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The Algiers Bombings: A Media Perspective

June 7, 2007

 

It is incumbent upon us, we Algerian watchers and intellectuals, to take a pause and cast a careful look at the recent bombings in Algiers which targeted, among other significant political symbols in our capital city, the headquarters of the Prime Minister.

 When one reads through the massive corpus of commentaries and analyses written on the grim developments in Algeria, one can easily see that these “theorists and political analysts” fall into two distinct categories.   

The first group consists of subservient journalists whose primary aim is to please the men in power in Algiers and (so) glean whatever benefits they can from the regime.

In their daily writings these hack journalists insist that the terrorists’s days are numbered and that the country is witnessing the last gasps of those dying bombers. According to this group, the only possible way to tackle the desperate evil-doers is to tighten the noose around their necks and implement tight security measures against them. That, they claim, is the elixir which will guarantee peace and security in Algeria. 

  The second group consists mainly of those who firmly believe in the conspiracy theory. They allege that the perpetrators of the devastating terrorist operations are no other than the Algerian Intelligence and Security Apparatus.

They further claim that in so doing, the Algerian Intelligence Service seeks to inspire fear into the hearts of the ordinary citizen and, through perpetuation of the state of emergency, the regime will then be able to harden its grip on the nation and continue to deprive the Algerians of their basic rights to freedom and democratic rule.

 Chief among those who uphold this view are independent opposition figures and remnants of the banned Islamic Salvation Front, especially Murad Bin Dhina, the Islamist leader who is now living in exile, Switzerland.  

Between these two groups, a raging battle is now being fought on Satellite Arab channels. I find both positions to be off the mark. To me, the whole situation, which was brilliantly and perceptively outlined in a cartoon published in Al-Khabar daily (April 15th 2007)    seems to be crystal     clear and quite     comprehensible. 

 We all know that the Algerian youth make up 85% of the total population. Tragically however, they are the most marginalised group in our society.

 Despite their skills and high academic achievements (many with post-graduate degrees), they are poor, out of work, oppressed by the regime and unable to express themselves or voice an opinion even on matters that are organically related to their own future and well-being. 

 We need no angel to tell us that these hard realities have had an immense negative impact not only on the lives of our youth but also on the lives of the Algerians at large. 

 The Algerian youth feel neglected, cornered and compelled to take all sorts of risks in order to break free from the inclement trap in which they find themselves.

They have no choice but to either emigrate (my own experience), indulge in drugs and alcohol, or seek unlawful and dangerous ways of earning a living such as smuggling, robberies, forgeries, trading in contraband goods, etc. 

Some of course will resort to suicidal protests; either through setting themselves alight in front of a government employment agency, or taking some form of toxic material or poison to end their suffering once and for all. 

A last resort for some would be to seek refuge with terrorist organisations, especially with the fundamentalist Salafi groups.  Those misguided youth take this desperate and destructive measure in the belief that, having failed to find peace on earth, they will finally secure a place in Heaven.    


  

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An acoustic Phenomenon

May 16, 2007

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The Arabs are an acoustic phenomenon”. I have often wondered about the implications and sarcasm which lies behind this phrase, which I have heard quite often. 

 However, it was not until the day the last local elections in  Britain were held  that I discovered how true these words were.  To cover the recent local elections I headed for the municipal borough of
Acton, where a sizable Arab community live.
 

I went straightaway  to the headquarters of Mr Atallah Saeed, the Labour Party candidate. It was hardly one o’clock in the afternoon, but our Arab candidate was already experiencing intense agony and frustration.  

Atallah had been sickened by the total apathy of the Arabs who never extend a helping hand to their fellow Arabs.

They never listen to his cries and arguments that the Arabs ( London is the favourite haunt for the richest Arab billionaires) should financially back him and other Arab candidates such as Dr Wafiq Mustafa of the Conservative Party. 

It is indeed nauseating that while there is lamentable scarcity of Arab funds for election campaigns, a shamefully huge amount of money is wasted each day in the  London casinos and in the extravagant and yes debauched night life of the big city.   

The Arabs, alas, are incognizant that British decision makers may be influenced by all sorts of  lobbies and pressure groups except an Arab lobby.

   There was yet another cause for Atallah’s distress. Of  all the large Arab electorate in his onstituency, only a scant few normally bother to vote.   

No less distressing for him is the fact that in and around the street where his office is situated, dozens of Arab businessmen, journalists and intellectuals live and work. 

It is tragically ironic that those same journalists and intellectuals appear on daily basis on Arab satellite channels to “educate” their viewers and pontificate  about politics, ethics, public behaviour and  how best to rise above challenges and achieve Arab glory !  

Why intellectuals are detested in the Arab world?

May 15, 2007

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Statistics show that the population of the Arab world is somewhere between 280 and 300 million.

 Of these, UN experts estimate that at least 70 million are illiterate! This staggering proportion represents twice the number of all illiterate men and women across the globe. 

We are of course referring here to alphabetical illiteracy, The figures quoted show only those who cannot read and write.  

 Perhaps even more catastrophic is the fact that there are 200  million Arabs who are culturally illiterate. Indeed, these Arabs can read and write, but the vast majority have in point of fact never read a book or paged through a newspaper since their schooldays. 

But the fact that 90% of All Arabs are illiterate in the ways of the IT and use of the Internet, Is a tragedy of apocalyptical proportions. 

In searching for the factors or causes which have led to this abominable situation, one cannot but point, above all else, to the responsibility of  Arab rulers, most of whom seem determined to keep their people ignorant in order that they may continue to manipulate them. 

The Arab individual is no less culpable, Sociologists have for long identified crippling traits among the Arabs of today, who have grown unmindful and quite blasé about the rapidly changing world around them.

Gratification of basic instincts, worship of consumerism and  total preoccupation with material wealth seem to the pillars of  their social culture. 

Then comes the responsibility of the Arab intellectuals, who have failed to crystallize their ideas  into a popular movement for change.

They continue to stand aloof, content to live in their own world of haughtiness, although they, of all social strata, hold the key to a better world. 

This perhaps explains why the Arab intellectuals are hated by their authoritarian regimes.,For it is the intellectuals who are capable of influencing and mobilizing the masses against their rulers. 

On the other hand, the populace have no sweet words for the intellectuals, simply because of the intellectuals’ arrogance towards what they regard as illiterate rabble.