Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Kennedy Center's planned festival of Arab culture

Always on Watch is more courageous than I - AOW is attending America's Truth Forum, which is being held today in the DC metro area, while I'm too chicken, on account of wanting to hold on to my Federal government job.

I was at Starbuck's this morning (never Caribou Coffee, which is expanding its presence here, including an outlet at Fair Oaks Mall), where I happened to come across a copy of the WaPo's Style section. There was a review of Flight 93 as the major story on the front page of the Style section, and I couldn't help notice the juxtaposition of that with an article on the Kennedy Center's plan to host a festival of Arab Culture in 2009, with assistance from the Arab League, with the vaunted goal of promoting "understanding." Kennedy Center President Michael J. Kaiser said that "the idea starts from my rather naive belief that arts create peace."

Oh brother. Give me a break. On 9/11, nineteen Arab men killed nearly 3,000 people as they went about their business to provide for their families, with the intent of killing thousands more. The passengers of Flight 93 went to their certain deaths, but might have saved many others, by disrupting the plans of Ziad Jarrah and his companions.

Moreover, there is at least ambivalence about the performing arts in the Muslim world (to say nothing about the visual arts), which is why I find the concept of a festival of Arab culture strange. I happen to like "world music" (but not at the expense of dead white man's culture) and have gone to concerts of music from India and Iran. I had gone to a performance on Strings Across Asia at the Smithsonian, featuring music ians from China and Mongolia and Ali Jihad Racy, an Arab musicologist based at UCLA - at one point, he even demonstrated how the Bedouins turned a device used to smash coffee beans (it looked like a butter churn) into a rhythm instrument! One thing that didn't escape my notice is that while the Chinese community was well represented in the audience, there were few Arabs there.

This is one cultural festival we don't need. There have been news reports that terrorists have investigated the use of visas granted for cultural exchange for infiltration. Rather than all these efforts at "understanding", let's stop the jeziya called foreign aid to Arab countries, limit Arab investment in the U.S., limit Arab and Muslim migration to the U.S., and wean ourselves off dependence on Arab oil. The type of outreach that I'd like to see is forceful and effective articulation of our values to the Arab world.

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