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The Arab World

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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles after 2005
Why Muslims keep dying
The origins of suicide bombing
The jihad against democracy
The Muslim masses in denial
Yielding to terrorists
The Islamic world is perfect: the Muslim double standard, part 2
2003: Beginning of the Arab Renaissance - Democratic progress in the Middle East
The Muslim masses against the USA
The Muslim double standard
The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians
How Islam became Fundamentalist
Another democratic revolution
How did we fail so badly? A report from a trip to the Middle East
The Arab mind
Articles on the Arab world till 2004
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

  • (November 2005) Why Muslims keep dying. Muslims are the main victims of terrorists, both directly (most terrorist attacks are carried out in Islamic countries) and indirectly (the economies of their countries are the ones that suffer the most, thus making ordinary Muslims poorer and poorer).
    Why is it that Muslims can't stop the slaughter perpetrated by Islamic terrorists?
    The answer is very simple, and is visible over and over again every time there is a terrorist attack: denial.
    Muslims refuse to admit even the obvious: that the terrorists are Muslims.
    THe first reaction to the Jordanian terrorist attack was a demonstration against the criminals who blew themselves up in the three hotels (and the Jordanian who most likely sent them: Zarqawi). But in a matter of hours, Jordanians had already changed the story: it was Israel, not some Muslim idiots, that had engineered the terrorist attacks. (See this New York Times article). Al Jazeera's headline? "The Al Zarqawi myth", claiming that the man is the victim of a smearing campaign by the West, and that Al Qaeda has nothing to do with the Jordanian bombing. In fact, even hinting that Al Zarqawi may not exist at all, just another CIA invention. (See the Al Jazeera article). Most Egyptians blame Israel for the bombs that struck their Sharm al-Sheikh tourist resort a few months ago. (In the days following the attack, Arab tv stations such as Al Jazeera devoted several round tables to discuss whether the attack could have been the work of Israel's secret services, interviewing Arab "security experts" and "political analysts" who routinely accused Israel: as far as I know, not a single Al Jazeera "expert" blamed, clearly and unequivocally, Islamic terrorists). And the vast majority of Muslims in the world will tell you with a smile on their face that "obviously" it was not Al Qaeda that destroyed the World Trade Center but Israeli agents. As for the daily attacks in Iraq, those are either freedom fighters who are fighting against the USA and Iraqi traitors (i.e., the shiites), or, again, they are CIA and Israeli agents.
    To explain why Arabs blame Israel for every tragedy in the region, a well-educated Jordanian commentator has said "Israel has caused a lot of grief for Arab people one way or another." It did not occur to him that maybe all that grief was caused by his own leaders, and Israel was merely a scapegoat. It did not occur to him that Israel has not create the poverty, ignorance and terror that reigns in the Arab countries: those were created by a deadly combination of Arab dictators and Islamic clerics. Israel and the West promote trade and development. Israel and the West (not to mention India, Russia and China) would love for the Muslim masses to become rich, educated and free. It is, ultimately and ironically, the Muslim masses themselves who do everything they can to remain poor, ignorant and terrorized.
    Another well-educated Jordanian said "You have to understand: Jerusalem and Baghdad are both occupied" by infidels. Again, it did not occur to him that it was Muslim actions that caused that occupation. Yes, if you attack Israel you lose the war and lose all of Jerusalem (originally, Israel had only the Jewish part of the city). Yes, if you attack New York you trigger a war against the USA and find yourself invaded by hundreds of thousands of marines. A child understands that s/he is not supposed to play with fire. But some Muslims like to play with fire all the time, and then blame the infidels when they get burned.
    If you chat with a Muslim (see my A report from a trip to the Middle East), you often get a litany of excuses for everything that Muslims have done and do. (Ironically, one of the excuses that Muslims use to exonerate fellow Muslims from the worst crimes is that no Muslim is smart enough to carry out attacks such as the one against the World Trade Center: in a grotesque case of self-bashing, Muslims widely believe that only the USA and Israel are smart enough to plan and execute those kinds of actions).
    In other words: Muslims are never guilty, not even of the crimes that they commit, admit and boast about (Al Qaeda routinely takes credit for them on Arab tv).
    This attitude has historical foundations, and has been and is being promoted by all the leaders of the Islamic world (see The Islamic world is perfect). Blaming Israel has always been an easy way out of trouble. The Arab world is one of the worst places to live in. Arab leaders, starting with Nasser, have used Israel to divert popular attention from their own blunders and failures. The Islamic world is a terrible mess (the only Muslims who are famous worldwide are either terrorists or dictators, and one billion Muslims have not been able to produced one major scientist or philosopher over the last four centuries). For a long time Muslims have simply taken it for granted. Now they have learned to blame Israel and the West for it. It has still to dawn on them that maybe they (the Islamic world) are the cause of the problem.
    Now that Arab leaders would like to bring peace to the region they are haunted by their fathers' and their own sins: the people that they have brainwashed for so long keep repeating the same old mantra (that Israel is the cause of all problems, that the USA is evil, etc). It is extremely difficult for an Arab leader to deny what the masses want to believe. Thus the president of Egypt does not have the guts to tell his people that Muslims (not Israel) were to blame. Thus the King of Jordan is careful to condemn the cowards and the murderers without actually telling his people "stop blaming Israel for a problem created by Jordanians". Today's leaders are powerless to stop a powerful meme that their forefathers created.
    No matter how many Muslims are killed by Osama Bin Laden and Ahmed al-Zawahrah, the majority of Muslims in the world will be reluctant to blame them. No matter how many people they kill, the average Muslim will always be reluctant to admit that a Muslim (no matter how evil) is an evil man. It will always be much easier for a Muslim to find something to blame with the non-Muslim world than with the most evil of the Muslims.
    For the terrorists this a godsend. Basically, the more Muslims the terrorists kill the angrier the Muslims get against the USA and Israel. The more damage the terrorists inflict on Islamic countries, the more confrontational those Muslims become against the USA and Israel. Instead of creating an alliance between Muslims and non-Muslims to fight terrorism, terrorism creates a wedge between Muslims (who refuse to admit who is doing the killing) and non-Muslims (for whom it is obvious who is doing the killing).
    Thus the Muslim people are never serious about fighting terrorism. Their governments might be, but the average person is confused, in denial, and very often more symathetic towards the terrorist than towards the USA or Israel. They do not view terrorists as dangerous enemies. It is doubtful if a Jordanian who knows Zarqawi's whereabouts would tell the police. Most likely the average Jordanian has no desire to get involved, as, deep inside, he feels that stopping Zarqawi is in some way helping the enemy (Israel and the USA). The rest of the world has to go back centuries to understand this tribal, stone-age mentality.
    The rest of the world lives in denial too. The rest of the world (starting with the president of the USA) keeps thinking that this is not about Islam, that this is about some evil people who "hijacked a religion". They (and he) should analyze if it isn't the other way around: they "hijacked a religion" because Islam is a religion designed to be hijacked.
    The problem will go away the day that Muslims stop believing in the Islamic dogmas, and start viewing murderers for what they are, not for fellow Muslims.
    The problem "is" Islam.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (August 2005) The origins of suicide bombing. Suicide bombing is the ultimate manifestation of racism: because you think that someone has done something wrong, you blow up someone else who is somehow (politically, ethnically, religiously) related to that someone. Implicit in this practice is the idea that "all" members of a group (including children, housewives, elderly people) deserve to due because of what a member of that group has done.
    Thus if Sharon kills an Arab child, most Arabs find it perfectly legitimate that a suicide bomber kills a few Israeli citizens (not Sharon). These Arabs (and polls show that they are a majority from Jordan to Morocco) believe that the entire nation is responsible for the actions of a citizen of that nation. Thus all Americans can be killed for what Bush does, and sometimes you get the feeling that they think that any Christian can be killed for something that a Christian has done. This is a very racist view of responsibility: you are guilty not because you committed a certain act, but because you belong to such and such a group.
    It is not the suicide bombers that is appalling to the rest of the world (after all, idiots exist in every nation): it is the support and worship that he or she receives by ordinary people. Suicide bombers are considered heroes by their relatives, friends and neighbors. Palestinian families throw big parties to celebrate when a son or a daughter blows up Israeli citizens. The problem, as usual, is not with the extremits, but with a vast public that tolerates, justifies and even worships them instead of treating them like the idiots they were.
    The practice probably goes back to ancient times. Originally, it was probably a defensive measure: I want to kill my enemy and make sure that none of his relatives will survive to avenge his death. It then evolved into a "genetic" concept: I want to exterminate not so much my enemy as all the those who share his genes, in particular his children.
    Suicide bombers of 2005 are different in many respects, though. First of all, they are more than willing to die: in fact, their dying is as important as the enemy's dying (otherwise they couldn't claim to be martyrs). Needless to say, this can only be justified by a strong belief in the afterlife. (Ironically, a study by USA Today found out that many aspiring suicide bombers were motivated by the promise of unlimited sex in the afterlife). Secondly, their judgement is absolute and no defense is granted to the victims. The suicide bomber decides that an event represents a crime, that this crime is punishable by death, and that the relatives or friends or compatriotes also deserve to die. In most cases, the suicide bomber does not even investigate the fact to assess who is to blame. The mere suspicion of a person having committed a crime is reason enough to turn his entire group into legitimate target of a suicide bombing. Thus the third peculiarity of today's suicide bombers (and perhaps the most scary for the civilized world) is how easily these people decide to blow themselves up: they don't wait for a trial, and don't even wait for an investigation. In most cases they simply rely on word of mouth. That is enough to condemn to death a random group of people who happens to be somehow related to the person that word on the street says is responsible for the event. It is amazing how easily so many young Arabs decide to kill themselves for a cause that they very well be wrong (if the "crime" was never committed or committed by someone else).
    Today's suicide bombers are mostly associated with Islam, because Islam is producing more than any other ideology, and possibly more than ever in the history of the last few centuries. It is in fact a paradox of "civilization" that it took centuries to evolve a generation of people who are engaging in self-immolation at a rate perhaps never witnessed before.
    Islam is a profoundly racist ideology. It is not surprising that it lays the foundations for suicide bombers who kill random members of the group to which their enemy belongs: Islam taught them that infidels are infidels, and it doesn't really matter which one if guilty of what (and if they are guilty of anything at all).
    Iraq is a good example of this frame of mind. If a non-Muslim tries to help a Muslim, this is considered a crime by a large percentare of the Islamic world: non-Muslims are supposed to mind their business, and nothing else. Thus if a non-Islamic country like the USA helps the Iraqi people get rid of a hated dictator, this is considered a crime by many Muslims. Saddam Hussein per se was not a crime: he was as bad as a flood or an earthquake can be. But the USA removing Saddam Hussein definitely qualifies as a crime for them. According to Islam, non-Muslims are not really human beings. Saddam Hussein, no matter how bad he was, is a Muslim. Saddam belonged to the superior race, while the USA soldiers belong to an inferior race. Thus thousands of Muslims who never thought of fighting against Saddam Hussein are now willing to fight again the USA: to them, the USA is a much worse evil than Saddam Hussein.
    If a Muslim strongly condemns suicide, usually it is because the Quran forbids suicide: implicit in this argument is the belief that it is not wrong that a suicide bomber kills infidels, it is wrong that the suicide bomber commits suicide (i.e., it is wrong that the suicide bomber kills a Muslim, himself).
    The highly influential Egyptian cleric Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi (a frequent lecturer in Britain) was more honest when he admitted that suicide bombings directed against infidels are not suicide operations, but "heroic martyrdom operations", and suicide bombers do not act "out of hopelessness and despair, but are driven by an overwhelming desire to cast terror and fear into the hearts of the oppressors". The idea that they act out of despair is a western idea, a remnant of Marxist revolutionary doctrines. It couldn't be more ridiculous when applied to Muslim suicide bombers: they are not desperate, they are enthusiastic and ecstatic at being given the opportunity to become martyrs. (Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi condemned attacks against Iraqi civilians, who are Muslims, but not attacks against anyone else). The Arab press and stations such as Al Jazeera routinely refer to suicide bombings as "martyrdom operation".
    Very little is divulged by the clerics and the press about how suicide bombers are raised. Organizations like Hamas brainwashes children from kindergarten through college to think of suicide bombing as the ultimate success story. If European children dream of winning Nobel prizes and USA children dream of becoming billionaires, Palestinian children dream of becoming suicide bombers. At the entrance of one kindergarten in Palestine was posted the huge sign "The children of the kindergarten are the holy martyrs of tomorrow". By the time they are 16, these children are literally dying to become martyrs. Hamas runs special Islamic classes ("paradise camps") for the "best" students: the classes teach martyrdom as the essence of Islam, and these students will be the next generation of suicide bombers. Hamas can raise an unlimited number of suicide bombers: Palestinian militants turn Palestinian children into living bombs. As long as people are willing to sacrifice their children for the cause, any school and mosque becomes, de facto, a factory of weapons. Bypassing the religious bullshit, Ayman al-Zawahiri (Osama's right-hand arm) expressed the concept in military terms: "Martyrdom operation is the most effective way of inflicting damage to the enemy and the least costly to the Muslim fighters in terms of casualties".
    Suicide bombing in the Muslim world goes back at least to the Assassins of the 11th century, who became famous for their suicide raids. In modern times the practice of suicide terrorism was initiated by Iran during the 1980-88 war against Iraq. Inspired by Khomeini's words "The Tree of Islam needs to be watered by the blood of martyrs," thousands of Iranian children volunteers to blow up Iraqi tanks. The West watched amused as Iran and Iraq slaughtered each other. (But the slaughter was to come back and haunt the amused spectators.) The idea was adopted in Lebanon by the shiite group Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria. (The first suicide bombing in Lebanon, in december 1981, was actually a member of Islamic Dawa Party, who blew himself up to attack the Iraqi embassy). In november 1982 the first Lebanese suicide bomber killed 72 Israeli soldiers in Tyre (southern Lebanon). In 1983 Hezbollah suicide bombers blew up 241 USA troops and 58 French troops. The success of that attack (Ronald Reagan's mighty marines ran away within a few days) resonated with the Arab masses, and inspired young Arabs such as Osama Bin Laden to adopt the same technique on a broader scale. In particular, it had the effect of making suicide terrorism the weapon of choice for Palestinians against Israel. If the first suicide bombers were still aiming at military targets, the Palestinians soon started using the technique against ordinary Israelis. So it was really the Palestinians who invented "suicide terrorism", as the Lebanese suicide bombers could claim to be involved in military operations (just like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, or the Japanese kamikaze pilots of World War II, or the Vietminh in the Vietnam war), not terrorism against civilians. The only other places where suicide terrorism against civilians (repeat: against civilians) is widely documented are Chechnya (2002) and Iraq (2003).
    All in all, the lesson from the Taliban in Afghanistan, suicide terrorism in Palestine and Al Qaeda is that the USA was too focused on regimes and too little on daily lives: the Taliban originated from a tribal and religious movement in Pakistan, Palestinian suicide bombers originated from a culture disseminated by Hamas among ordinary Palestinians, and Al Qaeda was the product of a worldwide network of Islamic clerics who preached weekly the jihad to their constituencies. These phenomena eluded the USA because the USA was focused on regimes (namely, the Soviet Union) rather than what ordinary families were being exposed to. The first major attack against the USA ended up coming not from a regime but from the sons of ordinary families. It is likely that today we do not understand suicide terrorism in Iraq because what really matters is not the regimes of Iran or Syria, and that we will understand this phenomenon the day we understand what ordinary families were being exposed to in the last few years.
    Of course, Muslims are not the only ones to worship suicide terrorists. No Jewish or Christian organization has ever (ever) condemned the Biblical episode in which Samson "blows himself up" (to use the modern expression) in order to destroy a Philistine temple (presumably killing in the process several civilians). The sins of the fathers etc etc.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) The jihad against democracy
    As terrorist attacks multiply in all countries, from Britain to Egypt, it becomes ever more clear that this is an Islamic jihad not against the USA or the West but against any democratic progress. Any progress towards democracy is viewed by Islam as heretic because it denies the fundamental tyranny of Allah and his deputies on Earth. The fig leaf of Iraq (used to explain the bombings in London) does not work too well in Egypt (a country that was opposed to the invasion of Iraq and did not send a single peacekeeper). The real motive behind the attacks both in London and in Egypt is the worldwide progress towards democracy.
    Islamic militants are getting more hysterical than usual because they can feel that the world is rapidly moving towards democracy, which is anathema to Islam.
    As the world moves towards democracy, it is inevitably colliding against Islam, which is the last major force to oppose democracy. As Islam (the fastest growing religion) expands way beyong its original borders, it inevitably collides with the very anti-Islamic values that it finds in the rest of the world.
    History teaches us that these kind of conflicts end only when one of the two sides is totally defeated. This Islamic jihad will last until either democracy or Islam emerge as the clear winners, and the other one is totally defeated.
    There are three ways that Islam can be defeated: 1. An all out war between the Islamic countries and the rest of the world (USA, Europe, Russia, China, India) united against Islam; 2. A mass expulsion of Muslims from all non-Muslims countries and the erection of a Sharon-style wall that separates the Islamic world from the rest of the world; 3. the Muslim masses "police" (and possibly get rid of) Islam by themselves. Needless to say, the third one would be much preferrable an ending to this tragedy that is disrupting life all over the world. (See The Islamic world is perfect: the Muslim double standard, part 2).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) The Muslim masses in denial What is appalling and shocking about the terrorist attacks in Egypt is not the human toll, and the damage caused to Egypt, but the reaction of ordinary Egyptians. One would expect millions of Egyptians marching in the streets to protest against Islamic terrorism. One would expect furious people attacking whoever supports Osama bin Laden. One would certainly expect crowds to demolish mosques and skin alive the clerics who inspired this horrible massacre. Quite the contrary.
    Journalists who interviewed the population of Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt) after the suicide bombings that killed more than 80 people, including several foreign tourists, report that the Egyptian population was very angry, but, shockingly, not with the Islamic terrorists albeit with israel. Almost every person in Egypt seems to believe that Islamic terrorists do not exist and that the terrorists came from Israel. Women who had lost a family member in the bombing were heard screaming against the Jews and America, not against Osama bin Laden or the most obvious suspect, his Egyptian partner Ayman al-Zawahri, wanted for the assassination of Egyptian president Sadat and still a sworn enemy of the Egyptian regime; and certainly not against the Islamic clerics or the news stations (such as Al Jazeera) that praise terrorists on a daily basis.
    This is the key factor in understanding why Islamic terrorist exists and is multiplying so rapidly: the masses of Muslims are doing nothing to stop it, or even to condemn it, but rather blame every single terrorist attack on the enemies of the terrorists. Basically, the terrorists are in a win-win situation: they can kill as many Muslims and non-Muslims are they like, and the Muslim masses will get angrier and angrier not against the killers but against the enemies of the killers.
    Needless to say, this attitude doesn't do anything to defeat or prevent terrorism.
    Note that the Islamic terrorists take public responsibility for their actions. We often even learn their names. Sometimes we hear their voices and/or see their faces in tapes and videos that explain why they did what they did. It is not like the terrorists are trying to deceive the Muslim masses: they are proudly announcing and taking credit for their terrorist attacks.
    It would be comic if it weren't so tragic: on one hand we have a group of terrorists who sacrifice their lives and boasts about their acts on the Internet and on Al Jazeera in order to obtain Islamic glory, and on the other hand we have the Muslim masses who ignore the actions and words of terrorists but blame every attack on Israel or the CIA. But, at the end of the day, the Islamic terrorists are happy anyway, by a comic coincidence: their aim was to hurt non-Muslims. While their terrorist attack has mainly killed Muslims, the Muslims who survived are blaming Israel and the USA, thus indirectly the terrorists achieved their goal of hurting non-Muslims (at least their reputation, if not their bodies).
    At one point someone started the rumour that one of the suicide bombers was driving a car with an Israeli plate. It turned out to be false (needless to say), but it spread like wildfire among the Egyptian population, that will probably keep repeating it for years (just like they keep repeating that it was Israelis, not Arabs, who carried out the September 11 attacks: Atta's father has publicly declared that his son is a hero for blowing up 3,000 people, but most Egyptians still believe that Atta was merely the victim of a Jewish conspiracy). The Muslim population (those who do not engage in terrorism) seems to be desperate to absolve Muslims, no matter what they have done, and blame someone else (ideally, Israel).
    Another factor that makes this reaction so puzzling is that the Egyptians who are blaming Israel instead of the Islamic terrorists are the very people who will suffer the most from the attacks. They should have a strong motivation to face the truth and do something about it, or they won't have tourists for a long long time. These Egyptians will be reduced into the poverty of their neighbors Palestinians. It is unbelievable that, instead of facing the truth and trying to solve the problem, they deny the obvious and try to blame someone else, thus helping the very people who are harming them.
    The Arab countries and the Arab people are paying a dear price for everything they have done in the last 50 years, and are still doing today. Nasser and other leaders created Arab nationalism, which created the feeling that no person in the Islamic world can be a bad person: only non-Muslims can be evil. The propaganda of regimes like Nasser's, Assad's and Saddam Hussein's created the perception that the Jews (particularly of Israel) control the world and are responsible for all evil. Then came the Lebanese, the Algerian, the Afghan (mostly Saudi) and the Palestinian terrorists, specializing in suicide bombings. It was terrorism invented by Muslims in Islamic lands. It was tolerated and even sponsored by the Arab regimes and by the Arab masses. PAlestianian suicide bombers are considered martyrs and worshipped like demi-gods. Suit yourself, Arab world: all these monsters that the Arab world created (the belief that Muslims are perfect, the belief that Jews are the source of all evil, and suicide bombings) are coming back to haunt the very world that invented them. Suicide bombings have been multiplying since the 1980s (way before september 11 and way before the invasion of Iraq). The Arab propaganda against Israel and the USA is simply helping the terrorists carry out their attacks. And the Arab reluctance to admit that anything is wrong with the Arab world is postponing the day that terrorism can be defeated. Because, ultimately, it can be defeated only by the Muslims themselves, who, as of today, have done absolutely nothing to defeat it. (See also The Islamic world is perfect: the Muslim double standard, part 2).
    It would take an army of psychologists to understand the Arab mind (See The Arab mind), the labyrint of lies that helps keep alive a terrorist movement that is mainly hurting the Arabs themselves.
    One literally wonders what has to happen for the Muslim masses to start believing that what is happening (Islamic terrorism) is really happening. And one can't come up with any answer. As the list of terrorist attacks gets longer and longer, one really wonders if it will ever end. Because these people will never do anything to end it.
    We (the rest of the world) are getting angrier and angrier that thousands of innocents (Muslims and non Muslims) are brutally and senselessly killed all over the world, year after year, and that the Muslim masses always absolve the killers with ever more ridiculous conspiracy theories. How can we explain to the Islamic world that we (the rest of the world) has better things to do in life than deal with the madness of Islam?
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) Yielding to terrorists. There are calls, both in Europe and in the USA, to simply do what the terrorists demand. If they demand to leave Iraq, let's leave Iraq (and let the Iraqi people succumb to the terrorists). If they demand that we leave Afghanistan, let's leave Afghanistan (and let the Taliban reestablish an Islamic regime). If they demand that all non-Muslims leave the Islamic lands, let's do that. If they demand that we stop supporting the Arab regimes, let's abandon dictators, sheiks and prime ministers and let their regimes fall to the extremists. If they demand that we destroy Israel, let's destroy Israel. If they demand Andalucia, let's give them back Andalucia. If they demand that Islamic countries be entitled to a nuclear bomb, let's give them a nuclear bomb. If they demand that we build a mosque and a minaret in every city, let's build a mosque and a minaret in every city. And if they demand that we convert to Islam, let's convert to Islam.
    Only then will Islamic terrorism stop. How can the "pacifists" be so naive not to see that every concession is a step towards this ending: the conversion and submission of the whole civilized world to the barbaric ideology of Islam? There is no other ending. There is no intermediate state in which we concede something and the Islamic terrorists give us peace. They will always find something else that justifies their jihad.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) The Islamic world is perfect: the Muslim double standard, part 2. People in the USA, Europe, Russia, China, India, the Far East and so on will be glad to learn that the Islamic world is absolutely perfect. In the face of escalating world terrorism that creates civil wars in half the planet and an increasing passion for suicide bombing that kills randomly, the leaders of the Islamic world are adamant that there are absolutely no problems in their part of the world. Whenever they are asked for a comment about September 11, the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, the civil war in Iraq, the civil war in the Philippines, bombs in Russia or India, the leaders of the Islamic world begin a long litany of evils that affect the world (the non-Islamic world). Just about everything is wrong in the rest of the world, while absolutely nothing is wrong in the Islamic world. Qaddafi? Assad? Osama? Zarqawi? A dozen sheiks and kings? The lowest literacy rate in the world? Women treated like animals? An unlimited supply of suicide bombers? Those are negligible problems, according to the leaders of the Islamic world..
    At the latest Islamic conference, the former president of Malaysia, Muhammad Mahatir, did not find a single fact in the entire Islamic world that was worth criticizing. On the other hand, he went on for hours ranting against the West. Mahatir is not necessarily a blindfolded idiot: he is typical of the Muslim attitude, that whatever Muslims do must be justified, whereas whatever non-Muslims do is evil.
    After September 11, a Saudi official had to say only that the terrorist attack was due to the foreign policy of the USA. After the London bombings, a Pakistani official said that "you have to look at British society - what you are doing to the Muslim community and why the Muslim community is not integrating into British society". Neither saw anything wrong with the Islamic world. The problems are all in the rest of the world.
    The father of September 11 terrorist Mohammad Atta recently spoke out in favor of Islamic terrorists. He was interviewed by a western crew for a western tv station (CNN). This man (admittedly an elderly man who may not fully understand what he is saying) does not realize that he is free to criticize the West and even promote a war against it, while he would be killed if he criticized Islam and promoted a war against it. The Muslim double standard is again at work: he thinks the problem is in the West when in fact he himself is living proof of where the problem is (not the fact that he supports terrorism, but the fact that he can speak out against the West without being killed whereas he would be killed immediately if he spoke out against Islam).
    Take the satellite-tv station Al Jazeera, that routinely represents this viewpoint. Find me a single article on that is critical of Islamic societies or Arab regimes: not one. On the other hand, anything that happens is blamed on non-Muslims. The only Muslims who get blamed are the ones that collaborate with the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan (the ones who are trying to build democratic systems). By depicting the democratically elected Iraqi government as a puppet government under the influence of the USA, Al Jazeera has greatly contributed to the carnage in Iraq. By depicting the Iraqi policemen and soldiers as servants of the marines, Al Jazeera has incited Sunnis to kill their own brothers. By depicting foreign nationals involved in reconstruction of the basic Iraqi infrastructure, Al Jazeera has encouraged terrorists to sabotage the reconstruction. By depicting foreign diplomates as friends of the occupying USA army, Al Jazeera has justified the execution of the Egyptian ambassador. And now, by depicting Britain as an occupying power in pretty much all of its talk shows, round tables and chat rooms, Al Jazeera has managed to kill 55 people in the British subway. The Muslim masses themselves should be aware of the basic fact: Al Jazeera has killed many more Muslims than Americans or British. Thousands of Muslims are being killed in Iraq and elsewhere because of Al Jazeera's call to arms against anyone who does not fit Al Jazeera's political vision: absolute tyranny, absolute povery, absolute destruction. But noone in the Islamic world is speaking out against Al Jazeera's demented program.
    Instead, they all claim that there is no problem in the Islamic world: all the problems are in the rest of the world.
    This is, ultimately, what killed 55 Britons in London, 300 Spaniards in Madrid, and thousands of innocents throughout the Islamic world (particularly in Iraq, but not only Iraq).
    The leaders of the Islamic world want us to believe that these suicide bombers were kids who dreamed of becoming physicists and historians, and it was only the evil actions of the evil USA that turned them into suicide bombers. The other possibility, of course, is that these kids were not interested at all in Physics and History (like the vast majority of Muslims) but were dreaming of becoming precisely what they became: martyrs for the cause of Islam. It was only a matter of deciding where and when. In the old days, they would have joined the thousands who went to fight in Afghanistan and committed countless atrocities against the Afghani people. Today, they join the ranks of the suicide bombers in Iraq, or the ranks of the suicide bombers in Europe.
    The British police thwarted several terrorist plans over the years. Thus the one that succeeded does not tell much about the motives and the profiles of the perpetrators. One has to look at all the planned attacks, those that failed as well as the one that succeeded. What they have in common is very simple: Islam.
    Poll after poll shows that this is exactly the case. Vast masses of Muslims (the majority in almost every country) justify suicide bombers. (Ironically, more Muslims oppose suicide bombers because they oppose suicide than because they kill innocents). The rest of the world is shocked and disgusted by suicide bombers who kill indiscriminately for the sole purpose of killing (not necessarily your enemy, in fact even a lot of your own brothers, only for the sake of having a huge number published in the newspaper). But most Muslims don't find it appalling at all. To most Muslims it is not shocking that people are blown apart in a bus or even in a mosque. The reason there are so many suicide bombers and terrorists in general among Muslims is very simple: because this is not a big deal in the Islamic world. And, again, this is not perceived as a problem in the Islamic world: it is the rest of the world that has a problem, not the Islamic world.
    The problem will not go away as long as the Islamic world lives in denial that there is a problem. The terrorists will merely migrate from one region of the world to the next one. And the mosques and the madrassas will keep producing new generations of suicide bombers, instead of producing generations of physicists and historians. The problem can only be solved by the Islamic world. Only the Muslim masses can police Islam. The problem will go away only when they (the Muslims themselves) will solve it.
    See also The Muslim double standard
    See also my review of Mamdani, Mahmood : "Good Muslim Bad Muslim" (2004)
    See also: Decolonization and the Islamic civil war
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2005) The Muslim masses against the USA
    The logic is appalling for any non-Muslim person of the planet. Arab terrorists (whether motivated by religion or politics) are killing hundreds of Iraqi citizens (who are Arabs too). This is probably the single biggest extermination of Muslims since Saddam Hussein gased the Kurds in the 1980s.
    A simple discussion in a cafe of any Arab country reveals a completely different perspective on this fact: the widespread belief that the USA is killing Muslims in Iraq. Somehow, almost noone is angry at the Arab terrorists who are killing Arabs by the hundreds. But almost everybody is angry at the USA, that is considered guilty of its own murders (whenever an innocent is killed or tortured or simply jailed by USA troops, but also whenever an insurgent is killed) plus all the terrorist attacks. In countries like Jordan there is literally nobody who condemns the terrorists: the terrorists are fighting the USA, and never mind that they kill hundreds of Iraqis. But the USA is guilty of both its own crimes and of any other crimes committed anywhere in the Middle East.
    This belief is generating an incredible level of anger throughout the Islamic world, and probably nurturing a new generation of terrorists.
    There is virtually nothing the USA can do against this twisted logic, because the USA will be considered guilty of whatever it does. If it leaves, it will be considered guilty of whatever happens next. If it stays, it is considered guilty of what is happening.
    Ironically, it is the Iraqis who form the largest dissenting group. While they are certainly fed up with USA occupation and certainly devastated by the highest level of terrorism ever seen since the Lebanese civil war, they know who is causing the killing and they know that it would be worse without the USA. They also seem to distrust the other Arabs: non-Iraqi Arabs are not welcome in Iraq. The Iraqi government refused any Arab troops. They are sending Iraqi police officers to Egypt and Jordan to be trained, but don't want any Egyptian or Jordanian on their soil. Ordinary people share this feeling: foiregn Arabs were widely blamed for the looting and are being blamed for the terrorism.
    But Arabs outside Iraq are almost unanimous in blaming only the USA for the killing. If you ask them "Is it ok with you that Zarqawi kills Muslims?", you get three answers: 1. Zarqawi does not exist, he is a fantasy of the USA and Israel to blame Muslims; 2. Zarqawi exists and is fighting a war but he is not killing Muslims (he is being framed by the USA and Israel); 3. Zarqawi is right in killing Muslims who cooperated with the USA or just for the higher cause of liberating Iraq from the USA. And you will get all three answers from the very same person at the very same time. (Ditto if you ask them about Osama bin Laden and september 11, by the way).
    Clearly, this twisted logic has more to do with the Arab psyche than with the facts. We have neglected what centuries of Ottoman empire, European colonialism and mad dictators have done to the minds of the Arab people. They feel frustrated, they feel persecuted, they feel powerless. The only Arabs who are "successful" in their job and worldwide famous are the terrorists: if you are an Arab, it must be terribly difficult to condemn the only Arabs in the world who compete with the West.
    After all, there are still many Sicilians who are proud of the mafia and Irish who are proud of the IRA. They too killed innocents, they too terrorized people. This is not a new phenomenon. It is just that this time it involves hundreds of millions of people.
    Then there is the larger problem: Arabs do not trust anything the USA says, and trust everything the anti-Americans say. No matter how grotesque a lie is, it is immediately believed by millions of people. Conspiracy theories are "always" true. Any conspiracy theory that involves the USA and/or Israel is true, by definition: they don't need evidence, and they don't want to hear the evidence against it. The very same person accepts as true two conspiracy theories that contradict each other: as long as these theories both accuse the USA of some evil, they look consistent and compatible. In fact, one reinforces the other. Let alone that, actually, one contradicts the other. (For example, the very same people accept as true both the conspiracy theory that there were no Arabs on the september 11 planes and the conspiracy theory that those Arabs were hired by Israel). One year after it has become obvious that Arafat died of AIDS, there are still millions of Arabs willing to swear that he was poisoned by Israel, with the complicity of the USA.
    This, again, has more to do with the Arab psyche than with the facts. It has to do with decades of lies: the Arab regimes lie all the time, the mosques lie all the time, Al Jazeera lies all the time. This culture of lying has made people incapable of doubting: they accept any lie, no matter how far fetched, without even checking basic facts. They "want" the lies to be true.
    Again, this is not so difficult to understand for a westerner: the exact same phenomenon is happening in western Europe, Latin America and many other places where anti-American conspiracy theories "sell". A conspiracy book titled "L'Effroyable Imposture", written by a Thierry Meyssan in France, became a best-seller by claiming that it was the CIA, not Arab terrorists, that blew up the World Trade Center. Very few of the people who read it tried to doublecheck its data (for example, that a burning plane is not enough to melt steel): the point is not to tell the truth, the point is to blame the USA, and any story that does so "has" to be true. It doesn't even take a book: thousands if not millions of Italians believe that the USA never landed on the Moon. They believe that the USA flag that Neil Armstrong left on the Moon cannot possibly be on the Moon because in the photos it is seen fluttering in the wind (there is no wind on the Moon). None of the Italians who think so has ever examined the photo (the flag is a rigid flag bent while the astronaut are planting it). Millions of westerners are doing the exact same thing that Al Jazeera does: they "want" conspiracy theories that implicate the USA in just about everything. (This is largely a leftover from Stalin's propaganda: he is the one who invented the continuous lie for political purposes).
    If these attitudes are rampant in western Europe, it is not surprising that they are widespread in the Arab world.
    See also: How did we fail so badly? A report from a trip to the Middle East
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2005) The Muslim double standards. When Newsweek magazine published the news that some USA soldiers had "desecrated" the Quran, Muslims rioted in many countries. Whether the news was correct or not, is not the issue. Some Muslims desecrate Christian buildings and books, but there have been no anti-Muslim riots for that reason. In this case, the mere possibility that some USA soldiers did something wrong was enough to cause riots. Sure, Islamic fundamentalists may have helped inflate the issue, but it is a fact that thousands of Muslims in several countries rioted for the mere chance that infidels somewhere somehow was doing something that goes against Islam. The assumptions being: a) the whole world must abide by the laws of Islam, b) Muslims are allowed to judge infidels without trials, c) all infidels are guilty if one infidel is guilty.
    Note that Muslims have been burning USA flags for decades. Thousands of them. And nobody in the USA has ever made a big deal of it. Those flag-burning crowds are often led by easily-recognizable Islamic leaders. The USA has never asked that they be punished.
    How many Arabs rioted in the streets in protest against the destruction of the two giant Buddhas by the Taliban? Zero.
    Then a British tabloid published the photograph of Saddam Hussein in underwear. Western media (unlike Arab media) are free to publish what they want, and they often publish photographs that are embarrassing to celebrities. It is not the first time that a tabloid publishes the photograph of a celebrity in underwear or a political prisoner in a humiliating position. In fact, Arab regimes routinely publish photographs of political dissidents in humiliating positions. (They also torture them and kill them by the dozens). The Arab media have never made a big deal of it. But Saddam Hussein is a Muslim, and the photograph was presumably taken by an infidel. Immediately Al Jazeera started talking about the USA violating the Geneva convention.
    This double standard (that Muslims can do anything they like, but the infidels cannot do anything) is creating anti-Muslim sentiment around the world. One hears the exact same complaints in Europe, in Russia, in India, in Ethiopia and now in the USA.
    One also wonders what the USA soldiers must feel like. They (more than any other army in the history of the world) have gone out of their way to avoid hurting the feelings of civilians, to respect their mosques and to protect their monuments. It seems to be all pointless: they get accused of "desecration" regardless of how they behave.
    The truth is that too many Muslims do not accept that billions of people (including me) may be proud of being infidels, of not recognizing Mohammed as a prophet, and of despising the Quran, a book that is the (direct or indirect) cause of so many tragedies around the world (from slavery to sexual discrimination to terrorism). If Muslims don't accept that billions of people may not respect at all the things that Muslims respect, then this "is" the problem. I have no intention of worshipping the Quran just because, if I don't do it, someone in the Muslim world gets offended. Just like i don't expect them to start worshipping my favorite writers or scientists (although i would suggest that they try to replace the Quran with Shakespeare or Einstein).
    The worst thing is the idea of collective punishment, that the rest of the world has largely left behind. If one infidel does something that Muslims judge wrong, "all" infidels are considered guilty. In fact, even if an infidel is merely "suspected" of having done something wrong, that is enough to punish the entire country of that infidel (typically, Israel or the USA or some European country). And only the Muslims are entitled to decide what qualifies as "wrong".
    Accusing all infidels of the crime of one man is just one step from suicide bombers.
    How can we change this mentality before it leads to an anti-Islamic world war?
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2005) The Israeli Holocaust Against the Palestinians: such was the headline on Al Jazeera's website on the first of may. Subtitle: "Documentation of the horrendous atrocities which the Israelis visit upon the Palestinians". Not a word, of course, on the horrendous atrocities which Palestinian suicide bombers visited upon the Israeli civilians. But, more importantly, not a word about the horrendous atrocities committed by the Libyan regime against the tribes that tried to overthrow Qaddafi, not a word about the horrendous atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against its political dissidents, not a word about the horrendous atrocities committed by the Saudi regime against its political dissidents, not a word about the horrendous atrocities committed by the Moroccan regime against the Sahrawis (who still live in refugee camps in the Sahara desert), not a word about the horrendous atrocities committed by the Egyptian regime against its political dissidents, not a word about the millions killed in the south and in Darfur by the Sudanese regime against its political dissidents, etc etc. In other words, the only "horrendous atrocities" that count, according to Al Jazeera, are those committed by non-Muslims against Muslims. If Muslims kill Muslims, it's ok. If Muslims kill non-Muslims it's very ok. The only thing that is not ok is when a non-Muslim (voluntarily or even accidentally) kills a Muslim civilian.
    Two standards, as usual: one for the world (that is guilty of everything) and one for the Muslims (who are never guilty of anything).
    That's how Islamic terrorism is created. Al Jazeera "is" the enemy.
    See also The Muslim double standard
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (March 2005) How Islam became Fundamentalist. Islam was not a cause of concern until very recently. In fact, one can find little evidence of conflicts between the Islamic world and the rest of the world before the 1970s. How did we get to 2005, when Islamic movements threaten dozens of countries? (See The Islamic Wars)
    There are always different ways to interpret history. One is very simple: Allah is great and Mohammed is his prophet, period. They want Islam to win, and these Islamic wars are simply part of Allah's triumph agains the infidels. Another interpretation is that the rest of the world has been mean to the Islamic people and they are now paying us back.
    I propose a very simple interpretation, which is based both on the chronology of facts and on a very basic Islamic principle. The principle is that every victory is a sign from Allah to continue the struggle, while every loss is a bad omen. If I am right, trouble with Islam always increases when Islam "wins" and decreases when Islam "loses". (This is true, incidentally, of most totalitarian regimes, from Hitler to today's regime in Beijing).
    If we look at the historical record, the modern history of Islam begins with the Ottoman occupation. In the early 16th century, the Ottoman Turks became the rulers of both the holy cities of Islam, Mecca and Jerusalem. Thus this nomadic tribe turned into cosmopolitan empire became the protectors of Islam.
    The very fact that the Ottoman empire had become a multi-ethnic empire led to its own weakness. Within a century, the Ottoman empire lost much of the control it had acquired in the Mediterranean: Crimea 1774, Egypt (to Napoleon) 1798, Algeria 1830, Bosnia 1876, Cyprus 1878, Tunisia 1881, Egypt (to the British) 1882, Libya 1911. In parallel, the Ottoman bureaucracy was trying to cope with the arithmetic fact that non-Muslims were a sizeable portion of the country: Islamic law was clearly inadequate. Throughout the 19th century, the Ottoman empire tried to introduce more "egalitarian" laws that would make non-Muslims faithful subjects of the empire (if not of Islam). De facto, the Ottoman empire was trying to become more "European" and less "Islamic".
    Things got even worse when the Ottoman empire allied with Germany and Austria in WW1. It not only lost the war, but most of the empire, which was split between Britain and France. Most of the Islamic lands became colonies or protectorates of the British and French empires.
    In the meantime, China and Russia had continued a process of annexation of the traditional Ottoman land (Central Asia), begun with their 1689 treaty. The Soviet revolution of 1917 destroyed the last vestiges of Islamic rule in Central Asia, as Azrbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan became Soviet (communist) republics.
    After losing World War I, the Ottoman empire was dismantled and a non-Islamic republic, Turkey, was founded on its ruins by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), a firm believer in separation of state and church.
    Islam was thus losing on all fronts. Turkey itself launched a persecution of Islamic institutions in 1924, followed by the right of women to education (1927) and vote (1935). The Soviet Union launched an even more efficient anti-Islamic campaign in 1927.
    After WW2, the Arab lands gained independence, but were ruled by kings who were rather indifferent to the moral values of Islam. China, in the meantime, went communist and underwent the same religious purges of the Soviet Union, including repression of Islam in eastern Turkestan.
    From an Islamic perspective, Islam had been losing all the wars, one after the other. During this period of time, there was little or no Islamic "terrorism". In fact, the Islamic lands (from Pakistan to Morocco, Saudi Arabia to Iran) were popular tourist places. Islam was at peace with the rest of the world.
    When did Islam become a problem for the whole world? One can point to Nasser, who certainly had a part in creating the "Arab nationalism" that led the Arabs to assume an aggressive stance against the world, but Arab nationalism was largely "republican" (Nasser himself carried out the first major persecution of Islamic fundamentalists in 1954). One can point to many crises that eventually escalated to terrorism. Palestinian terrorism started in the 1960s, but it was long controlled by the PLO (the secular guerrilla organization), not Hamas (the fundamentalist religious group). The Moro National Liberation Front began its terrorist campaign in the Philippines in 1972, but was not relevant until the 1980s. The crisis on Kashmir started in 1948 but it was a state-based dispute (between Pakistan and India) until 1986, when it became a terrorist war. So when did Islam became "the" problem?
    It is hard not to blame the Islamic Revolution of Iran that in 1979 installed a theocratic republic led by the ayatollah Khomeini. From the start, Khomeini became a sponsor of Islamic fundamentalism everywhere. In the same year (1979) the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to establish a communist government and the following year young Arabs like Osama bin Laden, volunteered to go fight against the Soviet Union: these volunteers were fighting for the USA (the Soviet Union's enemy), but their spirit was truly reminiscent of Khomeini, because their goal was not only the expulsion of the Soviet Union but the establishment of an Islamic republic. From that point on, all the clashes between Islamic people and non-Islamic people were hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists that turned them into, basically, religious wars (the last one being Iraq).
    So one can argue that Islamic fundamentalism became "the" problem starting with 1979. What is special with the events of 1979? Simple: it was the first Islamic victory in more than one century. As long as "Islam" had been losing ground, the Islamic land were peaceful. The moment it won a war it became a problem. Islam started winning: Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan... After every victory, new centers of Islamic fundamentalism sprouted in other parts of the world. Eventually one of them attacked the USA in september 2001.
    In concluding, an analysis of the historical record shows that Islam got more and more aggressive when it started winning wars. This is consistent with the behavior of most totalitarian regimes.
    If the historical record is any indication, any concession to "Islam" (in general) is likely to simply create more Islamic aggression.

    Mark L La Rue writes:

    Islamic fundamentalism was present from the very beginning of Islam. It may be traced from the death of Mohammed and the division of the religion into two competing camps. One was very militant, demanding the conversion, forcefully - of the entire world. The other, less military, still recognized itself as the only true religion, but much in the pattern of Christianity. As we know, during the Roman occupation of the land they named Palestine after the Jewish Uprising of 60 CE and the subsequent Bar Koba revolt about a hundred years later, a tradition of resistence to foreign (European) occupation was establlished in not only the Jewish inhabitants of the regions, but all. Many of these so called non-Jewish inhabitants were simply non-cicumcized, non practicing Jews who none-the-less were monotheists who practiced one old religion (Zoroastrian) or another. But at the advent of Islam in the sixth and seventh century, middle eastern leaders took on the old agressive view of the Persian Empire. They leapt back at the West, still affected by the invasion and Hellenization that Alexander had brought to them. Soon as you know, most of Spain was occupied as well as bits and pieces of Southern France, in an on and off fashion. In my opinion, it was the Hellenistic influences that tended to moderate Islamic occupation during the near 500 years of muslim occupation. The chief reason for this opinion is the continued rise and fall of new fundamentalist militarists that occurred about every third generation or so throughout the history of Islam up until the last part of the 19th century. The late 19th rise of the "Mahdi" - "The Expected One" in the Sudan was a repetitious event over the centuries. Always, they sought to first "clean up" the Islamic world and then convert the population of the world, by the sword if necessary. Of course, "the expected one" is an old testament prediction of a "messiah" hoped for by Judaism and claimed by Christians to have occurred. Mark L La Rue
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (February 2005) Another democratic revolution The ripples of the USA invasion of Iraq continue to topple undemocratic regimes around the world. The Lebanese people have witnessed the first free elections in Palestine and the first free elections in Iraq (see Democracy 2 - Islam 0) and now demand the same rights. In their case, the tyrant is not an individual, but an a foreign regime: Assad of Syria.
    It is hard to imagine how Assad could stop the democratic movement in Lebanon. The similarities with the democratic movement in Ukraine are obvious. Additionally, Syria is under pressure from both the west (Israel) and the south (USA) because of its involvement in just about every conflict in the region. It is hard to imagine that Assad can continue to support terrorism against Israel, support terrorism against Iraq and occupy Lebanon, all at the same time. It is in fact likely that Assad will have to abandon all three pillars of Syria's foreign policy (or abandon Syria altogether, if the USA decides "enough is enough"). Thus Lebanon is now likely to become the third Muslim democracy of the region (the fourth, if one also counts Afghanistan).

    2003: Beginning of the Arab Renaissance - Democratic progress in the Middle East
    Here is a short list of Democratic progress in the Middle East since the USA invasion of Iraq:
    • 2003: Saudi Arabia. A human group organization is allowed to open.
    • 2003: Egypt. The Ibn Khaldun Center, that promotes democracy in the Arab world, is allowed to reopen after years of censorship
    • 2003: Libya. Qaddafi admits a broad program of weapons of mass destruction and accepts to destroy it in return for an end to USA sanctions.
    • 2004: Saudi Arabia. Top cleric Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Sheik condemns terrorism.
    • 2004: Afghanistan. Free elections, with several women elected to parliament.
    • 2004: Bahrain. The regime appoints a woman to head a government post
    • 2004: Egypt. A feminist author and doctor, Nawal Saadawi, decides to run for president.
    • 2004: Saudi Arabia. A political organization calls for rights of women to participate in elections.
    • 2004: Saudi Arabia. A man sues the religious fanatics who convinced his son to fight the USA.
    • 2004: Israel and Palestinians restart peace negotiations.
    • Jan 2005: Syria. 140 intellectuals call upon the Syrian government to end the occupation of Lebanon
    • Jan 2005: Egypt. Mubarak announces democratic reforms.
    • Jan 2005: Palestine. Democratic elections.
    • Jan 2005: Iraq. Democratic elections.
    • Feb 2005: Saudi Arabia's first ever municipal elections (and promise that women will vote in 2009)
    • Mar 2005: Syria. Following massive street demonstrations, Syria accepts to partially withdraw from Lebanon.
    • Mar 2005: Kuwait. Street demonstrations in favor of women's rights.
    • Mar 2005: Egypt. The first opposition paper, "Al Ghad", is published in Egypt
    • Mar 2005: Egypt. The top dissident Ayman Nour, leader of the Party of Tomorrow, is released from jail
    • Mar 2005: Iran. Laleh Seddigh wins a widely-publiucized auto racing event for women
    • Mar 2005: The Arab League offers peace with Israel and anti-terrorism
    • Mar 2005: Amnesty International launches a "Stop Violence Against Women" campaign in Jordan
    • Apr 2005: Yemen's "National Organization for the Defence of Rights and Freedoms" organizes the conference on "Human Rights for All" in Yemen jointly with Amnesty International
    • Apr 2005: Syria. Assad pledges to pull out of Lebanon
    • Apr 2005: Jordan. King Abdullah appoints academic Adnan Badran to form a government to push forward a reform agenda
    • Apr 2005: Rome: at Pope John Paul II's funeral, both Syrian president Assad and Iran's president Khatami shake hands with Israel's president Moshe Katzav
    • Apr 2005: Lebanon. Terrorist group Hezbollah declares the intention of disarming
    • Apr 2005: Iraq. New prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari succeeds Ayad Allawi, the first time in decades that a living Arab leader is replaced peacefully
    • Apr 2005: Saudi Arabia bans forced marriage
    • Apr 2005: Thousands of Egyptian students demonstrate at universities across the country calling for democratic reforms
    • Apr 2005: Russian president Vladimir Putin becomes the first Russian leader ever to visit Israel and praises the USA on Iraq
    • Apr 2005: Syrian troops leave Lebanon after 30 years of occupation
    • May 2005: A woman, Azam Taleqani, is allowed to run in Iran's presidential elections
    • May 2005: Saudi Arabia passes a law allowing foreign-born residents to become citizens
    • May 2005: Exiled opposition leader Michel Aoun returns to Lebanon
    • May 2005: The Gulf states of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) meet in Bahrein to discuss a unified currency and a free trade zone with the USA
    • May 2005: Kuwait grants women the right to vote and run in elections
    • May 2005: Iran's foreign minister visits Iraq, thus ending 25 years of hostility between the two countries
    • May 2005: Iran's supreme leader Khameini allows two previously-banned reformist candidates to run in Iran's presidential elections
    • May 2005: Iran's top candidate for president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, runs on a platform to reestablish relationships with the USA
    • May 2005: Iran pledges to stop its nuclear-weapon program in exchange for membership in the World Trade Organization
    • June 2005: The opposition wins the first free elections in Lebanon since the civil war
    • June 2005: Afghanistan's president appoints the first woman governor in the country's history
    • June 2005: The government of Kuwait appoints the first woman minister
    • July 2005: Pakistan expels foreign Islamic students
    • July 2005: the Fiqh Council of North America (American Muslim scholars) issue a fatwa calling Islamic terrorists "criminals, not `martyrs'"
    • July 2005: the world's leading scholars of Islam meet in Jordan and denounce the violent interpretation of Islam
    • August 2005: Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya's dictator, promises investigations into human rights abuses and invites political dissidents to return
    • August 2005: the Muslim Brotherhood organization urges its supporters not to boycott Egypt's presidential election
    • September 2005: first presidential election in Egypt with more than one candidate
    • September 2005: Afghanistan holds parliamentary elections
    • October 2005: Afghani tv hostess Farzana Samimi launches a program that addresses women's issues
    • October 2005: Iraqis approve a democratic constitution (voter turnout is higher than in the contemporary Polish elections and much higher than at the latest European Union elections)
    • November 2005: The first Christian satellite channel begins broadcasting in Egypt
    • November 2005: The report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) finds widespread democratisation across the Middle East for the first time
    • November 2005: Saudi women are allowed for the first time to stand in an election (Chamber of Commerce of Jeddah)
    • December 2005: The United Arab Emirates announces its first elections ever
    • December 2005: Parliamentary elections in Iraq
    • December 2005: Municipal elections in Palestine
    • December 2005: A national female football (soccer) league is formed in Tunisia
    • January 2006: Saudi Arabia's king Abdullah visits India (the first Saudi king to do so in 51 years)
    • January 2006: First Palestinian parliamentary elections allowing to vote for more than one party
    • February 2006: Iraq's top Shia cleric Ali Sistani declares that militant Islamists are to blame for distorting the image of Islam
    • March 2006: Women vote for the first time in Kuwait (a local election)
    • June 2006: Women are allowed to vote and stand for election for the first time in Kuwait's national elections
    • July 2006: the opposition wins parliamentary elections in Kuwait
    • September 2006: Presidential elections in Yemen
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (February 2005) The Arab mind.
    This is one in a series of articles on the French mind, the German mind, the Arab mind, and the Anglosaxon mind.

  • (February 2005) How did we fail so badly? A report from a trip to the Middle East
    (I traveled to Lebanon, Syria and Jordan during the month of january 2005. Unlike most journalists, who spend their time in capitals, hanging out with other journalists and with local politicians, traveling in private cars and interacting only with their hosts, I traveled in minibuses and shared cars, I stayed in small towns and middle-class neighborhoods, and interacted only with ordinary people).
    Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are among the safest countries in the world. Furthermore, the people (especially in Syria, but also in Lebanon and, with a few exceptions, in Jordan) are the kindest, most honest and most hospitable in the world. The kindness of the Syrian people is impossible to put in words: you have to go to believe it. Countless people paid for me. Countless bus drivers did not want me to pay the ticket. Countless vendors gave me goods for free.
    With very few exceptions, these people are all fans of Osama bin Laden and Al-Zarqawi.
    This is the fundamental contradiction that the West faces: the kindest people on Earth are fans of the most brutal terrorists in the world.
    In my opinion, there is a fundamental cause for this fundamental contradiction, and it is only partially due to the Arab world: regardless of how one feels about removing Saddam Hussein and promoting democracy, the Bush administration has shown a chronic inability to communicate with the Arab masses, both inside and outside Iraq. They never heard from Bush in person. They rarely heard from any of his collaborators.
    It was emblematic that Bush went to Baghdad only once, for a few hours, unannounced, like a thief. Instead of taking a walk downtown and chatting with ordinary Iraqis, he totally ignored them. Bush is out of touch with ordinary Iraqis (and probably with ordinary people everywhere, including his own country). That remains the main problem in winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
    The net effect of this communication failure has been to paint democracy against Arab nationalism. Instead of supporting the advent of democracy, the Arab masses (outside Iraq) are increasingly viewing democracy as a form of USA tyranny. The word "democracy" is rapidly becoming synonim of "USA occupation". In fact, the Iraqi insurgents have basically declared war to democracy, and this war is becoming more and more popular among ordinary Arabs.
    If this trend is not reversed, "democracy" will become a hated word in the entire Arab world. Instead of a democratic Iraq spreading democracy to the surrounding countries, we would witness strong opposition to democracy throughout the entire Arab world.
    George W Bush, being so out of touch with ordinary Arabs, has turned into a gift to the cause of the terrorists.
    It is hard to blame the Arab masses. From their point of view, the American democracy is "certainly" an invasion of an Arab country and "maybe" (only maybe) an improvement of their living conditions. By ignoring the Arab masses, Bush has been amazingly effective in turning "democracy" into a synonim for "American occupation".
    This may also explain the widespread admiration for Osama bin Laden, particularly among younger Arabs. The fact that he has not been captured in three years gave him the opportunity to become what he was not: a symbol of resistance to "USA occupation". Most Palestinians now associate Osama to their own cause, despite the fact that for many years Osama ignored their cause.
    Al Jazeera (perhaps American's number one enemy in the Arab world, the Arab equivalent of Fox News) has been cleverly using the mistakes of the Bush administration to create a huge anti-American backlash. Al Jazeera has been constantly outsmarting the USA (not a surprise, given the fact that Al Jazeera knows the Arab mind much better than the Bush administration does). Al Jazeera routinely amplifies any misdoing by Americans, while hiding the many crimes and injustices committed by the Arab regimes. Thus the average listener of Al Jazeera is left with the impression that American democracy is worse, not better, than Arab dictatorship. In Syria, I had the impression that Assad (one of the most brutal dictators in the world) would actually win a free election: young people worship him as one of the few Arab leaders who stands up against American democracy. Al Jazeera never tells them of the thousands of dissidents jailed by Assad. Al Jazeera reminds them daily of the Palestinians killed by Israel, but never reminds them of the 20,000 people killed in one week by Assad's father in the 1980s.
    In its post-elections editorial, a humiliated Al Jazeera screamed "How can one call this election free or fair, given the brutal reality of occupation, martial law, a U.S.-appointed election commission and secret candidates". Of course, all of what Al Jazeera complains about has been caused by the terrorist campaign sponsored by Al Jazeera itself: but it works. (The article ridiculed the numbers of Iraqis who turned out to vote in these elections, but forgot to mention the number of voters in most of the Arab world, and particularly the number of female voters: zero).
    Al Jazeera is also careful in always depicting Arabs as victims, never as culprits. The Arabs of Sudan are depicted as victims of USA and British aggression, not as the killers of thousands of black Africans. The government of Syria is depicted as the victim of American sanctions, not as a brutal dictatorship that deserves those sanctions. Israel is depicted as the cruel oppressor of the Palestinias, but not a word is spent on Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara and of Sudan's occupation of the Dinkas. Al Jazeera reminds the Arab public that Jews commit atrocities, but never mentions the obvious fact that there are no Jewish suicide bombers, only Arab ones. Nobody in Israel rejoices when a Palestinian child is killed, whereas many Palestinians celebrate when a suicide bomber blows up Israeli children and women.
    Al Jazeera fuels the perception that Arabs are always the victims. Thus Al Jazeera has subtly managed to convince the Arab public opinion that Osama is a (legitimate) answer to Bush: first Bush committed atrocities, then Osama rebelled in the name of the victims of those atrocities. Al Jazeera is simply recycling the old Soviet propaganda, and its methods of distorting the facts. But it works wonders on the Arab mind. Support for Osama is almost 100%. Al Jazeera has constantly outsmarted the USA.
    Schools and mosques are the other sources of dis-information. Schools and mosques teach them mainly Islam. Embedded in Islam is the confrontation with the infidel and the solidarity with fellow Muslims no matter who has done what. The strongest anti-American feelings are among young people, the lowest are among elderly people.
    It would be too easy, though, to blame the anti-American sentiment on Arab society alone. For example, the same phenomenon is happening in Europe, where newspapers such as La Repubblica and even the respectable Le Monde, read by millions of educated Europeans, routinely blame the USA for everything from heat waves to tsunamis.
    An obstacle in promoting the virtues of democracy is that the Bush administration is not quite the model of democracy that we would like to promote. The Arab masses are painfully aware that the USA is subject to censorship, no more and no less than they are in their own countries. USA stations are popular throughout the Middle East, and many people understand enough English to be able to listen to CNN and other American news channels. The Arab masses know what the American public is told (and not told) by its government. Americans may not notice the censorship, but for Arabs it is obvious: how many ordinary Iraqis has CNN interviewed over the last week? Probably none. Do Americans know that families in Baghdad have less electricity and less water than they used to under Saddam Hussein? Do Americans know that most Iraqi hospitals have fewer medicines than ever? Do Americans know that Iraq has seen none of the billions of dollars that Bush promised to spend on Iraq? Arabs see hundreds of live interviews from Baghdad every day, and are painfully aware of Iraq's real life. Americans see zero, and don't know that their government has failed in restoring even the most basic of services to the Iraqi families.
    How many interviews with former members of the Iraqi regime have American seen? Probably none. The Arabs know that the USA public has never heard an interview with any of the former members of Saddam's regime, and that Bush keeps the interrogation of political prisoners totally secret. This is odd because both Aldouri (the former Iraqi ambassador at the United Nations) and "comical Ali" (the former Iraqi minister of information) speak excellent English and are currently free. And yet no USA station is interested in hearing what they have to say. How is this any different from what Arab dictators do? They too forbid embarrassing interviews and keep silent about dissidents in jail. Why is Tariq Aziz still under arrest after more than one year? He did not have any power under Saddam Hussein, although he was the main spokesman for the regime due to his good English. Word on the street is that the USA offered him a deal: tell the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, and we'll let you free. Aziz refused to lie, and he is still in jail. The Arab public remembers well other people whom the American public has forgotten (or has been made to forget), for example the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan (again, a fluent English speaker): has any American ever heard an interview with him? Isn't it odd that none of the protagonists, and not even ordinary Iraqis, are interviewed by American tv stations? Arabs are fully aware of the censorship. Why can't Americans hear from these people, who must know a lot about the inner workings of the deposed regimes? If the Bush administration is so sure of being right, what are they afraid of? If Saddam used to have weapons of mass destruction and now there are none, what happened to them? Who, when and where destroyed them? Why in heaven is it always so difficult for the Bush administration to tell the whole story?
    The Arab masses know that the American media hardly mention all the false statements that Bush has made over the years. Where is the evidence against Osama that Bush claims to have in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks? He never showed it to the world. What about the high-tech bunkers that Osama was supposed to be using in Afghanistan? They were never found: his caves were just that, caves. And, of course, the biggest blunder of them all: Iraq's weapons of mass destruction: Bush went to war against Saddam because he was suspected of having illegal WMDs, when in fact Saddam did not have them and when in fact there is a country in the region that has them, Israel, that Bush is not attacking but actually supporting. Bush has consistently misled the American people, but the American people hardly notice because Bush is making sure that the media cannot do their job properly. The Arab masses see in us what we see in them: people who are being brainwashed by their governments. (Arabs actually have a vintage point that we don't have: they listen to our news channels, whereas we don't listen to theirs).
    In his speech to the Nation, George W Bush never mentioned the word "Iraq". This certainly did not make the Iraqi people feel more secure or more optimistic about their future, but, more importantly, was widely interpreted by the Arab masses as evidence of USA censorship: isn't this the same attitude of the Arab dictators who routinely hide dissident movements from their masses? The president of the USA is simply behaving the same way to the USA people that Saddam Hussein used to behave to the Iraqi people.
    So where is the difference between American "democracy" and their own totalitarian regimes?
    Far from being a bunch of irrational fanatics, most people of the Middle East are actually being quite rational and asking very legitimate questions. (It's the answers that tend to be rather irrational, as I explain later). Seen from over here, it is the American people who look like irrational fundamentalists: the American people were misled by a president who consistently lied to them, and, yet, the American people reelected him. Who is being irrational? Aldouri best summarized the Arab mood when, at the United Nations, he said: "How can such a great country like the USA have such a stupid president?" Arabs largely respect and admire the USA (that gave the world skyscrapers, computers, movies, etc) but are puzzled how can this country be so wrong so many times.
    This perception constitutes a fundamental problem. Let's look at past American victories. During World War II, the USA defeated Fascism, a global force for world domination. This force drew support mainly within Germany and Japan. The USA did not depend economically on the enemy, the enemy (at least Japan) depended on the USA. The USA eventually prevailed militarily. The USA victory was welcomed even by enemies (France, Italy). Thus it was, also, an ideological victory. Then the USA defeated the Soviet Union, another global force for world domination. Its support was distributed globally but weak at home. The USA did not depend economically on the enemy. The USA eventually prevailed economically. Again, the USA victory was welcomed even by enemies (Easter Europe, Central Asia). It was, again, an ideological victory. Today, the USA is trying to defeat Islamic fundamentalism, yet another global force for world domination. This one enjoys support distributed globally and especially at home. In this case, the USA does depend economically on the enemy. The USA is trying to win militarily, economically and ideologically. An ideological victory is unlikely at best because the USA lost credibility and the whole "war on terror" is perceived as a religious war started not by Osama but by Bush. Militarily, a victory is unlikely because Islamic fundamentalism is not a country (unlike Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union) but a guerrilla-style movement. There is virtually an unlimited number of suicide bombers available. It is more likely that they bring the war to the USA than the USA prevails over all the Islamic terrorists in the world. Economically, the USA is no longer the richest country in the world: in fact, it has become the biggest debtor in the world. The USA is in no position to create the kind of wealth that staggered western and eastern Europeans. On the contrary, its oil-based economy is helping transfer wealth to the very enemy (the Islamic organizations and states that fund terrorism). This is a war that the USA can win only if it comes up with a whole new paradigm.
    There were also practical mistakes made by the USA during the invasion. Rumsfeld boasted of the precision of the USA bombs, but, as time goes by, it appears that the biggest blunders of the invasion were often military. In april 2003, one of Rumsfeld's high-precision bombs missed Saddam's half brother Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan (who is now a leader of the insurgency) and instead killed 22 members of the tribe Dulaimi, including its top patriarch Malik al-Kharbit, a tribe that had helped the USA both in 1991 and in 2003. Needless to say, the Dulaimi turned into enemies of the USA. Their home base is the Sunni triangle. Directly or indirectly, they control a vast region within that "triangle". When the USA invaded Iraq, the Dulaimi were probably the main Sunnis on the USA side. Rumsfeld's high-precision bomb turned them into the vanguard of the anti-American insurgency. The good will of many Iraqis was turned into hatred by the high "imprecision" of the USA bombs.
    There is also a practical implication of America's war on tyranny that Bush neglected: it takes a toll on the livelihood of ordinary people. Invading Iraq caused economic devastation to both Jordanians and Syrians, who are not rich people to start with: how do we explain to them that our democratic revolution is good for them after we destroyed their livelihood?
    Another obvious implication is that Bush's "war on terror" has made Arabs much less safe (not safer). Before the invasion of Iraq, the most dangerous places (as in "targets of terrorist attacks") were Israel and the USA. After the invasion of Iraq, Israel has become the only safe place in the region, while the Arab countries, from Morocco to Iraq, have become the most dangerous places, targets of countless suicide attacks; and the USA has not had a single attack, not even a little bomb. The average Arab is painfully aware that the USA, whatever the intentions, has caused great instability to their countries.
    On top of that, it is not easy to have a rational discussion on what people think (as opposed to what regimes claim they think). For example, a Syrian kid told me that the Lebanese are happy that Syrian soldiers occupy their country (I was asking him why is it ok for Syria to occupy Lebanon but it is not ok for Israel to occupy the Palestinian territories). I asked him how can he be sure that the Lebanese people welcome the Syrian occupation without holding a referendum. He replied: we don't need a referendum, we "know" what they think.
    The difference between fact, opinion and lie is often blurred in the Islamic world. For example, the same man told me in one sentence that a) DeGaulle killed ten thousand French soldiers (a lie), b) the USA are killing Iraqi civilians on purpose (an opinion), and c) the terrorists are killing Iraqi civilians (a fact). By mixing the three, he proved that the USA is evil while Al Zarqawi is simply doing what every general does. If you engage in a rational proof that this argument is flawed, he would typically increase the size of the lie, assuming that a bigger lie makes a stronger argument. A (very educated) Jordanian taxi driver told me that the Americans killed one million people in Somalia, and Osama simply wanted to avenge those deaths. A Syrian kid who goes to college told me that first Bush deposed Saddam Hussein, then Osama retaliated with the attacks on New York. Talk to one thousand people, and you will get one thousand different versions of the facts, each of them accompanied with grotesquely false data.
    Arabs often bring up the "double standards" of the USA, when in fact it is them who are applying double standards. For example, the Palestinians (currently occupied by Israel) are entitled to a homeland, but the Sahrawis (currently occupied by Morocco) are not; nor are the Dinkas in Sudan or the Kurds in Iraq or the Armenians in Syria. By using double standards, Arab public opinion finds Muslims always right, from the Philippines to Nigeria, from Morocco to Bosnia, from Indonesia to Pakistan. If you ask them flat out "can you name one case in which Muslims were wrong?", they will most likely bring up cases in which Muslims (such as Mubarak or Musharraf) cooperated with the USA, or countries (such as Turkey) that are not Islamic enough. They find totally reasonable and natural that Muslims are always right. The "double standard", for them, is to think that sometimes a Muslim could be wrong.
    A fact that Al Jazeera does not publicize is the nationality of the insurgents. Listening to Al Jazeera, the insurgents are kids from the (quote) "good families" of Iraq (a reference to tribal leaders). The reality is that the Iraqi police have mainly arrested and killed Saudis (dozens), Jordanians, Yemenis, Syrians, Palestinians and French Arabs, but very few Iraqis. De facto, the "insurgency" is a foreign army that invaded Iraq and that was lucky enough to find an existing infrastructure of anti-American resistance (the Baath party). Afghanistan was the prototype of such a foreign invasion (it was invaded by a foreign army of Arab fighters who took advantage of the infrastructure provided by the anti-Soviet guerrilla).
    In commenting the Iraqi elections (this article), Al Jazeera compared the voter turnout in Iraq with the voter turnout in the 1967 elections in Vietnam. But Al Jazeera forgot to mention that the insurgents in Vietnam were Vietnamese, not foreigners, whereas the insurgents in Iraq are foreigners.
    In order to understand the reason why Osama Bin Laden is so mad at the USA and why his words and actions are so popular among the Islamic world one has to understand how profoundly racist Islam is. When a USA missionary was killed in Yemen, the majority of the people I spoke to basically approved: he deserved to be punished. Why? Because he was an infidel living on Islamic land. He was doing a humanitarian job helping people, but that is secondary: it is sacrilege for a non-Muslim to set foot on Islamic land. A Muslim's duty is to help other Muslims, but a non-Muslim's duty is simply to convert to Islam or at least stay out of Islamic land. A non-Muslim is not expected to do any humanitarian work for Muslims: a non-Muslim is, in a sense, an inferior being, who is not supposed to meddle with the affairs of Muslims. If Allah wants Muslims to starve to death, who is the non-Muslim to interfere? Thus the USA were committing sacrilege when they tried to help the Somali people: for the true Muslims it became more important to fight the infidels than to feed their countrymen. Ditto in Iraq: the fact that Saddam Hussein was a psycho was an internal Muslim affair, and the USA had no right to interfere in the Islamic world. Osama certainly wished the death of Saddam Hussein, but not by the hand of an infidel. Whenever anti-Americans oppose military action and propose to help Islamic countries get out of poverty and ignorance, they completely miss the point: they would become targets too if they entered Islamic countries with the purpose of helping Muslims. From the point of true Muslims, it is none of their business if Muslims die. Non-Muslims are just not supposed to exist. The worst thing that they can do is meddle into the affairs of Muslims, i.e. interfere with the will of Allah.
    A discussion with an Arab can be a rather frustrating experience: his argument is simply a long litany of "lies". The USA is always guilty, whether it does X or the opposite of X. You have to experience it to understand the Israelis when they claim that the Arabs always lie: that's precisely what Arabs do. Except that, in their minds, those are not lies.
    Sometimes you feel that there will never be an end. Whatever we do, and whatever the Iraqis do, there will always be an Al Jazeera journalist telling the Arabs that it's all the opposite what it is.
    Israel looms large on any political discussion. Israel has become the summarizing symbol of what the Arabs see as a western crusade against Islam, of all the double standards that the Arabs attribute to the USA. Their viewpoint is quite simple: if all you wanted to do were work, take care of your family and have fun with your friends, and you could do it because of a heavily militarized country next door that provokes daily the Arab public opinion, what would you think? What if this heavily militarized neighbor were a new country, created by the world's powers on the basis of some religion superstition by displacing millions of fellow Arabs who now have to live in refugee camps? You would feel like them: that suicide bombers are justified.
    The story is actually more complex, and, again, the way it gets simplified by the Arab masses tells a lot about how different their logic is. According to them, Jews "stole" the land from the Palestinians. In reality originally, Jews bought land from the Palestinians, who, being poor and naive, sold it for very little. The Jews bought land and then proceeded to develop it. Today's Arabs are bitter with the descendants of the Jews who outsmarted the Arabs. So far so good. But the Arabs never criticize the Palestinians who sold that land to start with. After all, the Jews simply bought something that the Palestinians were interested in selling. The real "crime" should be that Arabs sold Arab land.
    Cultural relativism is still a difficult concept: if you (a non-Muslim) hurt a Muslim, the relevant fact is that a non-Muslim hurt a Muslim. Whether that Muslim was a good man or a bad man, started the argument or was the cause of his own wound, is a secondary issue. When the USA was hurting Vietnamese, Panamians and Serbians, the Arab masses were totally indifferent, because those are Buddhists, Catholics and Orthodox Christians. But if the USA kills Muslims in Iraq (no matter which Muslims), that is a supreme crime.
    Even the concept of "invasion" depends on the religion of the invader. The Arab masses do not perceive Osama bin Laden and his Arab brigade as having "invaded" Afghanistan. Since Afghanistan is an Islamic country, Osama (a Muslim) is perfectly justified in "visiting" it. On the other hand, a single USA soldier in Afghanistan is already an aggressor. Ditto in Iraq: Al Zarqawi is a Jordanian wreaking havoc in Iraq, but no Arab sees anything wrong in a Jordanian fighting in another Islamic country. On the other hand, the Arab masses see something very wrong with the USA fighting in an Islamic country.
    In fact, the single most difficult change to bring about in Arab society is to change the ancient tribal mind: if one Italian kills one Arab, than it is ok for all Arabs to kill all Italians. This view of the world is rooted in the Arab mind that even the friendliest people would mention it with a smile without realizing that they were basically justifying my own murder (Italian soldiers did kill Arabs in Iraq).
    The attitude that most of the non-Islamic world perceives as barbaric, prehistoric and even sub-human can be summarized by a much minor episode. When a British tabloid published pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear, the entire Islamic world felt that an injustice had been committed by the West towards the Islamic world. The entire West (every single person living in a Western country) was held to be somehow guilty of a crime. And note that this was about an Arab dictator who has killed at least one million Muslims. Also notice that nobody would have objected if Saddam had been exposed in his underwear or otherwise humiliated or even scorched alive by a Muslim crowd, as long as it was Muslims to do it. The logic is mind-boggling. Somebody in London publishes a picture of an Arab dictator in his underwear, and the entire Islamic world get offended with the entire West, and Muslims think that it is reasonable to punish Westerners at random for it. First of all, they assume that it is a crime (or at least an offence). Second, they assume that the entire West is guilty of this crime, not just the person who did it. Third, they assume that it is reasonable for someone to punish any person in the West, e.g. me. This is precisely the logic that leads to terrorism. If a Muslim feels that a crime against a Muslim has been committed (his opinion is what defines an event as a crime), no matter how that Muslim was and no matter who the non-Muslim was, then all non-Muslims (or at least the non-Muslims that belong to the same group/nation/religion as the perpetrator) are assumed to be guilty of that crime, and punishing some of them at random is considered legitimate. If this is the logic that most Muslims apply, how can we be surprised that there is Islamic terrorism?
    Imagine if an Arab newspaper published pictures of George W Bush in his underwear: would anyone in the West care? Would any Westerner feel that the entire West has been insulted? Would any Christian feel that all Christians have been insulted? Would any Brazilian or Russian or Swiss (all Christian countries) feel offended? Most Americans would be amused, that's all. Nobody would consider the fact a crime, and nobody would blame it on all Arabs, and nobody would ask for punishment. At best, it would be a lawsuit by Bush against that newspaper. The rest of the world wouldn't even notice.
    That is the reason, in a nutshell, why today there are Islamic terrorists but there are no Christian (or Buddhist or Hinduist or Confucian) terrorists: because ordinary Americans, French, Russians, Indians, Chinese, Japanese don't think that way, whereas Muslims (or, at least, Arabs) do. It is in the Arab mind.
    By the same token, Muslims tend to view a terrorist attack not as the work of some individuals, and of some rather demented individuals, but as the work of Allah in person (or at least of some superhuman form of justice). Whenever a terrorist strikes, the very same Muslim who condemns the attack will tell you "If the USA (or the West or India or whatever), does not change its attitude, this will happen again". He is not threatening you. He is not justifying the terrorist. He is merely expressing the view that the terrorist (himself a bad man) was sent by Allah to punish you of your sins. Ultimately, the victim of the terrorist attack was guilty and we shouldn't be too sorry that she or he died. The only way a Westerner or a Chinese or an Indian or a Russian can relate to this is by thinking of natural catastrophes: when a hurricane happens, you can see it as sent by the Gods to punish you without necessarily implying that hurricanes are good things.
    For the Arab masses, in other words, it is all about Islam, not about justice, freedom, democracy, wealth or whatever.
    In fact, the worst sign that comes from the Islamic world comes from "moderate" Muslims themselves: when they want to condemn the terrorists, they invoke the Quran! One rarely hears a Muslim condemn a terrorist attack on the grounds that is disgusting, barbaric, subhuman, or simply illegal. I have heard Muslims condem terrorist attacks because they involve suicide (that is forbidden by the Quran) or because they kill Muslims too (that is forbidden by the Quran) or because there are interpretations that the "jihad" should not be violent. One rarely hears a Muslim condemn Islamic violence because it is amoral. The morality of a Muslim, even a moderate one, comes from the Quran. Therefore the rest of the world can fight Islam only by appealing to Islam itself: in a sense, we all have to become Muslims, and then hope that our (moderate, peaceful) interpretation of Islam will prevail over the interpretation of the extremists in the Islamic world. It is a win-win situation for Islam.
    This is not surprising since Islam is so pervasive. The Quran is everywhere: broadcast by loudspeakers, sung in the taxi over the radio, in the bus, etc. The very annoying (or melodious, depending on musical taste) chanting of the Quran verses permeates daily lives today like 1,400 years ago.
    Attacking Islam is, in fact, the most difficult task. Arabs (even the ones who don't go to the mosque as often as they should) display an attachment to their religion that is comparable to the attachment to their family. In fact, one Arab once told me that his religion came before his mother.
    Islam is probably the only religion left that is still a "male" religion. Christianity (both in Europe and in Africa) only wishes it could draw such large crowds of adult men to mass. In many parts of the globe, religion is mainly for children and women. Not in the Arab world: it is striking how many men pray in a mosque (as opposed to how few men pray in a cathedral), how many men go on pilgrimage, etc.
    My argument against Islam (and pretty much any religion) is quite simple: religion is conservative by definition and thus tends to slow down progress, which results in poverty and diseases. This is precisely what happens in many parts of the Arab world. The Arabs routinely blame the Jews (and now also the USA) for poverty that is mostly caused by backward conditions which are in turn caused by Islam. However, Islam also provides the social net that takes care of poor people. The Arab masses tend to see only the help they receive from Islamic institutions, not the cause of their poverty (Christian masses were not any different in the old days). So I use a simple parable: if I steal your wallet and then give you a few coins, will you say "thank you"? But I haven't found a single person who was willing to admit that religion might be the cause of at least some problems.
    The other issue with Islam is, of course, whether it is a religion of peace or of violence. Most of the world knows the answer, but all Arabs whom I met emphatically defended Islam as a religion of peace. What that "peace" might be is the real issue. For example, I mentioned to a man that Muslim wish happiness (on religious holidays such as Ramadam or Mohammed's Birthday) only to "all the Muslims of the world", while Christians wish happiness to "all good people of the world". The reply was: "If you are not a Muslim, you cannot be happy because you don't know the real God, so it is useless to wish you happiness".
    How does a religion that claims to be about peace produce and justify the ferocity of beheadings and suicide bombings? So far, every Arab has replied to me the same way, not by denying the "ferocity" but by pointing to what others (Israel, USA) do.
    One educated and wealthy businessman whom I traveled with from Damascus to Amman tried the conciliatory theme of "we believe in the same God". He said "Islam is about only one God". I asked him why only one: what is wrong with the Hindus who believe in hundreds of gods, or the Japanese who believe in thousands: my question is not whether there is only one god, my question is why should that be something to be proud of. He was struck by the argument and simply stared at me in disbelief, as if it were obvious that Hindus and Japanese are wrong. A different opinion from his is simply a mistake (that, presumably, must be corrected).
    Islam is peace, according to Muslims, but they find it weird (to say the least) that some people are not Muslim. When I told another educated businessman (who who had travelled all over the West and spoke excellent English) that there are now millions of Muslims in Western Europe, he asked me how many Europeans are converting to Islam. I told him that very few did. He took this as evidence of a bias against Islam: the only explanation, to him, was that the media and the governments were distorting Islam, otherwise all Europeans would convert to Islam. There was no doubt in his mind that, given enough time and freedom, every Westerner will convert to Islam. (This logic, incidentally, is not too different from those French who assume that only media brainwashing can explain why Americans disagree with them).
    They always begin the conversation by saying that Islam is peace, but a few minutes later they tolerate, justify and even advocate the kind of violence carried out by Osama and Zarqawi. Islam is peace, but it is ok (it is in fact a duty) to kill in the name of Islam. The very same man who is smiling at you, your guest of honor, offering you tea, helping you out every way he can, supports the terrorists who are out to kill you. And he is totally convinced that this is peace. This contradiction is so rooted in Arab society that it was impossible for me to make them understand it: you show me great hospitality, but then support the man who wants to kill me? Somehow this is not a contradiction if you believe in Islam.
    As for the 23 countries in which Islamic terrorism already existed before it struck the USA (from the Philippines to India), those don't count: they are Muslims fighting to establish an Islamic state. But Islam is, of course, peace.
    The real issue is the word "peace" which has different meanings in different societies. When a Palestinian says "peace", he means "destruction of Israel". That is his peace. After traveling to the Middle East, there is no doubt in my mind that any settlement with Israel will be perceived by the Arabs as a temporary setback in their fight to reconquer Israel. Their goal will always be the destruction of Israel. Some people will openly tell you that even Andalucia is only temporary Spanish: five hundred years later, they still remember that it used to be Arab, and they still firmly believe that some day it will be Arab again. Once Muslim, forever Muslim. Islam can only expand, never retreat.
    I frequently brought up the historic decadence of the Arab world. Not so many centuries ago, the Arab world was way ahead of Europe, and, probably, of the entire world. Today, the only famous people of the Arab world are terrorists (not only Osama bin Laden and Al Zarqawi, but also the various regional warlords). How is it that such a great civilization today can only produce terrorists? Where are the scientists, philosophers, poets, painters, mathematicians, etc? How is it possible that one billion Muslims have not produced a single scientist, philosopher, poet, painter or mathematician of worldwide recognition? How can the Arab masses be proud that the only Arabs famous worldwide are terrorists?
    A fundamental feature of the Arab mind is a lack of joy. Traveling through the poorest areas of Africa or South America, one is struck by how joyful people are. They constantly smile and make jokes. Not in the Arab world: from Morocco to Syria, one is struck by the simple fact that Arabs don't smile. In fact, the interaction with a foreigner is one of the few occasions in which an Arab explodes in a volcano of good humour. But look at the men sitting at a cafe' or look at the men walking in the streets (not to mention the women): they rarely smile, even when they meet friends. Even their well-behaved children (probably unique in the entire world) are somehow odd: how can they be already so serious at such a young age? Is this lack of smiling related to the awareness that a few centuries ago they ruled the world, and today they can only produce terrorists?
    For us, the question is the mirror one: given that these people go out of their way to prove their hospitality to foreigners and don't want to harm anyone, and many of them even say "we love Americans", how in heaven could we turn such nice, well-behaved, generous people into ferocious enemies? It took an impressive combination of arrogance and stupidity on our side.
    If you are American, impeach Bush: it would be the easiest way to make peace with the Middle East and restore the credibility of America.
    If you are Arab, how can Arabs believe the gross propaganda of Al Jazeera? How can they believe that Osama is the solution to their problems? How can they be so blind not to see that the USA can give them a better future than what they have now? If you are Arab, look at the mirror and answer especially this question: how can such gentle, kind, generous people as the Arabs turn into such ferocious terrorists? What is wrong with the Arab civilization of today and with Islam in general?
    If you are European, why do you end up thinking like the average Syrian who has been brainwashed by a ruthless dictatorship for fifty years?
    One piece of warning to everybody. What the USA does is not terribly relevant: for the Arab masses, the USA is guilty whether it does X or the opposite of X. (Ditto for Israel). There is nothing the USA could do. Changing that the USA does will not change the Arab opinion of the USA. What has to change is the Arab mind, so that they can understand and appreciate the difference between X and the opposite of X.
    See also last year's What the Arabs think (report from a trip to the Middle East).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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