…that there’s always something more to be said.
Particularly in a matter with a very long, very complex history.
And I got an email this morning from an old and very valued friend of the blog, gently taking me to task for something important I left out of yesterday’s diatribe. In my defense, I was only addressing the very narrow issue of whether it makes sense to fear Islamic influence in this country, and whether “giving offense” is synonymous with “inciting violence.”
But he is quite right to remind me of two things: first, the things we’re told about what’s going on in Islam aren’t necessarily true. That shouldn’t ever go without saying, but often does. Second, there are a great many reasons why Arabs in general and Muslims in particular have no particularly compelling incentive to love westerners – particularly Americans.
With permission, the whole message is below the fold.
I thought about it overnight before writing this. I was struck by your essay “And now a word from the other side.” If I may brutally summarize it, “Failure to ‘understand your sensitivity’ is not a provocation to violence.”
No argument there. However, I think the particular situation(s) you refer to, regarding Muslims expressing hostility to the US, has a bit of context and history that are all too often ignored.
I for one don’t buy the story that a 5th-rate film with CIA fingerprints all around it has set the Muslim world alive with US hatred. I doubt that you do, if you stop to think about it.
The US government and its various puppets has been installing and supporting murderous thugs in Muslim countries for 60 years.
I have walked in the ruins of mud huts bombed into rubble by jet fighters. There were RAF pilots at the controls, but the people who ultimately caused those pilots to be dispatched were Americans interested in oil. The people in the mud huts objected to being forced from their 3,500 year-old homes, lands, pastures, and public structures because some American oil company found them inconvenient.
These people stood up for their property, their livelihoods, their wives, and their children. They died, never seeing the faces of their killers. They had rifles, and they knew how to use them, and had used them to ventilate a few targets who desperately deserved it. Hence the escalation to jet fighters.
In other words, they did nothing that you or I wouldn’t do. Like us, they didn’t seek trouble, trouble found them.
The people who walked me through these ruins were the relatives and direct descendents of those who were murdered. Those of us who don’t live in tribal societies have a hard time appreciating the depth and breadth of the bonds. I met with perhaps a dozen people. Every one of them, without exception, had close ties to many dead. Some of the people I met were grandchildren of the dead. Many were cousins of various degrees. Others were related by marriage. A few had generations-long business associations.
An aside, just to give a tiny glimpse of the magnitude of the carnage and its repercussions. A few of the people who ever so gently explained to this ignorant gringo what I was looking at, were tiny, literally 4 feet tall. Their tribe maintains the fulaj. These are an amazing system of underground aqueducts constructed in the time of King Solomon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falaj The tunnels are small, and big people can’t do the work. Breed for 3,000 years and you get very tiny people.
The tiny ones talked to me about the precision of the bombs dropped on their workplace and their only means of earning a living. They had a grudging admiration for the skill of people who could hit a target from thousands of feet in the air, a target conveniently marked with stone cairns marking access shafts every few hundred yards. But they also talked wistfully of the people killed inside the tunnels, and the slow, agonizing deaths of the wives, children, camels, and thousand-year-old date groves killed by the ensuing loss of all water. Many told amazing tales of courage and hardship as they attempted to relocate families and entire villages across a landscape that makes the moon look friendly.
Warriors on camels can learn to cross these wastelands, most of the time, with careful planning and lifetime of training. Women and children don’t fare so well.
These people were incredibly nice to me. They were poorer than you. They took me into their tents, offered me camel’s milk still warm from the animal, dates from their ancestral groves, cheese from their goats. They knew I was American. They didn’t seek to rebuke me. They didn’t try to shame me. They realized I had no part in what had happened, and that I knew nothing about them and their history. They just told me the plain story of the pitiful ruins I had come to visit.
It burned, Joel. It burned deep.
The US government gives billions of dollars worth of weapons to both sides of a conflict that has raged for thousands of years. They’ve murdered 400 Muslims for each North American killed in the 9/11 attacks, including 500,000 children, but still the bloodlust is not sated.
For every American killed in the 9/11 attacks, over 1,000 Muslims have been maimed, driven from their homes, and/or driven from their land, their jobs, and their families. The infrastructure of a modern secular society was systematically destroyed, creating a vacuum that was all too easily filled by people skilled in exploiting and harnessing the powers of hatred and righteous anger.
The notion that a crude put-up job like the video could cause violence while decades of murder, rape, and mayhem would not is beyond stupid, beyond pathetic. It is evil. It reflects acceptance of “them” as sub-human, incapable of responding as any and every one of us would respond in similar circumstances. It is the mindset of a slave owner.
When democracies succeed in de-humanizing their enemies, ghastly atrocities always follow. Every time. I will not countenance this evil mindset any longer, and I am rapidly approaching the stage where I will refuse to associate with anyone who indulges in this animalistic barbarism.
With all that as prelude, I’d invite you to consider the possibility that Muslim “sensitivity” to insults may have more to do with dead kin and raped women than with defiling a holy book or criticizing a religion. Consider carefully how you know what you know: Who told you that those Arabic words coming from those angry people said “We hate you for insulting the prophet?” How do you know they weren’t chanting “Revenge to those who have killed our wives and daughters?”
And even if you learn, after a great deal of effort, that a Muslim who was able to control his rage and shame after seeing loved ones killed and maimed for a few decades, a man who was attempting to go about his business, that this man finally lost his temper when confronted with a new form of torment and calculated insult, even if that should be what actually happened: Would you cut him a little bit of slack?