Thanks, Daniel, for starting this thread, and Jamie for reopening it.
I am continually dismayed by our western "tendency" to see our own issues as trumping the rest of the world's. The western media image of the middle east, and obviously our recent experiences of terrorism and war, have made most Americans completely and irrationally anti-Arab ... not unlike our reactions to the Japanese in WWII, just to name one parallel. We fail to recognize that people are suffering elsewhere in the world, and horribly so. Every American, at some point in his/her life, should take the time to travel in the developing world to get a clue about what we really have going for us in the West. You can never see things the same again, when you see how 2/3 of the world lives!
I'm also increasingly annoyed with the idea of it being the "wrong time" for freedom for anyone, anywhere in the world! As Dr. King said, the time is always right to do the right thing.
Middle East issues are close to my heart, having spent several months in Egypt and Palestine some years ago, and having followed the region closely ever since. Radical terrorists do not define this wonderful group of people ... the Arabs, Phonoecians, Persians, and others of the region know hospitality, selflessness, and generosity in a way that puts us to shame. Lumping them all under the heading of anti-American radical Islamists is too easy ... it allows us to not care about their suffering, and is DISTINCTLY un-Christian.
Rant over. Mostly.
Below (and as my new avatar ... you got me started, Daniel) is a piece of Arabic calligraphy (the Arabic language is an art form ... art in writing, poetry in speech) which reads "Mithli, Mithlak." It literally means "Like me, like you." A better translation for meaning is "We are alike." It is a solid reminder to us that all people are people, with needs and rights, and dreams and desires, and hopes of being loved! Moreover, it is an equality slogan that has been adopted by a gay equality organization serving Lebanon and Lebanese expatriot communities abroad. The first word, "mithli" (and the feminine form "mithliya") has been adopted as the Arabic equivalent of the English word "gay." No positive word for a homosexual person existed in the Arabic language. Usually, the word used was "luti" ... derived from the name "Lot" and roughly equivalent to the English word "sodomite."
If you have any interest in these issues, be sure to see the film Jamie previously recommended, "Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World."
Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe