Campus Youth Waver Between Fascination And Disappointment With `Western' Values

THE Gulf war is not the hot topic it was just a few weeks ago at the Bouzariah campus of the University of Algiers. Yet though the fire of battle is cold, there is a readiness to talk about how the war has affected perceptions of the West. The view from Bouzariah is not very positive.

``Before, I associated the West with humanism, with principles like justice and rule of law and human rights,'' says Belgacen Boukofatan. ``Now I know it's oil that motivates the West.''

Like many officials and intellectuals, Mr. Boukofatan and his colleagues feel wounded, ``as if the war was waged against us,'' one of them says. In their eyes, the war was an attack on their Arab-Islamic culture. And Iraq's aggression against Kuwait is lost in a larger vision of Iraq as defender against a West determined to hold on to its economic and technological dominance.

Repeatedly, the students express disappointment - in the Western media, which they believe simply served propaganda interests, and in France, for trading in an ``Arab policy'' for closer Western ties. They say they were deceived by Western values that turned out to be facades for advancing national interests.

How long these views will influence the students' view is impossible to say. Yet they do not argue for a break from the Western world. Rather, they want a new relationship that respects the identity and interests of all sides.

``No one wants economic ties cut, but there is a rupture in ways of thinking between [the West] and us,'' says Hocine Safouane. ``We should continue collaborating, even as we reinforce our right to think our own ideas.''

Despite strong emotions, everyone favors an attempt to clear some common ground. ``For Maghreb youth especially, there is a sentiment of being pulled between two extremes, between the West and the Arab world, and dialogue can help remedy that,'' says Nora Adjal. A delegate to a March meeting of Arab women in Jordan, Ms. Adjal says she fought proposals to cut off ties with the West. ``I said that approach would only lead to greater misunderstandings and future problems.... The dialogue must continue.''

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