Sunday, February 22, 2004

Why Is The West Afraid Of The Arabs?

I recently read this article in Al-Hayat ( sorry haven’t learned yet how to link to it and don’t know if the link is live still- so I’ll settle for ‘copy& paste’)

Why Is The West Afraid Of The Arabs?
Patrick Seale Al-Hayat 2004/01/30
Western fear of Arabs and Muslims has emerged as one of the most striking political and psychological phenomena of recent years - as anyone with an Arab or Muslim name, wishing to enter the United States or even the European Union, will have noticed to his or her irritation and discomfort. Fear is perhaps too mild a word for it. The emotion that has seized the Western world ever since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is more like paranoia.
A whole intellectual industry has sprung up in Western think-tanks, university departments, and among media pundits, seeking to dissect and understand the 'violence', 'hate' and 'fanaticism' which the Arab and Muslim world is said to direct against the West.
What is the root of this 'Arab rage'? Almost invariably, Western commentators have concluded that the essential cause lies in the 'failed' societies of the Arab world, in their absence of democracy, their abuse of human rights, their economic mismanagement, their oppression of women, their exploding populations, their soaring unemployment, their poor education, their technological backwardness, even their lack of internet access! The list of Arab ills is a long one.
Gareth Evans, a former Foreign Minister of Australia, who now heads an important think-tank called the International Crisis Group, has no hesitation in saying that all the existing terrorist threats in the world today come from the Arab world. In Davos this year, the consensus among business and political leaders attending the World Economic Forum was that poverty and economic backwardness were among the main reasons why Arabs and Muslims embraced Islamic fundamentalism, and, in some cases, resorted to terrorism.
Last Monday, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times claimed to know the essential cause of terrorist violence: it was the lack of jobs. He put the blame on Europe, which he described as 'the real factory of Arab-Muslim rage'. Europe, he wrote, had done an extremely poor job of integrating and employing its growing Muslim minorities, and of investing in North Africa and the Middle East, its natural backyard. On the same day, in an article in Britain's Financial Times , Sir Lawrence Friedman, Professor of War studies at King's College, London, wrote that the Arab world was suffering from the collapse of Jamal Abdel Nasser's pan-Arabism and from disastrous economic policies. Militant groups were waiting to exploit the anger of youth. The status quo had become untenable. By 2020, the population of the 22 Arab states would be well over 400 million.
In view of the underlying political and social tensions, his gloomy conclusion was that the 'real alternatives' for the Middle East were 'chaos or autocracy'.
Dozens of examples of this sort are to be found in Western books and journals, and in the speeches of Western politicians, which may be summed up by the proposition that the source of terrorist violence lies in the 'sickness' of Arab-Muslim society.
Exporting the problem to the Arabs
In my view, this type of analysis is neither accurate nor disinterested. It represents an attempt to export to the Arab and Muslim world the West's share of responsibility for the present highly dangerous and unstable state of affairs.
Very soon after 11 September, several commentators, especially in the United States, began to argue that the terrorist attacks were not in any way a response to American policies in the Middle East - to its limitless support for Israel, its control of Arab oil, its military bases, its client states - but sprang from the very nature of Arab-Muslim society.
This analysis provided Washington neo-conservatives with the argument they needed to press for war against Iraq. If it was accepted that Arab terrorists were the product of sick societies, then the way to protect the United States from further terrorist attack was to reform these societies, if necessary by force!
In my view, this argument was nothing more than a malicious smokescreen concealing the real motives for attacking Iraq - which were to subdue the Arab world and promote the strategic interests of the United States and Israel. But the argument in favor of Arab reform through the exercise of external military power has taken root, and has even been adopted by several Arab political analysts!
A fundamental question needs to be asked: Is the prime cause of terrorist violence sociological or political? Is the bomber in Baghdad, Kabul or Tel Aviv, in Bali, Riyadh, Casablanca or Istanbul, driven by poverty and hopelessness or by a burning sense of political grievance? Were the suicidal hijackers who demolished the twin towers of the World Trade Center driven by backwardness and unemployment or did they believe they were striking a blow against American imperialism?
In my view, the essential conflict between the Arab world and the West is not a conflict between Christianity and Islam, or a clash of civilizations. It will not be resolved by dialogue between religious leaders, or by the export of American-style 'democracy' by military force. The conflict between the Arabs and the West is political; as it has been for very many decades ever since Arab hopes for independence and unity were betrayed and disappointed after the First World War.
It will only abate once the West, and the United States in particular, address fundamental Arab grievances, of which the Palestine problem is only the most prominent.
Reform needs to be on the Arab agenda
No one can deny that the Arab world is in urgent need of radical reform. With a few notable exceptions, its social, political and economic life is profoundly stagnant and corrupt. Political pluralism, social justice, basic freedoms of expression and association - above all the rule of law -- are all glaringly absent. In several states, ruling elites have remained in power for far too long and have robbed the country with impunity. But these are not the causes of terrorist violence against the West and its Arab friends.
Arab writers, intellectuals and businessmen have been among the first to denounce the failings of the Arab world and to warn that if reform does not come soon from within these societies it will one day be imposed from outside. Many Arabs and Muslims understand that the central problem with which they need to wrestle - and which has concerned Arab reformers for generations - is how to acquire the many good things the West can offer while preserving Arab independence. Or, put another way, how to join the modern world of liberal democracy and scientific and economic achievement without losing the moral basis in Islam.
The message the United States has sought to convey by its invasion and occupation of Iraq is a different one, and is wholly focused on American interests and on American fears for its own security. Speaking in Davos last week, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney - the super-hawk of the Bush administration - gave a classic exposition of these views:
'Today,' he declared, 'we face a sophisticated global network of terrorists who are opposed to the values of liberty, tolerance and openness that form the basis of our societies…
'We must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the Greater Middle East and beyond… Direct threats require decisive action.'
There was no hint in his speech that American policies - its double standards and its countless interventions in the Arab and Muslim world - lay at the root of terrorist violence.
The Arabs should propose a bargain to the United States: 'Resolve the political problems that plague and distract us - Israeli expansion, the plight of the Palestinians, American armed force at the heart of our region, our still incomplete independence - and we will undertake the necessary reforms of our societies, free from the pressures of war and occupation.'

I think this article has summed up a lot of issues :

Most scary is this one : “if it was accepted that Arab terrorists were the product of sick societies, then the way to protect the United States from further terrorist attack was to reform these societies, if necessary by force!” … now we have US governement crawling all over our lands and reforming us . Why not let us reform in our own time ..
I think Patrick’s proposal is a good one maybe the Greater Middle East should strike this bargain but I am betting the US would not accept it .

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