Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Buzz in Western media recently over the pictures of attractive young women at the forefront of opposition demonstrations - Gulf News: Opinion

Mohammad Al Khalil is a lecturer, Arabic Studies, Zayed University, Dubai. He writes in today's Gulf News,

There has been a buzz in Western media recently over the pictures of attractive young women at the forefront of opposition demonstrations in Lebanon.
...
But how will the pronounced appearance of sexy and politically active Westernised young women be received in the wider context of the Arab world?
However pleasing such scenes might seem to observers in the West, who might interpret them as the signs of the "people power" of liberal and emancipated strata across the Arab world it is more probable that the new image being projected would play right into the hands of the opposing conservative loyalists.

The heavily-Westernised mix-gender scenes of activists out demonstrating, sometimes in very close quarters like the back of a pickup truck, may not sit well with Arab time-honoured tradition of the separation of the sexes.
....
So it doesn't help the opposition camp, in the larger Lebanese and Arab context, that the majority of their slogans and signs are written in English, even though this is convenient for Western observers.

Just contrast this with the demonstrations called for by Hezbollah where the majority of signs were in Arabic and the women were separated from the men.

Granted, such practice is not "cool"! But Hezbollah is not only flexing its muscles for the benefit of foreign observers, it is also addressing itself to the larger Arab constituency who will not miss the meaning of signs like "This is Lebanon, not Ukraine" written in Arabic.

He writes of the "increasingly conservative Arab population." But is it increasingly conservative? Some parts of the population may be driven towards increasing conservatism in reaction to societal changes. What is true is that the pictures that are fascinating the West are (1) showing a slice of life in the Arab world that many in the West didn't know existed, but (2) that slice is no more representative of the large whole than are Arab stereotypes of the West based on slices of American life.

UPDATE: Welcome PubliusPundit readers. My post on the Bahrain protests may relate to your specific interest in following PubPun's link here. Click on the Emirates Economist header above to go to my mainpage where you'll get my slant on real life in the UAE, or at least the slice of it that I experience.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Charles Malik said...

Being Lebanese and a participant in the protests, my first response to Mohammad al-Khalil's article is, "Typical Arab."
Of course, that's highly stereotypical and plays into time old arguments about the Lebanese not being Arab, etc.
But rather than contest al Khalil's opinion about how Arab audiences (who sit at home and watch Arab men and women - dressed in scandalous outfits - from all over the region live together in a house in Lebanon on LBC's Star Academy), I will make one major note.
Hezbollah, however their protesters are dressed, is still Shia, and will be Shia until their dying day. I think those Hezbollah masses strike a little more fear into Khaliji hearts than a bunch of Christians, Druze, and secular Muslims protesting together in tight confines.

10:48 PM  
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12:24 PM  

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