A year after the publication of the infamous “I am an Arab” manifesto, it is now clear that many people in the Middle East do not have the luxury of remaining silent in an increasingly politically fraught region.
The manifesto, which had been written in response to the recent wave of anti-Arab violence and the subsequent rise of Daesh in Iraq and Syria, was published in Arabic by a group of academics in the British university city of Cambridge.
It has become a rallying cry for the growing number of people in countries such as Turkey and Jordan who feel marginalised by Arab-majority countries such, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UAE.
It’s a sentiment shared by a growing number who feel as though they are being marginalised and excluded from the democratic process.
Some, however, feel that the manifesto is a sign of hope for the Arab world and the people living there.
“It is a positive message that we should not only listen, but also act,” said Muna Abdallah, a writer, broadcaster and activist from the Arab Gulf region.
“There is a lot of hope in this manifesto.
People need to take it seriously.
It is the right thing to do and it can be the beginning of a more inclusive Middle East.”
But for many in the Arab and Muslim world, the manifesto, and its accompanying hashtag, #IamArab, are a reminder of what can go wrong if we fail to speak out.
It is not uncommon to find anti-Semitic attacks on Arab journalists and activists in Arab countries.
But it is particularly distressing to see it targeted at the young, educated, and well-connected who are increasingly being marginalized and discriminated against by the Arab countries that host them.
“What is interesting is that in the manifesto and hashtag it is written from a young generation and the message is not just about Arab people,” said Ali Haddad, a lecturer at Al-Azhar University in Saudi Arabia.
“The message is about the importance of being open and accepting.”
The manifesto was published just over a year after a similar version was published by another group called the Institute for Arab Dialogue, a non-profit organisation that aims to promote Arab-Islamic dialogue and to build trust between Arabs and Muslims in the region.
It was titled “Arab-Islamic Dialogue” and also had the hashtag “#IamAmer” and was published online.
The Institute for the Study of Arabs and Muslim Minority Rights said it was a response to criticism by several Arab governments about the way the manifesto was written.
“We believe that the language is an attempt to create a climate of distrust and silence,” said Abdallah.
“I do not see this as a message for the people of the Arab country, but rather for those of the region.”
“What we are seeing is the rise of a new political and social movement, which is called ‘I am Arab’,” she added.
“This is a new generation, a new group of voices that are speaking out and we have to take this seriously.”
The Institute is a registered charity in the UK that aims at encouraging dialogue and dialogue is not only a good thing, but is a necessity, said Abdelhamid.
“For some of the young people, who have never had the privilege of having their voices heard, to have their voices seen is something very important,” he said.
“And this is what the future of this country depends on.”
The hashtag #IAmArab has also been used to express solidarity with the group, and has been used by a number of other Arab-Muslim countries and movements in the past year.
However, there are those who say it does not speak for them.
Haddad says there are a number people who believe that this manifesto represents a return to the days when Arabs were marginalised, and that the rise in anti-Semitism is the result of the continued marginalisation of Arabs.
“To be very honest, this manifesto does not represent the majority of Arabs in the Muslim world.”
In fact, it’s just a reflection of the marginalisation we feel in this region and how Arab countries are perceived by the world,” he added.
This is something that we need to address in a way that we speak our language, and I think that this is something we can do, he added, referring to the manifesto’s slogan.”
Arab-Muslim discourse is not a political and intellectual discourse, but it is a social discourse,” Haddada added.
The group has also launched a petition calling on the government of the UK to revoke the publication licence of the manifesto.”
By publishing this manifesto, the government is attempting to silence Arab- Muslims, as a political party, from speaking out,” the petition said.
The government of Saudi Arabia has already said it will revoke the licence of The Institute for Arabic Dialogue.