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The Arab World needs a Lincoln, a Churchill and a Dr King
Last uploaded : Thursday 25th Dec 2014 at 00:55
Contributed by : Carol Gould


First published July 2012 this is my 2014 Yuletide message to the Muslim and Arab world; it should be noted that Jihad Makdissi was reported to have defected to the West in December 2012. Plus ca change: Groundhog Day? Perhaps. Now that Mohammad Morsi has been ousted, I despair of the perpetual violence, sectarianism and turmoil in great nations like Egypt. With Libya, Iraq and Syria in turmoil and oppressive regimes still reigning elsewhere I suggest the great figures of my native country, the United States, and of my adopted country,Great Britain, are the stuff of which leaders are made.
24 July, 2012

In the past few years I have become akin to a broken phonograph record when the discussion on a broadcast has moved to the state of the Arab and Persian world. A recent visit to the Benjamin Franklin House in Charing Cross threw my mind into a reverie about the Founding Fathers : Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and of course the great genius Franklin. Great leaders. Great men of letters.

When I appeared three and a half years ago on Nick Ferrari’s show I shared the panellists’ table with the editor of Al Quds, Abdel Bari Atwan, the British diplomat Harold ‘Hookie’ Walker and the ubiquitous Jihad Makdissi, at this moment on worldwide television speaking from Syria for the Assad regime and expressing the need to keep chemical weapons as an option if the regime is threatened.

Despite being at the receiving end of a barrage of anger from Bari Atwan and Makdissi -- not to mention an aggressive young male audience -- I stood my ground in defence of the much-maligned United States of America and its ally Great Britain. One must put the political situation into context: the despised George W Bush had been voted out by the electorate without a drop of blood being shed and the man the Arab world hoped would eliminate Israel at the earliest opportunity, Barack Obama, was about to take the oath of office. The misery of the audience was expressed early on in the programme when several young people expressed their dismay that Obama had done nothing to squelch the ‘Zionist regime.’ Hookie Walker did have the decency to point out that Barack Obama had no power to do anything until his inauguration.

At this point my oft-repeated mantra came out of my mouth: The Arab, Muslim and Persian world had no leaders and these countries had no hope of real democracy until they produced great leaders. Where, I asked -- and still ask three and a half years later -- are the Winston Churchills, the Mahatma Gandhis, the Abraham Lincolns, the Woodrow Wilsons, the Franklin Roosevelts, Nelson Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings of these nations? What kind of society produced these leaders? When I took the discussion one step further and mentioned the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl and early leaders of Israel, David ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Chaim Weizmann and Moshe Dayan -- well, you can imagine the rage I engendered in the audience. In fact whenever I mention ben Gurion and Golda in the presence of even the nicest of Muslim colleagues they become irrational in their hatred of these ‘murderers.‘ (I will concede that in the brutal wars that featured in the founding of the Jewish State after the Holocaust blood had to be spilt on the orders of the Arab and Jewish leadership, but those same Jewish leaders created a vibrant democracy that endures to this day.)

No matter what I said that night on Nick’s programme Bari Atwan seethed. I could have said the sky is blue and he would have vented his spleen at me. After the show Jihad put me on his email list and though I appreciated his desire to enlighten me on a weekly basis on the evils of Zionism and American aggression I deleted his missives because, frankly, they scared me -- not for my own safety but for the peace the Middle East so badly needed. His rhetoric promised anything but peace and reconciliation. It should be noted here that in a recent discussion on the BBC World Service's 'World Have Your Say' with a group of young Pakistanis they all said to me that they lamented the image Islam was projecting to the western world and that Israel had many attributes to which Muslim nations should aspire rather than supporting movements that constantly revile the tiny nation.

The society that produced the Abe Lincolns and aforementioned international leaders was a structured democracy that inculcated in children a pride in their heritage and a moral grounding, in the American context, emanating from the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. The fact that Lincoln was willing to go to war to reinforce his Emancipation of the slaves is a manifestation of that grounding. Yes, some will say the deaths of thousands of young men in the American Civil War was unnecessary but eventually the nation united and prospered. The fact that Mahatma Gandhi was willing to be beaten and humiliated rather than resort to violence was an inspiration to his people; that Partition resulted in the deaths of a million Muslim and Hindu citizens -- and ultimately in the assassination of Gandhi -- was a tragic breakdown of the unity he had hoped to engender. Nevertheless India went on to prosper but conflict between Muslims and Hindus has erupted time and again in the absence of great leaders.

Though many would say Anwar Sadat was no Churchill or Lincoln he was in my view a visionary who embraced the right-wing Israeli leader Menachem Begin and saw the value of peace in their time. He was assassinated by one of his own. I can hear readers shrieking that Yitzhak Rabin was also assassinated by one of his own and indeed he too was a visionary. Life went on in Israel and democracy -- albeit troubled -- prevailed.

Franklin Roosevelt united his nation after the Great Depression and not a drop pf blood was shed during the 1930s as he brought the New Deal to his people. Winston Churchill’s magnificent leadership led the brave people of Britain through the darkness of Nazi aggression. Martin Luther King demanded non-violence. Again, some will say I am daft to praise the United States considering that Dr King, President Kennedy and his brother Bobby were assassinated and yes, gun violence in the United States reflects a dark side to its great heritage, but the nation has gone on to survive and unify after each dark moment. A few days after the assassination of President Kennedy the entire United States of America -- black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, young, old, Republican and Democrat -- sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and life went on. Even during the Vietnam War and race riots a relatively small number of people died in protests. America healed and went on in the next generation to elect an African American president. Lincoln, in his exquisite Gettysburg Address, pledged that the ugly divisions of the Civil War would eventually dissipate and that his nation ‘would not perish from the earth.’ Tragically he perished from the earth at the hands of a fanatic but his native land endured.

So, I say to Jihad Makdissi and to the leaders of the Arab and Persian world to look to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, to stop mass-murdering their own brothers and sisters and to seek the enlightenment of the writings of Churchill, FDR, Dr King and Nelson Mandela. In the second year of the Arab Spring they and their Persian brothers and sisters must look to the legacy of Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton and Adams. If they do this their ancient nations will not perish from the earth.
Carol Gould has appeared on BBC Radio Four's 'Any Questions?;' BBC Breakfast;'Jeremy Vine;' 'Woman's Hour;' the BBC World Service and Sky News. She is the author of 'Spitfire Girls' and 'Don't Tread on Me -- anti-Americanism Abroad.'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/23/syria-chemical-warfare-threat-assad?newsfeed=true .


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