Uhuru forum on Crisis in Middle East and Africa - by Seán Kinane

08/29/06


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 People’s Solidarity Committee. WMNF’s Seán 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.

“All 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, let’s be logical, let’s just go back to our basics again. Now, tell me why isn’t Malaysia, who is a Muslim nation, why isn’t Malaysia at war with Chile, and Chile is a Christian nation? The topic they bring about all the time that it’s a “Clash of Civilizations� or it’s a clash of cultures or it’s Sunni vs. Shia or it’s Muslim vs. Christian is just another tool of the trade. They use these tools so they can do what they do.�

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.

“Huntington himself was compelled to admit, quote, ‘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.’�

So Chehab concludes that they don’t “hate us because of our freedoms� 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 can’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.

“The 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 didn’t say, ‘Oh, you can’t come back here’ or ‘you’re Jews, you’re not welcome here.’ 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 it’s not a big deal.�

Ending the violence by Western colonists against the peoples of Asia, Latin America, and Africa is a goal of African People’s Socialist Party member Nybinga Dzimbahwe who spoke of the choice people need to make

“You have to choose now what side you’re gonna be on. The fact is the crisis is getting deep. You’re either going to side with the oppressed peoples around the world, you’re going to side with the slaves who are fighting to kill the slave masters and overturn the system of slavery. Or you’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.�

Ending imperialism, colonialism, and exploitation will produce a peaceful world, according to African People’s Solidarity Committee National Chair Penny Hess.

“And I believe that there will be a time when it doesn’t matter, even what nationality you are because there won’t be these borders, there won’t be this bloodsucking parasite going out and taking other peoples stuff. And war. And that’s when we’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.�

African People’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, I’m Seán Kinane

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