Thursday, April 15, 2004

What the Arab Street Wants By Pretend Thomas Friedman (sort of) I recently attended a conference in Cairo for globetrotting pundits with excess travel points. On my way to the Conference at the "Abdel Nassar British Petroleum Dome" I met a cab driver named Faruk who asked me about the west's feelings toward his culture, "Tell me gov'ner, what is it you Americans want to hear from us, pray tell?". I looked Faruk in his one good eye and told him, "We want you to be happy and stop killing us". "But old top", Faruk continued, "we want you to stop killing us first. It seems the least you could do my good fellow. Your high-tech weapons and smart bombs are not very sporting. Bloody unfair and all that." I took Faruk's words to heart. I cannot give out his last name for fear you might actually check my sources, but I decided to use them so as to write this column about what I think the Arab Street really wants based on what people like Faruk, and Mohammad, Mohammad, Mohammad, Larry and Mohammad, have told me during my many trips to the Middle East. While traveling on the New York Time's dime in the region, staying at the best hotels and four-star restaurant districts, it has become clear to me what this troubled region of the world is missing and how that relates to the people's anger and violence. Throughout Cairo, Riyadh, Amman or wherever I have looked, and I've done so thoroughly, there are no Rib Joints or Adult Bookstores to be found. I think there is no small coincidence in that. While President Bush keeps talking about Islamic Extremists being "Freedom Hating" he overlooks another distinct possibility, that they are in fact, "Porno Loving", or that rather than putting Americans on a slab, they'd like a thick hearty slab o' Ribs. With so little access to the wonders of "Jenna Jameson" or "Mesquite BBQ" no wonder there are so many "suiciders". Unfortunately, at the moment the Bush Administration seems focused on attempting to impose a democracy in places like Iraq inorganically, from above – which readers of this column know, I have NEVER advocated. But it seems to me that the focus should be on the three "Bs" we can share with the Islamic world to improve their daily lives, Broads, Booze, and Brats. I am aware of no cultural impediments to such an initiative. I haven't seen Faruk lately, but I do intend to bring it up to him when I see him…I mean, when I see him again.
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