Revolution is spreading across the Arab world. But, today's young Arab activists aren't just concerned with national movements for regime change and equality in Egypt, Tunisia, or Yemen. Whether we are on the streets of Cairo or spread across the globe, we know that real change for the Arab world can only come through a mass movement for equality and freedom not just across the Arab world, but also, for the entire world.
We are members of the global generation of change-makers that knows a more equal global economic system is now imperative for international security and the survival of our planet. We follow the tweets and facebook pages of Nicholas Kristof and impassioned young journalists like Sharif Kouddous and Mona Eltahawy, and we are among the millions of people flocking to TED talks and Avaaz.org, looking for a way to create the next world.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Freedom songs are the soul of the movement." If the world wants to understand and support this movement and its potential for good, the world needs to hear our freedom songs now. Last week, I released a new version of the beloved Egyptian freedom anthem "Aheb Aisht Al Huriya" (I Love the Life of Freedom) in video and mp3. In just one week since then, mp3's and YouTubes of Arab artists including Suheir Hammad, The Narcicyst, Ayah, Arabian Knightz, Shadia Mansour, Amel Mathlouthi and more have been swarming the net.
The old world order's last straw just broke the camel's back. The global movement for freedom is erupting in the Middle East for the same reason that the American Civil Rights movement had to start in the South, where people were getting lynched and beaten. The Arab world is the epicenter of globalization and has been for a century. While every country may suffer from poverty, disease and corruption, it is the people in the Arab world who have been getting shot and bombed to maintain the old-world order the human race now knows is untenable.
As an Iraqi-American, I grew up knowing that the only way the bombs will stop raining down on my family in Baghdad and Mosul will be when an international movement for equality creates a world in which global imperialism and its autocrats cease to exist. This sense of urgency and global awareness fills my generation's freedom songs. Suheir Hammad writes, "Do not fear what has blown up. If you must, fear the unexploded." Syrian-American artist Omar Offendum says, "It's a universal struggle for human rights, that's what we want to align ourselves with. [iii]"Â Our cry is a cry for global freedom and equality.
Today, we are not alone. But, politics and demonstrations in one or two nations can only take social change so far. We need songs to lift the global movement for freedom spreading across the Middle East on our shoulders, out of Egypt and into the Tahrir Square deep in the heart of every living man and woman on earth.
Tavis Smiley said it all recently when he stated, "Music is the highest expression of the culture of freedom created by the most un-free people." Music is non-violent civil disobedience in its most effective form. The image of Christians slaughtered by the Romans is seared in human memory because we are told they sang as they died. When African Americans sang together on the road to freedom, no one could take away their dignity. Songs emboldened their non-violence in the face of brutality.
Writing this week about Egypt, Alicia Keys blogged, "There have been many who have attempted to deny the force of change as if trying to prevent a flower from its blossom... In every case this deeply rooted will to express what cannot be denied, rises up and forces all of us to recognize and respect this voice that produced the sound of freedom... We can hear the voice... and it is ours."
I learned "Aheb Aisht Al Huriyah" from my father. A beautiful, allegorical ode to global unity and freedom, its images express the Arab passion for freedom and equality spreading across the region and world today. "The gentle breeze is waking up the blossoms, waking up my dreams of being free like the birds in the trees, we want to live in freedom!"
The world is at the brink of a new beginning. The future is an empty book with blank pages to be filled in. We are in historic times. Not because of what's happening across the Middle East alone, but because of what's happening inside each one of us.