Obama's "Change" Inspires Controversy in Arab Online Media

Palestinian journalist and blogger Daoud Kuttab has an interesting essay up today about cultural ripples from Obama's election throughout the Arab world.

It seems like an appropriate enough cartoon. The depiction of the president elect Barack Obama with the US flag behind him and the bubble quoting Obama as saying the change has come to Washington. Looking up to the Obama depiction was an excited Egyptian woman congratulating the African American senator, reminding him not to forget that people around the world have been hoping and praying for his success. This was followed by the Arabic phrase uqbal inna, meaning "may the same [change] happen to us."

According to the opposition weekly Sawt al Umma, the cartoon appearing the leading Egyptian daily Al Ahram, caused a sense of an emergency among the Egyptian leadership. The independent weekly stated that 150,000 copies of the paper's first edition were quickly removed from the streets and destroyed and the "troublesome" phrase disappeared from future prints that day. The before and after cartoon depiction appeared in Sawt al Umma.

This is certainly not the first time that a political cartoon has caused powers in our region to be worried about losing their powers. But the paranoia of the Mubarak regime is a reflection of the concern by many Arab autocrats about the Obama euphoria empowering those calling for change. Obama's victory on the change mantra was not lost to people around the world yearning for political reform. Jordan's leading blogger Mohammad Omar says that the victory of the son of a Kenyan immigrant gives minorities, immigrants and unrepresented groups hope. Imagine a Palestinian who was born in Jordan fifty or sixty years ago and has tried very hard to be part of the political scene looking at the son of an immigrant in America being elected to the top executive position. The winds of hope don't stop at the American shores, Omar insists.

Undemocratic Arab regimes afraid of Obama's change (Daoud Kuttab)