The UAE: Paris of the East?

September 17, 2008

It seems from this short piece in the SMH/Guardian that the Emirates is remaking itself in the image of the “West”. But this attachment to western-centricism is at the cost of emphasising the rich historical culture of Arabia and its surrounds. The Gulf has also had a longer historical connection with both the east, India, Persia and China, and with the East African coastline, than with Western Europe. The effort shown by the rulers of the Emirates to replicate the “west” in Arabia is most unfortunate, not because the best of western culture is not impressive, but that it ignores the richness of the eastern and African culture achievements and also those of the Americas and the Pacific. Most of all it belies the claim made in the article by Sheikh Mohammed that the planned projects will help “interconencted global understanding” as a project of truly global projections would provide space for attractions that represent the cultural achievements from all around the world. I can’t help but see the project of westernising the Emirates as part of the reaction of some Islamic elites to the “clash of civilizations” discourse and the aggressive assault on non-western culture by neo-conservatives in the US and elsewhere. Looking forward to some debate regarding this, even if this is not an entry about Israel.

Noah Bassil

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Saudi labels Israel’s killing in Gaza as “copying…the Nazis”

March 3, 2008

Yet more on language, which somehow seems to be the common factor in most of our postings and comments this past week.  AP is reporting that an unnamed official in Saudi Arabia is likening Israel’s attack on Gaza, in which more than 70 have been killed, to Nazi war crimes:

“Saudi Arabia, which condemns the Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people and the threats of Israeli officials to turn Gaza into an inferno, sees that Israel through its actions is copying the war crimes of the Nazis.”

AP describes this remark as coming in response to Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai’s use of the word “shoah,” which can be translated as “holocaust,” to describe what the Gazans were “bringing onto themselves” with the continued firing of rockets into Israel.  The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, has settled for just calling Israeli actions “war crimes” without likening them to Nazism.