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Lebanese TV Host Joumana Haddad on Racism in the Arab World: We Are Tenth, not Third, World; We’re Wallowing in Our Own Backwardness

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The Lebanese TV host Joumana Haddad said in a September 19, 2019 monologue on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.), a station supported by the American government,  that the Arabs are a racist people. She criticized the Arab nation for looking down, she said, upon other races and nationalities and for not seeing anything shameful about its racism. She said that Arab countries legally condone racism and forms of human trafficking, slavery, and systematic humiliation, and that the Arab countries are “wallowing” in their backward past. In addition, Haddad said that it is human advancement, interest in culture, and intellectuality that determines the value of a country, rather than how many skyscrapers a country has, and added: “We do not belong to the third world, but to the tenth world.”

Here are her own words on Al-Hurra TV:

Unfortunately, without generalizing, we are racist people. We are racist because we still lack human and ideological awareness. We are racist because we look down upon other races and nationalities, which we consider to be “inferior” to us, while ignoring the fact that we ourselves are treated with contempt by many cultures and countries. Maybe our ugly and criminal behavior constitutes an act of revenge for the racism of some in the West towards us, but our bigger problem is that we still do not see anything shameful about racism. We even condone by means of the law, using many names, like the kafala sponsorship system. These names do not conceal the fact that this is slave trade, human trafficking, and systematic humiliation. I cannot understand how an Arab can be so arrogant towards other peoples, races, and nationalities. In Ethiopia, they have a female president, while we wallow in our backward patriarchy. Sri Lanka has no power outages, and Nepal is one of the most ancient civilizations in history. Meanwhile, we boast about the oil, which is, in fact, our curse, and we are proud of progress from which we took only the scraps. People, we do not belong to the third world, but to the tenth world.  It saddens me to tell you this. What increases the value of any country is its level of human advancement, how much interest it shows in culture, and the role in[sic] plays in thought – not how many skyscrapers it has.

It is rare to have such a frank admission about the racism and civilizational backwardness of “the Arabs” and one suspects it could only have been delivered on a station, Al-Hurra, that is backed by the American government.

The ”racism” of the Arabs has many sources. The Qur’an tells them that Muslims are “the best of peoples.” And among the “best of peoples,” Arabs are preeminent; they know it, and so do non-Arab Muslims. For the Qur’an was revealed to a 7th century Arab, and in his language, Arabic. Ideally, the Qur’an should be read only in Arabic. Muslims prostrate themselves in prayer five times a day, turned toward Mecca, in eastern Arabia. They are required, if they can afford it, to make the Hajj in Mecca itself. The first Muslims, the Companions of the Prophet, were all Arabs. Converts to Islam frequently take Arab names. Some even assume the name “Sayyid,” which indicates descent from the Al Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet. All of this promotes the notion of Arab preeminence within Islam. The late scholar Anwar Sheikh always maintained that Islam “is a vehicle for Arab supremacism.”

The Arabs treat non-Arab Muslims with contumely, or worse. In North Africa, especially in Algeria, the Berbers have for long periods been denied the right by the majority Arabs to use their language, Tamazight, or to transmit their own culture to their children. In Iraq, the Arab military under Saddam Hussein murdered 182,000 Kurds, and “Arabized” Kurdish lands by moving in Arab settlers. No Arabs in Iraq – and no Arabs outside of Iraq – expressed horror or even dismay at this genocidal “Operation Anfal.” In Sudan, the Muslim Arabs suppressed the Muslim blacks, and in Darfur, Arab militia known as the Janjaweed slaughtered blacks, burned down their villages, stole their cattle. Many of the black Africans captured by the Arabs in the long Sudanese civil war were made slaves.

The kafala system to which Haddad refers is used by the Gulf Arabs, and also by the Lebanese, to control foreign workers. Those workers must find a sponsor in the country where they wish to work that sponsor, through whom they obtain a work visa, takes possession of their passports, and has total control over those workers he sponsors. That has led to many abuses, whereby the foreign workers have been subject to workplace abuse – forced to work longer, or to accept far less pay, than was agreed – and also, frequently, to sexual exploitation. Haddad exaggerates in calling this system “slavery,” but not by much. In the Gulf Arab states, the lowest level of unskilled workers – Pakistanis, Indian Muslims, even some Africans – endure conditions akin to slavery, in that they have no rights, no legal recourse, no matter how badly they are treated. And their sponsor can withdraw that sponsorship at any time, leading to their prompt expulsion.

Haddad charges that “we” [the Arabs] “wallow in our backward patriarchy.” She does not spell it out, but her audience would have understood. And though she does not take on Islam directly, that misogynistic “patriarchy” comes directly from Islam. It is Islam that sanctions polygyny, a practice that devalues women; Islam that allows men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the triple-talaq, while for women seeking divorce the procedure is more complicated. A Muslim husband may “beat” his wife if he even suspects her of being “disobedient.” A Muslim daughter normally inherits half that of a son. A Muslim woman’s testimony, in a Shari’a court, is worth only half that of a man. And the reason for that, Muhammad himself says in a famous hadith, is “because of the deficiency in her intelligence.”

She describes how “we [Arabs] wallow in our oil,” which, she claims, “is our curse.” What she means is that the trillions of dollars in oil revenues that the Gulf Arabs and other Arabs, too, in Libya and Algeria, have received, all of it without the slightest effort on their part, has deprived the Arabs themselves of any initiative, inventiveness, entrepreneurial flair, or willingness to work, given how much wealth has flowed so easily to them. They are consumers of the products of other, more advanced civilizations. Qatar is perhaps the outstanding example of this: a country where 88% of the population consists of foreigners, who do all the work, and wait hand and foot on the native Qataris who make up the other 12%. In Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, the situation is the same.

Haddad concludes, grimly, that “we [Arabs] do not belong to the third world, but to the tenth world.  It saddens me to tell you this. What increases the value of any country is its level of human advancement, how much interest it shows in culture, and the role in plays in thought – not how many skyscrapers it has.” Those skyscrapers –in Riyadh and Jeddah, in Dubai and Doha – provide the illusion of progress and modernity. But Joumanna Haddad is unimpressed; this is all merely a function of money, not of intellectual or spiritual advancement. What Haddad surely has in the back of her mind is the Arab Human Development Report of 2003, spearheaded by Dr. Rian Khalaf Hunaidi. Among the report’s conclusions, which do not date, Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century. And while the number of books translated into Arabic has risen recently, increasing from 175 per year in the period 1970-1975, to 330 today, the total number of books translated in the two dozen states of the Arab world is one-fifth the number translated in Greece alone. The Arabs have shown a remarkable lack of curiosity about the world. They are impressed with their own material progress – those “skyscrapers” Haddad mentions – and are insufficiently attentive to the intellectual progress, and scientific prowess, that is evident everywhere in the advanced West. They want the products of that other world, the world of the Infidels — above all the weaponry the West provides — but as V. S. Naipaul has written, they do not ponder why it is that the West is able to steadily able to progress, and produce so much, in every area, while  the Arab and Muslim lands produce so little.

Haddad herself is an Arab, and her palpable hits, against Arab racism, Arab (and Muslim) patriarchy, Arab self-satisfaction with their great wealth that was not the result of any effort on their part, but purely the result of an accident of geology, suggest that all is not lost. She and other keen Arab critics of Arab societies who occasionally surface at the website MEMRI.org, are the evidence that increased self-criticism may appear in the Arab world. Now one can only hope that Arab critics of their own societies, such as the intrepid Joumana Haddad, will appear not only on the American-funded Al-Hurra, but on television stations throughout the Arab world.

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