Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hala!

Nothing but nonstop stories off the live feed today, none of which I’m sure if any will get much play in the United States, but have left me at the end of the day, feeling rather loopy. However, O'Gara, yes, your suspicions are correct; I can confirm: the planet is indeed headed straight for Armageddon.

More signs of the impending Apocalypse:

Pop singer Michael Jackson, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates since August 2005, was among a group of seventy westerners forcibly evacuated from the country under military escort last night.

UAE locals were kind enough to hurl stones at the convoy of star packed limos as it sped towards Dubai International Airport.

Avoiding crowds were global football/soccer star, David Beckham and his wife Victoria (Posh Spice), who were airlifted off a palm tree-shaped resort island where they own a vacation home. I'm told me that the famous couple is lucky to have escaped with their lives, for as they left a crowd sympathetic to the Pan Moslem Coalition moved in and burned the palatial residence to the ground.

Across the Mid East and Southeast Asia, the 'War on Evil' is having a profound effect on international relationships, both at the state level as well as the personal. In almost every sub-equatorial state Americans and Europeans are being told to go home. In Saudi Arabia, there are whispers that sometime in the next couple of weeks the Saudis will ask the United States to evacuate its military bases there. No one knows what result this will produce, but I can tell you exactly what's going to happen:

A SHIT STORM.

We've already seen the banning of the bikini in Malaysia, India and Thailand, –but one edict in a long list of what are informally called 'anti-Crusader laws'.

And as you may already know, Malaysia's Prime Minister has ordered all U.S. owned businesses shuttered, and all Americans out of the country by the end of the month. Lucky for me I work for Al Jazeera, and I have a Lebanese name, but Doha is certainly going to transfer me out of the country sooner than later, so I've been told. Badawi says Americans must go for the sake of their own safety, but everyone knows it's a means to a very specific end:

By crippling U.S. economic presence in the region (and every Muslim nation and most of Southeast Asia is thought to be enacting similar measures), Badawi is trying to force the U.S. government to stop dragging their imperial heels and produce the 'Crusaders' for extradition.

As it happens, the lock down on globalization here is also gaining Malaysia sympathy in the most unlikely places, namely from from socialists and greens in both the United States and in Europe. This is power and support the Coalition can possibly use in the near future to leverage western governments from within their own borders. See, it's nice to have friends abroad who'll stick up for you.

In equal measure, there are also some here making attempts to diminish the increasing conflagration in this part of the world, but with little success so far to show for their efforts.

Recent point in case: A US-Islamic forum commissioned with identifying common ground between the United States and the Muslim Coalition kicked off this morning in Kuala Lumpur and to a rather poor start. Before the keynote speaker could even begin, delegates from both sides of the ideological table were screaming at each other.

I was actually present as an observer for Al Jazeera. No sooner had the first fist fight broken out, when a crowd of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party members, fresh from looting the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysi –where they left two missionaries dead, I might add– stormed the conference hall. And once inside, a hundred of them confronted the American delegation and began chanting:

"Death to the Infidels! Death to the Infidels! The army of Islam will return."

Now, as you are well aware, I have experience running out of a burning skyscraper while it was collapsing in on itself and I barely escaped with my life. I have since presented myself to report on several similarly raucous demonstrations. But the sheer violence of this morning's situation scared the hell out of me. I really thought I might die.

But I was lucky to be running out the back door for my life at the same time as US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, who lead the American delegation. Once outside she appeared inexplicably unruffled. I think she must see this sort of thing all the time. Anyway, as luck would have it, she gave me a quote:

"If we truly desire to reach a better understanding of each other, if we truly want our dialogue to produce results, we have to stop demonizing each other and replace hate with hope."

Yeah, whatever.

And yet, when I finally wrapped and headed out for some dinner, a Malaysian street vendor who knows me both as an employee of Al Jazeera and as an American, he gently took my hand in his and fervently impressed upon me that, "We Muslims are peace-loving people."

Being a Muslim myself, I tend to believe him, but I quite understand if the two dead National Evangelical Christian missionaries were to disagree.

btw, Terry, the link to the article about the so-called Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq a reminded me a bit of something that Egyptian journalist Mohamed Heikal once wrote in his book Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat (Random House, 1983). He said:

"Once learned, conspiratorial habits are hard to shake off."

SIRAJ!