Reciprocating unfair policies at US airports

Muslim citizens have been subjected to humiliating search procedures at airports since September 11, and not a single bullet or a knife has been found

The Algerian foreign minister, Noureddine Yazid Zarhouni, threatened on Tuesday to start reciprocating the treatment of Algerians at US and French airports if his country is not taken off the list of 14 states - all of which are either Arab or Muslim except for Cuba - whose citizens, the US recently decided, are subjected to rigorous search procedures, reported Abdelbari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

Washington's decision has given US airport officials the right to inspect the bodies of travellers, men and women, to make sure they are hiding no explosive devices. To that end, US customs has put in place new scanners that show the nude body. Other measures include watching people throughout the flight and allowing them to use the bathroom only one hour before landing. "The Algerian move is a bit too late perhaps, and it may not achieve its goal because it wasn't made within the framework of a unified front composed of the listed states, like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran and Iraq," the editor wrote. Funny thing is, Arab and Muslim citizens have been subjected to humiliating search procedures at airports since September 11, and for nine years not a single bullet or a knife has been found in so much luggage searched, the article concluded.

Whenever an important figure of the Lebanese or Palestinian resistance is assassinated, the Israeli media launch a propaganda campaign depicting Israeli intelligence as a mighty force capable of performing James Bond-like feats and driving wedges into the ranks of the resistance, wrote Mazen Hammad in the Qatari newspaper Al Watan.

This happened after the attempted assassination of the Hamas leader Khaled Mishal in Amman in 1997, and more recently after the assassination of the senior Hizbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008. The Israeli press trumpeted the sophisticated schemes that the Israeli intelligence employs in its operations. And now again a media campaign has been launched after the assassination of the Hamas senior official Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

The Israeli daily newspaper Jerusalem Post reported that the assassination of al Mabhouh has pushed Hamas to an internal investigation to ascertain whether Israeli secret services have infiltrated the higher ranks of the organisation, quoting an anonymous source from Hamas, which was most certainly fabricated. For its part, Haaretz said Hamas may suspect Fatah. All this media manoeuvring is meant to disconcert the Palestinian resistance and disseminate impressions of a super-Mossad working in the shadow, the writer concluded.

In most Arab and Muslim countries, the laws and constitutions, and even the traditions and mores, work together to legitimise state authority while not protecting the citizens, wrote Mohammed Abdullah al Mutawa, a professor of political sociology, in the Dubai-based newspaper Al Bayan. The state's failure to commit to social unity in the backdrop of political and economic struggles, offers the "sectarian devil" a propitious environment. Think about Iraq currently, and Lebanon not too long ago, when a civil war fuelled by sectarian sentiments erupted.

The common belief was that a higher education rate in the Arab world would significantly help bridge the divide between the various social groups and classes, but what is currently happening on the ground refutes that, the writer said. Indeed, the Arab middle class is unmistakably shrinking in a way reminiscent of medieval Europe, when society was made of two classes, the nobles and the peasants.

This growing absence of social nuance has, over the past three decades, exacerbated the social disorder, and, coupled with the contraction of social groups into fanatical, defensive cells, contributed to the emergence of political Islam. "It is high time religion was separated from state. State institutions must abandon the rule of whim and start enforcing the rule of law," the writer concluded.

Until recently, it was widely thought that decision-making based on double standards was a speciality of the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, but this has changed, claimed Mohammed al Assoumi in the Emirati newspaper Al Ittihad. Double standards are now characteristic of international rating agencies as well. With the financial downturn, many bank rating agencies have abandoned their principles of neutrality and professional ethics by giving poor ratings to local banks and other financial institutions in the UAE for no reason. That is, their ratings have not been based on objective considerations such as credit status or financial factors, and this has cost them credibility in the region.

True, some local companies and banks have suffered from the economic crisis, but it remains just as true that other local and regional financial institutions have fared better than their counterparts in the US and Europe. Regardless, many international rating agencies have kept high ratings for western companies and institutions, even those who declared bankruptcy and were rescued by government support, and lowered the ratings of Emirati and Gulf corporations that have maintained a good credit status and weathered the global downturn with the least damage.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi