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Friday, May 24, 2024

America! Don’t dim your inspirational light

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© AP Image

This is a message to America, whose people I consider to be amongst the most enlightened on earth. It comes at a moment in history when anti- Americanism is on the rise in the Middle East, triggered by your government’s inept foreign policy. The vast majority of Arabs have no gripe with the American people or your country’s institutions. We recognise, with gratitude, that we have greatly benefited from your knowledge and have been recipients of your generosity for decades.

Our young people have graduated from American universities, our families have been treated in American hospitals; many cured thanks to your medical advances. We have adopted your business practices and banking systems. The aircraft carrying us beyond our borders are products of American innovation and it is thanks to your finest minds that today we take instant communications via mobile phones and the internet for granted. Several Arab countries continue to rely upon US military aid and training programs. It’s undeniable that without America’s outstretched hand, we might have remained captive to the 20th century.

Gulf States have traditionally enjoyed excellent ties with US authorities. I value my personal friendships with Americans from all social and political strata, from hoteliers to shopkeepers, businessmen, doctors, celebrities, diplomats and politicians. I frequently visit the US to spend quality time with my American friends who often travel to Dubai to see me. We get together, trust one another and have developed a mutual understanding that transcends differing cultures and lifestyles. However, the White House and Congress consistently fail to understand our traditions, our way of life and our style of communication. It’s as though they wilfully remain in a bubble of ignorance when it comes to Arabs.

Americans famously question ‘Why don’t they like us?’ Right now, they are witnessing Egyptians hoisting posters depicting their president’s image under the tag “Obama supports terrorists”. That’s an insult, that’s a gross exaggeration. But who can blame Egyptians from being bewildered by President Barack Obama’s backing of the Muslim Brotherhood since Hosni Mubarak’s toppling? Obama revealed that he liked Mohammed Morsi and thought the feeling was mutual. He instructed his ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, now one of the most hated figures in Egypt, to thwart Morsi’s ousting and condemn the June 30th uprising as being detrimental to the economy.

Since, the White House has denounced arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including the organisation’s Supreme Guide even though he has been inciting violence and glorifying martyrdom in the name of a bungling engineer unequipped to run one of my construction companies, let alone a country of 90 million people. Morsi is a criminal whose escape from prison was courtesy of his buddies in Hamas, today launching rocket attacks on Egyptian military personnel in Sinai. The proof, one of his henchmen Dr. Mohammed Beltagy offered to bring a halt to the violence on condition Morsi is reinstated, which implies the remote control rests in his hands. And what does Mr. Obama say? He demands Morsi’s release from detention without considering that he’s being investigated for wrongdoing or that his release would empower the enemies of this fledgling new Egypt struggling for breath. Is it any surprise that Egyptians are convinced the US doesn’t care about them, preferring to lend their backing to religious ideologues without an ounce of loyalty to their country, a group bent on destroying the region to create an Islamist caliphate?

Why the Obama administration champions an organisation that’s been hand-in-glove with Iranian mullahs, Hamas and Al Qaeda’s founders since the 70s, is a mystery. Why does Congress bless this stance when it vehemently supported the war against terrorism? What is the real reason for this underthe- table alliance between Washington and the Brotherhood? The US is wrong to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs by taking sides - or as we say in Arabic getting between a mother and son. The White House is respectfully requested to mind its own business and quit injecting billions of dollars to sew division, igniting anti-American hatred on the streets of every Arab capital.

As a friend to the United States, I have often been invited to speak in your universities to bridge the gap between Arabs and Americans. I explain the ageold systems of governance within GCC states to eager students, systems that don’t depend upon ballot boxes but are geared towards the well being of citizens who are cared-for 100 percent with the provision of homes as well as cost-free medical treatment and higher education both at home and abroad. Our governments even cover wedding expenses for lowincome couples. There are no beggars on our streets. I tell those students that our systems are beyond democratic because when our leaders make promises, they actually deliver on those promises.

I, therefore, consider myself well qualified to offer President Obama the benefit of my advice. Mr. President, since your campaigning days are over, why don’t you use your last years as president to secure a decent legacy? Throw away that wooden spoon stirring-up hostilities in our troubled region; instead, devote your time to bettering the lives of your own people. Allow our neighbourhood to solve its own problems – and believe me, left alone, we can do it. By staying out of our affairs, anti-Americanism will dissipate when young Arabs and young Americans would be free to bond as equals in an ambience of mutual respect.

Firstly, Mr. President, please allow Egypt and its people to choose their own leaders. Secondly, if you are truly passionate about human rights, how can you bear to watch Bashar Al Assad’s butchering of innocents, assisted by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah militants and Iraqi Shiites, without any plan to intervene? You make Egypt your business, but neglect Syria where up to 100,000 have been deprived of life. We understand the game plan you and your colleagues have cooked up for the Middle East but, frankly, we are tired of being manipulated by a country thousands of miles away which treats us like minors without a say in our own future.

What you and your predecessors have done to the Arab world, particularly to Sunni populations, stains your nation’s history. America’s nurturing of the Ayatollah Khomeini to replace its former best friend the Shah was abhorrent. George W. Bush’s use of false pretexts to invade Iraq was unconscionable. This former great Arab nation, the Cradle of Civilization no less, was turned into a hellish land, a magnet for terrorists where people are being blown up because of their religious beliefs. The US is responsible for nurturing Sunni- Shiite hostilities that did not exist under the former regime. Then, adding insult to injury, Iraq was parcelled-off to the ayatollahs in Qom. US leaders have been barking against Iran for years over its uranium enrichment program but have no appetite to bite. I won’t indulge in conspiracy theories here, preferring to leave conclusions to my readers’ own logic. But you, Mr. President, know the truth.

I still recall your moving speech in Cairo when you reached out to the Arab World; that’s a promise as yet unfilled. But if that speech was sincere, more than mere words, then you should take immediate action to support the Syrian opposition and throw your weight behind Egypt’s interim government battling to lift its people out of insecurity and poverty.

Think about your legacy. Think about the unique opportunity you have to make a difference so that our children and grandchildren are no longer separated by misunderstandings and hurts. Show yourself worthy of your Nobel Peace Prize – and gain the admiration of your own people as well as ours. Let America’s light of truth and justice shine bright.

God bless America. And God bless our troubled Arab World.

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