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Monday, May 7, 2007

The real battle lines in the "war of civilizations"

A man writes:

Previously, I had written that the war on terror was not only about security; we also highlighted the importance of improving education and religious discourse, and doing away with the features of extremism, however, today, it is inevitable that we approach the region, which seems, through the silence that surrounds it, to have become immune from blame, and it is always compulsory that discourse is addressed to the state, whether Saudi Arabia or otherwise.

At this point I would say that in the same manner that the state and the Saudi government has responsibilities and duties, every citizen has responsibilities and duties to protect himself, his family and his country. Where are the parents of those young men who became time-bombs whilst still in their adolescence? How did they go abroad to receive training on how to use weapons and change psychologically to such an extent, becoming time-bombs without their families sensing it?

In many quarters, this discourse will be dismissed by the politically correct as neocon rhetoric. Everybody knows that suicide bombers and terror are born of desperation, right? If we want to seek the real causes of terror, then we have to look in Tel Aviv and Washington, right? We have to liberate the oppressed victims of American and Jewish tyranny. So this man must be a Zionist, a neocon or a Fox News journalist.

But this man is not a "Zionist" neocon. He is not a journalist for Fox News. He is Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of As-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi Arabian journalist writing for a Saudi-run newspaper.

The epiphany is perhaps caused by the realization that the genie of terror and hate, once unleashed, does not stop abroad. As he writes:

If the Saudi authorities had been unsuccessful in uncovering the recent terrorist plot in the kingdom, the consequences would have resembled a destructive earthquake. The magnitude and the hideousness of the plans and the extent of their destruction are astonishing to any human being.

In reality, the fight of Al-Qaeda and its allies, and the fight of Mr. Ahmadinejad and his allies, the Hezbollah and the Hamas, are not aimed at the "Zionist entity" or the Great Satan, but rather at other Muslim and Arab regimes first and foremost. Osama Bin Laden made it clear that he wants to replace the "infidel" government of Saudi Arabia. He has his reasons we are sure. Who could not find reasons for wanting to rule a country that has one third of the world's proven petroleum reserves?

Alhomayed continues:

On my way from Washington, as I prepared to stay in Jeddah from where I would travel to London to resume my work, I registered my children in an international school in Jeddah so that they would not be affected by switching from one curriculum to another when my daughter turned to me and asked, "is it true that Jews originate from monkeys?" I asked her who had told her that and she replied, "A teacher, and she said that they are criminals because of what they are doing to the Palestinians and that they occupy their land."

I explained to my daughter that though the latter of the teacher's information may be correct and that they cause atrocities that she was too young to understand, her teacher had committed a crime against her as she was teaching her lies!

Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle!  Actually, I am a monkey's nephew if Charles Darwin was right, and so is Mr. Alhomayed, though it is forbidden to teach such things in Saudi Arabia. Now, if only Mr. Alhomayed had a bit more insight into the origins of the conflict between the Jews and Arabs of the country between the river and the sea, it would be even better. But we cannot ask for everything.

Mr. Alhomayed  asks:
Why is it the case that anyone who seeks to explain matters in a rational manner is presented as anti-religion? Nobody can prohibit you from practicing your rituals but who gives you the right to denounce some individuals as non-believers whilst praising others? For how long will the denial and placing the blame on others continue? Who is the "other" at a time when we see terrorism devastating the world and we know who the perpetrators are. They are damaging the Islamic religion and our countries.
Mr. Alhomayed asks good questions. Is it not always the case, and always has been the case in repressive societies, that "anyone who seeks to explain matters in a rational manner is presented as anti-religion?." (Or a traitor to the state). We have only to study the careers of Mr. Galileo Galilei and Mr. Darwin to know that it is so. Those who have power and keep it by force are always afraid of those who have knowledge and those who question. Truth is a deadly weapon.  The Middle East has not usually been a healthy place for people who ask questions.
It is even more interesting to ask why there are those in the West who insist on taking the part of the terrorists and the reactionary oppressors, and who insist on undermining the position of Muslim moderates. In reality there is a "war of civilizations" being fought here. But it is not a war between Muslims versus Christians and Jews. It is a war between those of us, whether we are Saudi or Jordanian or American or Israeli, Jewish, Christian, Atheist or Muslim, who understand that terror is reactionary and destructive, and those who have the illusion that it is "progressive" "resistance" against "colonialism" and "Zionism,"  whether they are living in Tehran or the caves of Afghanistan,  or writing for Counterpunch, The Guardian or The Nation. The main protagonists in this war are not in London or Tehran, but in Riyadh and Cairo and Damascus and Beirut and Jeddah and hiding out in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Inhabitants of the Middle East recognize this war, because it is extension of all the classic wars of the Middle East: the war of the cities against the desert. If we win the war, we can make a Middle East of all its citizens, that might indeed rival the Caliphate of Harun al Rashid - not dreams of ancient glories, but the substance of future prosperity. If we lose the war, then there will only be the wind whistling through the palm trees, blowing sand over the ruins of our cities, and a few miserable people living under the yoke of disease, poverty, repression, ignorance and the desert, as has been the case here for hundreds of years.
In brief, it is a war to make the Middle East safe for those who ask questions.
Ami Isseroff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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