by Barry Rubin
When one crazed or ideologically obsessed gunman starts shooting in Arizona, people condemn him and start bemoaning their society. How about a place with ten million people like that who are treated as heroes?
America this week is awash in a huge and passionate debate over whether angry political disagreements and harsh criticisms of certain views or groups inspired the attack on an American congresswoman (Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, by the way). I'm not going to enter into that argument right now but I want to point out the Middle Eastern ramifications of what's going on here.
Every day for more than a half century, Arabs and Muslims have been inundated every day with hatred for Israel, America, the West, Jews, and often Christians. You can read transcripts of Syrian broadcasts or Palestinian speeches from 50 years ago that sound just like what was said in the same places yesterday by powerful and/or respectable figures and institutions.
Let's say that the proportion of lies, slanders, and incitement in the American discourse is one-tenth of one percent of all the words spoken on controversial issues. The equivalent figure for the Middle East is well over 95 percent.
In addition to that tone, there is also virtually not only a lack of balance but an absence of the other side altogether.
And in addition to those two points, the level of factual accuracy has a huge gap (though, admittedly, that gap has been narrowing in recent years as Western standards decline).
And in addition to those three points, where extremists tend to be marginal in the United States, they are in control--either politically or at least rhetorically--throughout most of the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds.
Thus, the level of incitement, imbalance, lies, and the hegemony of hatred in that part of the world towers above that in the West like the World Trade Center towers over an anthill.
Oh, the World Trade Center doesn't exist any more. Well, that has something to do with this situation, too, doesn't it?
Or to put it another way, in the Middle East, the crackpot is more credible than the rational or factual.
I won't take your time with lots of examples but one might start with the widespread belief that the U.S. government or Israel carried out the September 11 attacks coupled with the belief-held often by the same people-that it was a great thing to do. Or all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about Israel, as in the cases mentioned here.
Here's one of many such items that come across my desk each day. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the PA,
The al-Aqsa Institute for Religious Affairs, which the PA controls, accuses Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being behind this "Satanic plot."
Or, this one: All mothers undoubtedly love their children but only in Iran there's now a special day when mothers take their babies to a ceremony where they vow to make them martyrs in Jihad. (Funny, contrary to what is taught in Western schools they don't define Jihad as inner spiritual striving.) And not many mothers in Western democratic states hold celebrations after their kids blow themselves up in an attempt to murder as many civilians as possible.
Now, let me ask some questions:
--If America is horrified in claiming that a tiny amount of mostly marginal extremism inspires one mad man to murder six people and try to kill a politician, how much violence can be traced to hundreds of thousands of mosques, media, teachers, and mainstream politicians daily preaching hatred literally millions of times a day?
--If the discourse throughout the Arabic-speaking world, Iran, increasingly in Turkey, and generally in Muslim-majority countries is almost 100 percent incitement, how can there be partners for peace or a hope of stability? What good do concessions do when the next day the culture of incitement and hatred goes on at full speed?
--If the degree of anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Jewish, and anti-Christian incitement is 100,000 times more intense and mainstream than any "Islamophobic" discourse in the West, while mitigating discourse-i.e., empathy, positive images, etc., toward "the other"-is one thousandth of a percent less, then which of these phenomenon is a greater threat and problem?
--And why should the overwhelming majority of Western schools, media, academics, officials, and so on pretend that the above facts don't exist?
Or let me put it more graphically: If a man goes out to shoot a politician whose policies he doesn't like then in America he is likely to be insane. If a man goes out to shoot members of an ethnic or other group he doesn't like, then in America (unless perhaps he's an Islamist terrorist), he is considered a terrorist or someone committing a hate crime.
But in the Middle East, people are almost considered insane if they do NOT do these things, or at least support others performing such deeds. And as public opinion polls demonstrate, those are not considered to be evil, marginal lunatics but heroes whose example should be followed.
Might this indicate that the proportion of self-flagellation over self-defense in the Western world is a tad too high?
Might this indicate in some way that there are certain differences in some other societies that make them think and act a bit different from Western democracies?
PS: The logical outcome of this is the Fort Hood massacre where the terrorist yelled "Allahu Akhbar!" as he shot down Americans, yet we were told to draw no conclusion from this or the mountain of evidence that he was a revolutionary Islamist.
I have not yet heard that the murderer in Tucson chanted, "Rush Limbaugh Akhbar!" even once.
Original URL: http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/2011/01/one-extremist-gunman-can-do-so-much-damage
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.