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Puerto Rican rock icon Ricky Martin, on his first ever visit to the Middle East, pledged Monday that he would try to change negative perceptions of Arab youth in the West.
“I promise I will become a spokesperson, if you allow me to, a spokesperson on your behalf.
I will defend you and try to get rid of any stereotypes,” he told youngsters from 16 mainly Arab countries attending a youth conference. The children, aged 14 to 16, expressed concern about being labeled as “terrorists” by the West.
“I have been a victim of stereotypes. I come from Latin America and to some countries, we are considered ‘losers,’ drug traffickers, and that is not fair because that is generalizing,” said Martin, sporting a black tee-shirt and jeans.
“Those comments are made out of ignorance and we have to sometimes ignore the ignorant, but we also have to educate the ignorant. You have me here as a friend,” he added.
Martin, who is a United Nations Children’s Fund Goodwill Ambassador, said he wanted to get to know the youth and their cultures better by spending time together. He said he planned to do a concert tour of the Mideast and North Africa, including Jordan and the Palestinian territories, tentatively scheduled for May 2006.
Martin posed for photos with fans at the youth conference, at one point draping over his shoulders a traditional Palestinian keffiyeh scarf with the slogan “Jerusalem is ours” written in Arabic on it.