Setting the example to boycott boycotting

45758-resized-un-racism-conferenceLast year, on March 14, The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Isesco) called on all 50 of its member states to boycott the Paris book fair. Why? Because the French had dared to choose Israel as its guest of honor. In the ultimate act of shooting itself in the foot, the organization not only denied authors and publishers the chance at international review and recognition, it also failed to provide a counterpoint to the Israeli perspective highlighted at the fair. Whatever your stand on Israel is, the fact that no Muslim country was there offered them a free pass to promote their own ideas unchallenged.

Similarly, the international community was outraged when Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa to Dubai this past February. The UAE’s reasoning was that denying this player passage to the Dubai Championship would be an effective method to protest the Israeli agression against Gaza at the turn of the new year. Instead, the country was fined, faced incredible censure, and was forced to take in Andy Ram if it wished to continue holding their international competition.

Boycotts and denial of access are simply ineffective ways of protest. They limit communication, and therefore understanding and agreement. While they occasionally have some short-term success, the resentment it creates in the side that was bullied into submission lasts for so long, it will pounce on whatever chance it can take later on to gain retribution, often in the most destructive manner possible.

Why should Muslim countries act any different, however, when the US, Israel, Canada, and the EU, supposedly the paragons of “liberal” and “democratic” countries in the world, don’t provide a better example? Today, April 19, 2009, the US has confirmed that it will not be attending the UN forum on racism in Geneva next week, because of disagreements on how the guiding document views Zionism. This follows similar confirmations from Canada and Israel, as well as serious discussions on behalf of the EU to do the same.

The US decision should hardly come as a surprise to most Muslims, many of whom had their hopes somewhat dampened when President Barack Obama practically promised Jerusalem to Israel, a decision that was not his to make. However, we are still shocked that an administration that is taking pride in its willingness to engage with both those the country agrees and disagrees with, would do something so self-destructive.

What have the past few weeks of international good will visits by the US President and his staff amounted to, then? Why has President Obama ruined all the good faith he has worked so hard to create, over one article within the document, one the forum intends to discuss, and is nowhere near final?

Also, since the president and his government are supposed to be so forward-looking, why is it that they can’t see that not attending is a disadvantage for activism against racism in America as well? The US may be proud to have elected its first African American president, but that is not the end of racism in the United States. There are so many issues it could help resolve concerning those disadvantaged because of prejudice in the US, which can only come by attending these conferences. It can help flesh out African American, Arab and Muslim American, Asian American, Latino American, and other American minority group issues, as well as maybe voicing their extreme disapproval on the “Zionism is racism” segment of the document in person. Camping out in the White House just makes it look like he’s hiding, something President Obama cannot afford to do at this point.

Syrians overjoyed by Obama victory, FW: Magazine observes

Obama’s sweeping presidential victory is being received with great enthusiasm by many Syrians in the private sector, and in households in general. A lot of Syrians have high hopes for Syria following a very tense US elections period, that was marred last week with the US attack on Syria’s Bou Kamal.

The general Syrian public of Obama supporters think he has a high sense of justice. Many have been touched by the loss of his Grandmother just as election day was approaching.

FW: Magazine published Obama v.s. Syria articles in our past issues. Here is a quick look at that:

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In our March issue No. 13 (FW: Magazine, p12), writer Scott C. Davis wrote an article titled, “Obama and Syria.” The writer, a dedicated FW: contributor and author of The Road from Damascus: A Journey Through Syria, foresaw positive change for Syria once Obama won the presidential elections. “If Obama wins and becomes president, expect an updated version of the foreign policy of Jimmy Carter. And expect warm relations between Syria and the US,” Davis wrote.

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For the same issue, Farouq Mitha contributed an article titled “Change, experience, and the Democratic Primary.” The writer examined the implications of the promises for “change” the US presidential candidates made. “What kind of change?” (FW: Magazine, p14).

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The same issue also carried an article titled “The story behind

Obama’s Muslim roots,” in which writer farrah Hassen, the Carol Jean & Edward F. Newman Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C, wrapped up media coverage speculating Obama had either studied in Muslim schools, had Muslim roots, or was just a “committed Christian.”

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The Obama file continues in our issue No. 13 with “Not a done deal,” an opinion article by Imad Moustapha, who is Syria’s Ambassador to the United States. Moustapha wrote: “In a nutshell the Zogbis [James & John of the Arab-American Institue] believe that under McCain, America can cause even more damage to the world, and to itself, than what Bush has already done.”

Our editor-in-chief Sami Moubayed (PhD), wrote “An open letter to President Obama,” an editorial that showed up in our March issue like all the stories mentioned above. (FW: Magazine, issue 13, p 48).

Syria, US elections

In our May issue (No. 15), FW: Magazine ran an article by Farrah Hassen titled, “John McCain: Serious about Syria?” Hassen starts off his article by stating: “The Arab World still hopes, with due right, that either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will make it to the White House in 2009.”

Obama, Syria, FW Magazine

Our 17th issue (July 2008) was a special issue that received a lot of feedback from our readers. Our cover ran the headline “What Michele Obama can learn from Asma al-Assad.” Scott C. Davis drew parallels between the two First Ladies, role-wise, saying ” The specific problem with Michele Obama is not blue jeans and a dismissive attitude toward presidential politics. She, like Asma al-Assad, is stylish and well understands the difference that good leadership can make in the life of a people. The problem with Michele is that, in the primaries, she has just been too good.Michele has given rousing speeches before large audiences.” To read the full article, click here.

Our August issue ran an article by our Syrian Ambassador in the States, Imad Moustapha, titled: “Betting on the new American vice-president,” (Fw: Magazine, issue No. 18, p10).

This is it for now, wishing you all happy post-elections and positive change.

Writer: Ruba Saqr (Associate editor-in-Cheif, FW: Magazine, Syria).