False Stereotypes of Arabian Gulf Region

  • 5 May 2008

Arab Gulf countries have witnessed important developments at the political, economic, social and cultural levels, without being the subject of any untoward controversies. This progress has attracted widespread attention and made the region a venue for important events in the Middle East region. Despite this fact, some people tend to ignore the progress and development, brush it aside, and continue to stick to their false stereotypes of Gulf societies. They disregard the high standard of living that Gulf societies enjoy, without facing major problems of any kind. This attitude was manifest in the debate, that took place at a two-day “Arab media forum” held in Dubai recently. The debate eventually spilled over into several editorial articles in various local and Gulf newspapers, on whether freedom of expression in the Gulf Region is a luxury or a necessity? In answering this question, one opinion essay pointed out that countries in the Arab Gulf region do not need freedom of press and expression because the level of welfare these societies seek to achieve for their people has already been achieved in Gulf societies. Undoubtedly, this argument is seriously flawed and is not based on either reason, fact or history. The role of a free media plays a vital role in the development of any society, whether it be rich or poor. The most dangerous and misleading aspect of this argument, however, is that it doesn’t take into consideration the huge transformation taking place in the Gulf region in recent years. Societies in the Gulf are similar to other societies in the world. They have their own issues, problems and aspirations, and have diverse groups and opinions. Gulf societies are not devoid of life or understanding, but witness tremendous growth and development and have their own perspective on the dealing with freedoms and reforms based on their own experiences, reflective of their culture and civilization.

Freedom of expression has ushered in an important development in the Gulf region. One finds strong conviction among leaders of countries in the region on the importance this freedom plays in the overall development of societies. Despite this, certain newspapers and media outlets in the GCC question the usefulness of freedom of expression and the media in the Gulf region. Either they are oblivious of developments in the Arab Gulf region, or they continue to stick to the distorted view of the region without making efforts to validate their claims.