“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” George Orwell
“The destruction of culture is the only clear outcome of the phenomenon of the petrol “patronage” of culture.” Mahmoud Darwish (1982)
The Ikhras editors are pleased to announce the Muntadhar Zaidi Ikhras Shoe-of-the-Month Award for October, 2013 goes to UAE-based tweeter Sultan Alqassemi. In an audacious article that generated heated debate on social networking sites, Alqassemi presented the ludicrous suggestion that Arab culture has moved from its traditional capitals, Beirut, Cairo and Baghdad, to the Gulf region, specifically Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai and Doha. Alqassemi offers the laughable idea that “in almost every other sense [Gulf cities have] far outstripped their sister cities in North Africa and the Levant.” While some political commentators, like the Angry Arab, have addressed the absurdity of this premise on a domestic level, it is noteworthy to highlight Alqassemi’s glaring omission of the Gulf countries’ monstrous foreign policies towards life, art and culture in the Levant and North Africa.
Alqassemi doesn’t attempt to conceal an unmistakable quality of Gulf chauvinism towards the people of those regions when he writes “While much of the region was embroiled in wars, Dubai transformed itself from a fishing village to a global capital of business.” He faults the people of those countries, the victims of wars and mass displacement, for their own ill fate. Alqassemi’s assessment suggests that the Arabs of the Levant and North Africa somehow invited conflict on themselves and squandered “their [own] fortunes” while their more civilized, peaceful and business-savvy counterparts in the Gulf availed themselves of economic and (imported) cultural opportunities. This implies an intra-Arab hierarchy that places Gulf Arabs, who have given us “the nerve center of the contemporary Arab world’s culture, commerce, design [etc],” and violent, savage Levant and North Africa Arabs, who are “embroiled in civil strife.”
Operating on the delusion that oil never runs out, Alqassemi predicts that “if and when [Cairo, Beirut and Baghdad] begin the process of turning their fortunes around, they will encounter an Arab-world landscape dominated by the new, formidable Gulf cities.” That is, in the remote likelihood that Levant and North African Arabs stop being so violent and put their conflicts aside, they may or may not stand a chance to compete against the current citadels of Arab glory. Similar to how white supremacy ignores slavery’s contribution to African-Americans’ plight, Alqassemi’s brand of Gulf chauvinism discards the Gulf’s role in the destruction of the culture of the Arabs his article insults. Alqassemi fails to mention that Qatar and UAE participated in the war against Iraq in 1990 (“participated” is used generously here; Ikhras is aware that participation in a war generally entails more than pumping oil for American tanks and planes and tending to the needs of the US occupation army).
Qatar and UAE have refused to sever their ties with the US or offer the solidarity gesture of discontinuing the export of oil to the US to oppose the murder of hundreds of thousands of their Iraqi sisters and brothers under US-imposed sanctions and a US-led invasion and occupation. In fact, they have continued to maintain close military cooperation ties to date. It is only natural that Halliburton and Blackwater, to mention nothing of US military bases, have found a cozy habitat in the Gulf.
The UAE and Qatar also supported the dictatorship of Husni Mubarak for decades, a regime that openly collaborated with the Zionist entity and led to the deterioration of the quality of art and culture in Egypt. They are also at the forefront of normalization with Israel absent a formal peace treaty. Qatar and UAE enthusiastically supported the US/NATO war on Libya and currently support another US-led military strike against yet another Arab country, Syria. They also fund violent, sectarian militias in Syria that serve imperialism’s agenda. Alqassemi’s patronizing pity towards Levantine “civil strife” is ill-informed at best and crocodile tears at worst.
Qatar and UAE’s disastrous domestic and foreign policies are an affront to humanity. Alqassemi does not have the right to add insult to injury by claiming to ascend to the helm of Arab culture after having displaced its traditional leaders. To do so conveys selective historical memory and patriotic hubris. Alqassemi’s peppering his article with words like “Louvre” and “Guggenheim” fools nobody.
If Alqassemi cannot bring himself to denounce Qatar and UAE’s roles in inflicting misery on countless souls, he could’ve of at least chosen to ikhras. The corrosive impact of these sheikhdoms on Arab culture has been evident for years, and his ridiculous assertions could have been dismissed as the delusions of a chauvinist and political adolescent. However, Alqassemi made these ridiculous claims all the while ignoring the destructive role these US protectorates play in the Arab world in the service of imperialism, an omission for which he has earned the October, 2013 ikhras shoe-of-the-month.
Every month Ikhras awards the Muntadhar Zaidi “Shoe of the month” to the House Arab or Muslim individual or organization whose behavior that month best exemplifies the behavior of what Malcolm X described, in the language of his own time, as the “house negro” (see video). The award is named in honor of the brave Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Zaidi who threw his shoes at the war criminal George W. Bush at a time House Arabs and Muslims were dining with him at the White House and inviting him to their mosques. Arab dictators and puppets of the empire are also qualified to enter the shoe of the month competition based on their own subservience to U.S.-led global imperialism. Contest guidelines include the “James Zogby Rule” which prohibits any one individual or organization from winning the award more than 3 times a year.