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The Arab World

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

Articles on the Arab world after 2008
Yet another bad hero for the Arab world
The logic of suicide bombing just got weirder
The scorecard of Islamic hyperterrorism
The Islamic world's four cardinal sins
The Islamic media
The Islamic revolutions of the 20th century
Al Jazeera's new face
Saudi Arabia: a vision of hell
The Arab gap in education
The Balkanization of the Middle East
Islam and democracy
Becoming a suicide bomber
Ethnic purity in Saudi Arabia
Jerusalem, holy city of Islam... or not?
What is different about Islam
A change of heart on suicide bombings
Report from a trip to the Middle East
Articles on the Arab world before 2008
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

  • (december 2008) Yet another bad hero for the Arab world. A charity run by the daughter of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi/Qaddafi bestowed a medal of courage on Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the journalist who threw his shoes at USA president George W Bush in Iraq. One wonders what would happen in Libya to a journalist who threw his shoes at Qaddafi.
    One also wonders if the same journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, would have the courage to do the same thing to an Arab dictator (say, Mubarak of Egypt or Assad of Syria) or to his own old dictator Saddam Hussein. If not, then he's just a coward who only hits a president when he knows that the president will not take revenge.
    The Arab world has immediately hailed him as a hero without realizing that this "hero" represents everything that is wrong in Arab society: there is a reason why all Arab countries except Iraq are ruled by dictators, and no, it's not foreign interference. It's because of people who only throw shoes at leaders of foreign democratic countries.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (november 2008) The scorecard of Islamic hyperterrorism. Main terrorist attacks of the 2000s:
    9/2001New York & Washington (USA)2,974
    10/2002Bali (Indonesia)182
    5/2003Casablanca (Morocco)41
    2/2004Karbala and Baghdad (Iraq)181
    5/2004Khobar (Saudi Arabia)22
    1/9/2004Beslan (Russia)331
    7/2005London (Britain)55
    11/2005Amman (Jordan)57
    Kabul (Afghanistan)58
    11/2008Mumbai (India)170+

  • (december 2008) The logic of suicide bombing just got weirder. It is popularly understood that suicide bombers in the Islamic world are willing to give their lives for the supreme good of Islam and expect to be rewarded in paradise for their "martyrdom". The suicide bomber must be totally convinced that s/he is killing infidels or bad Muslims. Even the dumbest suicide bomber must be aware that if s/he kills the wrong people, he may go to hell instead of heaven.
    Nonetheless the pattern of suicide bombings in Iraq has gone from mad to puzzling. Even if you try to think like an Islamic fanatic, it is hard to understand how the Quran would justify killing random Muslims at a market. The suicide bombers are usually Sunnis who think that Shiites are renegade Muslims and therefore deserve the death sentence: but how do you know that all the people in that market are Shiites in an ethnically mixed city like Baghdad?
    The puzzle got even more confused when Al Qaeda and assorted Sunni groups started using suicide bombers against Sunni tribal leaders. In this case the excuse was that these Sunni tribal leaders were cooperating with the infidels (the USA). However, this was the first time that Sunnis blew up Sunnis.
    Now the puzzle got yet another surreal twist. A suicide bomber killed 55 people in Kirkuk, a city split between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. The victims were Kurdish officials and Arab tribal leaders who were looking for a political deal. The restaurant in which the attack took place was packed with families celebrating the end of the Eid al-Adha holiday. The dead included at least five women and three children. The suicide bomber must have known what he was doing: he was going to kill both Sunni Arabs and Kurds as well as countless Muslims celebrating an Islamic holiday for the purpose of derailing some political negotiations. How in heaven does this relate to the Quran? And how in heaven can the suicide bomber think that he will be rewarded in the next life for this act?
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) The Islamic world's four cardinal sins. It happens rarely that a Muslim asks for my opinion. It happened on a flight from Dubai to Frankfurt. Having heard that i have visited more than 120 countries of the world, many of which are Islamic, a fellow traveler who is a Muslim asked my opinion about the main problems of the Islamic world. The fact that i was surprised by the question (the first time someone asked it in more than 20 years of travels to the Islamic world) tells how un-critical Muslims tend to be towards their Islamic heritage. They can be very critical of their government when they don't fear for reprisal, but never about their religious heritage. (See The Islamic world is perfect).
    Here are the four problems that, in my opinion, recur throughout the Islamic world and account for all the other problems:
    • Poor sense of humor (which is never a good starting point to coexist peacefully with other cultures)
    • A permanent state of denial (see Not Islamic fascism but Islamic denial)
    • Education gap (that, like in all cultures, increases the power of superstition)
    • Little knowledge of other religions (which makes it difficult for them to appreciate the essence of their own religion and the critiques that come from other religions, for example the simple fact that no other major religion was founded by a man who killed and encouraged to kill)
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) The Islamic media. If there is one impediment to the dialogue between the Islamic world and the West (and pretty much the whole world) is the fact that the Islamic world has a completely different perception of historical events, whether ancient or recent. It is often difficult to even begin a conversation because you quickly realize that your interlocutor has a wildly different idea of the facts from yours. For example, it is impossible to even begin a conversation about religious tolerance if your Muslim interlocutor is convinced that the USA persecuted and massacred Muslims following the 2001 terrorist attacks. It is impossible to discuss the root cause of Middle Eastern problems if your Muslim interlocutor believes that the Crusades were about Christians trying to steal land from Muslims that had always been Islamic. It is impossible to discuss Iraq if your Muslim interlocutor is convinced that the USA dropped poisoned food rations on Iraq after the invasion in order to assassinate as many civilians as possible. It is impossible to discuss the Mohammed cartoons if your Muslim interlocutor is convinced that Islam never "offended" any other religion, that there are no anti-Christian inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock and that no Hindu temple was ever destroyed by Muslim invaders. There are basic facts of history, acknowledged by any reputable historian in the world, that are absolutely not known in the Islamic world, and in fact generate a very emotional response, as if you were insulting Islam when you bring them up.
    Muslims don't read books, as any survey of the last 50 years has shown. The Islamic world produces a tiny percentage of the world's books, virtually no translations in Arabic of scholar books, and very few readers. Islam dominates the bookstores, libraries and even schools of the Islamic world.
    Therefore the media are the main source of information for history and politics. In a region that is still dominated by dictatorships that emulate the old fascist and communist dictatorships of the West and by a religion that is still in a phase similar to the medieval Inquisition of the Christian world, the media are, of course, not independent at all. The media tell the people what the political and religious establishment want them to tell.
    It is therefore ironic that the average Muslim is convinced that Western media (not Islamic media) distort the truth. The average Muslim (from Morocco to Pakistan) is convinced that the Western media broadcast a uniform view of the world. When a Western tv channel downplays a conspiracy theory that has been proven false or the statements of a dictator that have been proven false, Muslims see it as a "bias" against the Islamic world. On the other hand Muslims rarely dispute the conspiracy theories or the statements that their dictators spin around. For example, during the first Gulf War (1991), the average Muslim considered CNN (funded by the anti-Bush billionaire Ted Turner) a puppet of the George H Bush government for reporting that the USA won the war in 100 hours. The avarage Muslim praised the government media that reported the heroic resistance of the Iraqi army (that never was). The average Muslim seems to be less interested in what really happened than in what he wants to hear.
    Thus the average Muslims tends to lend credibility to the controlled media of his totalitarian country, and not to the independent media of the democratic West. The average Muslim may claim that his country (say, Syria or Morocco) has media that freely debate the issues of the day (even though they rarely interview an Israeli leader while they interview Palestinians on a daily basis, and they all provide the same pro-Palestinian view of the conflict) while claiming that there is no free debate in the West (where, say, CNN and Fox News provide opposite views of what happened and analysts from both sides of the conflict).
    Israel is a case in point. Many Arabs routinely believe that the Palestinian's version of the facts (promoted by both state media and Al Jazeera) is fair and accurate even though they never see or hear the Israeli viewpoint (Israeli newspapers are banned in the Arab world, as are their websites, and Al Jazeera rarely interviews Israeli officials). When these Arabs hear/read on Western media that there is also an Israeli viewpoint, they accuse the Western media (not their own media) of distorting the facts. The fact that the Israeli version is suppressed in their countries does not lead them to suspect that their countries are hiding something (the reaction that most Westerners would have) but instead leads them to believe that the Western media are biased against the Arabs.
    It should be obvious to the Arab masses that is visible throughout the Western world, including Israel and the USA, and that Al Jazeera can be viewed by any cable customers of the USA and Israel, whereas all Arab countries except two block any Israeli website and provide no Israeli cable news. The West and Israel itself can listen to the Arab viewpoint, whereas the Arabs cannot listen to Israel's viewpoint (and to many other viewpoints).
    It sounds like a paradox, but the fact that the controlled media of the Islamic world provide a uniform, consistent, undisputed view of the world makes them more credible than the bickering, contradictory, scrutinized view of the world provided by the Western media (and by the countless books published in the West by the opposite sides).
    The distortions are often gross and grotesque, but the fact that they are repeated consistently thoughout the Islamic world makes them credible. The fact that the Western media don't repeat them when they are obvious lies makes the Western media (not the local media) look unreliable.
    The last time that government-controlled propaganda countered the free Western media was in the Soviet Union. However, the vast majority of Soviet citizens was aware that the Pravda was distorting the facts and that the Western media more reliable. One wonders what makes the Western media so less credible to the Islamic world than they were to the communist world. It could be that Muslims are inherently more likely to believe a lie or it could be that the West has embarrassed itself so many times that Muslims have many more reasons to be skeptic than Soviet citizens had reasons to be.
    This is one of the biggest problems facing any attempt at a political or religious dialogue between the West and the Islamic world.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) The Islamic revolutions of the 20th century. The history of the Western world is largely the history of the two revolutions that changed its values: the USA and the French revolutions.
    There were two influential revolutions in the 20th century that affected the entire Islamic world. The first one took place in Turkey in 1923. It was explicitly anti-Islamic, trying to limit the influence of religion in politics, and in fact declaring Turkey a non-Islamic country. This was a bold step that ignited similar "secular" movements throughout the Islamic world. Then Iran in 1979 staged a revolution that was originally an independence war (against the USA and its puppet dictator) but quickly turned into an Islamic revolution. The creation of the first Islamic republic in modern history had a profound influence on Islamist movements worldwide.
    During this period there were no revolutions in the Arab world. Arab "revolutions" were merely coups by brutal dictators. The Arab world basically drifted towards barbaric regimes installed by secular dictators (Gamal Abdel Nasser, Muhammar Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Hafez Assad) or by medieval royalty (Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia). 1991 (end of Cold War) and 2001 (terrorist attacks on USA) brought USA influence to reverse the tide and force democratic reforms. This process is still going on and can be hardly termed a "revolution" since it is largely driven by an outside power.
    Little noticed but very influential has been the first real revolution in the Arab world: the financial revolution spearheaded by Dubai (and the United Arab Emirates in general) since about 2004. First of all, Dubai is a city-state that (unlike all previous regimes) has no territorial ambitions. Secondly, Dubai's empire is financial: it invests in all continents.
    Dubai's financial revolution can be considered the first real revolution in the Arab world, the first one that truly changes the nature of the society. Even the landscape of the Arab city has changed dramatically since Dubai's financial revolution, turning the harmony of mosques into a cacophony of high-rise buildings.
    One can identify approximately four modern Arab eras. The first one was the Independence struggle (1922-62). The second one was focused on the Israeli wars (1948-73), largely a pretext to legitimize totalitarian regimes by creating a common enemy. The third one was the oil power that started with the 1973 oil embargo, an event that clearly showed how the Western world had come to depend on the Middle East. The fourth era is the era of the financial empire. Each had its own prevailing aspect: nationalist, demagogic, economic and purely financial. Taken together these four stages reflect a relatively rapid (if frequenly painful) adaptation by the Arab world to the Western system. A century ago they were all colonies of the West. Now they compete with the West to create global financial empires. They caught up.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Al Jazeera's new face. I have always considered Al Jazeera a biggest threat to Western civilization and to its values than Al Qaeda and all the Islamic hyper-terrorists combined. Al Jazeera has been the voice and the inspiration of all Muslims who aimed at killing infidels (or even other Muslims) in the name of a vague Islamist ideology that mostly consists in hatred for the sake of hating.
    Al Jazeera championed not only the cause of the Palestinians (totally disregarding the Israeli viewpoint) but also the cause of Osama bin Laden (who is worshipped as a hero in the Middle East largely because of the countless conspiracy theories spun by Al Jazeera) and the cause of dictators such as Saddam Hussein (whose crimes Al Jazeera routinely condoned and openly doubted). Al Jazeera defended the Taliban in Afghanistan, and promoted theories denying that the 2001 terrorist attacks were caused by Arabs or even that they ever happened (to this day, countless Muslims are willing to swear that September 11 was engineered and carried out by Israeli operatives and that there were no Muslims on those planes). The riots about the Mohammed cartoons published by a small newspaper in Denmark were largely caused by the publicity given to the event by Al Jazeera (conveniently at the same time that Egypt's regime was embarrassed by a terrible ferry disaster).
    Al Jazeera was the main organ that stirred unrest in Iraq. When there was no anti-USA sentiment in Iraq, Al Jazeera kept fabricating evidence of inexistent USA atrocities and presenting them as orchestrated on purpose by the Bush administration as a policy to exterminate Muslims. When there was no sectarian violence, Al Jazeera "predicted" it and then did everything it could to make it happen, and then blamed it on another USA conspiracy orchestrated by the Bush administration.
    Over and over again, Al Jazeera presented a view that was subtle but also simple enough for naive young men to believe: Muslims are always right, and non-Muslims are always wrong, and therefore Muslims should become suicide bombers and kill as many non-Muslims as possible. (Ironically, most of the people killed in Al Jazeera-sponsored civil wars have been Muslims). (Also see Best Al Jazeera lies).
    A bit of history. Al Jazeera was founded in 1996 in the small kingdom of Qatar by former BBC employees. It was the first pan-Arab satellite news channel. Its original target was Saudi Arabia, that at the time was an enemy of Qatar. Qatar wanted to embarrass its much more powerful neighbor and Al Jazeera turned out to be a fantastic weapon. Since the USA was working in cahoots with Saudi Arabia to oust Saddam Hussein and to fight Osama Bin Laden, the USA became a "collateral" casualty of Al Jazeera's war against the Saudis. In a typical display of Arab incoherence, Qatar also became the main USA military base for its operations in Iraq after the USA withdrew its troops from Saudi Arabia. The whole Iraqi invasion was engineered from Qatar (and Kuwait). Why the USA never put pressure on Qatar to rein in Al Jazeera remains a mystery. It could be that Qatar was too useful an ally to risk losing it altogheter. It would have taken a few minutes for the USA to cut all the funding that keeps Al Jazeera alive.
    Recently, however, Al Jazeera's attitude has changed dramatically. It rarely denounces Saudi Arabia, even when the whole world is. It rarely condemns the USA for the "occupation" of Iraq.
    Coincidence or not (i don't think it's a coincidence), the situation in Iraq has been improving. The less Al Jazeera incites young people to join the jihad against the USA (Al Jazeera used to refer to any terrorist in Iraq as "resistance to the occupation"), the fewer USA soldiers are killed. The less Al Jazeera incites sectarian violence, the less sectarian violence there is. The whole Iraqi civil war was largely the work of Al Jazeera. Now that Al Jazeera has subdued its rhetoric, the civil war has subdued too.
    Analysts have several explanations for this change of heart. First and foremost, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are finally making peace. They traded courtesies and Saudi Arabia restored its ambassador to Qatar. Al Jazeera employees have made no mystery that they have been ordered to greatly reduce their criticism of Saudi policy (which, indirectly, also means of USA policy). Another explanation is that Qatar has another historical enemy, which is located just across from the straight: Iran. The more aggressive Iran becomes, the more anxious Qatar becomes. The undesired effect of Al Jazeera's civil war in Iraq has been to empower Iran. Iran was the net beneficiary of the Iraqi unrest. Eventually someone may have realized it and ordered a 180-degree change of course. For a while Al Jazeera presented Iran as the moral leader of the Islamic world, because it was standing up against the USA. Al Jazeera has now started criticizing Iran and in particular its president in a way that mirrors what Al Jazeera was doing to the Saudis in the past. There must also be a general feeling that helping terrorists (whether in Afghanistan or Iraq) against the USA has backfired badly: most terrorism is now targeting Islamic countries, from Pakistan to Algeria. It could also be that the change of strategy by the USA in Iraq has had an impact on Al Jazeera's feelings towards the USA: the USA turned out to be the only force defending Sunni minorities from Shiite militias, and eventually the USA even made deals with Sunni tribes (bypassing the Shiite government of Baghdad). More and more Muslims are coming to realize that, without the USA "occupation", the Sunnis would have been exterminated by the Shiites. Finally, there is a new class of economic, political and intellectual leaders that is fed with the pan-Islamic propaganda and much more interested in integrating with the Western world, although it is still taboo to say so.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Saudi Arabia: a vision of hell. There are many reasons to dislike Saudi Arabia.
    The way Islam is presented by Saudi Arabia probably ranks as number one. Saudi Arabia has engaged in a systematic campaign of annihilation of the historical record of Islam. See Unspeakable Islamic terrorism. Obviously the Saudis are afraid that a study of Islam's history would weaken the dogma. By erasing any evidence and even altering some facts (like changing the orientation of mosques), Saudi Arabia has de facto distorted Islam. (See my reconstruction of the history of Islam).
    All other religions are banned from Saudi Arabia. This started with Mohammed himself. Mecca before Mohammed was a model of religious tolerance: all religions were represented in its sanctuary. Mecca after Mohammed became a model of religious intolerance: only one god (Allah) was allowed. That was the whole point of Mohammed's revolution: to destroy all other gods. Therefore it would be unthinkable of tolerating other religions. The intolerance for other religions is the whole point of Islam. There are mosques in Rome, but it would be unthinkable that someone built a Christian church in Mecca. In fact, non-Muslims are banned from even setting foot in Mecca and Medina, whereas non-Christians are welcomed to any Christian church. The difference in the concept of the religion should be obvious. (This, incidentally, makes Islam a self-defeating religion of sorts: only Muslims have paid tribute to Mecca, whereas people from all religions pay tribute to Rome).
    School textbooks in Saudi Arabia reflect this racist attitude towards "infidels". Children are taught to hate infidels or at least to treat them like inferior beings. No surprise that so many of them grow up to become terrorists.
    Prostitutes are imported from all over the world, mostly bought from poor families.
    Muslim women, on the other hand, are forbidden even the most superficial of contact with men other than their family members. A special kind of police routinely arrests and flogs women who are caught alone with a male who is not a brother or a father.
    Slavery is still practiced throughout the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the areas that are forbidden to non-Muslims, such as Mecca and Medina.
    Saudi Arabia is the worst possible advertisement for Islam. It is as close as one can get to hell on Earth.
    It is appalling that the USA, the self-appointed defender of democracy, entertains friendly relations with the one country that represents the exact opposite of democracy, tolerance and civil rights.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) The Arab gap in education. The Arab world has accumulated centuries of cultural gaps with the West. It did not adopt the printing press until the 18th century. It has translated in a thousand years fewer foreign books than Spain alone translates in a year. It does not teach modern Physics and Biology. It does, alas, teach non-Islamic religion and philosophy (there are more schools of Islamic studies in London alone than schools of non-Islamic studies in the entire Islamic world). Knowledge of the world in the Arab region falls way behind any other region in the world, whether rich or poor.
    A World Bank report of 2008 showed that the Arab region has not enjoyed the same increase in education witnessed in Asia and Latin America. The gender gap, in particular, remains the biggest in the world, depriving the region of 50% of its human power. Enrolment in universities remains very low by international standards.
    Arab regimes specialize in coming up with all sorts of excuses for the Arab world's shortcomings, and they specialize in blaming everybody else (notably Israel and the West), but the truth is that this problem is very much rooted in the modern Arab mentality. When asked why so many scientists and writers are Jewish, a Jew once told me "We have been persectued for centuries and we only had our brains to use as weapons". The Arabs routinely assume that they are victims of Jewish and Christian and Hinduist and Communist and whatever conspiracies and assume that they only have their "bodies" to use as weapons. Thus the Arab societies generate more suicide bombers than the rest of the world combined, and more suicide bombers in one year than the rest of the world in a century, while they produce fewer Nobel Prizes than any other region of the world except for sub-Saharan Africa. Not a single modern invention has come from the Arab world. Just six centuries ago it was the exact opposite.
    Notably missing from the landscape of Arab cities is the bookstore, which is ubiquitous in Western, Chinese, Indian, Latin American and black African cities. Very few Arabs read, even fewer read non-religious books, even fewer read foreign books. The the Arab Human Development Report, compiled by a group of distinguished Arab intellectuals led by Egyptian mathematician Nader Fergany, pointed out that the Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one fifth of the number that a tiny country like Greece alone translates. The social function of the bookstore in the Arab world is played by the mosques and other public religious places, where one gets zero information about the latest intellectual debtaes and controversies (other than the anti-Jewish conspiracy theory du jour). It doesn't help that more and more Arabs have access to the Internet because more and more websites are blocked by their regimes. The information that Arabs can access on the Internet is as controlled as the foreign books that they can read in translation. In a region that specializes in conspiracy theories, it is amazing that nobody notices this obvious conspiracy to keep the Arab masses as ignorant as possible.
    Arabs specialize in blaming the Jews for all evils, but they underestimate how important education has been in the history of the world. No matter what was happening to them, every Jewish community in the world has always had its own high education facilities and a printing press. In fact, they were more educated than the gentiles who persecuted them. Galileo and Newton happened just decades after Jews started migrating into Italy (after the 1557 edict that created the ghetto of Rome to accomodate the refugees from Spain) and Britain (after the 1655 removal of the ban on Jews). German science boomed after 1881 (Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, lots of electrical inventions) when German Jews were the best integrated. And, of course, today the scientific superpower is the USA, that has the largest and best integrated Jewish community.
    To these days there is a disproportionate number of Jewish professors and PhD students in just about every country where there are Jews. Out of a population of 300 million, the Arabs won 3 Nobel Prizes. Out of a population of 13 million the Jews won 160 (see this article). Now compare with the Arab world...
    60% of the Arab region is under 30 years of age. This means that there are about 2000 million young Arabs who have little or no education, and even scant hopes for a job (the Arab countries would need to create 100 million jobs in the next 15 years in order to satisfy their fast-growing population).
    What the Arab countries are creating is the perfect recipe for a further increase in suicide bombers and a permanent failure to raise Nobel Prizes.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) The Balkanization of the Middle East. As one travels through the Middle East, the most common political argument is over Israel. Citizens of Islamic states, and particularly Arabs, repeat like a mantra that the creation of Israel has been the source of all conflicts.
    This could not be farther from the truth. The creation of Israel has certainly caused the West a lot of trouble. But it is wishful thinking (if not sheer blindness) to think that Israel is the only cause of conflict in the Middle East. In fact the biggest bloodsheds in recent history have rarely involved Israel. The war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s killed one million people. The civil war in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites has already killed more than 100,000 people. The Kurdish war of independence in Turkey has been going on for decades. The Iraqi persecution of Kurds under Saddam Hussein caused more than 100,000 dead. Even Islamic terrorism has mostly killed Muslims. The most devastating civil war before Iraq's was Lebanon's, which was partially ignited by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but was largely fueled by local clans. Even the Palestinian conflict is not a solely Israeli problem: the biggest massacre of Palestinians was carried out by Jordan ("Black September"). The Muslim Brotherhood was and is persecuted by Arab states such as Egypt and Syria (Syria killed 20,000 of them in one week in the old days of Hafez Assad).
    The truth therefore is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just one of the many that have devastated the Middle East since the end of colonialism. Over the centuries the Middle East (like most of the world) has been stable only when a dominant regional power kept the ethnic and religious tension in check: first the Umayads/Abbassids, then the Ottomans, then the European powers. When colonialism ended and all these states became independent, trouble began. When the USA tried to introduce democracy (i.e. weaken the power of dictators), trouble increased, not decreased (possibly another sign that violence is endemic in this part of the world, and not caused by just one event of 1948).
    Intellectuals of the Islamic world may never admit it publicly, but in private they recognize that the Middle East lacks a regional power comparable to Russia, China, India, the European Union, etc, capable of arbitrating and, if necessary, invading. The USA is a surrogate regional power: it is too far, too distracted by so many geopolitical issues, and ultimately too indifferent to the long-term destiny of the Middle East.
    The Ottoman empire played that function for centuries. After its collapse, the Middle East became a larger version of the Balkans: a place in which history has created multiple fault lines, and in which ultimately everybody hates everybody else for one reason or another. There is no country that can aspire to the role of regional superpower, of successor to the Ottomans. Israel is the military superpower of the Middle East, but it is not Muslim and not Arab. It would have to undertake a major war of conquest in order to be accepted as the regional ruler. Iran is not Arab and not Sunni (most Arab countries are Sunnis). There is historical resentment in Iran against Arabs, who are seen as barbarians. Turkey is not Arab and modern Turkey (founded after the collapse of the Ottoman empire) is even hostile to Islam in politics. Turkey might eventually become a "role model" for the rest of the Islamic world, but it is unlikely to be accepted as a military leader. The Arab League is divided and powerless. Its member states are better at bickering than at cooperating. Egypt claims its historical role of cultural capital of the Islamic world. So does Iraq. However Egypt has become much poorer than "barbaric" Saudi Arabia and the emirates that used to be mostly famous for piracy. The Arab League is even more of an abstraction than the European Union.
    The emerging power is Saudi Arabia. In a few years the GDP of the Arabian peninsula may surpass the combined GDP of the entire Islamic world, if Iran and Iraq don't solve their problems. However Saudi Arabia is hardly the kind of role model that the West would like to see in the region: a brutal, primitive dictatorship steeped in a feudal society that creates many more suicide bombers than scientists. Saudi Arabia represents pretty much everything that the West stands against. However, it may be the only hope for stability in the Middle East. If Saudi Arabia rapidly evolved towards a modern liberal democracy, it could be accepted even by the non-Arab countries (Israel, Turkey and Iran) as the regional referee. Alas, it is hard to find any sign of hope in the domestic policy of Saudi Arabia.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Islam and democracy. A number of Western scholars have repeated the mantra that Islam and democracy are inherently incompatible because Islam prescribes that the earthly ruler is a divine agent of sorts. Therefore Islam de facto forbids revolutions such as the French and USA revolutions that started the process of democratization in the West.
    Muslim scholars respond that Bangladesh and Indonesia (and, occasionally, Pakistan) are among the largest democracies in the world, and that Turkey became democratic even before European countries such as Spain.
    I think they are both correct. What neither dare say aloud is that Islam is an Arab concept, rooted in centuries of tribal psychology even before Mohammed claimed to hear it from Allah. Democracy and Islam have been traditionally incompatible in the Arab world, not in the whole Islamic world. It is in the Arab world that Islamists consistently win democratic elections (Algeria, Palestine, Iraq), thus causing the continuous abortion of the democratic process. Someone once told me that the likelihood and extent of democratization is proportional to the distance from Mecca. Istanbul is closer to Mecca than Casablanca, but it is also more democratic. Psychology matters more than geography: Casablanca is closer to the Arabian psyche than Istanbul.
    In fact, if one omits the Arab world, it is not clear at all that Islam has been a worse influence on politics than Catholicism. Catholic countries were mostly run by dictators for as long as the Catholic religion was the dominant ideology in that part of the world (southern Europe and Latin America). It was not a coincidence. Protestant countries had a much looser system of Christian power that did not interfere with political evolution. They adopted democracy decades before the Catholic countries and without any of the traumas of Italy (Mussolini), Spain (Franco), Germany (Hitler), and Latin America (countless "caudillos").
    Democracy in the Catholic world remained a contradiction in terms for as long as the Catholic Church remained such a dominant force in society.
    Since Islam does not rest on a colossal and all-pervasive bureaucracy like the Catholic Church, it has never been able to exert the same kind of direct political influence.
    Where Islam competes with the Catholic Church (politically speaking) is in the way it aims at controlling the daily lives of its subjects. The Catholic Church had to enact papal edict after papal edict to dictate norms of daily living in the Catholic world. Islam has a more powerful tool: its holy book, the Quran, and the associated Hadith explicitly define many aspects of political, social, domestic and individual life. The Catholic Church could not rely on the Gospels to tell people what to do because the Gospels prescribed very few actions. Islamic clerics worldwide don't need the equivalent of the Catholic Church to tell Muslims how to live their lives: it's written in the Quran (and in the Hadith).
    The Arab world tends to interpret the Quran literally. And this is due, in my opinion, to the fact that the Quran was written by Arabs, building on centuries of Arab political, social, domestic and individual traditions. The rest of the Islamic world does not identify in the laws of the Quran as much as an Arab of the Arab peninsula does.
    One of the most unique aspects of Islamic states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), i.e. in the Arab world, is the percentage of people who believe that the Quran comes from God: virtually 100%. Today there is no other religion that can claim such a success among its faithfuls. Even more striking for Catholics is to see how "male" Islam is: the most zealous Catholics have always been women, whereas the most zealous Muslims are men. (A feminist friend noticed that Islam is the most male-biased religion ever invented, which may explain its success among men).
    The contries of the Islamic world that have transitioned towards democracy and towards gender equality are the ones in which the masses are more influenced by their own traditions than by the Arab traditions, i.e. in which the Quran and the Hadith are less of a dogma (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Central Asia, West Africa).
    There is an "Arab tribal" element in Islam that dictates a lifestyle that has little appeal for most people in the Islamic world (who therefore try to pulled it out of Islam) but still has a strong appeal for most people (or, at least, for most men) in the Arab world. The very idea of people rising up against a dictator is alien to Arab culture, that has traditionally recognized the dictator has a divine messenger of sorts (it is even written in the Quran).
    Before the terrorist attacks on the USA of 2001, and the consequent pressures by the USA, the recent history of the Arab world had in fact showed a trend in the opposite direction (see The rise of the Quran). Shariha (Islamic law) has never been so popular (at least among the 50% of the Arabs who are male). Only stubborn USA intervention has kept hope alive for democracy in the Arab world, but history teaches that outside pressure often backfires.
    It is hard to find a sizeable homegrown grass-roots movement for democracy in any Arab country. The heroes of people who live or lived in Western, Latin American, East Asian and Sub-Saharan dictatorships are the pro-democracy fighters, such as Suu Kyi in Burma or Mandela in South Africa. Even in the democratic world the most popular heroes are usually those people who fight for greater democracy, political honesty and transparency. On the contrary, the heroes of the Arab world are either long dead or dictators or terrorists. Arab intellectuals who fight for more democracy are rarely as popular as the religious movements that fight for a stronger influence of Islam in politics.
    In fact, the penetration of Arab ideas into the Western European and USA societies may lead to a loss of democracy in those countries. One wonders what is more likely to happen: that a Middle East largely devoid of non-Muslims moves towards non-Muslim ideals (such as democracy) or that a West "invaded" by millions of Muslim immigrants moves towards Muslim ideals (such a limitation of democracy).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Becoming a suicide bomber. There are two resources that seem to be unlimited in the Arab world: oil and suicide bombers. There seems to be an unlimited supply of Muslims willing to blow themselves up in the name of Allah. Most of them end up killing fellow Muslims. The suicide bombers seem more eager to die than to actually kill their targets (who are often generic, unnamed civilians). The non-Islamic world is appalled that there are so many Muslims eager to die. If just one USA citizen became a suicide bomber, the country would search its soul to explain the aberration. Ditto for Europe, Russia, China, India, Latin America, Africa. There have been cases of soldiers willing to die for their country, but little that can be considered a precedent for "ordinary" civilians who decide to die for the sole purpose of killing some random civilians guilty by association with a government, state, ethnic group, religion, continent. In any case, no country could ever find so many civilians willing to commit suicide, and in such a barbaric manner.
    Whether Arabs admit it or not, there must be something in Arab society that makes it more likely for ordinary people to accept extremely brutal violent behavior, from beheading to suicide bombing. This in itself would be worth an analysis. In my travels through the Arab world, i have consistently found that Arabs rank among the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world. It is hard to conceive of these people as more prone to brutal violence than, say, the Austrians who insulted me for sitting on a sidewalk or the French railway employee who refused to sell me a ticket because i could speak four languages but not French. On the other hand, it is a historical fact that in the Arab world the most peaceful people have coexisted with the most violent people throughout the centuries. It is almost as if an Arab's genome contains both sets of genes, the super-peaceful and the super-violent, and the violent one is normally disabled but could manifest itself at any time with little or no notice.
    There is however another aspect of Arab society that might explain how ordinary peaceful individuals become suicide bombers: Arabs have a propensity to believe and spread any sort of rumour. In a sense, they are among the most persistent and least skeptic gossipers in the world. Sit at any cafe from Damascus to Casablanca and you will hear dozens of stories being told and refined over and over again, from domestic quarrels between spouses to conspiracy theories about Israel. Most of these stories exaggerate or distort the facts. Some are pure lies. But repeat them a thousand times and they will acquire a reality of their own. If you repeat a lie many times, it will begin to sound like the truth. The bigger the lie the more likely that it will be believed (as Adolf Hitler wisely noticed).
    Most of these "lies" that are quickly believed and spread like wildfire have a nationalistic underpinning. For example, many Arabs believe that the first monotheistic religion appeared in Arabia, not in Israel. Many Arabs believe that America was first discovered by Arab travelers. Come up with a good story about how an Arab may have landed on the Moon before the USA and your story will become very popular in a matter of weeks.
    A CIA operative, Robert Baer, was shocked to find out that a teenage suicide bomber from Afghanistan (who had been arrested before he could carry out his suicide attack) was motivated by a ridiculous story that he had been told in his city by Al Qaeda operatives: that Pakistan's president Musharaf was a Jew. This kind of lies are common in the Arab world. They are difficult to disproof. I can claim that you, the reader of this article, are homosexual. How can you prove than you have never engaged in homosexuality? In the Arab world the burden of proof lies with the defendant, not with the prosecutor. Some suicide bombers are simply trying to avenge a death in the family, but many others have no personal reason to kill (sometimes they don't even belong to the country on behalf of which they blow themselves up). They have been brainwashed to believe something and they grew up in a society in which few people dare ask for evidence before believing something. It is not the accuser who has an agenda: it is the defender who has an agenda. If i blame Israel for a car accident in Morocco, i am taken seriously by many people. If i question the accusation, i am viewed as a friend of Israel.
    As one travels through the Arab world, one meets people who are angry at the West, at the USA, at Christians, at Indians, and at Israel for reasons that could be easily proven falso. Someone was angry that so many Muslims had been killed in the USA after the 2001 terrorist attacks (no Muslim was killed). Another one was angry that the USA was stealing the oil of Kosovo (there is virtually no oil in Kosovo). Another one told me that the USA was helping India kill thousands of Muslims in Hitler-style concentration camps. Another was angry because every USA soldier is given an Iraqi woman to rape (this was apparently in a Turkish movie that became a hit in the Middle East). It does not take a lot of time to find out how credible these rumours are, especially in the age of Google. But the Arab mind seems to be fine-tuned for believing the most unlikely stories.
    The fact that the Arab world still ranks at the bottom in most statistics about education is part of the explanation. Ignorance of history and science leads ordinary folks to believe any story. In every society the least educated are the easiest victims of the demagogues. Arab societies are still more interested in teaching religion than teaching science and history (Arabs routinely confuse Quran, science and history). The result is vast masses of uneducated people. They not only have no access to knowledge tools, but they wouldn't know how to use them anyway. If you have never studied science, it is unlikely that you have the "scientific" mindset that comes with studying science. Therefore you are much more likely to believe rumours without requiring a proof. If you have not studied history, you are not only more likely to believe any story about past history but also less trained to debunk it. There is a "method" that comes with modern education that is missing in large segments of the Arab society. I heard even physicians quote the Quran to explain a disease. And when i asked a college student if he had studied the "Big Bang" theory, he replied that it was in the Quran. The truth is that most Arabs are perfectly happy with this state of things: it is enough to know that the Big Bang is in the Quran, and not necessary at all to learn the equations of Relativity that are the basis of that theory, nor to learn the mathematical tools required to understand those equations, nor to learn the elements of Physics that are required to even think about it (all of these are actually harmful because they would show clearly that whatever is in the Quran bears little resemblance with the Big Bang theory).
    There is no other region of the world that has such a low density of bookstores. It is difficult to buy a non-religious book in the Arabian peninsula, let alone a foreign book translated into Arabic (very few have been translated anyway) and virtually impossible to find any book that talks about the problems of the Islamic world (of which hundreds have been published by Arab authors in the West). See the Arab Human Development Report by a group of distinguished Arab intellectuals led by Egyptian mathematician Nader Fergany.
    It may not be a coincidence that, for example, Morocco (a country that has greatly benefited from USA aid and never been even remotely invaded by the USA) ranked at the bottom of the World Bank report on Education in the Arab world and at the top of the countries that hate the USA in the Pew global attitude poll.
    The reluctance to study science and history and the passion for storytelling are likely to be one and the same phenomenon. And the passion for storytelling may become a deadly weapon.
    It does not help that the Quran contains so many sentences that can be interpreted as mandating violence (See Intolerance and modern Islam).
    And it does not help that the West practices its own version of terrorism, although with no suicide bombers (See Western vs Islamic terrorism).
    The USA did not help either by consistently lying to the Arabs: Colin Powell was lying when he told the United Nations that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld was lying when he told the media that there was no trouble in Iraq, George W Bush lied when he declared "mission accomplished", etc. In 1991 the USA presented a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl (known only by her first name, Nayirah) who claimed to have been raped by advancing Iraqi troops (see this article). Today we know that the girl wasn't even in Kuwait at the time.
    Their own dictators have been consistently lied about everything to the Arab masses. Even the Arabs who riot in the streets against Israel are well aware that Israel has been consistently used as a scapegoat by their regimes.

    Finally, all of this came together and became exponentially more significant after the birth of Al Jazeera, an immensely popular news channel that specializes in precisely this kind of lies (see Best Al Jazeera lies). Al Jazeera legitimizes all sorts of conspiracy theories and amplifies their emotional impact. The cartoons published by a small Danish newspaper become a conspiracy by the whole Christian world. A rape by a USA soldier becomes the normal behavior of all USA soldiers. Musharraf becomes a traitor of Islam. And so forth.
    Therefore one cannot be too harsh on the Arab public opinion for believing the most ridiculous conspiracy theories. Western and Arab regimes started it. Everybody has been taking advantage of the Arab masses, from the regimes that lie to the terrorists who brainwash them.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Jerusalem, holy city of Islam... or not? For a city that has been the cause of countless wars that killed millions, one would expect that Jerusalem is a holy Islamic city. Ask any Muslim, and he will reply that Jerusalem is holy because Mohammed (the founder of Islam) flew there and from there he flew to paradise. Most Muslims are convinced that this story is in the Quran. Thus the legitimacy of Islam's claim on Jerusalem as one of their holy cities.
    Ironically, it turns out that Muslims don't know their own religion and their own history: the Quran never mentions Jerusalem, not once.
    The legend of Muhammad's "night flight" to Jerusalem and his "ascent" to paradise is a popular legend loosely based on the 17th sura (17:1). That sura simply mentions a journey to the "most distant mosque". It does not name any city. The "most distant mosque" from Mecca was probably in Medina, because Mohammed died before the expansion of Islam outside Arabia. The sura does not talk about a "flight" but simply a "journey by night". And technically speaking the sura says that it was Mohammed's servant, not Mohammed himself, who traveled by night to the most distant mosque.
    The inscriptions in the Dome of the Rock (the holiest Muslim monument in Jerusalem) make no mention whatsoever of such a night flight. It sounds like the legend was not known to the (ninth) caliph who ordered the construction of the Dome of the Rock, nor to the Muslims of subsequent generations who decorated it.
    This is one of those self-defeating arguments that are every religion's specialty: either the mosque of the 17th sura existed in Mohammed's time or it didn't. If it did, then it could not be located in Jerusalem, because there was no mosque in Jerusalem in Mohammed's time. If the mosque did not exist and was only figurative speech, then the "night fly" is just a metaphor (possibly for his departure from this planet). Either way, there is no mention in the Quran of Jerusalem.
    Not only is Jerusalem never mentioned in the Quran but it was not even named in Arabic until much later. The area containing Jerusalem was called Filastin by the Umayyads and Abbasids (after the Roman name "Philistine") and its capital was Ramla. Jerusalem was called Ilya in Arabic, which is simply the name the Romans gave it (Aeolia Capitolina). Jerusalem was never the capital of anything under the Arab caliphs. Basically, until the Christians claimed it back the Muslims could care less: the law of supply and demand determined its political value. After the Muslims reconquered it, Jerusalem again was forgotten. It never was the capital of anything of substance under the Ottomans. Again, its value abruptly skyrocketed when the Zionist Jews claimed it back, until reaching the ridiculous fanatical importance that it enjoys today.
    Bottom line: it appears that Mohammed's "night fly" is just an excuse to hold on to a piece of land.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) Ethnic purity in Saudi Arabia. Today the Gulf Times bears the headline: "Saudi Arabia backs limit on expat residency". There are millions of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. The newspaper says that Saudi Arabia will introduce a limit to how long they can stay in order to "prevent them from gaining a political voice". It quotes Saudi Arabia's labour minister, Ghazi Al-Godsaibi, as saying: "We do not want the day to come when we are forced to allow the foreign workers to be represented in our parliament or municipal councils".
    On the same day the Arab newspapers report the controversy started in Britain by a Muslim cleric who asked to broadcast the "call to prayer" over Oxford (see this article). Not only have the children of Muslim immigrants been allowed to practice their faith, to run for office, to be elected to parliament, to build mosques and to print the Quran, but they are now even demanding the right to wake up the Christian world with the Muslim call to (Islamic) prayer. Once you give immigrants the basic civil rights and a path to citizenship, you have committed your society to be altered by them.
    That is precisely what Saudi Arabia wants to avoid. There will be no Christian, Hindu or Buddhist influence on Saudi Arabian society. Period.
    The very constitution of Saudi Arabia requires that all citizens be Muslims (and, de facto, Sunni Muslims). There is no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. The "Mutaween" religious police (usually translated into English as "the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice") enforces the prohibition of any public non-Muslim practice. Non-Muslims are even forbidden to enter Mecca or Medina and most mosques (compare with Christianity and Buddhism that welcome anybody into their churches and temples). The punishment for Muslims who convert to another religion (even from Sunni Islam to Shiite Islam) is the death penalty. Saudi Arabia is de facto a kind of religious apartheid.
    Even the way workers are recruited around the world is clearly biased. islamic countries are clearly favored: 1.5 million Bangladeshis (all Muslims), 1 million Pakistanis (all Muslims), 1 million Egyptians (all Muslims), 600 thousand Indonesians (mostly Muslims), 1.5 million Indians (mostly Muslims), 1.2 million Filipinos (mostly Muslims), 250 thousand Palestinians (mostly Muslims), 150 thousand Lebanese (mostly Muslims), 100 thousand Eritreans (mostly Muslims). Many of them actually lie about their faith in order to get the job. For example, the embassy of the Philippines once reported that most of the Filipino community was Christian. And even the imported Muslims belong to different branches of Islam. There are finally 400 thousand Sri Lankans, 350 thousand Nepalese and 30,000 USA citizens who are clearly non-Muslim. None of these is allowed to become a Saudi citizen. Their children are not welcome to stay. There will never be the kind of multi-ethnic communities that Europe and the USA are used to.
    While the West is slowly becoming more and more Islamic, the Islamic world is busy retaining its purely Islamic essence. There is no doubt what the Saudi clerics think this means in the long term. You have to be very naive to imagine that they are not conspiring to turn the whole world into an Islamic empire. Many Europeans are worried about this slow and unstoppable Islamization of Europe.
    The situation, though, is surprisingly reminiscent of the Roman Empire. The Saudis, like most Muslims, didn't study ancient history and may have missed an interesting precedent. For three centuries the Roman empire persecuted Christians, who were mainly slaves (just like today the non-Muslims are foreign workers). The early Christians were forced to respect the "pagan" religion of the Roman Empire (just like today the foreign workers are forced to respect Islam). The Christians had to practice in secret, mostly in private residences or underground (just like today the foreign workers of Saudi Arabia). Initially they were a minority. The "mutaween" officers should pick up a history book (once in their lifetime) and check who won in the long term.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) What is different about Islam. The ideology and theology of Islam are a matter of controversy (see my A brief history of Islam) but its public behavior is not because it is even too explicit. As someone who has visited 121 countries of the world, 20 of which are Islamic, i can see an obvious difference between Islam and the other religions of the world, best represented by this:

    Throughout the Islamic world any website that offers a non-orthodox historical assesment of Islam is blocked. Muslims worldwide can only see the orthodox dogma. (Ditto for television and for printed matter).
    In 2008 there is no other religion that forbids any critical discussion of itself. There is no place on Earth where Buddhist, Jewish, Hinduist, Christian or Animist debates are forbidden. Islam is the only totalitarian religion left on the planet.
    When Wikipedia published pictures of Mohammed (the man whom Muslims believe to be a prophet), Muslims worldwide mobilized to ban such pictures from Wikipedia. This is one of the emails that circulated on the Internet: "Wikipedia site has published the image of our prophet Mohammad SAS. Please sign the petition on the below mentioned link to have it removed". (The prohibition against showing the face of Mohammed is a modern superstition whose Islamic foundation is even dubious).
    In every religion the orthodox dogma prevails over historical accuracy, but in no other religion this dogma of all dogmas is enforced like it is in Islam. Besides showing that Islam is the weakest of all religions (otherwise it wouldn't be so paranoid about hiding the historical truth), these episodes also show why Islam is so despised, feared and "misunderstood" (as most Muslims put it) in the non-Islamic world, from China to India to Russia to Africa to the West. Trying to censor every single item that "offends" Islam is a good way to reinforce the "prejudices" against Islam all over the world.
    Some Muslims just don't get it.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2008) A change of heart on suicide bombings. Just three years ago (2005) i found that support for suicide bombers was at an all-time high in places like Jordan. Excuses ranged from "we only have our bodies to use as weapons" to "infidels don't count as people" to "Israel and the USA kill a lot more innocents". A Pew survey of july 2007 registered a sharp decline in support for suicide bombings throughout the Islamic world. And today in the mostly English-speaking Arabian peninsula it is hard to find any article (even the most corrosive anti-Israeli rant) that blesses a suicide bombers.
    Two things have changed dramatically the perception of suicide bombings. The first one is quite simple: Saddam Hussein was defeated, arrested, tried and hanged. He was the main supporter of suicide bombers in Palestine. The second thing is even simpler: Iraq has become the main stage for suicide bombings. It's the usual story: the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children. Suicide bombing was invented by Khomeini's Iran during the war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was so successful that it migrated from Shiite Iran to Shiite Lebanon (in 1983 when a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 241 marines in the USA barracks of Beirut) and then to Sunni Palestine. The Palestinians turned it into an efficient killing machine since the intifada that started in 2000 (see this article). The first suicide attack against Israel was carried out by Hamas in april 1994 (in "retaliation" for the slaughter of 29 Muslims in february 1994 in Hebron by Jewish madman Baruch Goldstein) and killed eight people in Afula. 120 Israelis died in attacks between 1994 and september 2000. Then between 2000 and spring 2005 dozens of suicide attacks killed more than 500 Israelis. The Palestinians were proud of the price inflicted on the Israelis, and so was (to a large extent) the Islamic public opinion of the world. Little did they know how suicide bombing would be used shortly thereafter. Starting in august 2003 (when a suicide bomber blew up the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad), suicide bombers have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. Ironically, the vast majority of the victims have been Shiites. The loop that started in Shiite Iran has now been closed in Shiite Iraq.
    By comparison the number of Israelis, British, Spanish and USA citizens killed by suicide bombers is small.
    Now that the vast majority of victims are Muslims, the public opinion in the Islamic world has turned against suicide bombers. Al Zarqawi's attack in Jordan's capital Amman of november 2005 was also influential in changing the public mood there: it mainly killed Jordanians. So was the attack in Morocco of may 2003. As suicide attacks spread throughout the Arab world, support for suicide bombers quickly vanished in the Arab world.
    Suddenly, the most quoted passage of the Quran is not the one in which Mohammed promises paradise to the mujaheddin who dies in the jihad but the one in which Mohammed prohibits suicide, no matter what. The beauty of religion is that one can always conveniently twist its meaning.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Report from a trip to the Middle East
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Articles on the Arab world before 2008
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