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Freedom and democracy. How I have come to loathe this phrase. Two-lofty-words-and-a-conjunction bandied around by handmaidens of Empire: verbal grenades that can gut entire nations. When I hear “freedom and democracy” I instinctively look for cover - just as “Allahu Akbar” yelled loudly enough can now make Arabs and Muslims hit the ground fast.

“Freedom and democracy” is the battle cry for every single western regime-change operation I can remember. Operations that leave innocent civilians dead, cities destroyed - anarchy, corruption and criminality in their wake.

In the Middle East, these are dangerous words that have filtered into our vocabulary. People here, intoxicated with their faux revolutions, now spout this silly foreign phrase with the same shrill, mad-eyed, self-righteous conviction as do Americans before they bomb us into ‘freedom.’

But Arabs and Muslims should dig deep into their recent memory:

The first words uttered by you as you rose up against your US-backed dictators were “honor and dignity” – not “freedom and democracy.” How did that fact get lost in the mayhem to follow?

And why on earth would this distinction make any difference?

For one, ‘freedom and democracy’ has always suggested western-style standards for governance and social liberties alien to the Mideast. We’re just not there yet – not on those terms anyway - and we’re not likely to be. Many regional states are just entering the nascent phase of what will undoubtedly be a rocky political evolutionary process – with each nation creating wholly indigenous models of governance, as unique as their individual cultures and histories. What if some towns would like their political process determined by an old-fashioned cockfight? What if a strongman is the only way to prevent the disintegration of a nation-state or the outbreak of ethnic and sectarian carnage? What if people genuinely don’t give a toss about gay and lesbian rights, preferring – imagine that – to find employment and feed their kids first? Women’s suffrage? Gender-integrated football stadiums? Childcare in the workplace? Worker’s rights? Important stuff, but... Feed. Child. First.

And then there’s that other unfortunate association: freedom and democracy brings with it a cornucopia of weapons, military bases, bombs hailing from skies heaving with US-made drones, financial assistance tied to all shades of silliness.

Freedom and democracy is extremely discerning. It seems to altogether bypass friendly dictatorships, only landing with uncanny accuracy on the heads of those opposed to Empire - civilians included.

And it is a foreign-imposed concept, presupposing, for instance, that elections are all-important. Except, even Empire doesn’t believe that. Why else dismiss Palestinian elections with a Hamas victor, or Iranian elections when the candidate doesn’t suit, or Russian parliamentary ones that ‘smack’ of fraud?

Yet Empire’s silence is deafening when a friendly monarch passes the mantle to his son, when a client state doesn’t care about popular legitimacy, when a military ally with big budgets for US-made weapons rejects elections outright.

Honor and dignity is none of those things. It doesn’t mean elections, it doesn’t mean individual rights. It is unselfish and broad – it understands what is right, what is important, what is a priority. It will wait a bit longer for jobs, stability, electricity, but it demands one immediate correction: the state must recognize and act upon popular will.

What’s the difference you still say?

Freedom-and-democracy embraces US-Israeli hegemony and GCC petrodollars. Honor-and-dignity does not.

Freedom-and-democracy thinks there are “processes” to remedy the colonization of Palestinian land. Honor-and-dignity knows there is only one: decolonization.

Freedom-and-democracy seeks to vilify, marginalize and criminalize groups, sects and nations in the Middle East. Honor-and-dignity seeks collaboration and harmonious relations, even among those marked by differences.

Freedom-and-democracy is governed by militarization – it seeks military bases, weaponizes its allies, draws red lines, makes threats, retaliates disproportionally, punishes with ease, targets the vulnerable. Honor-and-dignity believes in soft power, engagement and mediation with brothers.

Freedom-and-democracy has always supported dictatorship and brutality. Honor-and-dignity wants that to stop.

Freedom-and-democracy gives you a truckload of money in exchange for implementing a political, social and economic blueprint with the assistance of foreign advisors and NGOs. Honor-and-dignity is determined to learn from its own mistakes.

Freedom-and-democracy knows what’s best for you. Honor-and-dignity wants to decide for itself.

Freedom-and-democracy fears your independence – thinks you are “not ready” for it. Honor-and-dignity can’t stand still from wanting to taste it, lick it, embrace it, implement it.

Freedom-and-democracy violates your border, guns cocked. Honor-and-dignity knows it must shoot you dead or you will never learn.

Freedom-and-democracy thinks it is free and democratic. Honor-and-dignity notices an interesting trend: the more freedom-and-democracy talks about “freedom and democracy,” the more it legislates against freedoms and undermines democracy back home.

Real ‘freedom’ in the Middle East means honor and dignity. Real ‘democracy’ in the Middle East starts with honor and dignity. Arabs nailed it the first time around.

Honor-and-dignity doesn’t mean elections and governments that operate within the exact same geopolitical and economic parameters of yesterday. Honor-and-dignity means good governance in a just society under the rule of law based on consensus - homegrown, indigenous solutions that are unique to each country.

The new governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen don’t stand a chance – they operate within the old parameters that acknowledge western hegemony, GCC dominance in regional affairs, and the economics of disparity. They play with Israel and pretend Palestine does not exist. They vacillate between paralysis and aggression against the only Resistance this region has ever had. They thrive on yesterday’s divide-and-rule and have warped ideas about brotherhood. And they rig systems today to ensure their continued dominance tomorrow.

You cannot have honor and dignity with a dependent economy – it will hamper your independence. You cannot have honor and dignity with foreign military bases in your country – it will cripple your independence. You cannot have honor and dignity with a colonial state in your midst subverting all efforts at regional reconciliation, killing Arabs with impunity, wagging its tongue at your impotence – it will destroy your independence.

Please leave us be, FreedumbAndDemocrazy. If you don’t, Honor and Dignity will be forced to teach you the meaning of Consequence in a way it would rather not. Leave the Mideast to chart its own course, discover its own strengths and make its own mistakes. Do it now.

And take your conditional aid and military bases with you too.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.


All of these are shams, unfortunately. Freedom and Democracy as spread out by the imperial powers is just an economic impetus to their capitalist gains, honor and dignity is exported by the saudis and qataris to spread their poisonous, cancerous religion that is based on bowing to them, chopping off heads and barbarism exceeding that of the Mongolian hordes.

All in all, I wouldn't mind giving economic impetus to the capitalist powers... as long as my head remains on top of my shoulders where it is supposed to be, and not displayed in a youtube video because I didn't grow a beard longer than the glass of a lantern. I believe the Americans love their children.. the wahabis, not so much.

"Honor-and-dignity" is the sort of slogan that whole range of human rights abusers seem fond of when suppressing freedom and democracy. It would a worthy slogan for a range of oppressive dictators from Stalin through to Mugabe.

But "for the good of the people", of course!

Honour can only arise from people are free to govern themselves and their own lives. Dignity can only arise when people can democratically control the resources of their own country.

Freedom and democracy do not guarantee honour and dignity - that is true. But they are necessary prerequisites for it. The reverse is not the case.

Look! The only disagreement with Sharmine's premise in the article is from the reader with a Hebrew given name. Surprise.

Rather than address the specific points made in this piece, by countering the arguments with valid, evidence-based statements, "Lev" mocks the concept of "Honor and Dignity" that came from the Arab streets - linking it without citation to "human rights abusers".

That, my friend, is a Troll - armed with disinformation.

"Human rights abusers" are IDF soldiers, using White Phosphorus as a munitions warhead -- against children, and other civilians. That is a fact-based assertion, and one that will draw your hypocrisy into the open, should you care to respond with the sub-intellect you displayed in your former comment.

Well said. I am from the United States and I could not disagree with a thing Sharmine wrote. Non interventionism does not mean isolationism, these words have been twisted over here by neoconservatives and other meddlers. You'll all find out what is best for you and your region over time, and that applies to the rest of the world too.

Very well put ...

Great article.

Readers should realise Freedumb and Democrazy are the standard slogans used by the Color Revolution training organisations based in Washington for their youth revolutionary movements for their Color Revolutions, of which the events in Syria after 14th March 2011 was one. It was named the Jasmine Revolution, they all have names.

There have a large number, or attempted ones, in various countries across the globe since 1990.

But of course you don't get it.
Democrazy is not having your country run out of Washington by clients.
Freedumb is not having your country's economy bought up by Wall Street Hedge funds and investment banks at knock-down rates and run by them an American Free Market economists.

That is what you get, it is a standard package deal.

Honour and Dignity was a new slogan devised for the Syrian Color Revolution ( on which a fortune of training, bribing and equipping was spent by the US. ) as it was thought it might not succeed. After all they had been trying for 50 years.

But you don't get Honour and dignity either. A country subjected to Colonialism 2.0 and losing all self-determination and run by clients cannot things.

As progressives are saying in America and Britain;-





Excellent. And the West, especially the United States, need to understand that we need time to understand, digest and affect change. I can argue that it has taken Europe many religious wars, and at least two world wars to get where they are now. The United States had a civil war, major civil movement for people to be able to ride in the same buses and trains. And this has taken place only a couple of decades ago.

We need to take our own time. We need to take our culture, history, religious beliefs, traditions, tribalism etc in consideration before we reach an acceptable level. It is all part of the nation building process that the West is not helping but is making a killing exercise because of its constant intervention in our affairs.

We do not want to destroy our countries, societies and all of the above in order to adopt democracy ala Americana.

It is better to take time, to dialogue, and to reach solutions to our problems peacefully without all the killing and destruction that is taking place now due to the presence of all these dark ideologies supported by the West, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thank You Ms. Narwani for the clear and pointed piece. Great work as usual.

Straight-to-the-point, clear, concise and true...couldn't have been said better.

Good and witty.

This is the voice of billions broadcasted for few. I wonder if FUKUS countries media have enough guts to publish or at least disseminate part of this elequently worded article. Brave, gutsy and truthful political analyst.

Freedom and democracy are conceptually opposites. If I am "free" then I am not constrained by external norms and can do as I want. If live in a democracy, I am constrained by by the will of the majority. If I belong to a minority, I do not get what I want or need. "Freedom and Democracy" is therefore an empty phrase.

Substance and style...another great piece from a great mind. One observation though; I'd rather see one statement changed from: "financial assistance tied to all shades of silliness" to "financial assistance tied to all shades of economic slavery".

Great message to East, West, North and South, from Sharmine Narwani. Thanks for publishing.

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