A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, April 3, 2009

Video of Qadhafi at Doha

Here's the BBC Arabic Service's video of Mu‘ammar al-Qadhafi's performance at Doha the other day. (I believe the mustache is new, isn't it?) As Qadhafi criticizes ‘Abdullah, the Chair keeps trying to interrupt with Ya Akh Mu‘ammar... (Brother Mu‘ammar) and then Qadhafi launches into his King of Kings and Imam of the Muslims bit. Even if you don't understand Arabic I think you'll be able to follow the body language and tone.

Also, while I realize it's rather déclassé to comment on someone's dress — though much of the world press has spent the day talking about Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni Sarkozy's fashions — Qadhafi also continues to do the thing with the shades indoors, and if that red outfit isn't the exact color worn by Catholic cardinals, my eyes deceive me. At least, unlike some of his earlier jeu d'esprit fashions, it doesn't have big epaulets.

I don't mean to sound patronizing or worse, orientalizing. Obviously the Qataris, Saudis and many others attending in full royal regalia would stand out on the streets of a Western city. But Qadhafi doesn't dress like anyone else in Libya, unless I'm sorely mistaken, so this isn't a native dress thing, so much as a what-will-he-show-up-in-now thing. He is already the Elvis of the Arab League. Can rhinestone jumpsuits be far in the future?

Also, Brother Leader is five years older than I am. When I showed my wife this video (I am 61 and have pure white hair and beard and even gray is a memory), she raised what might be called the Grecian Formula question. I merely note the fact. His hair is still jet black at age 67. (So is Mubarak's at 80 plus, but there, there is a division between the Grecian Formula interpretation and the toupée interpretation. But that's a whole different controversy.)

Anyway, Qadhafi remains the Arab leader hardest to categorize. And it lets journalists keep "mercurial" in their vocabulary. And I have to give Sheikh Hamad of Qatar (I think that's he in the chair) credit for a great deal of sangfroid in dealing with Brother Leader. In a very different Arab Summit in "Black September" of 1970 (the one which saw Nasser's fatal heart attack at the end), Qadhafi — then in power for just a year but now the "dean of Arab rulers" — is alleged to have actually drawn his sidearm and offered to shoot King Hussein on the spot. If that really happened (I at least hope it's apocryphal), this latest episode was a relatively minor breach of protocol in comparison.


Aaron R said...

I think that the tone wasn't necessarily a giveaway...Gadhafi mumbles his king of kings statement as is his wont. Funny how the audio was "cut" before broadcast.

Anonymous said...

One acadamic wag doesn't refer to Pres. Hosni Mubarak by name but as "the shoe polish hair man."