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UN Report: US War on Terror Radicalizes Arabs
Published on Monday, October 20, 2003 by Reuters
UN Report: US War on Terror Radicalizes Arabs
by Suleiman al-Khalidi
 

AMMAN, Jordan - The U.S.-led war on terror has radicalized more Arabs angry both with the West and their autocratic rulers who are bent on curbing their political rights, a U.N.-commissioned study released Monday showed.

The Arab Human Development Report 2003 said Arab countries lagged other regions in dissemination of knowledge. Readership of books was relatively limited, education dictated submission rather than critical thought, the Arabic language was in crisis.


Dozens of Indonesian Muslims hold up anti-U.S. banners during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta on October 17, 2003 prior to a scheduled visit by President Bush on Oct. 22. The U.S.-led war on terror has radicalized more Arabs angry both with the West and their autocratic rulers who are bent on curbing their political rights, a U.N.-commissioned study released Monday showed. Photo by Supri/Reuters

The report, launched in Amman, blamed an absence of "effective and peaceful channels for dealing with injustices" for pushing radical political groups to seek change by violence.

Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, the top U.N. official behind the team of Arab intellectuals who wrote the report, said anti-Arab sentiment in the West after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities was a further factor radicalizing Arabs.

The U.N. Assistant Secretary General and regional director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Arab states said educational opportunities were further limited as an anti-Arab backlash made young Arabs retreat from studying in the United States.

Arab student numbers in the United States dropped between 1999 and 2002 by an average 30 percent, Hunaidi added.

Arab disenchantment was deepened by autocratic rulers who were given a "spurious justification for curbing freedoms on the pretext of fighting terrorism" by Washington's war on terror.

The report, on Arabs by Arabs, cited wider censorship -- from restricting internet access to suppressing publication of material deemed encouraging to "terrorism."

Non-governmental groups suffered more legal and practical constraints in 2003, while progress toward women's empowerment regressed in some countries and slightly progressed in others.

OUTDATED UNIVERSITIES

The U.N. report that focused on addressing challenges of modernity illustrated how far the 270 million Arabs lagged behind other regions in 'acquisition of knowledge'.

The report said even a best selling novel sold on average only 5,000 copies compared to hundreds of thousands elsewhere.

In general, the usual print run for novels ranges from a meager 1,000 to 3,000 copies. The number of books published in the Arab world did not exceed 1.1 percent of world production though Arabs constitute 5 percent of the world population.

It cited official educational curricula in Arab countries that " bred submission, obedience, subordination and compliance rather than free critical thinking."

The U.N. also touched on the state of Arab universities, decrying lack of autonomy and the direct control of governments that ran them on political whims. Arab universities were overcrowded with old laboratories and poor libraries. Enrolment figures were a political gesture to appease society more than a product of educational needs. The Arabic language was in crisis, as it confronted the challenges of globalization. No more than 10,000 books were translated into Arabic over the entire millennium, equivalent to the number translated every year into Spanish.

Research and Development in the Arab world did not exceed 0.2 percent of Gross National Product (GNP). Fewer than one in 20 Arab university students were pursuing scientific disciplines, compared to one in five in South Korea.

The number of telephone lines in Arab countries was barely one fifth of that in developed countries.

Access to digital media was also among the lowest in the world. There are 18 computers per 1,000 people compared to a global average of 78. Only 1.6 percent of over 270 million Arabs have internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world, the report said.

© Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd

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