16 April, 2009

If you think Dubai is bad....

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi's Op-ed in The Independent (UK):
Say for example that I had written an article that states that, in wealthy first world Britain there are 380,000 homeless people, many of them mentally ill, starving and abandoned in sub-zero temperatures to live on the streets.

Say then that I wrote an article that states that Britain, the so called "jail capital of Western Europe" sentenced in 2006 alone a staggering additional 12,000 women to prison and that up to seven babies a month are born in jail where they spend their crucial first months.

I could have written an article that stated Britain, victor in the Second World War, had given refuge to 400 Nazi war criminals, with all but one of them getting away with it. Or one stating that the number of Indians who died while serving the British Empire, to build your Tube and grow your tea, is so large it is simply unquantifiable by any historian.

Or say I write an article about the 2.5 million-strong Indian volunteer army who served Britain during the Second World War, where 87,000 of them died for their occupiers' freedom and yet until recently those who survived continued to be discriminated against in pay and pension.

I could have written an article that stated that, in civilised Britain, one in every 23 teenage girls had an abortion and in 2006 more than 17,000 of the 194,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales involved girls below the age of 18.
He's just getting warm to his subject. Read on.


The Lady said...

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, they say.

A well-written piece no doubt, but has this form of retaliation really achieved much?

unJane said...

Well, I think the point that's being missed here is that one CAN say that and all other manner of truths without fear of deportation/incarceration, etc. I believe the west (while morally and socially imperfect) is quite dedicated to airing its dirty laundry and hunting for solutions. Less can be said about the face-saving, image protecting east. And when you don't practice transparency, all sorts of rumors abound.

Kyle said...

On December 14, 2008, Muntadhar Al-Zaidi could have asked President Bush any thing that was on his mind. Unfortunately, he chose to encash his allocated 15 Minutes on prime time.

Fast forward to April 2009, Mr. Al-Qassemi had a similar opportunity. But he too wasted it in the wrong direction and at the wrong person.

Both chose to ignore that the pen is mightier, metaphorically speaking, when they chose to unsheath their swords. One with his Ducati and the other from writer's-block-deviation-syndrome.

Neither earned my respect mainly because their premature action(s) continue(d) keeping us en masse in the dark.

Such a waste of talent - if there was any to begin with!

Anonymous said...

One of the comments in the Ind. article justified Sultan's stance as follows:

1) It is against Middle Eastern culture to discuss problems

2) We respect our elders and leaders, and thats why we dont question them

3) Its a western practice to malign cities and people and that is unacceptable in our culture

4) So even if problems exist, we believe in keepinG them private and not writing articles on them (in other words, let the problems exist as long as we arent getting affected directly)

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Let me rewind that statement for you:

On December 14,2008 Muntadhar Al-Zaidi could have asked war criminal Bush any thing that was on his mind, but he was too astonished and angry to think of any question: just how could this idiot who had literally destroyed his country, caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to be killed, made the historical treasures of his country prone to theft and embezzlement, made millions displaced…etc.. how could he keep that smirk on his face while addressing the journalists in his last press conference in the city he had butchered?

Kyle said...

My point exactly for you:

Such a waste of talent - if there was any to begin with!

DUBAI JAZZ said...

ROFL, well, that's the dark side for you, so you better take it! wasn't that what Hari's article was all about??!!

Kyle said...

No, Johann Hari's article was the Light, which every one failed to see.

Well, almost every one!

And no, I'm not here to score debating points with you.

Anonymous said...

One difference is that these facts or otherwise can be freely reported in the UK / European press whereas here they are self-censored or get circulated by the net.

Anonymous said...

Here is Johann's well written response to Qassemi's childish response:

Johann Hari: How to spot a lame, lame argument

Saturday, 11 April 2009

There is one particular type of bad argument that has always existed, but it has now spread like tar over the world-wide web, and is seeping into the pubs, coffee shops and opinion columns everywhere. It is known as 'what-aboutery' - and there was a particularly ripe example of it in response to one of my articles last week.

As a rhetorical trick, it is simple. Anyone can do it, and we are all tempted sometimes. When you have lost an argument - when you can't justify your case, and it is crumbling in your hands - you snap back: "But what about x?"
You then raise a totally different subject, and try to get everybody to focus on it - hoping it will distract attention from your own deflated case.

So whenever I report on, say, atrocities committed by Israel, I am bombarded with e-mails saying: "But what about the bad things done by Muslims? Why do you never talk about them?" Whenever I report on the atrocities committed by Islamists, I am bombarded with e-mails saying: "But what about Israel? Why do you never write about the terrible things they do?" And so it goes on, whatever the subject, in an endless international shifting of blame, united in the cry: "What about them! Talk about them instead!"
This argument is almost always disingenuous. How do I know? Because when you write back and explain that, why, I do actually criticize Islamists/Israel/the US/China/whoever-you-have-picked-out-randomly, and here are the articles where I do it, nobody ever writes back and says: fair enough; you consistently condemn human rights abuses, no matter who commits them. No. They scrape around for another "what about." What about Tibet? What about Sri Lanka? What about North Korea? This list never ends, as the other side tries to draw your attention further and further from what you were discussing.

Independent readers have just seen a classic example. Last week I reported from Dubai, pointing out that this glittering city was built on what Human Rights Watch calls "slavery" - bitterly poor people who are conned into going there and forced to stay by a medieval dictatorship. Amongst others, I interviewed an Emirati man called Sultan al-Qassemi who passionately defended this system, saying that it is absolutely right that these workers are blasted with water cannons, arrested, and deported if they try to strike against their slavery-style conditions.

He did not react to my article by responding to the many criticisms I made of Dubai. He can't. He knows they are true. Instead he wrote a piece for the Independent asking: But what about Britain? He listed many things wrong with Britain - homelessness, detention without trial, the abuse of trafficked workers - and cried: talk about them instead!

As it happens, I have criticized all these things about Britain myself, in the British press, and in publications across the world. The difference is - Sultan doesn't oppose the appalling things about his own country. He cheers them on - and all he can do to distract from this shameful fact is to try to change the subject.

The best way to respond to what-aboutery is to state a simple truth. Say it slowly: there can be more than one bad thing in the world. You can oppose American atrocities, and Chinese atrocities. You can be critical of Israel, and of Islamism. You can condemn Dubai's system of slavery, and the fact people are detained without trial in Britain. You can stand independent of governments - including your own - and criticize anyone who chooses to abuse human rights. The world is not divided into a Block of Light, and a Block of Darkness; you don't have to pick a tribe and defend its every action.

So whenever you hear the cry "But what about?!", you can reply: what about we ignore this crude attempt to change the subject, and focus on the subject in hand?

Anonymous said...

I think Sultan confuses respect for self-censorship. While it is clear that there is a Let's Bash Dubai parade going on in the international media, I would rather be concerned about ensuring facts are presented accurately than hiding flaws 'out of respect'.

So, Mr. Al Qassemi, while your piece did mention a lot of facts, as someone pointed out, they are freely available and printed in the UK, unlike in the UAE.

I don't think you respect the UK enough to tell them their flaws and how they can fix it. However, if you start with "just look at your own country" as a headline.. well, I think it is clear that you have no respect for the UK.

Not that it requires your respect. Just being clear.

Al-ain Rose said...

Humm, they should shut the fuck up after this article.:D
hats off to MR.Sultan Al Qassemi!

Proud Emirati said...

I didn't read most of Hari's first article because I know that it will be full of superiority imperialistic complex that west having of how our laws should be like theirs.

samuraisam said...

Proud emirati:"I didn't read most of Hari's first article because I know that it will be full of superiority imperialistic complex that west having of how our laws should be like theirs."

And that makes you all the wiser.

Anonymous said...

Proud Emirati said...

I didn't read most of Hari's first article because I know that it will be full of superiority imperialistic complex that west having of how our laws should be like theirs.

....You can read?!

Anonymous said...

samuraisam said...
Proud emirati:"I didn't read most of Hari's first article because I know that it will be full of superiority imperialistic complex that west having of how our laws should be like theirs."

And that makes you all the wiser.

Sarcasm? Its the innerwebs, I cant tell.

loolt said...

even though the 'higher ground' would have been for Sultan Al-Qassimi to respond to the points made by Johann Hari, what he did was point out how when one focuses on the negatives alone, one gets a really distorted version of a country.

And Al-Qassimi did not engage in what aboutery, he did not say that Johan should have spoken about the faults in his own country (he does), which leaves me wondering... what was Johann on about in his response?

Anonymous said...

proud emirati,

and your superiority complex compels you to not read an opposing view before forming an opinion? Wow.


Anonymous said...

No matter what happens in Britain or any other country, people there Know their SHORT COMINGS.

But for Dubai to say we are a city that cares, we have free press, we have free that and free this! WHILE nothing of that is TRUE.

So this is why the west reacted in that manner or people in that case.

so no need to be protective or all defense.

You can censor your media to your own people.... BUT that doesnt mean that others will NOT know the truth!


Rose in Dubai said...

>>in civilised Britain, one in every 23 teenage girls had an abortion and in 2006 more than 17,000 of the 194,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales involved girls below the age of 18.<<

But at least very few of these girls are in danger of being murdered by they families as a result.

Proud Emirati said...

yes, Rose in Dubai, u'd rather kill 194,000 babies instead.

Now this is classic Anonymous @ 12:28, changing the subject into censorship.

Proud Emirati said...

Oh, I should be proud that three felt that they need to reply to what I said .... LOL

BuJassem said...

Is Britain still considered a first world country?
Infrastructure, Economy, Education, Healthcare, Crime, Social degradation all seem to paint a different picture.

From a historical perspective, Britain is great though, they have done so much and have preserved it so well. But then again, we used to rule Spain.

Abu Dhabi Blogger said...

Hari must be scratching his balls, sipping wine in a pub and smiling at the arguments he has started every where :)

Anonymous said...

I never knew we killed babies in the UK PE. My understanding of a baby is an infant from birth to about the walking stage.Fetuses of course are another matter. A world of difference methinks but that is for another blog.

Rose in Dubai said...

>>u'd rather kill 194,000 babies instead.<<

I wasn't aware it was an either/or option.

I'd rather not kill anyone.

i*maginate said...

AD Blogger: wow we see only 2 outcries here. Blessing Tragedy and Proud Emirati.

Anonymous said...

Crazy subject u can't compare London to Dubai !!!!! HAHAHA

Lirun said...

i think its interesting.. seem to be two discussions running in parallel.. one about the ludicrous nature of single sidedly bagging a country/city and the other about the merits of the UK..

in hebrew we say - on the head of the thief burns a hat..

point being that a rush to defend to can often indicate a sense of guilt.. i dont think this discussion was intended to focus on the qualities of britain.. because then it wouldnt really be relevant to this blog so much..

i think hwvr it is a fair point that any country can be diminished through irresponsible press.. which of course is not the same as criticism..

anony mouse said...

Oh dear, he came all the way from the UK to report on the bad things, rather than the good things...what poor journalism...he should have reported about the Burj, the Palm and the Metro instead...how silly of him!

P.S. It's all part of that conspiracy...you know that one...the world media against us...you know who controls that, don't you?

Alan said...

My views of Dubai"s socio-economic model were the reason why I decided to leave the city in late 2008, and to step out of the business I was involved with at the moment, which ironically had to do with promoting the image of the country in the international media.

In the following link I blog about my reply to an online discussion forum initiated by Sultan Al Qassemi to discuss his recent response to Johann Hari's article:


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