Madonna and Pan-Arabism


June 29, 2012

Pictures of Syrian children drenched in their own blood and thrown on the side of the road upset even the heartless. We sit, helplessly, with our eyes fixed to TV screens, knowing there isn’t much we can do to stop the monsters behind the tragic massacres.

Angry Arabs expressed their frustration online saying that all that Arabs do in such situations is post pictures of dead children, tweet about how sad they are about those massacres and change their BlackBerry Messenger pictures and personal messages, in solidarity (if you can call it that) with the Syrian people.

Those are the remaining signs of what they call pan-Arabism. In the past, Arab countries would’ve reacted by sending troops. Now if they’re lucky, the Syrian people will receive food and money from here and there.

This feeling of helplessness towards what’s happening in Syria led some Arabs to commit to doing small things that are within their reach.

Recently, this was embodied in the rage against the UAE for hosting a Madonna concert amid the merciless killing in Syria.

Some found it hard to believe that while in Syria innocent children and women are being massacred, people in another Arab country are swaying and dancing to the pop queen’s music. Madonna, who is a great supporter of Israel, was criticised by Arab activists for 'dancing with the enemy' and being very open about her love for Israel, Arabs’ number one enemy.

Madonna’s concert was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before that, UAE, and specifically the chief of Dubai Police Force Dhahi Khalfan, was criticised for offending and threatening prominent Muslim scholars, including Egyptian scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi.

Should violence and massacres in an Arab country affect the decisions of another country? Namely, do those activists have the right to demand the cancellation of Madonna’s concert because of what’s happening in Syria? Should life at home stop because of a political conflict in another country?

Governments, with the exception of emotion-driven governments such as Iran and Turkey, usually extract emotions from the decision making process, following the concept of ‘business is business’.

Often on TV we see videos of Arab men or women, usually injured or in tears, crying and shouting, “Where are the Arabs?!” The fact that they expect other Arabs to intervene and help shows us that Arabs are yearning for pan-Arabism to revive, for that sense of belongingness to return.

Regardless of how powerless a tweet raging against Madonna’s concert or a post with a picture of a bleeding Syrian child might seem to people, it shows that the spark still exists.

Buthaina al Hinai, an undergraduate at the College of Commerce and Economics, Sultan Qaboos University, is passionate about human and social behaviour. Her interests revolve around photography, graphic design, sociology and psychology.