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the mistake that rained on egypt's parade
did you bring your umbrella?
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
2.24.11
news

With revolution fever sweeping across the Arab world, stretching from the west end of the region to the Persian Gulf, all eyes are on the Middle East, and for once, at least since 9/11 if not further back in history than that, Arabs are something other than terrorists in the eyes of the west.

As an Arab myself, I am happy to see western media, particularly the American kind, fix their attention on the ever-inflamed region for something positive and I daresay inspiring for a change. I have been enjoying the love and attention without much involvement, save for the sharing of a link to a relating article or op-ed that educates or informs more than expresses my opinion(s) on the subject.

What has interrupted my honeymoon of sorts with the American media when it comes to covering the region I carry DNA from is something that would interrupt and disturb anybody’s honeymoon. When a journalist comes to very violent harm on the job, especially when covering something as non-sinister as the celebration of a victory of the oppressed over the oppressor, it is especially attention grabbing.

Without going into the details, on February 11, 2011, a date that will go down in history as cause for pride in Egyptian and Arab hearts, Lara Logan, CBS’s chief foreign correspondent became the victim of a sexual assault in the midst of a happy moment in Tahrir Square. The tragedy was not widely reported on until a few days after the fact, when Logan was far from Egypt recovering from the incident back on American soil.

It upset me to read about such an evil thing happening during such a good, happy moment in history that the whole world seemed to be celebrating, east and west. It angered me that the most base of instincts had to strike at that moment of definitive civilized behavior and progress. It disappointed me that the headlines praising Egypt and its people were now shining negative light on the country that just days before was only being praised as the land of free heroes.

“Digging into Egypt’s Culture of Harassment” was the headline that shattered the glass through which I was beginning to have faith in western media reporting on the Middle East region. NPR shared the article of that headline on Facebook, and as is usually the case, Facebook users who follow NPR’s page were able to leave their comments in response.

Like I don’t know how infuriating it is to read ignorant, bigoted, sometimes incredibly racist comments people leave in response to such pieces, I made the mistake of reading these disturbing vignettes of complete strangers (who I hope stay strangers to me for all eternity). Why I feel the need to read comments left by random Facebook users, I have no idea, but I find that each time I do, it only adds another color, another accent to a painting of complete and utter ignorance running rampant in the minds of too many. Today’s thoughtless foray into the already-known was no exception.

I was upset, firstly by NPR’s poor choice of headline and poor quality article. The headline makes it sound like Egypt has a whole culture based on harassment, like it’s something routine and accepted, even encouraged, and the article is all over the place and unfocused.

Secondly, I was upset by the fact that no matter how much good Arabs do, one mistake that is hardly unique to any one group of people is all it takes to tarnish the image of even the most heroic of their accomplishments in the eyes of many. There was Egyptian, Arab, even Muslim heroism that was responsible for Lara Logan's survival when a group of men and women rescued her, but that was barely touched on, ignored by those who are stuck on the negative. It's like Arabs are the kid who just can't please his parents, the kid who brings home an A on his math test and still gets a frown and disappointed shake of the head for not making the football team. It's just plain unfair.

The revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak will always be remembered as a universal victory for freedom in the minds of forward thinkers, who have the sense to view what happened to Lara Logan as an unfortunate moment of human baseness that could occur anywhere in the world. I shall not despair knowing that there are such minds in the world, and I know enough of them.

To those who see it as the sole indicator of what Egypt and the entire Middle East region and its people have to offer the world, I say they are due for an evolution of the mind.


ABOUT REEM AL-OMARI

Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari

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COMMENTS

dirk cotton
2.24.11 @ 10:12a

The world is full of idiots and the Internet has given them a voice. As I like to say, before the Internet, dumb used to hide better.

Well written column. Lara Logan deserves our sympathy, but rational people are not going to condemn all Egyptians for the acts of a few.

reem al-omari
2.24.11 @ 11:01p

Yes, the Internet has given a podium to idiots, which is fine, except idiot spreads.



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