x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Challenging the 'culture of violence'

Society should not tolerate violent discourse or allow violence to be a way of life, an Arabic-language writer says. Other topics: Bahrain and Israel.

A "culture of violence" is the chief cause of the assassination of the Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid, Mamoun Fandi wrote in an opinion article yesterday in the London-based newspaper, Asharq Al Awsat.

No one in a right frame of mind would take to the streets to justify a murder. In some Arab nations, however, this can happen, the writer observed.

Before, there were apologists for Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri. Now some people in Egypt are applauding Abboud Al Zumar, who served a long jail sentence for his role in the assassination of the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat.

In Tunisia, demonstrations were staged to protest against the burial of Chokri in a Muslim cemetery.

There is plenty of evidence that this phenomenon exists in almost every Arab country. The question is, how can people rally to condone homicide? How can authors justify a killing? How can a sane person see murder as justifiable? This is what the researchers in Arab and Islamic worlds must think about.

The writer said that this conundrum has its roots in the "theory of the culture of violence". A society is culturally violent when it tolerates violent discourse and allows violence to be a way of life.

Bloodshed naturally repulses humans. No wonder that armies put in a long time to convince new recruits that the people they may have to kill are evil and a threat to their lives. So they must either "kill or be killed", the writer continued.

Yet this phenomenon is not peculiar to Arabs and Muslims. In the pre-Mandela period, a culture of violence in South Africa was almost legal. This meant that many white men saw nothing wrong with killing a black man by hanging. This phenomenon was also prevalent among white communities in America's south before the civil rights movement.

The same thing is happening now in Israel. Israelis make movies about the Holocaust that highlight injustice towards the Jews. Those films evoke noble sentiments that perceive such killings as crimes against humanity.

Ironically, these very Israelis see nothing wrong about a Palestinian being wrongly killed. The writer calls this a culture of violence.

In Arab countries, this culture is on the rise. A language dehumanising "the remote other" is being produced.

Radical movements in Egypt are sowing division and handing down accusations of apostasy among Muslims themselves.

The solution, Fandi wrote, lies in deconstructing the culture of violence. When this creeps into the constitution to become the source of law - as is the case in Egypt - and if the country in question does nothing to stop it, it is "as good as dead".

Bahrain dialogue must be about compromise

"I am all for the Bahraini opposition taking part in the currently proposed dialogue. After all, meeting and talking with national partners helps to bring minds and hearts closer," wrote Mansour Al Jamri, the editor of the Manama-based newspaper Al Wasat.

In December, Bahrain's crown prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, called for dialogue with the political opposition and for the introduction of institutional reforms as a response to anti-government protests.

"Security is not the only guarantor of stability," Sheikh Salman said at the time. "Without justice there can be no freedom, and without freedom there can be no true security." More recently, Bahrain announced that national talks will resume on Sunday, after an earlier round failed to bring the opposition on board.

"But we need to understand the nature of that dialogue," the editor wrote in a column yesterday. "We need to know whether the goal behind this dialogue is to reach a certain compromise … or whether it is just a get-to-know-you kind of gathering."

Bahrain was hit in February 2011 by protests led by the country's Shiites demanding more social and economic rights from the ruling Sunni establishment.

"What we would like to see happen is a reasonable, satisfactory negotiation process … that will result in an agreement to solve differences on the major issues," the writer said.

Israeli government does not want peace

US President Barack Obama's planned visit to Israel next month has given rise to speculation that he intends to resuscitate the peace process and the two-state solution, Jihad Al Khazen commented in yesterday's edition of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat. "Forget it," he said.

The White House statement about the visit's agenda cited issues such as Iran and Syria, while it completely left out the Palestinian question.

Perhaps, the statement omitted any mention of the "peace process" to avoid Israel's antipathy and the resentment of its powerful and aggressive lobby in Washington ahead of the visit, the writer added.

The fact that President Obama is also scheduled to visit the West Bank and Jordan means that the Palestinian issue will necessarily be discussed.

However, the new Israeli government, which is bent on "swallowing up the whole of Palestine", is not going to allow peace to take root, the Al Khazen wrote.

"The peace process would have succeeded had [Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu] not won the 1996 elections," the writer observed. Peace stands no chance with Mr Netanyahu at the helm of the Israeli government, Al Khazen concluded.


* Digest complied by Translation Desk