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Answers from 'Our Man in Jordan' 181

Posted by Roblimo
from the international-linux-conspiracy-is-everywhere dept.
At the beginning of this month we sent your questions to Isam Bayazidi of Amman, Jordan. He's a Slashdot reader, founder of the Jordan Planet blogging community, and (I know this from personal experience) knows the best places to buy discount-priced computer components in his home town. Enjoy!
(1) Arab and Israeli communities
by Yonkeltron

Is there any collaboration between the Arab and Israeli communities when it comes to blogging, Free/Open Source Software or general computing?

Isam:

I will start with the Open Source Software: Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew languages have many similarities which make them overlap in some areas with language support. Example is general Multi-Lingual support, and the BiDi (Bi-Directional) support of applications. Such similarities made it reasonable to communicate and collaborate in certain projects. A great example is the FriBidi library which was introduced by 2 Iranian developers, and now used by many open source projects, some of which originating from Israel. As well, there are Open Source volunteers from Israel who are working in BiDi support in applications (Ex. Wine) and one can find communication between individuals working on similar projects... Another example is the Arabic Wikipedia, as Arabic language is an official language in Israel, so there are contributors who work in both Hebrew and Arabic wikipedias..

As for Blogging, I am not sure if it would be accurate to call the blog collective from countries a community, because basically they are people with totally different opinions, each expressing it in his/her own space, so it won't be fair to characterise and generalize them. Nevertheless, you would see small blogger-interactions such as comments, track backs, tagging, and pingbacks happening between bloggers from Israel and other parts of the Arab world.

Now I am not sure I would call this "community-level" or "individual-level" interaction. I know that it is happening, because it makes sense in some cases. Nevertheless, I think that with no final solution for the middle-east issue in horizon, such cooperation will stay mostly limited, and won't rise to be a community-level cooperation..

(2)Straight Outta Casablanca
by Doc Ruby


You have solid credits for several "Arab versions" of modern software. The Mideast was where many technologies, like writing, urban living, astronomy and symbolic math were invented or mastered. What new uses of the Internet and open SW do you see originating in Mideastern hands? Which brand new apps are people in your world using in a way more familiar in the Mideast, which could make the jump to global popularity the way so much Western tech already has?

Isam:

In my opinion, the Arabs are in a completely different state than when those technologies were invented or mastered. At that time, It was the prime time for the Islamic culture, where other parts of the world were busy hunting witches and wizards. Today, Arab countries is in a knowledge crisis (Ref: Arab Human Development Report 2003) which appears in information reach, technology use, and thus effecting innovation. We should be more worried about meeting basic needs when it comes to knowledge and education, than to think about global reach, and having larger world influence.

Now talking about Internet and software, while there are a number of innovators from arab countries, leading in certain segments, niches. As well, you would find a general state of imitations for successful models and businesses, example: Arabic versions of many of the popular softwares and services: search engine, blog services, photo-sharing, iTunes-like music stores, arabic-centric versions of many of the Mashups, and so on. Once imitation is done, uniqueness may start to emerge, which is very likely to have global visibility and reach. I do not see that happening in the next 2-4 years, but again, who knows.

Regarding Open Source software, as long as adoption for the software is limited to individual level, and do not reach cooperate or governmental or even academia levels, I do not see that we will be seeing successful sustainable projects, as individuals and pioneers are met with great challenges and resistance from those who are supposed to support their efforts.

(3) Credible Sources for Arab Bloggers by tabdelgawad


As a founder of an Arabic (Jordanian) blogging community, what do you perceive to be the source of news most popular/trusted by Arab bloggers? Is it local, Arab (AlJazeera, etc), European (BBC, TV5, etc), or American (NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox News, etc)? Is the Arab blogging community a large echo chamber for the latest and greatest western conspiracy theories, or is there genuine diversity of sources and opinions?

Isam:

With the aggregation, tagging, and news alert systems we have today, Internet as a whole is considered the primary source. It became easier to watch and track 100s of sources from all over the world, and filter what you might be interested in. Most of the Bloggers today are Internet savvy people, monitoring the media in general.

Nevertheless, Arab news sites such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabeya, and elaph are on the top Arab news sites that people refer to, comes along with them BBC Arabic service (which many consider the most credible).

It is needless to say that bloggers have a more open eye to the media of the west than the English speaking media in Asia, Africa, or Latin America. Reason would be a combination of both 1) International visibility for those western media 2) Arab bloggers being more focused and concerned about how the west perceive them than other parts of the world.

(4) Down to earth... how does it feel?
by TINGEA77


As an Arab, a Jordanian, a regular Slashdot reader, and a computer addict my self, I feel compelled to ask this question. But first a little about why I'm asking... I started my addiction when I was in Jordan at an early age in the mid 80's, and moved to the United States in the late 90's. So I think by now I'm out of touch with how things are advancing in our part of the world. I used to be considered as a knowledgeable geek, but that was a long time ago when I had more time on my hands. :(

My questions are (really it is the same LONG question:)

Now that online communities and computer volunteering (especially OSS) is growing on the highest rate in the western part of the globe, how do you see participation and understanding of such participation in Jordan in specific, and the middle east in general?

Do you see the Arab population is going toward a more active role, or maintaining a technology consumer role as it used to be in the old days? Do you feel that you are a loner in what you do and contribute? Or do you get a whole lot of "Hey man that is soo cool, how would I start contributing like you do?"

Last but not least, from your day-in-day-out interaction with the local-online-communities, when do you see us (Arabs) technologically maturing to a level where we can be a major contributing force in the OSS global community... is it happening now?

Isam:

Volunteerism within computer and online communities could be within the same levels as you would find in the west. But considering the Internet penetration, and number of people with DSL lines, you would find the number to be low. You would find many volunteer-based community sites on the Internet, ranging from general forums, community-news, Sport fan sites, tech support, mobile tips, and so on.

As for OSS volunteerism, one of the big challenges is the language barrier... it is almost a prerequisite to have good English language to be able to participate and contribute. This causes many of those who are potential volunteers to be driven away to communities that do not have this language prerequisite. Another aspect, is the university educational systems, which do not encourage, in fact some time discourage, students from being active in Open Source projects and communities. Lack of understanding and knowledge from most of the academia about what is Open Source, its benefits to their students and them, causes having generations of students who lack the understanding, or even sometime fear the participation.

A good thing is that there are some communities rising in Arab countries, with the focus of promoting Open Source and activism in the community. Example is Arabeyes project, which focuses on adding Arabic language support to Open Source programs, as well the NoISA project that came out of Jordan LUG, and many other projects that came out of LUGs (Egypt-Lug, Linuxegypt, Saudi LUG). As well, the Arabic Wikipedia is growing in size in terms of articles and community, making it one of the successful examples of collaborative projects in the Arab world.

One thing to note, is that I am no longer active, or having a leading role in either of the projects I was involved in before: Arabeyes, Jordan LUG, or Arabic Wikipedia. I still maintain good ties and relation with those communities, but I am no longer involved as I am shifting focus into different fields and communities.

(5) Exportation of Technology
by DaedalusLogic


A lot of people in the states are familiar with anti-export warnings on encryption technology:

Are their any technologies that the government of Jordan specifically mandates not be exported outside of its borders?

OR

How common is it that encryption technology that the U.S. Government asks not be used overseas is actually implemented "against their will"?

Isam:

I am no expert in that field. To start with, the top technology companies in Jordan are Microsoft/CISCO/HP/Oracle partners. The government itself have a partnership with Microsoft and CISCO on the high levels. Nevertheless, there are restrictions applied with exporting technology to Jordan from US companies. I am not aware of encryption-related restrictions and how they are handled. But I know that US export policy prevents having servers with large number of processors sold to companies or even universities in Jordan, powerful computers are just not present in server rooms here. The alternative had always been having multiple servers, with load balancing or clustering, to do a task that could have been done in one powerful machine.

I am not aware of any Jordanian export restrictions related to technology. Infact, some of my friends found that question funny when they read it in slashdot.. Jordan limiting export to US :) .. There are hardly any software or technology-related house here that could be working on sensitive projects, and even if they do, US funding and partnership will be a part of that project.

(6) Dilbert by Lev13than

I'm going to guess that office and IT environments around the globe probably share more in common than their superficial differences (language, decor, degree of automation etc...) suggest. Indeed, petty politics and general insanity are going to raise their heads regardless of your office's time zone. As such, how well does Dilbert [ dilbert.com], the quintessential North American corporate satire, translate into Arabic? Do you see your office in these cartoons? If not, is there an Arabic version that does a better job?

Isam:

Although I regularly follow Dilbert, because I didn't have a long office-work experience (I worked as on-my-own consultant for most of the time) I do not really relate to most of Dilbert management/office-related cartoons, nevertheless, most of my friends who are in the IT field, or large telecom companies tell me that they really relate to it, and swear by it.

Unfortunately, comics or cartoons are not very popular in this part of the world. There are no office/IT related cartoons known in the Arab world, as well, Dilbert is not even translated to Arabic. You won't find a half or full page of comic strips in Arab newspapers, but rather the political one-big cartoon.

(7) Stereotypes and those who would further them... by d3ac0n

Ok, Two-parter here...

1)As an Arab in today's world, how do you deal with those in the Western world who further the stereotype of "Arabs As Radicals"?

Isam:

What saddens me the most, is that the Media plays a great part in forming this image, and the general public do not take an extra step to verify or validate such image. The stereotype of Arabs go beyond the image of being Radicals, it starts by the believe that we are "totally" different, out-of-this world. Once people buy this, then any other mis-information will just easily get in the minds of ordinary people.

Another problem is the way the media highlight and focus on nationality, for example, every time Abu Musaab is mentioned, he is mentioned as "The Jordanian" or "Jordan-born" Abu Musaab, while in positive contexts, it is rare to have nationality mentioned, you won't hear in any news "The Jordanian Dr. Rima Khalaf Assistant Secretary General and Regional Director of UNDP" or "Jordan-born Usama Fayyad, the chief data officer and senior vice president of Research & Strategic Data Solutions in Yahoo". Such success models from Jordan (and I can go on and on for other Arab countries) are rarely associated with the country of origin when referred to in the media, making it easy for anyone to have a visual image of a radical when I first tell them that I am Jordanian, as they would think Abu Mussab, rather than Dr. Usama Fayyad.

d3ac0n

2) In addition how do you, as a forward-thinking Arab, address the issue of those in the Middle Eastern world that would seek to further the radical elements of Islam for thier own purposes, regardless of the consequences or the stereotypes this may create in the West? In other words, how does one function as a concientious objector in Middle Eastern Society?

Isam:

I had something like 3 drafts to answer this question, and I came to the conclusion that I am no expert in that field to be able to give a good answer for that question... short answer: politicians and those seeking power would use anything, including religion, to empower themselves, and weaken their opponents.. We've seen this all over the world through out the history, not only in Islamic countries..

(8) Which is more important to develop...
by Viperion


A communication infrastructure, or a transportation infrastructure? I ask this because what my American viewpoint sees of the middle east is the seeming lack of mass-transportation systems like we have in American (highways, railroads, and the like.) The Middle East also seems to lack a stable communication infrastructure, especially to rural areas. Which do you think is more important, communications or transportation?

Isam:

Transportation comes first. Being able to go to school or work, have goods and food reach you is part of life basics.. once that is fulfilled, definitely communication comes.. with proper communication it doesn't matter where you are working from.. Talking about Jordan, we currently have a good road infrastructure, and an acceptable transportation system, so now there is great focus on communication. There are many projects in that field, such as inter-university fiber connection, the broadband-to-schools, and PC-to-every-home projects.

(9) Cartoons and website defacement
by Weaselmancer


So, what's your opinion on the arabic kids who are defacing websites in protest to the Mohammed cartoons?

Isam:

Crackers who found an easy target .. Just like many others who point their guns on the wrong people. Myself, as much as I find the cartoons in question offensive, I think that the reaction caused even more damage to Muslims image than what some silly cartoons may do..

(10) Arabic hacker food by DarkClown

Pizza and some caffeinated beverage with an occasional foray into sushi are typical geek food in the west - what is finding its way down the typical arabic chair dwellers gullet?

Isam:

Arabic and Turkish Coffee comes as the top source of caffeine from most geeks, as for food, a mixture of Falafel and Shawarma would be the applicable food for Jordanians. I am not sure about other parts of the Arab world.

(11) Impact on lifestyles
by tomhudson


I know that here, many people are spending an inordinate amount of time on the computer, to the point where it has negatively impacted their time spent with people in social settings (iow - people are becoming less social). Blogging is yet another time sink, on top of the web, email, etc.

Do you foresee the same negative long-term effects in the middle east as we've experienced?

Isam:

Well, people here are extra-social, so maybe being less social will introduce some balance :) kidding.. well I am sure that there will be always those who spend the days and nights of their weekends playing World of Warcraft (I know one :) ), spend their evenings writing or playing with PEAR components, or read and digg blog posts .. but I do not see a "long-term" effect happening because of this as technology spread is limited, at least for the foreseeable future. From what I see, from people I know and myself, spending time in front of a computer took time from TV or book reading rather than socializing..

(12) Arabic-translated open source software
by typical


I know that a number of people work on doing translation work for various languages -- as a whole, what is the state of Arabic-translated open source software? Is it possible for someone to work on a Linux desktop fully within Arabic, or is it necessary to use English?

Isam:

Arabeyes Project is currently leading the Arabization of Open Source software. When the project first started, it focused on the GUI interfaces (KDE, Gnome) and lots of effort was put into it (99% of KDE is translated, while only 43% of Gnome is, probably because it wasn't updated to the most recent version of Gnome). Today, volunteers focus more on the major applications, such as "Debian Installer", "Firefox", "OpenOffice" and so on. Looking at the statistics and activity today in Arabeyes, I would say that the lack of awareness of the importance of the project had caused having small numbers participating. Many of the translation projects are inactive, or with very small activity, making it lagging specially that Open Source software have a short release cycle, making a 8 months old translation out-of-date. Another problem is that that Arabic translation projects need is to get the interest of other profiles of users. Currently most of translators are in the IT-related field, and most are students.

Now while it is possible to work on GUI linux in Arabic and have almost all the basic application in arabic interface, with the fast advance in the Open source applications, and the slower movement in the translation effort, the gap might go large at certain times of the software and release lifetimes.
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Answers from 'Our Man in Jordan'

Comments Filter:
  • thanks isam (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkClown (7673) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:29PM (#14972900) Homepage
    Appreciate your thoughtful and concise answers - many of us surely have a deep misunderstanding in the cultural divide between continents (and within) but your answers make it pretty clear that there aren't really any differences to be alarmed about on any personal level, and that folks are pretty much just folks, wherever.
    • What a condescending post!!!
    • Re:thanks isam (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Misunderstanding?? They're human, what's so hard about understanding you?

      Jesus, why do people have such a hard time understanding other people? It's so simple, just step back, and look in the mirror.

    • Re:thanks isam (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kelz (611260)
      ^ Agrees with parent

      Also, I'd like to add that much of the media at least in the west has essencially become a governmental entity (not ruled by the government, but they have quite a bit of control over the opinions and ideals of the general populace), and as such are just as much power-hungry as the political class, in that they will exploit most anything in order to gain attention and standing. I think this is one of the reasons cultural misconceptions have kept gaining ground recently, especially now
    • So you thought there *were* significant differences before this...?

      As you said at the end, "folks are folks, wherever". Does you really need evidence to show this?
  • Geek Fuel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:34PM (#14972947) Homepage Journal
    Arabic and Turkish Coffee comes as the top source of caffeine from most geeks, as for food, a mixture of Falafel and Shawarma would be the applicable food for Jordanians. I am not sure about other parts of the Arab world.

    Great! So much for working fuel. How hard is it to get beer?
    • His comments reminded me of how much I like falafel and how long it's been since I made it, so I called my partner and asked her to throw some chickpeas in water to soak for dinner tonight. ;)

      Beer in Jordan? I'm pretty sure it's legal. It's not Saudi Arabia or anything...
      • Beer in Jordan? I'm pretty sure it's legal. It's not Saudi Arabia or anything...

        I had a few when I was in Aqaba. The story that I got was that there is only one brewery in the country. It wasn't good beer, but it was cold and wet. It also had a picture of King Hussein on the label.

        -h-
    • Re:Geek Fuel (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'm hardly an expert on Islam, but iirc the different sects have differing levels of strictness with respect to alcohol (e.g. some forbid everything, others are ok with the fermented stuff like beer/wine). Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, not a Sharia state, so afaik there would be no a priori restriction on it from an official standpoint. Of course, (according to the cia world fact book, fwiw) the population is about 92% Sunni. I don't know what their cultural attitudes about it might be and what th

    • Re:Geek Fuel (Score:2, Informative)

      by Dissonant (125475)
      Jordan is a pretty secular country (moreso than many U.S. states), and they have a significant minority Christian population. It's easier to get beer and liquor there than it is in much of the U.S. (my home state of Oregon, for example). There's even a halfway decent bar scene, although it's pretty overpriced and most of the people at the "cool" (i.e. scene, not rich) bars are trying way too hard to seem western.

  • by AEton (654737) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:39PM (#14973000)
    Unfortunately, comics or cartoons are not very popular in this part of the world.

    I see our man in Jordan is a fan of understatement.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...knows the best places to buy discount-priced computer components in his home town.

    I have no problem finding the best place to buy my computer components in my home town... there's only one computer store. ;)
  • Jon Katz (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dr. Cody (554864)
    This sure turned out better than when Jon Katz would relay Middle-eastern IT stories.
  • Saddens him most? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <`RealityMaster101' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:52PM (#14973123) Homepage Journal
    What saddens me the most, is that the Media plays a great part in forming this image, and the general public do not take an extra step to verify or validate such image. The stereotype of Arabs go beyond the image of being Radicals, it starts by the believe that we are "totally" different, out-of-this world. Once people buy this, then any other mis-information will just easily get in the minds of ordinary people.

    I find this rather insulting, and rather telling. It saddens him the most that the media is forming the image? How about the freaking TERRORISTS that form the image? And it doesn't "sadden him the most" that there is so much arab radicalism that causes all arabs to be painted with the same brush?

    (Almost) everyone knows that not every arab supports the terrorists. But to deny that there are grains of truth at the core of the portrayal of Arabs is to deny reality. Arab radicalism is a huge problem right now, and it's going to take Arabs like him to stand up and tell their own people to shut up, sit down, and stop killing people.

    Gah! It angers me to see things like this, like it's some western conspiracy to paint Arabs in a bad light.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      > Gah! It angers me to see things like this

      Truly, your post was hilarious, although I'm not sure if you meant it as a caricature of racism, or if it reflects real hatreds you have.

      Original comment: It saddens me to see the media paint the billion arabs as evil, because a few fight back against the US, sometimes in hideous fashion

      Your comment: But, they're almost all truly evil, because of what I see on the media, so how can you criticize the media?

      Hehe, hilarious.
    • by Fanboy Troy (957025) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:11PM (#14973310)
      I'm sorry, but his point, I believe, was that the media actually amplify the image radicals pose upon all arabs, which is true. I could start a whole flamewar saying "all Americans are oil thirsty killers", but both you and I know this isn't the case. Most Arabs and Americans I know are actually peace-loving people. Generalization is the beginning of hate, and this is exactly what the media does. I have an Iranian friend right now I'm not sure will be alive in a few years because of this stupidness. And yes, it's the media polarizing things that start Holy wars. We all must wake up from this nightmare as soon as possible...
      • Re:Saddens him most? (Score:4, Informative)

        by That's Unpossible! (722232) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:45PM (#14973816)
        I'm sorry, but his point, I believe, was that the media actually amplify the image radicals pose upon all arabs, which is true.

        Radicals? You mean like the reformed government of Afghanistan, who now has a man on trial for converting to Christianity over a decade ago, and are now trying him for this crime against Islam. Punishment being sought? Death.

        http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/03/21/afghan.c hristian/ [cnn.com]

        Yes, the media sucks... but sometimes the source of their hype sucks worse.
        • Afghanis aren't Arabs, you dumbass.
      • Would that be "peace-loving" as in Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, kindness and integrity [so we won't execute him if he converts back]. [bbc.co.uk] There's a big difference between claiming to be peace-loving and actually being peace-loving and I've been on this earth long enough not to be fooled by the former.
    • by AhtirTano (638534) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:31PM (#14973625)
      find this rather insulting, and rather telling. It saddens him the most that the media is forming the image? How about the freaking TERRORISTS that form the image? And it doesn't "sadden him the most" that there is so much arab radicalism that causes all arabs to be painted with the same brush?

      Basic math skills will show that the vast majority of Muslims are not involved in this radical behavior. Try this: Total Number of Suspected Terrorists in the Muslim World divided by Total Population of Muslims. Then compare that with: Total Number of American Incarcerated for Violent Crime divided by American Population. You'll find that the second number is larger than the first. Do you go around saying that Americans are blood-thirsty savages? Do you talk about the Irish the way you talk about Muslims based on the behaviour of the IRA? How about the Basque because of the ESA?

      Note I'm not saying Muslim radicalism isn't a problem. I'm saying it is unfair to criticize Muslims in general for the actions of a small minority. To paraphrase Ann Frank: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Muslim does is thrown back at all Muslims."

      • Total Number of Suspected Terrorists in the Muslim World divided by Total Population of Muslims.

        I'm sorry- but my reading of the Koran suggests that this would be 100%. But then again- I think the same thing of Christian Fundamentalists.....I don't know any truly moderate Muslims. Anybody who thinks being called "People of the Book" isn't an insult is far more fundamentalist than most Christians I know, for instance.
      • by couchslug (175151)
        Total Number of Suspected Terrorists is no more valid metric of support than Total Active Terrorists (if one could measure that directly).
        Take for example the "cartoon riots". Now, the rioters are themselves a tiny minority. What about THEIR supporters? The very limited response condemning the riots suggests that for every active rioter there are thousands who consent to and support the riots tacitly, morally, and verbally within their communities.
        What rioter is going to act against the censure of his own c
      • Basic math skills will show that the vast majority of Muslims are not involved in this radical behavior.

        Not to Goodwin this thread or anything, but...

        It only takes a handful of radicals to lead a greater moderate majority into doing some of the worst atrocities of all time. Just because the majority is moderate, doesn't mean that they will go along wiht the extremists.

        From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Ge rman_Workers_Party#General_membership [wikipedia.org]

        When the Nazi Party began in the 1920s, it avera

    • It wouldn't suprise me if the media image is more than a little unrepresentative of the Arab or Islamic world.

      As a Japanese man, I find it funny how many western geeks seem to think Japan is a country of sex-crazed otaku who live with realdolls and whack off to rape porn. Of course, Japanese think westerners are evil sex fiends because so many westerners who go over there seem to be obsessed with such things, or sex, or Asian women, and because of some high-profile rapes commited by American servicemen. Eac
  • not to get in a nit picking war, but fribidi was started by an Israeli

    http://webcvs.freedesktop.org/fribidi/fribidi/AUTH ORS?rev=1.11&view=markup [freedesktop.org]

    Dov Grobgeld
    * Initial author.

    and is now maintained by an Iranian.

    Behdad Esfahbod
    * Current maintainer, Added explicit bidi support, fixed all
    conformance bugs, changed the library to use bitmasks, rewrote
    many things, removed glib dependency.
  • by ronanbear (924575) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:20PM (#14973454)
    Peter Andre? Our?
  • Brain Balance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:24PM (#14973522) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how much faster the Arab info society would evolve if there weren't such a brain drain to EurAmerican society. Even in Arab countries, many talented and productive people get sucked into EurAmerican corporate and government jobs, which suck the value into the foreign info societies, rather than feeding back locally. And which Westernize the participating Arabs, so they don't contribute "Arab" solutions to the global info society.

    Meanwhile Europe and America have local labor who don't want to compete with Arab visitors who subsidize their lower costs with time spent back in cheaper Arab countries, invest in homes and retirements there, etc.

    Is there a mutual development benefit to restricting foreigners from joining EurAmerican labor pools, rather than taking the easy way out with only small benefits to Arab workers? And if Arabs had to grow their own domestic info societies, would they also grow their own local democracies, to reflect the increasing power of their middle class?

    Is the balance of benefit to the actual workers in each country closer to staying home than to the current brain drain? Is there a better way to get that balance than just keeping foreign labor from visiting the more developed countries?
    • Re:Brain Balance (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raduf (307723)


      For every "brain" gone West there's a lot of management and technology and entropy in general that comes from the big companies that come into the country.
      All those brains would have done almost nothing without the big companies to allow them to use their potential.
      My country (Romania) is in the same position: a lot of talk about brain drain but nobody stops to think that neither windows nor linux not mobile telephony not even the simplest computer would have been
    • Is there a mutual development benefit to restricting foreigners from joining EurAmerican labor pools

      In the case of the EU, the question is really moot. Anti-immigration politics has been on the rise for many years now, and you'll only have a chance of immigrating if you're a refugee(*), have close family here(**) or can find some company who's really really good at selling you as a rocket-scientist-needed-for-innovative-economy. There's simply no places left to tighten immigration policy.

      (*) And people

  • Arab humour (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MSBob (307239) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:34PM (#14973680)
    When at my uni (long time ago, years before 9/11) I used to hang out with a bunch of Arabs. Most were from Jordan and one guy was from Syria.

    They were some of the funniest people I ever met. They were able to come up with some hillarious puns in English even though it was their second language. How is that for a language skill? I've always been amazed at the mastery of the English language by Arab students, but I digress...

    What gets me is the portrayal of muslims in the west, as people completely devoid of any sense of humour. It really could not be further from the truth.

    If more westerners mingled with them, they'd realize just how sociable and interesting Arab people are. Of course, they have their own culture but they are much more open minded than the western media would make you believe. In fact they are far more open minded than most westerners I know.

    • Re:Arab humour (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Johnboi Waltune (462501) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:56PM (#14973950)
      You interacted with Jordanians and Syrians who were very educated, and Westernized. They spoke English fluently, attended secular university in the West, and were probably members of the upper class in their societies of origin to be able to afford it.

      I'd venture to say you didn't get a very accurate picture of the attitudes of the average Jordanian or Syrian (who likely is barely literate in his own language, and has no secondary education or meaningful exposure to a humanist worldview.)

      Remember, anecdotes are not evidence.
      • Re:Arab humour (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MSBob (307239) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @03:16PM (#14974200)
        The "Arab terrist" mythology is as much anecdotal evidence as my empirical experience. Since I trust my own experiences more than I trust the "big media" I'll go with my gut feel that on average, Arabs are funny and sociable. Much more so than the BBC/CNN/Fox want you to believe. Oh yeah, I did mention the Beeb in that group. They're just as biased as their American counterparts. They just talk with British accents and thus sound more smug and condescending.
      • Re:Arab humour (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swissmonkey (535779) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @03:52PM (#14974652) Homepage
        I'd venture to say you didn't get a very accurate picture of the attitudes of the average Jordanian or Syrian (who likely is barely literate in his own language, and has no secondary education or meaningful exposure to a humanist worldview.)

        I'd venture to say you have a very inaccurate picture of the average arab, you know, there are schools and universities in Jordan and Syria. They're not all peasants, the litteracy level in Jordan is over 90%

        It doesn't mean all schools compare to Berkeley or Stanford, but it's much better than you think.
      • There are schools in Jordan and Syria.
      • Well, from my experience of Syrians (from time spent in Syria, mostly in Damascus but also in several small towns/villages), the majority can not only speak Arabic, but French fluently as well (and a significant minority also spoke English) and I had many good conversations with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, people sat around in Mosques etc and although I suspect that most of them were not 'educated' to the same level as the average westerner, they almost invariably came across as friendly, inteligent people.
      • "average Jordanian or Syrian (who likely is barely literate in his own language, and has no secondary education or meaningful exposure to a humanist worldview.)"

        Good God, are you REALLY that stupid? Or was your post meant ironically, as in: "I have no exposure to a worldview of any sort"?
    • Puns occur to you more easily when you're learning a second language, because you learn ambiguities and homonyms.
    • What gets me is the portrayal of muslims in the west, as people completely devoid of any sense of humour. It really could not be further from the truth.

      You make it sound as if the West were out to portray muslim societies in a distorted way. But it's the way Arab societies present themselves: rules about drab clothes, clerics running the government, and severe penalties for minor transgressions, punctuated by the occasional raving lunatic terrorist on TV.

      This is not the way the West traditionally viewed Mu
  • "What saddens me the most, is that the Media plays a great part in forming this image, and the general public do not take an extra step to verify or validate such image. The stereotype of Arabs go beyond the image of being Radicals, it starts by the believe that we are "totally" different, out-of-this world. Once people buy this, then any other misinformation will just easily get in the minds of ordinary people. "

    This is different how? I have seen the same thing in how the media showed people in Northern Ir

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