June 19, 2013 | 10:13 AM (BD Time)
19 June, 2013 Wednesday
Obama opens 24-hour trip to Germany ; NSA director says plot against Wall Street foiled ; Israeli premier: pressure on Iran must continue ; DCC elections after Eid-ul-Fitr : EC ; Indefinite transport strike continues in Khulna ; 18-party to stage demo countrywide on June 22 ; One killed in Jamalpur ‘by brother’
A matter of words
Akif Abdulamir :
I sometimes have the privilege of being invited to the residences of the European ambassadors for their social functions.
To them, I am a moderate Arab with modern views. Little do they know that I am as conservative as the next person in the region. What baffles me is how the West uses the words such as 'fanatic', especially when they distinguish it from 'extremist'. An Arab with same strong views is a fanatic but a European with similar inclination is a radical.
Khaleej TimesI am also baffled by the widely used words of 'terrorist' as opposed to 'freedom fighter.' I wonder, I told my 12-year-old son the other day, what would George Washington be called if he was fighting for the independence of the United States today? I would like to know, too, the difference between 'diplomatic discussion' and 'plain talk' in Western functions. I know for sure that they have 'two hats' in such occasions. The one they wear in their own circles where they let their guard down and the second when a 'chap' like me is around.
I have also noticed the stark difference between the diplomatic functions of Asian ambassadors and the European. Yes, there is a second hat there too, but it is transparent and I am not going to elaborate that. I have to my privilege, old letters that date back nearly 80 years ago from a couple of Omani princes writing candidly to my great uncle about 'how to handle the Europeans' in the running of the state. It reminds me of two parrots in different cages exchanging thoughts on how to create an opening to fly out to freedom. It also reminds me of a story of a king who said, "if you have to put me in a confinement, then build it in gold and bejewel it in diamonds."
It is about saving faces when the reins are on the other hands. The attitude, to my summation of the current state of affairs, has not changed. They play a flute in a distant country and another culture dances to the tune. One wonders why on earth we don't use our own musical instruments for our own dances. I guess when we stand with our hands behind our back there is always that invisible rope tied around our wrists. In a customary fashion, the Europeans always have their hands in front of their bodies in a gesture clearly saying 'we have nothing to hide but our words may have a double meaning'.
When I had lunch with a Far East ambassador a month ago, I noticed he was more curious of learning the local cultures than anything else. He was not trying to probe or find out in a 'subtle way', what were the sentiments of locals on foreign nationals, the way a European ambassador would. I never had the privilege of being close to any of the Indian subcontinent countries' ambassadors. But I have casual talks with some of their senior staff. I am not sure why I find my words flow easily with them and don't have to think twice. Maybe that would have changed if we had European labourers in the Gulf countries. There is nothing as humbling as picking up a brick in 50 degrees Celsius for twelve hours.
If Europeans find me a moderate, I wonder what the Asians take me for. I don't think I would want to find out the answer. Sometimes ignorant is bliss. Well, next time I go for a diplomatic function, I would try to cut off the invisible rope and keep my hands in front of my body.
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