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Arab world must reconcile its dark history by Former Ambassador of Yemen and Oliphant Dynowski

I am a former Arab-Yemenite citizen, and I am writing to contest the Ambassador's letter of February 10, 2008.The ambassadors explanations are an effort to cover up blatant measures, the Yemen uses to disregard the Civil Rights of the Yemenite people.Yemen is a country, which has been able to escape criticism of its reactionary policies, because of government inhuman culture and tradition of racism. Yemen uses State Terrorism to repress its own people. The elections are a farce. There is no real opposition. The same group keeps on getting re-elected. Dr. Al-Mansouri Mohamed Tawfik al-mansourimt@hotmail.com201-203 Bell N. K1R 7E2 Ontario, Ottawa, Canada Tel: 613-680-1196

Arab world must reconcile its dark history
The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Re: The making of the 'TV Arab,' Jan. 14.
As a victim of ethnic discrimination, I am sympathetic with Mazen Chouaib's analysis of anti-Arab bigotry. But just as Eastern European society had to acknowledge anti-Semitism to fully enter a post-modern European Union, and just as Japan is struggling to acknowledge anti-Chinese atrocities in the Second World War, so the Arab-Iranian world must deal with the medieval residue of its own history to expect the full measure of respect that is a human right of all societies and that is denied Islam through stereotyped representations in our western pop culture.

Mr. Chouaib says the Arabs did not invade Europe. Has he forgotten the 800-year occupation of Spain (al-Andalus in Arabic) and the attempt to invade the Frankish kingdoms that was repelled by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. And what if Islam had successfully colonized Europe -- where would the democratic institutions, the enlightenment, and our progressive societal concern with human rights have come from?

No Arab state or Iran has democratic governments -- kingships, princes, dictators, tyrants and faux elections are the norm; and the legal codes such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen prescribe the stoning of adulteresses and the amputation of the limbs of thieves according to Shariah law.

Our western multi-cultural respect for Islam and its mosques, including Israel's modern and untypically Middle Eastern protection of a minority religion's rights and places of worship, is not echoed in the Arab or Iranian world where persecution of Christians and Ba'hais wanes and waxes with the political winds.

The dwellers in fragile glass houses must acknowledge these problems and work to influence modernization in the Islamic world at the same time that they use the privilege of protection for freedom of speech to throw stones and draw attention to our culture's mistakes and offenses.
Oliphant Dynowski,

Our Arab country is a democracy with freedoms

The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Sunday, February 10, 2008
Re: Arab world must reconcile its dark history, Jan. 16.

I take issue with some statements of letter-writer Oliphant Dynowski that are prejudicial and utterly false.

Yemen is a democracy adhering to a multi-party system with absolute commitment to human rights and freedoms, including that of the press, publication, association and speech.

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Font:****Yemen's constitution of 1990 is built on democracy with a parliament and Shoora council (senate). When the first parliament was elected, it was done in a successful and peaceful manner, supervised by international observers. We also have elected local councils and an independent judiciary. The first general election was held in 1993, continuing regularly every four years. There have been numerous democratic reforms including recognition of gender equality and universal suffrage -- a law that is unique in the region.

Noel Kinsella, the Speaker of the Canadian Senate, together with a Canadian delegation of senators, officials and Canada's ambassador from Rihyad, recently visited Yemen, holding meetings with our president, the speaker and deputy-speaker of the Shoora council, government ministers (including our female minister of human rights), members of parliament, and heads of civil society organizations. They visited many multicultural sites, including a Christian church and a Jewish cemetery. At the end of this visit, Senator Kinsella and his delegation praised the continued progress of the democratic process in Yemen and expressed Canada's desire to enhance collaboration between the two countries -- a sentiment confirmed by our president.

Although Yemen's constitution is based on shariah law, it does not amputate the limbs of thieves, nor do we stone adulteresses, contrary to Mr. Dynowski's letter.

Women in Yemen enjoy a particularly high level of freedom. Women work and are represented in parliament and the senate. Yemen has two female cabinet members -- the minister of human rights and the minister of social affairs and labour.

We have a rich multicultural past that has led to a happy co-existence of culture and religion with Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities. We afford the same protection of all religious groups by law.

Yemen was one of the first victims of terrorism and is fully committed locally and internationally in the fight to defeat this terrible scourge.

Regarding the Arab occupation of Spain and Mr. Dynowski's prediction that, had it been allowed to continue, the principles of tolerance and democracy would never have evolved, I note that this period is referred to as the "age of enlightenment," where, from the seventh to the 14th century, Judaism, Christianity and Islam flourished together in an astounding cultural and religious tolerance that went beyond the concept of acceptance and harmony, to a society that actually embraced one another's differences, transforming these contradictions into opportunities, a period in history that has yet to be repeated.

The Arab world occupies five million square miles within which there is a remarkable diversity relating to culture, history, religion, law, politics, freedoms, ethics and tolerance. Generalizations are at best narrow-minded and, at worst, lead to prejudice, fear and tragedy.

Abdulla Nasher, Ottawa

Ambassador for the

Republic of Yemen

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