About 32 percent of Arab world residents, age 15 and above, cannot read or write. It’s more than double the illiteracy rate for similarly aged residents of non-Arab countries. In Somalia, Yemen, and Morocco, illiteracy rates are 62 percent, 50 percent, and 48 percent respectively. Females have a much greater illiteracy rate than males.
African Muslim racial genocide has raged in the Sudan’s Darfur region for years with up to 400,000 killed and 2.5 million displaced. The International Criminal Court indicted Sudan’s Arab President, Omar al-Bashir, for these atrocities. The Arab League’s response was to decisively reject the indictment, apparently more interested in protecting its brethren rather than innocent human life.
Nineteen of the world’s 44 foreign terrorist organizations, designated by the U.S. State Department, have gestated and operate in the Arab world. While the primary aim of most of them is to destroy the only Middle East democracy, Israel, and greatly diminish U.S. regional and global influence, the vast majority of their victims have been innocent Muslims. Radical Islamists use a dangerous mix of politics and religion to target for recruitment the abused, misinformed, impoverished, under-educated, and others to become participants in various jihad movements. Two terror groups with strong ties to Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, have effectively taken over the Lebanon and Gaza Strip governments.
The euphoria of change is spreading across the Arab world, and many wonder which domino is next to fall. However, these regime changes must be tempered with the understanding that they may not translate into the desired liberal democracy many demonstrators, and their Western supporters, seek. Alarmingly, these revolts are opening a Pandora’s Box of chaos best suited for those most viscerally opposed to secular society under the rule of man-made law. Even as jubilant youthful crowds dance in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, the Iranian regime and Muslim Brotherhood are conspiring to fill leadership vacuums and achieve their longstanding goals.
To give Arabs a better chance at experiencing true freedom, President Obama should (1) encourage genuine freedom-seeking Arabs to facilitate much needed changes to political, economic, judicial and educational institutions before holding elections, otherwise a rush to democracy could spell its destruction in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere; (2) declare that America stands for the rights of people everywhere to freely govern themselves and to hold their governments accountable for their acts; and (3) significantly alter his failed policy of extending an “open hand” to dictators, tyrants and terrorists under the auspices of pursuing dubious U.S. foreign policy objectives and an elusive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Above all, President Obama should publicly proclaim that America’s and the Free World’s interests are best served by defending Free states, promoting freedom, and supporting legitimate freedom movements in the Arab world or wherever else they sprout. Where freedom flourishes, war abates and people prosper. It’s mankind’s best hope.
Fred Gedrich is a foreign affairs and national security analyst. He served in the U.S. Departments of Defense and State and has traveled extensively in the Arab world.
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