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Kuwaiti Voice for Pluralism By: MEMRI
Memri | Friday, June 27, 2008


In an article in the Kuwaiti English-language daily Arab Times, columnist Dr. Khaled Al-Janfawi denounced the anti-West discourse prevailing in the Middle East. He argued that this discourse, which promotes a distorted and biased image of the West, leads to hostility and extremism and is one of the roots of the culture of violence in the Middle East. He added that in order to promote tolerance and democracy in the Arab world, there was a need for school curricula that do not demonize the other but instead stress the importance of diversity and pluralism.

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

"The Revival of... Anti-Western Discourses in Middle East... [Leads to] Violence [and] Hostility"

"...According to many post-colonial critics, the study of the East by numerous European travelers, anthropologists and writers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries 'paved' the way for its colonization by Western powers...

"However, there is currently in the making a similar 'discourse' about the West, created by Middle Easterners! It is a negative and hostile discourse against Western cultures and civilizations adopted earlier by pan-Arab political writers and commentators during the 1950s and 60s. The revival of such anti-Western discourses in the Middle East 'paves' the way for the spread of a culture of violence [and] hostility which is threatening to engulf our entire Middle Eastern region.

"[In order] to face [this] escalating phenomenon, there is a real need to launch a more effective international forum to address this problem, because [the] many local Middle Eastern attempts seemed to have failed to do so!"

"Many Pro-Western Educated Arab Intellectuals... Continue to be Targeted, Discriminated Against and Robbed of Their Basic Right [to] Freedom of Speech"

"Hostility towards non-Arab and non-Muslim cultures - either through subjective and quasi-journalistic analysis of what happens in the Middle East or [through] the continuation of biased Arab media coverage in the region - creates a disastrous combination of violence and extremism. Many pro-Western educated Arab intellectuals [who] are still trying to spread the word of peace [and] cultural cooperation between East and West continue to be targeted, discriminated against and robbed of their basic right [to] freedom of speech. The culture of fear, religious extremism and... violent reactions to local events is basically a direct result of anti-Westernism.

"It is not enough to hold occasional forums about inter-cultural dialogue between the East and West in the region, attended only by [an] audience of 'experts' in the field. Open-minded and enlightened Western and Middle Eastern intellectuals can surely add a powerful drive to the process of democratization of the region. However, there is a need to 'reach out' to the typical Middle Eastern communities and individuals, and to analyze the primary causes for the apparent rise in extremism in our region. Poverty, lack of education, bad governing, unfair media coverage, and weak local economies are only the tip of the iceberg, and other causes of extremism need to be examined more closely."

"A Typical Arab Educational Institution May Offer the MostAdvanced Scientific Curricula... [But] at the Same Time... Demonize the 'Other'"

"For example, one other reason for the rise in hostility, violence, and intimidation of cultural and racial minorities [that is] motivated by religious extremism in any human society is the lack of sufficient educational programs about the importance of 'diversity.' Many, if not most, educational curriculums in the Arab countries... [in] primary to middle schools, continue to adopt [conservative] pedagogical techniques. A typical Arab educational institution may offer the most advanced and recent scientific curricula, while at the same time [preserve] parts [of the curricula that] demonize the 'other' - the non-Arab or non-Muslim and sometimes [also] the Arab pro-Western intellectual..."



[1] Arab Times (Kuwait), January 1, 2008, http://www.arabtimesonline.com/kuwaitnews/faqdetails.asp?faid=775&faqid=9.
The text has been lightly edited for clarity.




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