Dergham Urges Peace among Arabs, Americans

By Buisch, Michele D. | Corrections Today, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Dergham Urges Peace among Arabs, Americans


Buisch, Michele D., Corrections Today


Both Americans and Arabs must take responsibility and make changes to ensure that the United States wins the continuing war on terrorism and achieves peace, declared Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent for London-based Al Hayat and political analyst, during the Annual Luncheon.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, America has been involved in two unfinished wars--the one in Afghanistan and the one in Iraq, Dergham said. "Unfinished for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that both wars did not get the very men who are still out there threatening us," she said.

Referring to President Bush's policy on pre-emption, Dergham said there was a time when the world complained of the isolationist America. Now they are amazed, not always in a good way, at the "interventionist" America--unable to understand or even trust the leadership. "Americans themselves are flabbergasted at how the world has come to hate us and can't be grateful for getting Osama Bin Laden out of Afghanistan ... and getting Saddam Hussein captured," she continued. "The notion that Arabs and Muslims have always had a fundamental problem with America and what it stands for is superficial and dead wrong.... The argument is not about what America is, but about what America does."

Most Arabs do not hate Americans; they do, however, have issues with American foreign policy, which Dergham said they see as unfair toward the Arab world and inconsistently applied. And Arabs, she added, must understand that Americans do not understand them, and that although they act in the world, they are not necessarily worldly.

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Americans must work to learn about the impact of their foreign policy. "They can no longer afford to remain indifferent," she said. She added that they should engage Arabs and Muslims as committed partners in the war against terrorism, which would require adjusting the foreign policy, adopting a new approach to the silent majority, reforming relationships with governments of that region, adopting a more respectful tone toward Arabs and Muslims, and standing up to extremists with "one standard and equal resolve, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews."

On the part of Arabs and Muslims, Dergham said, they must stop exporting blame making America a convenient culprit for their problems when it is just as much internal. For Arabs and Muslims to take hold of their destiny, she said, three things must take place: a departure from the conspiracy theory that paints them as a perpetual victim, which is a substitute for looking within; an admission by the silent majority that their inaction creates a void filled by the agenda of the active extremist minority; and an admission by governments that their denial of civil liberties and denial of democratic processes helped produce such terror and instability and requires immediate action. A major source of frustration for Arabs and Muslims, Dergham said, is that they do not understand America's "de facto" support of Israel and believe that America gave Israel the right to do whatever it wishes, including demolishing Palestinian homes. "They do feel hated and despised," she said. "They question why, when it comes to Arabs and Muslims, America departs from the fairness that otherwise characterizes that persona." She added that they feel that America does not give them a voice.

At the level of government, many Arab countries have realized that in order to combat terrorism, there needs to be a fundamental reform at all levels, even in Arab societies that do not produce terrorism, in eradicating the roots of the causes of depression that have been leading to this "culture of destruction." Their concerns are not limited to that of the Palestinian and Iraqi issues; they have economic and social issues and they are also victims of Sept. 11 and terrorism committed in their name.

With the war in Iraq and the fall of Hussein, the illusion of the brutal, powerful dictatorship's invincibility was shattered; fear has been broken, change is possible, Dergham said. …

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