x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Time to stand up to the tyrants

The needs of the minority are not always served by shunning the majority, an Arabic-language columnist says. Other topics: India and a cab-driving leader.

It's time for the minorities in the Arab world to understand that tyrants will not protect them

Minorities in the Arab world must realise that their future is not with tyrants or generals, but rather with the majorities around them, Faisal Al Qassem wrote in an article in the Doha-based newspaper Al Sharq.

Abraham Lincoln's quote that one cannot fool all of the people all of the time unfortunately does not apply to some Arab world minorities. History has shown instead that they can be duped and used to achieve contemptuous goals, the writer said.

Colonialists have used minorities as a cat's paw to interfere in the countries they sought to colonise. The colonisers would justify their intervention by saying that they were protecting minorities from the injustice of majorities, just as they have used the spreading of human rights and democracy to achieve their ends.

Russia has long talked about protecting Orthodox Christians; and western colonisers such as France have traded on the notion of protecting the Druze, Alawites, Christians and others. Alas, their plans would usually be successful, with minorities - who were unable to see they were used only as a Trojan horse by the occupiers - becoming a thorn in the side of majorities.

Although the colonisers are gone, many minorities have not learnt from the colonial experience and have fallen once again into the trap of tyrants. The same old tricks of the colonisers have been used by Arab tyrants and generals to present themselves to the world as protectors of minorities - even though it is just a game to reach their goals.

The Arab Spring has come to show that minorities have not at all learnt from the colonial period. Many of them have allowed themselves to be toys in the hands of the tyrants whose people have finally risen against them after decades of tyranny. Instead of joining the majority to seem freedom and dignity, many minority groups have sided with the regimes.

Minority leaders have failed to see that minorities are being basely used by threatened regimes whose only goals is to stay in power.

In fact, many dictators have been able to drive a wedge between majorities and minorities by committing crimes against the latter and blaming the former.

Most such crimes have been carried out by tyrannical regimes in a bid to tell the world that insurgents target minorities as well, according to the writer.

Shortly after the protests in Egypt were broken up, there were reports of attacks on churches, and fingers were immediately pointed at Islamist protesters, before any inquest was conducted.

Many people have believed such reports and failed to recall the confessions of jailed former interior minister Habib Al Adly, who revealed that the old regime used to order him to attack churches to gain the world's support.

Many Arab countries could learn from India

Arabs can learn a lot of lessons from India's commendable experience, from their non-violent struggle against British colonialism to their successes with their economy and democracy, argued Saudi columnist Hussein Shobokshi in the London-based newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

There is no doubt that India is now a very important country. It is Asia's third-largest economy after China and Japan, and it is the biggest democracy in world, the writer noted.

India has an unparalleled number of minorities, ethnicities, faiths, sects, languages and cultures, all living under the umbrella of law and justice, the writer said. He added that he always believed that had Pakistan and Bangladesh remained part of India, it would have better for those nation's citizens as well as for India.

The situation of Muslims in India is definitely better than that in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the writer said.

India's experience has many lessons for Arab nations, considering that it started as a third-world nation laden with illiteracy, corruption, infighting and poor infrastructure and yet managed to get off the ground.

This has been achieved thanks to a culture of coexistence, reform, accountability and governance, adopted on the ground in the form of legislation and policies, rather than as mere slogans used to achieve other ends, according to the columnist.

How to put a ruler in the driver's seat

While some Arab rulers cling to their golden chairs until death, Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg elected to leave his office for a day and became a taxi driver so he could listen to his people firsthand, Hassan Al Zaabi wrote in a satirical column for the UAE-based paper Al Emarat Al Youm.

Mr Stoltenberg went incognito to hear people's unfiltered political views, without any fraud or expressions such as "under your directives, sir" and "hearts ooze out of love for your majesty", the writer noted.

Al Zaabi asked: What if the same idea occurred to an Arab leader?

In this case, you would see palace employees instantly arranging a new road with 10 lanes, clearing it of all other traffic, and "accessorising" the taxi with five or six passengers from the ranks of the secret services.

The job of these plainclothes officers would be to ride in the back seat to sing the praises of the leader's justice, wisdom and insight, as well as his driving, his car's brakes, the air-conditioning system, and even the smell of his car's carpet, the writer said.

The officers would receive some handsome rewards for performing this "national role". Meanwhile, the ruler would announce that, to fulfil the people's wishes, he has decided to stay in power for another century.

* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni