Dignity is earned, not given - By Reem Mohammed Al-Faisal

I have been silent for a few months, tired of returning to the same old issues in my articles and despairing of ever finding any echoes of hope. It is very debilitating mentally when you see that everything we say or do in the Arab and Muslim world comes to nothing. We have become little more than a bit of headline news repeated over and over until the world is bored to death with us.

I have been waiting for some Arab or Muslim state to stand up and reject the heap of humiliations which are dumped on our head; but I realize that Muslims are a very patient people. It just keeps getting worse — from the war on terrorism, which has turned into a euphemism for Muslim-bashing, to the savaging of Palestinians and Chechens. And the Muslim world just passes the time in summer bliss. So I write again, if not to change anything, at least to justify my existence and try to be the human being that God intended when he selected a small atom and gave life. I will not, however, remind the Muslims both high and low of their terrible lack of self-respect. I won’t remind the Muslims of how many have died in Palestine, Chechnya or Afghanistan. I won’t ask what we’ll do when the bombs start falling on Iraq or if we ever had the power to avert all the horrors which have befallen us for decades or if the fates are just conspiring against us.

No, today I will write about journalists and especially those happy few who have decided to stand with the just — albeit losing — Palestinian and Arab causes. Writers such as Robert Fisk and Edward Said and James Zogby, to mention only a few who continue to face the concerted campaign of persecution by the subhuman Zionist lobby. News services and newspapers in the US and Europe are being bombarded with letters of complaint, demanding that they either remove these and many other writers from their staffs or refuse to publish anything which they contribute. They are accused of being anti-Semitic, or lackeys of Arab governments. They are harassed in lecture halls and denied access to media outlets. If, God forbid, they write for Arab newspapers, they are simply blocked from writing for any other newspaper in the West, for that in itself is taken as a sign that they cannot be trusted.

This harassment naturally gets results. Some journalists lose their jobs or simply opt for self-censorship in order to protect themselves from financial ruin. These journalists are numerous, both Arab and non-Arab.

If we can’t take action on the world stage to save the blood of innocent Muslims, let us at least try to win some small battles. One of them is to defend those few journalists we have left who are our voice to the outside world. Let us start by telling the news services and newspapers that if they remove any journalist because he or she happens to speak out objectively on the plight of victims in the Muslim world, than we will deny them all access to information in our country, Saudi Arabia. We should turn instead to giving information to websites that are not anti-Muslim or anti-Arab – such as zmag.org, mediaonline.org or the electronicintifada.org.

Correspondents for Western newspapers are now plentiful in Arab and Muslim countries. They meet everyone they want, from street sweepers to ministers, talking to them on every issue and then going home to repeat the same Zionist drivel we have heard for decades. I say that it is time to hold these correspondents accountable. We do not ask of them anything other than fairness and objectivity. We don’t want them to paint a pretty picture of our societies. We know better than they ever could about our ills. Nor do we want them to agree with us on every issue. All we ask for is a balanced view, a fair one. If they can’t fulfill that minimum requirement, they should be shunned by our societies and by our ministers and journalists. They should be denied access to information and to people. They should be made to understand that they are not welcome here until the Western media is liberated from the fetters of Zionism and until the rapidly disappearing breed of journalists who still care for truth and liberty are given an equal chance to air their views. If we can’t do this, we genuinely deserve the contempt of the world – and the loss of our freedom and dignity.

(Reem Al-Faisal is a Saudi photographer. She is based in Jeddah.)