By Lee Howard Hodges
March 11, 2002
A whiny, self-pitying, narcissistic Muslim victimology characterizes most of the dialogue emanating from the Muslim world today. This is what I usually hear when I listen to Muslims discuss the problems within their societies as well as with the West.
Muslims are always the victims, never the perpetrators. They bear no responsibility for their predicaments. The world is a morality play, in which Muslims have been cast as the victims, and the West, particularly the U.S. and Israel, as the villains.
This victimology mentality, not U.S. foreign policy or Israel, is the root cause of the backward, oppressive condition the Muslim world finds itself in today.
Since September 11th, countless people have argued that American foreign policy mistakes caused the terrorism and hatred toward America emanating from the Middle East. This is simply a cop-out. It is hogwash.
American foreign policy has had many flaws around the world. Yet other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia and Latin America, have suffered far more from U.S. foreign policy than has the Middle East!
Even during the Vietnam War, however, it was rare to find a Vietnamese who hated America itself, as it is clear many Muslims do today. If U.S. foreign policy toward Muslims caused the terrorism of September 11th, why didn't U.S. misdeeds in Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, etc., cause any terrorism?
Over and over again, Muslims put U.S. support of Israel at the top of their grievances. There is much to criticize in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians -- particularly the greedy, provocative building of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Yet there is much to criticize the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors for as well.
Many Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1947-8 (although many others chose to leave). Yet why couldn't their Arab neighbors take them in -- just as Israel took in Jews forcibly expelled from Arab countries?
The Arab states cynically chose to have the Palestinians be perpetual "refugees" as a pawn to use against Israel. People are often expelled or displaced from their homelands during war, and politically sympathetic countries take them in all the time -- witness the immigration of many South Vietnamese to America after the fall of South Vietnam.
The Palestinians now have a national identity of their own. Yet what are they doing to gain their independence? Instead of skillfully using diplomacy as well as nonviolent resistance, like Gandhi did in India, they commit themselves to a hopeless struggle against Israel.
They send their children out to blow themselves up in pointless suicide bombings that have set back, rather than advanced, their cause. They demand a "right of return" that no Israeli government could ever possibly grant.
Don't the American Indians have an equal right to return to their old homes across the U.S.? Yet the U.S. government would never grant this in a million years. American Indians don't stay at war with the U.S. government, vow to demolish the U.S., and strap explosives to themselves to kill innocent men, women, and children!
To the West, Palestinians and their sympathizers have no moral credibility to condemn Israel if and when they publicly celebrate the suicide bombings of women and children! This is murder, not freedom-fighting!
The Palestinians need to accept Israel's basic existence. They do not need to accept the Zionist idea that Jews have a "birthright" to Palestine. This is a philosophical position, not a factual one.
The Palestinians, however, along with the rest of the Muslim world, needs to "come to terms" with Israel's existence, even if they believe Israel should never have been established in the first place, and stop the teaching of mindless hatred for Israel that is all too common in the Muslim world today.
Furthermore, the whole Muslim preoccupation with Israel reeks in hypocrisy. While Muslims condemn Israel incessantly for the Palestinian issue, they usually totally ignore the massive human rights abuses in Muslim countries
In 1988, Saddam Hussein murdered 5,000 Kurds with nerve gas. Shi'a Muslims, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's population, are harshly persecuted. Yet where do you here Muslims protesting all this?
As M.A. Muqtedar Khan noted, "In many Persian Gulf countries, laws and even salaries are based on ethnic origin. This is racism..." Yet why didn't we hear Muslims protest these practices at the Durban conference on racism? Instead, all of the focus was on condemning Israel as a "racist state."
Muslims frequently argue that the U.S. is hypocritical because it supports "repressive regimes" in the Middle East, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yet how is the U.S. supposed to "stand up for democracy" in dealing with countries that have never had any democratic traditions? Where are the democrats in Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
As Fouad Ajami notes, the Arab world has "...had authoritarian regimes since the dawn of its history." If the Egyptian and Saudi governments were toppled, we would likely see Taliban-style regimes take their place. They would be more oppressive than the existing order, not less.
It is not America's moral responsibility to create or foster "free societies" in the Muslim world. This is the responsibility of Muslims themselves. In addition, American leaders have a right and a duty to put their nations' self-interest first in formulating foreign policy -- as do the leaders of every other nation. This does not mean that nations should only care about themselves, but it does mean they can't do what others want without looking out for their own interests.
Until the Muslim world looks within and stops the "blame game" of scapegoating the U.S. and Israel for its problems, it will never reclaim the greatness it once enjoyed. A thousand years ago, the Muslim world led humanity in scientific achievement.
Today, Israel alone has nearly twice as many scientists as all Muslim countries put together. This cannot be explained by American foreign policy or Israel. Rather, it is a clear signal that Muslims must look inward in order to reclaim their societies.
Lee Howard Hodges, B.A. M.A. Historical Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore.