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by Ali Salem
Saturday, Jun. 12, 2004 at 5:51 PM
Just for the record, I am not Ali Salem, I published an article by Ali and now am stuck with his name. It is fitting and funny though because I am an Israeli writer and activist female who now has the name of and Egyptian male..
Imposing Western Values
If you think back to Apartheid, the difference of a hundred plus years in America's evolution of civil rights to South Africa's was actually in name only. In truth, only a difference of about twenty years existed from MLK's and Rosa Parks' triumph to the fall of the Apartheid government.
The Britton's were light years ahead already, with slavery banned as long as two hundred years before the U.S.. It's hard to think of what the U.S. would look like if we had not given up slavery. Many lives would have been saved here and in South Africa, among whites, had it not happened. Many more lives would have been lost among blacks.
Slavery is a serious issue we only speak of in the context of the Civil War and South Africa. As if it were a forgotten crisis, a "what not to do," of history, we assume like idiots that it doesn't happen any more. At the time, when the union let go of the barbaric and assinine practice, confederates struggled to keep the Brits from imposing their European liberalism upon the South. But it was not to be for them, even though it took a full hundred plus years more for blacks to really be free (and despite poverty levels they are indeed free to succeed against odds as never before). Now, even Mumia Abu Jamal, a political prisoner of sorts, has the ability to be heard from behind bars. Now, a young black male may still have it harder, but enough strength and perseverance can actually allow him to climb higher than most whites. It is not a lie to placate, but rather, a reality to grow and make this underserved community more cohesive and education minded.
Unfortunately for those blacks, and mind you I have used blacks instead of frican Americans because what I am to speak of involves two different African American colors, so for those blacks still in Africa, Middle East Africa, among Arabs, life is not so good.
The Arabic culture of Africa is also a victim of colonialism. But, while being colonized might explain a diversion from justice, it does not justify one so many years later after the colonialists have been sent packing. Slavery still exists in Arab Africa, and so does genocide. As many as 300,000 blacks may have been slaughtered in Sudan in the last three months alone. As many as a million may have been taken into slavery.
When we talk about imposing Western Values on Islam, it is a misnomer and a tragic stereotype. For in fact, Islam does not condone things like slavery, and the abolishment of slavery itself may have begun as an idea in the Middle East itself.
It is known for instance that although Mohammed had many wives, it was mostly out of pity for widows that he took another. It is alsoknown that his wife, Kadija (which translated to holy one in Hebrew ironically) was not only his boss, but his most trusted advisor and confidant before he became the great leader he was.
Therefore, the irony here is that Americans are giving blood not to impose "Western Values," but to enforce long honored Muslim ideals such as equality that have been corrupted by fanaticism.
Now, is this the way we should be doing this? Absolutely not. By now we should have figured out how to avoid wars exactly because of the success of the anti-Apartheid struggle.
The swiftness of winning a war of arms versus the lagging battle for civil rights through protest and boycott appear attractive to our leaders who only have a short time on the planet to fix long time problems. But wars have not been actually won since before Viet Nam, so this we now know to be a myth, this swift "Mission Acomplished." (by the way, isn't it ironic the word Mission is chosen considering what Missions themselves used to represent?)
Suddenly, the left is faced with a moral dillema of allowing slavery and sexism to continue on a state approved level somewhere in the world, or fighting to impose values like freedom while rich oil men jeapordise freedom for all of us as well.
There is no conclusion to this diatribe, it is just a play on words so people can understand what the exact difference is between imposing our values and demanding justice.
We should demand justice from everyone in the world, and we might have a right to impose our current not necessarily "Western," ideals on the rest of the world.
Boycotts in Iraq did not help our situation, and it was more complicated than South Africa. But that does not men there was no other way to correct the middle East's Rampant inequality between races and sexes.
In fact, many there already concede, especially in Iraq, to womens rights and secular, racism free living.
Still, something had to be done and still has to be done about Sudan and other places where the word didn't get out to after Apartheid.
Bush has taken liberals wishes and used them to enrich many pockets without accomplishing anything except setting up missions. Hopefully Kerry can see that getting people to believe in themselves and justice may be a more effective way to impose liberal ideals upon the Middle East. If equality is a Western value my name is Huey Lewis. Equality among races and cultures and sexes is built into every major religion depending on interpretation. It might very well be worth fighting for as the Yankees learned. It might be worth dying for as MLK learned. It's just too bad all our leaders see it as is worth using for money.
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