wealth to help others. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointedly declined all offers of foreign aid, declaring that “we feel we can cope with the situation on our own.” India, he was correct to say, has plenty of experience, dealing with natural disasters, from Monsoon floods to earthquakes, but the refusal of outside help reeked of the prickly pride that is one of the modern India’s character flaws.

The effects could be especially severe for the residents of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Though the archipelago lies more than 1,400 kilometers east of the Indian mainland, New Delhi is keeping out most of the aid agencies over apparent fears that a foreign presence might somehow comprise Indian sovereignty there.

For China and Japan, as well, aid is a way to extend their influence. Japan is dismayed by its puny status on the international stage and hungers for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Its $500 – million (U.S.) contribution to disaster relief is intended to show that Japan is global player. To underline the point, it is sending destroyers, supply ships and 900 military personnel.

Japan’s big effort is also intended to pre-empt China, its East Asian rival. Japanese officials reportedly settled on $ 500 – million because they feared that Beijing was about to make a huge offer. They need not have worried: China came through with only $ 83 – million. Its military aid consist of a few dozen medical workers flown into the distant zones, an embarrassing contrast to the 13,000 being deployed by Washington.

China’s under whelming response shows that, despite its booming economy and great power ambitions, it has a long way to go before it fulfills its dream of becoming the dominant power in its region, if not the world. In a crisis like this, it cannot even compete with Australia, which has a population one - 65th as large but is giving 10 times as much.

More disappointing still has been the response from the Arab world. Even with a quarter of the world’s proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is sending only $30 – million, roughly the same amount as the Netherlands. Kuwait and Qatar, meanwhile, gave $ 10 – million each, and the United Arab Emirates $ 20 – million. In total, the four oil producers gave $ 70 – million. Compare that to the $ 500 – million a day they earn in oil revenue, and you get a rough idea of how much they really care about their Muslim brothers and sisters in Indonesia.

(At the time of Iran earthquake, no Muslim country gave any kind of help to Muslim Iran.)


At 9:21 AM, Blogger Living in Thailand said...

We have a website that was created during the Tsunami please let us know if any people there is found and we will delete themAfter the Tsunami


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