Attack Ships on Fire said:
It may be uncomfortable to admit but some stereotypes have a foundation in reality.
No. I'm sorry. The reality is that Arabs have been OVERWHELMINGLY the VICTIMS of British, French, Italian, American and Israeli terrorism.
Alice, with all due respect, that is not what I said. I said that "some stereotypes have a foundation in reality," and I meant that in a general context. Some aspects of of Arabic people and lifestyle can be used to create a stereotype, as in the case of the cartoon version of an Arab seen in the short film. Do Arabs (and we are talking in a general sense here, not specific countries or regions) dress in blue jeans and a rocker t-shirt like a stereotypical American teenager? Of course not. Cultural fashion, accents, mannerisms, all these things and more are used to create stereotypes. It's not the best portrayal of a human being but storytelling uses stereotypes all the time since they are working with a time restriction.
It's a brush that I am using to paint how mass entertainment operates to create characters, right or wrong, and I never said that Arabs have been the victims of western peoples. You are mixing two discussions together and putting words in my mouth.
AlicetheKurious wrote:By any objective standards, Western atrocities in terms of viciousness and number of victims, against innocent Arab men, women and children, generation after generation, comprise a vast ocean of terrorism compared to which Arab terrorism is an infinitesimal drop.
I agree with you to a point, western powers are guilty of committing horrible crimes against Arab nations and peoples. But unless we talk specifics (country, region, era) I could make the same statement back at Arabs. Afghanistan was under the brutal oppression of the Taliban before 9/11 and many horrible crimes were committed against average citizens by that ruling body. Saddam Hussein was a dictator in Iraq and committed genocide against the Kurds as well as murdered his own people in cold blood. I consider both of those examples of Arabic terrorism, to a degree. I also consider suicide bombers, like the ones waging their war in Pakistan and Israel, terrorists too. Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its lobbying of missiles into Palestine is an act of terrorism too. Israel also started the Six-Day War and captured Arabic land and its population, an act of terrorism in my opinion. But I don't consider the Arabic nations innocents in this mess either. Again, this is a general picture that I am discussing and not specifics.
AlicetheKurious wrote:That the stereotype presents Arabs as the terrorists, and Westerners/Israelis as the victims, is another in a long list of outrageous crimes against Arabs.
I agree, to a point, but are we talking about Hollywood movies or the real world now? Do we see many accurate portrayals of the life of an average Arabic person who is not committing crimes in his/her country? No, we don't. There are two reasons for that: a) the majority of Hollywood movies use larger-than-life storylines (it's a murder, it's a crime of passion, aliens invade, zombies attack, cops take on criminals singlehandedly, etc.) and designed to be escapist entertainment, and b) Hollywood tends to produce and release movies that reflect American living and not like in the middle east, Great Britain, Australia, Indochina and so on. Do I expect Hollywood to make a bunch of dramas about the average life of a middle eastern person? No because I know that American audiences won't go see a drama about the life of an American person unless there is drama to it.
Do you think "Syriana" was unfair to show a young Arabic man slow realization to become a suicide bomber?
AlicetheKurious wrote:Those stereotypes serve to JUSTIFY the crimes, adding insult to injury.
It is intolerable, and no amount of platitudes will make it tolerable.
Middle eastern filmmakers are more than welcome to make and fund their own films including escapist pictures.
...my impression of the middle east is that it is less tolerant to the wide spectrum of diversity than western culture.
"Your impression" is wrong, wrong, wrong. "The Middle East" is a huge area, comprising dozens of diverse countries, with a wide spectrum of cultures living side-by-side. I'd love to have one day to show you around one city, Cairo. I'd make your head spin with the incredible dynamism and cultural diversity of this city that literally never sleeps, where there are traffic jams at 3:00 am, where every day you have hundreds of choices between everything from classical European concerts, traditional Sufi music and dance, theater, American films, European films and Arabic films, an incredible diversity of cultural venues, all available for a pittance, where walking down the street even in the poorest neighborhood is safer than in many American middle-class suburbs.
Up until now you had been OK with talking about "the middle east" as a general body but the minute I introduced my views of that region now you want to talk specifics. Fine. Let's use your example, Egypt.
I don't care about the lovely traffic jams at 3 am or the cultural diversity of the city either for many other cities of the world have these same things. When I talk about "my impression of the middle east is that it is less tolerant to the wide spectrum of diversity than western culture," I don't mean those things, I mean that is the middle east a fair promoter and value human rights, individual choice and freedom of (sexual, political, intellectual) expression?
My reference for Egypt is Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Egypt
), and I'm assuming that these statements made on the site are true.
- Freedom House places Egypt's political rights at 6, civil liberties at 5, and an average of 5.5. This is an improvement, but it places them at unfree.
Other nations in North African and the Mideast they place at 5.5 are Algeria, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Tunisia. They gave them a press freedom score of 68, which is also unfree. They gave the following nations a 68 as well: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Maldives, and Russia. In 2000 the related Center for Religious Freedom placed Egypt as partly free at 5; this put them in line with Muslim nations like Turkey and Indonesia. Reporters Without Borders placed Egypt between Bhutan and the Côte d'Ivoire in press freedom. The Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom placed Egypt at a 1.65, this is equal to Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Albania, Lesotho, and Benin.
- criticism of the president can be punished by fines or imprisonment.
- According to Al Jazeera.net, "in the past few years, independent Egyptian newspapers have emerged that have proved willing to hold the rich and powerful elite to account, right up to the presidency. The old state-owned newspapers are beginning to lose their readership." In July 2006, the Egyptian parliament passed a new press law. The new law no longer allows journalists to be imprisoned for comments against the government, but continues to allow fines to be levied against such journalists. The independent press and the Muslim Brotherhood, protested this law as repressive
- Government regulations dating from Ottoman times require non-Muslims to obtain presidential decrees before building or repair a place of worship. Although in 1999 President Mubarak issued a decree making repairs of all places of worship subject to a 1976 civil construction code, in practice Christians report difficulty obtaining permits. Once permits have been obtained, Christians report being preventing from performing repairs or building by local authorities
- Human Rights Watch also indicates issues of concern. For example they discuss how the law does not recognize conversion from Islam to other religions. They also mention strict laws against insulting Islam, Christianity or Judaism and detention for unorthodox sects of Islam.
- Domestic violence is not dealt with by many police in Egypt. Also family law is traditionally based on Sharia, which critics deem unfair to women.
- After an incident in which crowds of young males sexually molested women outside a movie theatre, women trying to make a police report were allegedly turned away from the police station without being allowed to file the report.
- Female circumcision was finally declared unlawful in 1996 yet it is still vigorsly debated today.
- Homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, but is considered taboo. Until recently, the government denied that homosexuality existed in Egypt, but recently official crackdowns have occurred for reasons felt to include the desire to appease Islamic clerics, to distract from economic issues, or as a cover-up for closet homosexuals in high places.
- In 2002 52 men were rounded up on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub, by police, where they were beaten and tortured. Eventually 29 were acquitted and 23 were convicted for "debauchery and deflaming Islam" and sentenced for up to five years in prison with hard labor. Since the trial was held in a state security court, no appeal was allowed
- In 2006, Human Rights Watch released a 144-page report called In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice in Egypt's Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct. The report stated that "The detention and torture of hundreds of men reveals the fragility of legal protections for individual privacy and due process for all Egyptians."
- In a 2005 report of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Human Rights chaired by former UN secretary-general and former Egyptian deputy prime minister Boutros Boutros-Ghali cites instances of torture of detainees in Egyptian prisons and describes the deaths while in custody of 9 individuals as, "regrettable violations of the right to life." The report, "called for an end to [a] state of emergency, which has been in force since 1981, saying it provided a loophole by which the authorities prevent some Egyptians enjoying their right to personal security."
Alice, you make a case for the beauty and appreciation of Cairo, Egypt based upon its material things. All of the world's great cities (and I consider Cairo one of these) have points of illumination, of cultural beauty, of sophistication, of awe. But if certain groups of people living in the nation are not treated the same as others, why should I admire that nation? You talk about how unfairly Arabs have been portrayed by western filmmakers, well then where is your contempt for Egypt's second-class treatment of women or Christians or homosexuals? America has its own share of problems bringing equality to each minority but could you find an example like Egypt's Queen Boat incident where 52 gay men were arrested, beaten and tortured and then government officials wrote it off as "the family values of our society" in action? Do you think it was alright for Egyptian girls to have female circumcision performed on them? Do you think it's representative of a tolerant, free society where doctors and politicians still regret not imposing female circumcision on all women?
*This* is what I draw my impression of life in the middle east -- and there are other middle eastern countries not as tolerant as Egypt. Gay bashing is thought to be a crime where I live. Women are allowed to wear whatever they want, choose whatever life they want, attend school if they want. Islamic mosques are free to open in the same neighborhoods as Buddish temples or Christian churches. On the whole the openness for individual rights and freedoms *is* more tolerant in the west and *it is not* in the middle east. I stated that before and you gave me examples of Egypt's art and culture and you provided nothing about the limitations of personal freedoms in that country.
AlicetheKurious wrote:Egyptian culture is a symbiosis of Ancient Egyptian, Greek, French, English, Arabic, and even American cultures, all of which (and more) have been absorbed and integrated over the centuries.
This is a city of incredibly friendly people, where neighbors are considered family, where generosity and hospitality have been elevated to a high art. I've visited some other Arab cities, and rural areas, where the hospitality and welcome for strangers eclipses even that of the Egyptians.
There is a gay couple that lives two doors down from my parents home. My best friend is also gay. Tell me, in your city of "incredibly friendly people, where neighbors are considered family", would they receive the same welcome as a hetrosexual couple or straight man? Because judging from what I read about Egypt's police and politicians I have my doubts.
AlicetheKurious wrote:The majority of people are poor, extremely poor by Western standards, many surviving on less than $1 a day. Yet their spirit, courtesy, famous sense of humor and spiritual devotion allow them to survive and struggle and hope for a better future, if not for themselves, then for their children.
And there aren't poor people living in America, or good natured people who hope for a better future for themselves and their children? What is your point here, aside from trying to paint a picture that Egypt is a wonderful land without any problems?
AlicetheKurious wrote:To reduce all this to a simple-minded stereotype of the "Arab terrorist" is yet another act of violence against these people, pure injustice, pure evil.
And what act does it serve for you to not illustrate Egypt's poor track records for human rights, freedom of speech or the difficulties facing women's rights? Whitewashing a people or nation's sins is just as horrible in certain ways as committing them in the first place.
Here is a graph I found on Wikipedia showing how the world is broken up according to freedom. The blue countries represent places that are deemed free, yellow is partly free, blue is not free. Notice the color spectrum in the middle east:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Free ... 7_blue.png
To be fair, the graph was made by a U.S.-based organization called Freedom House. Again, according to Wikipedia there has been some controversy over Freedom House's reports:
The methodology Freedom House uses for its reports has been criticised by social scientist K. A. Bollen for its perceived bias towards countries with pro-US positions. Bollen argues that by relying on 'experts' or 'judges', the methodology falls into what is described as 'systematic measurement error': "Regardless of the direction of distortions, it is highly likely that every set of indicators formed by a single author or organization contains systematic measurement error. The origin of this measure lies in the common methodology of forming measures. Selectivity of information and various traits of the judges fuse into a distinct form of bias that is likely to characterize all indicators from a common publication."
Nevertheless, I am not one to lump everything produced by America as being worthless or without the best interests of humanity. There's got to be some things good made from Americans.
I also don't buy the reasoning that some middle easterners give that since they are of a different culture it's alright for them to treat gays or women or outsiders as second-class citizens. Like it or not, mankind has been crawling from barbarism and the stone age. Technology is used in the middle east just as in the western world. The advances to medical, scientific, agriculture and so on have benefited the middle east just as much as the west. So if the middle east wants to play with the same kind of toys as the western world, why can't the Arabic standards of social justice, human rights and tolerance be held accountable to the rest of the world? We're all human beings and thus every one of us should have the same rights as the other person.