Uhuru forum on Crisis in Middle East and Africa - by SeÃ¡n Kinane
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Last night at the Uhuru Solidarity Center in St. Petersburg there was a Public Forum on The Middle East and Africa in Crisis hosted by the African Peopleâ€™s Solidarity Committee. WMNFâ€™s SeÃ¡n Kinane files this report.
Tampa resident Mohammad Chehab, an Arab rights activist, spoke about the current conflicts in Lebanon and Palestine. He attempted to differentiate the real roots of the problem from the false distractions often presented by politicians and the media.
Chehab sees the resistance by Palestinians and Lebanese as part of a larger struggle of colonized peoples against imperialism and occupation, rather than a simplistic intolerance between people of different ethnicities or religions.
â€œAll of a sudden the issue becomes, as we hear in the news now, Sunni vs. Shia in Iraq. It becomes Arab vs. Kurd, Arabs vs. Jews, Christians against Muslims. Now, letâ€™s be logical, letâ€™s just go back to our basics again. Now, tell me why isnâ€™t Malaysia, who is a Muslim nation, why isnâ€™t Malaysia at war with Chile, and Chile is a Christian nation? The topic they bring about all the time that itâ€™s a â€œClash of Civilizationsâ€? or itâ€™s a clash of cultures or itâ€™s Sunni vs. Shia or itâ€™s Muslim vs. Christian is just another tool of the trade. They use these tools so they can do what they do.â€?
One of the main proponents of the idea of the Clash of Civilizations is professor Samuel Huntington. Here Chehab quotes the response Huntington gave to a question of whether the spiritual values of westerners are superior to those of others.
â€œHuntington himself was compelled to admit, quote, â€˜the west won the world, not by superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact. Non-westerners never do.â€™â€?
So Chehab concludes that they donâ€™t â€œhate us because of our freedomsâ€? but rather because of the unjust and violent policies of oppression and colonialism by Europe and America.
Another myth, according to Chehab, is that Jews and Muslims canâ€™t get along. Here he points out that when Jews sought refuge from prosecution by European Christians during the inquisition, Muslims in the Middle East welcomed them.
â€œThe Middle East is a diverse area with a lot of different people who lived together for thousands of years. When the Jews were being killed in the Spanish Inquisition, where did they go? They went to Morocco; they went to North Africa and to the Middle East. To start with, they were living in the Middle East and they spread all over the place then they went back to the Middle East. The Arabs didnâ€™t say, â€˜Oh, you canâ€™t come back hereâ€™ or â€˜youâ€™re Jews, youâ€™re not welcome here.â€™ The Jews lived with Muslims and Christians in the Middle East as equals. They had their businesses, they had their life, and they had their communities. I mean itâ€™s not a big deal.â€?
Ending the violence by Western colonists against the peoples of Asia, Latin America, and Africa is a goal of African Peopleâ€™s Socialist Party member Nybinga Dzimbahwe who spoke of the choice people need to make
â€œYou have to choose now what side youâ€™re gonna be on. The fact is the crisis is getting deep. Youâ€™re either going to side with the oppressed peoples around the world, youâ€™re going to side with the slaves who are fighting to kill the slave masters and overturn the system of slavery. Or youâ€™re gonna side with the slave masters. So you can either step down or be down with the future, or you can go down with the sinking ship. This is the responsibility you have today.â€?
Ending imperialism, colonialism, and exploitation will produce a peaceful world, according to African Peopleâ€™s Solidarity Committee National Chair Penny Hess.
â€œAnd I believe that there will be a time when it doesnâ€™t matter, even what nationality you are because there wonâ€™t be these borders, there wonâ€™t be this bloodsucking parasite going out and taking other peoples stuff. And war. And thatâ€™s when weâ€™ll have peace on the planet. But I do believe that white people have to take responsibility for what we have inherited and what we live on now.â€?
African Peopleâ€™s Solidarity Day will be celebrated in St. Pete on November first at Studio@620. For more information, call 727-824-5685 or visit apscuhuru.org.
For WMNF News, reporting from St. Petersburg, Iâ€™m SeÃ¡n Kinane