The 14th ordinary session of the assembly of the African Union which took place between 25/01 and 02/02 in Addis Ababa reminded me of the interesting positions of the Arab states leaders in the African rulers longevity ranking.
We can indeed find three of them in the top 10 with Libyan Muammar Gaddafi (1st), Egyptian Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And if we consider the Algerian ruling system specificity (same people behind a changeable president) and the Moroccan monarchy (with different kings) we can safely add them to this top 10 list.
These regimes are still in power despite the will and hopes of their populations, and the means they use to stay in charge have little to do with democracy. But for some reason, these rulers always seek legitimacy arguments. I bet it is because they feel for their peoples and want to ease the pain their presence created and nourishes. And by providing such ingredients to the populations, they help them feel better and happily accept to follow these leaders they never chose. Such arguments could even have the surprising effect of turning parts of the populations into genuine supporters of these leaders.
Therefore, I decided to organise a sort of contest of the best legitimacy arguments. I must warn you though, I don’t know much about the internal affairs of most of these states, so it’s not advised to take the results too seriously. Continue reading →
From right to left: Muammar Gaddafi, Muawiya Ould Sid Ahmed Tayaa, Chadli Benjdid, Hassan II, Zine Elabidine Benali
Elkhabar reported today that Algeria made a new proposal to revive the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). The Algerian idea aims at changing the structures and internal rules of the union so that the political aspect doesn’t hinder the other activities.
The only concrete souvenir I have of the UMA is this picture which many Algerians saw on their national TV or in their school books. It reminds us that 21 years have passed without making any significant advance on the union construction.
We remember Gaddafi’s famous phrase ‘we should put the union in the freezer’, but the most important setback to the UMA construction was definitely the 1994 problems between Algeria and Morocco and the closing of the land borders. This event almost paralysed the union.
Now Morocco says there will be no progress before the borders are opened again, and Algeria says they won’t open them before dealing with many aspects such as security, smuggling, drug traffic, etc. Not to forget the Western Sahara question. And I don’t think these issues will be solved any soon.
And anyway, despite some collaborations at the union level or bilaterally between the union members, the UMA has never been efficient as witnessed for e.g. by the member states negotiating individually with the European Union.
That’s what apparently pushed Algeria to make its pragmatic suggestion, and try to revive an economic union since a political one is not possible today.Elkhabar said that Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania welcomed the Algerian proposal while Morocco reminded of its conditions for “normalisation”.
A meeting is scheduled in Algiers next June and we will see what will happen. Until then, the UMA’s realised objectives list will remain as empty as its missions’ web page.
I borrowed the title of this post from one excellent book by the Turkish Nobel prize Orhan Pamuk, but the post hasn’t much to do with the book.
El Watan published yesterday this article which made me think of this topic. How do our names define our individual identities, and how are they related to the country’s identity?
I went some weeks back to the Algerian consulate to renew my passport. There I saw a fight between a couple and the consulate agents. The couple was composed of an Algerian young man and his European wife. They were there to register their newly born daughter whom they named Melissa. The agents refused to register her because the name had no link with the “Algerian cultural heritage”. One of the agents even reminded the couple of the hadith “خير الاسماء ما حمد وعبد” to encourage them to choose another name for the baby. The hadith is by the way not sahih despite the fact it’s very commonly used. The wife reminded him that she is European and hasn’t changed her name nor religion, and doesn’t see why she would give her daughter a name which is not in her culture. This opens the question of inter-cultural marriages but that’s another topic.
The bottom line is that the Algerian regulation is not clear because the legislators are confused. Proving this is that in my example and after almost one hour, the consulate agents gave up and agreed to register Melissa.
I came across this new poll made by YouGov and thought the results were interesting: Apparently most Arabs from the Gulf countries think Iran is a bigger threat than Israel. I knew this was the Gulf states’ opinion but it puzzles me coming from the population.
I couldn’t find the original poll data and have no figures per country, but anyway I wonder whether this feeling is caused by some political aspects or religious ones or both. And what role does the Arabic Nationalism play in it?
Shiite movements started as a political group during the Ali/Muawiya conflict. They continued during the Omayyad period and also the Abbassid caliphate while getting an ideological background which was necessary for the movement’s perennity. Their historical foundation added to their clerical institution, and now Iran’s existence as an Islamic republic strengthened the religious and political ties.
As to the Arabs, I guess I can divide the Arab world into two parts, the usual ones: Continue reading →
I watched once a debate with the Algerian caricaturist Dilem. The debate was on a French channel and I remember I was struck by the difference in style, technics and construction between Dilem and the other French guests. And though Dilem had some good arguments, I had the feeling he was just unable to express them and make his point.
I am of course not talking of the way we Algerians talk, using our hands and all the body language stuff. I don’t think this is bad per se and it is probably related to what we call the mediterranean specificity. I am referring to our inability to express ourselves and also to handle a free debate. We lack this culture of dialogue where you are allowed and even encouraged to express yourselves, are listened to and then are given a feedback.
It seems like facing a counter-argument is felt like a personal attack which makes us lose control, and the debate would soon turn into a dialogue of deaf.
This is not specific to the Algerians and the same comment can be applied on the other Arabs. Just watch the many debates on the Arab news channels and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
Today, the tenth day of Dhul-Hidja, Muslims all around the world celebrate Eid El Ad’ha or the festival of the sacrifice.
I take this opportunity to wish a happy Eid to my fellow Algerian people and to all the Muslims around the world. A special thought goes to our brethren in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Darfur, Chechnya, China and everywhere Muslims endure war conditions. I also think of those who are away from their families, those in prison, those who are ill and those who are poor. May God help us all and give us the strength and energy to overcome these adversities. Also may He guide us to the right path.
What happened recently between Egypt and Algeria showed the limits of the pan-Arabism policies as depicted by the Arab regimes. It also showed the limits of the Islamic Nation concept as imagined and promoted by most of the “Islamist” project sympathisers. Nationalism, patriotism and chauvinism being against any supra-national ideal.
The events however shouldn’t mislead us. Algerians, Egyptians and the rest of the Arabs feel they are closer to each other. Exactly like Algerians, Egyptians and the rest of the Muslims feel closer to each other. Both groups have a shared past, culture, future and even a similar role to play in this world. You only have to watch the images of the Muslim pilgrims in Mecca to get a grasp of the ties uniting them (us).
So the Arab and Islamic belonging feelings do exist at the people’s level. No-one can deny it. The only nuance to add here is that these feelings coexist with other equally important feelings (nationalism for e.g.). It is perhaps time to give a new meaning to the Arab and Muslim Nations which matches better the Arabs and Muslims feelings without trying to dissolve their group or individual identities, erase their specificities or simply deny their national belongings. Once done, everybody will be able to join forces to improve our global situation, be active and become a positive asset to this world.
The picture below is a caricature, so our Egyptian friends… and brothers shouldn’t have any hard feelings. It was just a football game after all and the people reactions should have never reached those unbelievable levels. Then let’s celebrate together and laugh at Amr Adeeb’s stupid behaviour.