Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Parallel Universes, part II

Yesterday's Al-Quds al-Arabi front page offered a good example of the "corrupt systems in decline" perspective, with reports of unorganized street-level violence in Gaza and Jordan. Today's front page (Wednesday Sept 6) of the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada gives a good illustration of the liberal or reformist slant.

The lead item reports remarks by Iraqi president Talibani on the occasion of the visit of UK foreign minister Beckett, and it highlights a couple of things he said about the national reconciliation project. For one thing he called on all armed groups "except for the takfiiris and the Saddamists" to participate in this (in other words, except for groups that deliberately persecute other Iraqis), the idea being that there are armed groups and individuals that are not in either of those two categories, being opponents of the occupation only. And he says there have been new contacts from groups of this type both with his office and with the office of Prime Minister Maliki. This might not seem like much, but his point is that the process of sorting out groups, and negotiating with those you can negotiate with, is ongoing. Similarly with the flag, Talibani said Kurdistan is part of Iraq, and will fly the Iraqi flag once there is a genuine Iraqi flag to fly, not the current one which is really the flag of the Baath party.

The other item at the top of the first page quotes remarks by the representative of the permanent embassy of the Arab League in Baghdad, in which he told the Al-Mada reporter of the formation of a three-member group (Arab League, Sunni Waqf, and Shiite Waqf: Waqf is the name of national agencies charged with the management of "religious endowments") in order to jointly monitor public discourse (mainly Friday sermons) and denounce any cases of incitement to sectarian hatred. Spitting into the wind, you might think. But again, the point is that reasonable non-violent efforts are continuing and are worthwhile given the alternatives.

This is a simple point and surely representative of what a lot of people think. But it can get drowned out by the extremes. By the way, it appears no serious Arabic newspaper put the Tuesday Bush speech (demonizing all his regional adversaries lumped together) on its front page. It doesn't matter any more: Bush's wars and their rhetoric are so extreme that they are implicitly considered Acts of God. On a human level, the Bush speech would have to be classified as super-takfiiri (excommunicating all groups who disagree with him), and even the most even-tempered liberals in the region realize there isn't any point talking to takfiiris.


Post a Comment

<< Home