Concern/Schadenfreude: the Middle East on Hurricane Sandy

Sometimes nature steps in just to show men just how stupid their, well, man-made, quarrels are. Nature-and especially natural disasters-show us how ridiculous we humans are, going about creating our own problems and issues when nature enough can come in and literally wash away all those quarrels and problems if she wants (ah, if only a tsunami or earthquake could, say, wipe out the Assad regime in Syria, but I suppose saying that would be undiplomatic)…..

Hurricane Sandy has left the east coast of the USA in utter shock, although perhaps not me. I live way in upper Manhattan, and my so-called ‘undesirable’ neighborhood was a plus for once: we didn’t have to evacuate. We didn’t lose power or water for a second. We barely got any rain or wind (the streets are quite hilly). When I stepped outside on Monday it was, well, spitting. And uneventful. The worst part has been dealing with the lack of subway, which will finally reopen partially tomorrow.

Hurricane Sandy has left countless homes, cars and livelihoods destroyed. But now that the Hurricane itself is spent, we are back to dealing with good old man made problems. And less one think that I’m posting about a hurricane that hit America on a blog that focuses on the Middle East, the Arab world has actually been quite focused on Sandy’s effect. On a personal note, my husband’s friends and family in Egypt were constantly calling to make sure he was okay. On a greater scale, Middle Eastern newspapers (and a few inappropriate readers) have basically gone and laughed at the United States’ fate, saying that the hurricane was basically an “act of God….[come to wipe out] the infidels.”

Indeed, Middle Eastern press and social media is sadly quite discouraging towards America: The Washington Post offered up a great roundup of both Middle Eastern and world commentary which leaves the reader with their jaw hanging: who would wish ill on others?

“Sources confirmed to us that Hurricane Sandy that is slamming the U.S. was set off by highly advanced technologies developed by the heroic Iranian regime that supports the resistance, with coordination of our resistive Syrian regime,” pro-government group News Network of the Syrian Armed Forces

So was the apparent belief of the Syrian Armed Forces. It would certainly broach the boundaries of the surreal could a government actually manage to control the weather (what do I know, they probably already do control it), and I frankly can’t believe anybody would actually print this. Then again, that’s how governments are often built, on a bunch of lies-right? Only at least the illusions of Democracy that America is based on are not so ridiculous and borderline completely insane.

““#اللهم_اجعل_ساندي_كريح_قوم_عاد“, which means “Oh God, make Sandy destroy like the winds of Aad.” -Twitter #hashtag

The above Twitter hashtag that’s been trending among Arabic Muslims is pretty disturbing, given that the winds of Aad destroyed an ancient town completely. Apparently this wasn’t the only reference to the wrath of God being the source of the hurricane, with many people likening the drama to “just desserts” for the “infidels” that deserved it. All I can say is, talk about a way to typecast a whole nation! Mankind constantly stereotypes other nations by what he knows of just a few citizens, a phenomenon which occurs only to often between the Middle East and the Western world. Rooting on death and destruction, as this hashtag and the Syrian ‘heroic Iran’ propaganda do, is extremely bad international relations, and it is especially wrong for the media to print such things when people looks to the news for information and reassurance.

Despite all the laughter and jokes at America’s expense, one man stood out from the rest not for his sensationalism or schadenfreude but for his generosity: Cleric Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, head of the Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, who’s best known for being the supposed perpetrator of the 2008 Mumbai attacks which left scores dead. Mr. Saeed, now living in Pakistan and evading America’s $10 million bounty on his head for capture, offered assistance to Americans affected by the storm: “If U.S. government allows, we will send our doctors, relief and rescue experts, food and medicine on humanitarian grounds.”

Mr. Saeed, one of America’s Most Wanted Terrorists. Sourced from

Mr. Saeed could or could not be one of the planners behind the equally devastating Mumbai attacks.  Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, his group’s militant wing, is not exactly all about peace and love. But I do not believe, as US officials stated, that his offer was “hollow.” People can be moved when you least expect it. As he stated, it is the Islamic thing to do [offer aid].

The USA is constantly offering up billions of dollars (that we don’t have) in aid, whether it’s to Haiti earthquake victims to starving children in Darfur to God-have-you; although it seems ludicrous at a relatively  tiny organization from a developing country extending aid to the (yes) most powerful country on the planet, I think the gesture is what counts the most: even the powerful need a helping hand. And wouldn’t it be nice if the countries of the world stood up to help the United States, or at least express gratitude instead of constantly mocking them? It doesn’t make sense to mock the hand that feeds you, after all.

Wherever we live, we are all linked together in this world not only by human-made things like the global economy (which effects us all) or media, or by more simple things like religion and culture and likes and dislikes but also by nature. Not to sound cheesy, but we’ve all got to share this one planet, and the world isn’t as big as it used to be. Deep down-this is nothing new- we’re all very much cut from the same cloth. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and support each other, rather than fighting or relishing at another’s misery.







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