Humiliation of Islam, a significant part of the engine for Twenty-first Century terrorism (a republication from 2008:)
Table of contents:
Causes of Islamic-terrorism: Humiliation:
Causes of Islamic-terrorism:
Causes of Islamic-terrorism: Religion.
An Oxymoron: Islam is a Peaceful Religion.
Islamic-terrorism: Elevating Islam’s stature.
The Need for Restoring Islamic Pride:
The use of surrogates and other means for attempting to restore Islamic Pride.
Ahmadinejad, the Non-Arab Muslim, and Iran’s role in terrorism:
The Surrogate Approach.
The Middle East, Iraq, and Islamic pride.
A Missed Opportunity to Restore Iraqi Pride.
Will restoration of Muslim Pride Eliminate the Conflict?.
A great deal of human conflict results from a desire for retribution. Those who seek vengeance are doing so mostly to make up for being humiliated. Humiliation is a trigger for conflict, be it among individuals, nations, or other human entities.
When President George Walker Bush of the United States called on the Iraqi insurgents to “Bring it on!” it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The President’s statement suggested, at least by implication, that the Iraqis were inferior to the Americans.
One may never know how much fuel was added to the Iraqi insurgency by the president’s statement; one does know, however, that President Bush now publicly admits that the statement was ill conceived.
Since the president’s statement applied to Iraq and to the Iraqi people without distinguishing between factions of that society, it likely contributed to uniting many splinter groups that otherwise would be opposing one another.
President Bush’s words caused many Iraqis and other Muslims to feel humiliated. More recently, President Bush and other public figures in America are referring to the insurgence as parts of fascist Islam, another perceived humiliating description to many Muslims. Since humiliation is a powerful motivation for action, Muslim terrorism was additionally fueled by the insensitivity demonstrated by this choice of words.
Humiliation can also occur when a perceived superior power fails to defeat one vastly inferior. The French experience in Vietnam, that of the USSR in Afghanistan, and of the USA in Somalia, Vietnam, and Korea, are but a few examples of humiliation of “superpowers” by [militarily] inferior nations. Most recently, when Israel and its sponsor, the United States, did not win a scrimmage with Hezbollah, it was a significant case of humiliation to the [perceived] militarily superior Israel, and a boost to Islam. It is likely that due to the humiliation Israel suffered, its government will be replaced a deal of public relations effort will be forthcoming to try and restore its pride.
Causes of Islamic-terrorism: Humiliation:
Present day international terrorism is in large part an Islamic movement. There are a number of motives to Islamic terrorism: One is a need for respect after a number of humiliating events Islam suffered in the 20th and 21st centuries.
One of the principal causes of Muslim terrorism is the archaic nature of the Koran, and Islam. Without modern interpretations, the Koran calls for its followers to commit acts that are not compatible with behavior of the civilized world.
Some of the most powerful recent events that contributed to Islamic humiliation started in 1948 with the Israeli War of Independence. They were followed by four other wars (1956, war over Israeli access to the Suez Canal; 1967, the Six-Day War; 1973, war with Egypt; 1982, Israel into Lebanon,) between the State of Israel and its Arab neighbors. The much smaller and poorer[ii][ii] Israel defeated all its surrounding Arab neighbors (including Iraq with which it has no common border). Israel’s consistent wins against Arab neighbors clearly constituted Muslim-Arab humiliation.
Adding to humiliation by Israel, the ease at which United States twice defeated Saddam Hussein, the most [militarily] powerful of all Arab nations added fuel to Arab-Muslim humiliation.
In addition to tangible causes of humiliation, words are often added sources of embarrassment. President Bush choice of words is a case in point. Humiliation often occurs when one participant in a conflict demonstrates open disregard for the opponent’s capabilities. An example of such a situation was an off-the-cuff remark attributed to Israel’s General Moshe Dayan. While serving as a war correspondent in Vietnam, Dayan was asked what was the secret to his military success? As the story goes, his reply was immediate and spontaneous. Allegedly, he said that he was blessed by a choice of enemy.
Consistent with Dayan’s reply is Raphael Patai’s description of Arabs as people who engage in rhetorics, not action. In his book, The Arab Mind(New York: Hatherleigh Press, 2002 revision; 1stedition, 1973, Scribner), Patai states that Arabs characteristically substitute words for action, and offers an example of that part of their nature. In The Arab Mind Patai quotes from a response by an Egyptian official to a Time interview in 1971:
When Arabs argue, they start on opposite sidewalks and shout at one another, “I will carve you into pieces!” And “you’ll never live to see another sunset!” Then, after ten or fifteen minutes, they walk away and nobody gets hurt.
Moshe Dayan’s response may have been demeaning and humiliating, but it was based on his personal experience; studies of the subject and my personal experience convince me that Dayan’s response appears to be a consistent reflection of the real world, and of Patai’s views.
Causes of Islamic-terrorism:
Economics, though it does not influence terrorists as does religion and humiliation, is without a doubt a significant cause of conflict, and of terrorism.
Looking forward (likely to the end of time/history), economic competition will likely remain a cause of conflict among nations. Geoffrey Kemp and Robert E. Harkavy, in their Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997) deal with the subject of strategic geography, which they define as “The control of, or access to, spatial areas (land, water, air, including outer space) that has an impact—either positive or negative—on the security and economic prosperity of nations.”
Presently, the Western industrialized democracies charitably refer to Islamic nations as potentially peaceful partners. Reasons for such generous reference to the unquestionably violent Islam have their roots primarily in economics. Since Islamic nations control one of the largest oil reserves known to man, their economic value to the industrial democracies is significant beyond measure.
Geoffrey Kemp and Robert Harkavy in the aforementioned article have a quotation from Aaron Wildavsky and Max Singer which suggests that, relating to the “end of history, there will likely be permanent peace among the industrialized democracies of Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania, juxtaposed against increasing chaos, bloodshed, and ethnic-racial fragmentation within what used to be called the third world.”
Since future global conflict is not likely to end in the mutual annihilation of mankind through the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction (WMD’) a two-adversary model seems to have significant credibility. The Greater Islam movement, primitive as it is, would likely continue to challenge the industrial democracies using terrorist tactics to accomplish its main mission, to gain respect, and to acquire additional economic power. Greater Islam may also be in a position to use economic weapons, and economics play a major role in the world.
Kemp and Harkavy state the following:
The United States continues to have vital interests in the Middle East, the survival of allies, especially Israel, and the denial of Persian Gulf energy resources to hostile powers.
Substituting in the above statement the words industrialized democracies for the United States the term, explains in part how the two-culture model of global conflict has an integral economic element that cannot be ignored.
In democracies, what constituencies accept and how they vote, are in large part controlling elements of their behavior and actions. In general people will not accept undue economic hardship in order to support cultural ideology, and this hard fact causes the economic elements of a two-culture conflict to be an important factor with which to reckon.
Causes of Islamic-terrorism: Religion
Religion is just as critical, perhaps even more critical an element in Islamic-terrorism, as is humiliation and the need for respect. Islam, though the newest of monotheist religion, is the religion that fourteen hundred years since its inception did not changed its rules to keep up with the time. The most appropriate term for describing those Muslims who commit terrorist acts is that they are followers of archaic-Islam.
Islam, except for attempts by a few leaders[iii][iii] has not undergone significant efforts to advance beyond an archaic culture based directly on the Koran.
Ataturk, whose goal was to modernize Turkey, succeeded in making Turkey, an Islamic nation, into a secular country. However, Ataturk had no discernible success[iv][iv] in modernizing Islam or reducing its effect on the country. Ataturk’s efforts to modernize Turkey did succeed in creating the only Muslim nation with a secular government. That notwithstanding, Turkey still remains a country controlled by Islamic law.
Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was able to bring significant social change to Iran. Not the least important of his efforts was suffrage for women and rules for certifying the clergy. Pahlavi also brought about land reform and other socially important advances, only to be ousted by the clergy in 1979.
Almost fourteen hundred years have passed since Muhammad received the Koran. It is fair to assume that Koranic laws are outdated and that they now create a chasm of culture between Muslims and the rest of the [civilized] world.
Since the Koran on its face states that non-believers must be converted or punished, preferably by death, it serves as a significant part of the cause for Islamic terrorism.
An Oxymoron: Islam is a Peaceful Religion
On February 21, 2006, Al-Jazeera TV interviewed Wafa Sultan(an Arab-American psychologist) regarding his understanding of today’s global conflict. Sultan spoke of the fact that the term “clash of civilizations” was originated by Muslims to justify their deeds but he dismisses the concept on its merit.
Sultan’s views contradict the notion that Islam is a peaceful religion. Sultan proposes the hypothesis that today’s principal global conflict is between past and present, in other words, between Islam and “the West.”
Sultan advances the view that with its roots in the Koran, Islam is a violent religion that in order to satisfy Allah’s dictates must destroy all those who are not willing to embrace it. Reading the Koran supports Sultan’s general hypothesis, particularly as it applies to the Sunnis, the major Muslim sect who does not allow its imams broad flexibility in interpreting the Koran and its edicts.
Sultan’s suggestion, that today’s global conflict is between civilized people of the twenty-first century and uninformed people who still live in the past, seems right on target.
Islamic-terrorism: Elevating Islam’s stature
Early on, Osama bin Laden suggested that contemporary global conflict is a clash of civilizations. Equating Islam to a civilization, bin Laden uses words to elevate the status of his cause to the level of the rest of the civilized world.
Islamic definitions of rights and wrongs are different from those adopted by Judeo-Christian cultures. As long as Islam continues to accept the Koran as the actual word of Allah, a word that calls for actions unacceptable to the civilized word, a clash of civilization, as Samuel P. Huntington calls such a phenomena, remains inevitable.
In Samuel P. Huntington’s article, “The Clash of Civilizations” that appeared in the Summer 1993 (v. 72, n. 3, p. 22 ) edition of Foreign Affairs, Huntington advances the thesis that in the “new world” one should expect culture to be the dominating source of [international] conflict. Huntington suggests that: “Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world.”
Huntington states that the difference between civilizations is not only real but also basic. In his view “Civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition and, most important, religion.”
Huntington suggests that the present alignment of civilizations is in many ways based on religion. Even though this thesis may be correct, religion alone offers a very weak link among people, not a bond that can maintain unity. This principle can be witnessed in Northern Ireland, and in the most recent insurgency in Iraq. Sects or denominations within any given religion are often the cause of strife and disunity.
The Need for Restoring Islamic Pride:
Added to the complex equation of Islamic pride is the strange phenomena that, as feared and despised as Saddam Hussein was because of his brutal actions, the man with his “spit-and-polish” military was a source of Arab [military] pride. The two military defeats of Sadam Hussein at the hands of the United States and its allies were major blows to Arab-Islamic pride, defeats that left a chasm in Islamic pride.
To make up for its loss of pride, Muslims latched on to everything that could explain their failures. An instrument of regaining Arab pride was the declaration that Zionism is the foundation of Middle East unrest. Carried to its extreme, in 2006, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (a non-Arab Muslim) declared that the western democracies, including the United States and Europe, created Zionism. Ahmadinejad, in an attempt to become the savior of Islamic pride, declared that the cause of Islamic loss of pride is Zionism, and that Israel, the offspring of Zionism, will be destroyed.
In the latter part of the twenty-first century, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president of Iran. Upon being elected Ahmadinejad decided to seize the opportunity of filling that chasm in Islamic pride. Even though Iran is not an Arab country, it is a Muslim nation to which the Arabs can relate to a considerable degree.
When Ahmadinejad took over the reins of government in Iran, he immediately attempted to establish himself as the Islamic force to withstand the West, and to convert the chasm of Muslim shame to the pinnacle of Muslim pride.
With Saddam Hussein in power, many Arabs, including Kuwaitis, Saudis, and other Gulf nations who feared his aggressive intentions, started to believe that they had a savior who could militarily withstand the United States and, of course, its client state, the upstart Israel.
President George Herbert Walker Bush dispelled that myth by soundly defeating Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war. His son, President George W. Bush, did it again in the second Gulf war, bringing about a source of complete humiliation to many Muslims.
The use of surrogates and other means for attempting to restore Islamic Pride
Ahmadinejad, the Non-Arab Muslim, and Iran’s role in terrorism:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a case in point. Iran and its vastly influential clergy would suffer a significant loss of power and influence should its boastful president yield to modernization. Nonetheless, in his search for power and his march towards immortality as Islam’s savior, Ahmadinejad may give in to the temptation of modernization.
Ahmadinejad desire to advance Iran’s technology base, as can be witnessed by his nuclear activity, his missiles, and his torpedoes, opens the door for modern education, and advancing the state of education brings general modernization. An engineer by trade, Ahmadinejad, in spite of his rhetoric, is a man of the 21st century who may use his outlandish boasting to gain attention and respect in Iran.
A nationalist who even decreed that foreign words be moved from Farsi, Ahmadinejad must be careful not to follow the example of Iran’s failed Shah. The shah of Iran faced the ire of Iran’s clergy and was removed from office. A secular populist, Reza Shah Pahlavi overstepped his bounds when he attempted to lend legitimacy on his terms to the clergy. The Shah’s attempt to control the certification of the clergy through governmental testing (somewhat like our civil-service examinations) was perhaps the largest single action that led to his downfall.
Voids in nature are nearly always filled. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad counted on that fact and started to move in the direction of filling the chasm in Muslim pride by making an attempt to become the pinnacle of Muslim pride.
Iranians are not Arabs and they do not speak Arabic. Iranians are, and strongly insist that they are, an Indo-European people, neither Semite nor Arabs. Culturally, by virtue of language and ethnicity, Ahmadinejad is an outsider to the Arab world. That fact notwithstanding, Ahmadinejad seeks to fill the void in Arab pride. If he does, it could be a short-lived phenomenon because by no account can he be considered an Arab.
Ahmadinejad started his quest for creating the pinnacle of Muslim pride to replace the chasm of shame,by making volatile statements that made the rest of the world cringe. From stating that the Holocaust never took place to stating that Iran was intent on destroying the State of Israel Ahmadinejad made pronouncements that were clearly designed to cause friction with the non-Islamic world.
From all indications, Ahmadinejad calculated that the more outlandish his rhetoric, the more attention it would bring. Though he is not an Arab, his action and speeches make Ahmadinejad fit well into the Patai model of being a rhetoricism’ist[v][v].
Recently Ahmadinejad informed the world that Iran had developed a missile that can avoid radar and that can attack multiple targets at the same time. The missile, the Fajr-3, is capable of carrying significant payloads, likely including nuclear warheads. Ahmadinejad made it clear that the missile could indeed represent a danger to Israel, as well as to all other neighboring countries.
Ahmadinejad also informed the world that his scientists developed the fastest torpedo known to man (except for one Russian model) and that the torpedo was successfully tested. By implication, and by virtue of Iran’s position on the Gulf, the Iranian leader informed the world that his country is in a position to disrupt the major source of oil to Western countries.
Muslims (20% of the human race) in recent years kept suffering military humiliations at every turn, yet pride and strength remain important elements in that culture. Could Iran, or some other entity yet to emerge, assume the burden of restoring Muslim pride, or could means be devised to do so without hurting the rest of civilization?
The Surrogate Approach
Ahmadinejad, using Sheik Nasrallah and his Hezbollah (a group that is primarily made up of Shiites) to engage Israel (the “Zionist client” of the United States) in a Lebanon military conflict was not looking for a win, which he did not expect. Ahmadinejad was cognizant of the fact that a stalemate with the most powerful army in the Middle East would restore a great deal of Arab pride. Not only would the conflict show Islamic strength, it was timed to divert attention from Iran’s nuclear problem with the United Nations. His scheme in both ways seemed to have succeeded.
In addition to the Hezbollah action, Ahmadinejad continues to encourage the insurgency in Iraq, as does Osama bin Laden. It is interesting to note that the two leaders are of two competing Islamic sects. The issue of Sunni versus Shiites is on one hand a cause for Iraqi unrest, which may lead to a civil war, yet on the other hand; it may be good for the western civilizations since the Sunnis and Shiites are not likely to fully unite in an anti West terrorist movement.
When on September 11, 2001, nineteen young Muslim Arabs were able to force the family of [civilized] nations to adjust its way of life Muslim-Arab pride received a major boost. The fact that the events of 9/11 forced the United States to take away from its citizens some of their freedoms was a significant accomplishment by those who initiated the 9/11 events.
The Middle East, Iraq, and Islamic pride
Before one can approach the issue of stabilizing Iraq one must understand the whole picture, the issue of the need for Islamic pride and its effects on other Arab, and non-Arab, Islamic nations.
The present Iraq insurgency is in large part a movement of Jordanian, Libyan, Syrian, Iranian, Pakistani, and other Islamic nations; any long-term solution must include these nations. Additional perspective suggests that Iran’s nuclear standoff with the international community is an extension of the Iraqi insurgency and must be dealt with in that manner.
If Iraq, under the auspices of the United States and its allies is to become a stable and viable democracy, all segments of the population must be taught that they are part of one nation and that they are first and foremost Iraqis, not Sunnis, Kurds, or Shiites[vi][vi].
Islam is the only existing and prominent culture with social values totally intertwined with religion. Islam is the significant group with a substantially different set of beliefs from the Judeo-Christian model regarding rights and wrongs.
The fact that Islam did not advance its teaching since Muhammad (in the name of Allah) founded it around 622 CE puts the Islamic model in an ongoing conflict with the rest of society. Because it remained stagnant through all these years, Islam puts expectations on its believers that are considerably different from the expectations placed on members of other religions and cultures, whose rules evolved to keep up with the times.
A Missed Opportunity to Restore Iraqi Pride
On June 8, 2006 the most wanted terrorist in Iraq was killed. Abu Mosab al-Zarqawi, a man with a twenty-five-million-dollar bounty on his head, was killed by a United States air strike.
President Bush gave a short and generally positive statement about the elimination of al-Zarqawi. The President gave praise to all those involved in the mission, but primarily to the American forces.
In large part, however, the success of the mission was due to Iraqi intelligence.Rather than seizing the opportunity for restoring some Iraqi pride, the United States president used the occasion to boast of American accomplishment with acknowledgment of Iraqi and coalition support merely as an aside.
With an elected Iraqi government in place, this might have been a good time to begin the practice of having Iraq speak for itself and on behalf of “the coalition” in its country. In this specific case, a wise course might have been to have the announcement and explanation of the al-Zarqawi mission come from the Iraqis with background (as “footnotes”) provided by the Americans.
Even though within the United States having a foreign power speak on behalf of American military might have caused a political backlash, globally, and in the long term, a demonstration of Iraq’s independence could have played a very positive role in the war on terror.
Let us give credit where credit is due. After the fact, in numerous briefings, the United States military did make it clear that Iraqi intelligence was an indispensable part of the operation.
The conflict in Iraq, and the war on terror, cannot end on a positive note if the conclusion includes a strong message that Muslims, and particularly Muslim Arabs, are “losers.” Those Muslim Arabs who gloat at America’s pain must be made to believe that, even though less advanced economically, they are the equals of the most advanced members of the family of nations.
For a unity government in Iraq to include the Sunnis, Sunni pride must also be restored: Important roles within the government will have to be given to some of their people. Since Sunnis reduce the role of imams in governance, Shiites may find that an all- inclusive government may not be easy to assemble and maintain.
Those devout Muslims who wield political power in Iraq, those leaders who through democratic processes are attempting to bring the country into the 21st century are walking a very tight rope. By the strictest of Islamic teaching, those who liberated the country of its “brutal dictator[vii][vii]” are infidels and must be either converted to Islam or destroyed. Notwithstanding that the elected leaders of Iraq are cooperating with the infidel-liberators, while fighting their religious brethren for control of the country. Can these fundamental and unyielding differences be reconciled?
Words to the contrary notwithstanding, the numerous “coalition-of-the-willing” troops in Iraq appear to be an occupying force, especially to Sunni Iraqis. Since perceptions in the minds of most people are paramount to reality, it is very important that the coalition make clear its intentions to leave, and leave very soon. This is not to say that a scheduled withdrawal is required. A good start may be a move to get the Iraqi military leadership to start speaking on behalf of the whole military in the country.
As long as the United States military continues to hold press conferences, Iraq appears to be controlled by the Americans. Continuing to maintain responsibility is one thing; appearances are another. The United States should start a move forward to let the Iraqi military speak for all troops in Iraq. The allies should also let the Iraqi civilian authorities speak to all other issues of government. The Americans and the coalition should start moving into the background and letting the Iraqis assume control, or at least appear to do so.
Will restoration of Muslim Pride Eliminate the Conflict?
Since Islam constitutes the second-largest group of people on earth (some 1.5 billion people), its impact on the future of humankind is likely to remain significant into the 22nd century. Even the most optimistic views of Islam’s future cannot dismiss the idea that Islam will remain a source of international terrorist activities.
Assuming that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair did the world a favor by creating a democratic Iraq, a country that may move away from archaic-Islam into a more secular nation, threat from Islam will remain, though it may be reduced.
There is no doubt that Iraq will remain an Islamic nation, but through economic incentives and other benefits one can hope that its religious zeal would make room for a more secular nation. Should Iraq, as it appears to be doing, introduce educational reforms that will generate more modern future generations, the Bush/Blair legacy would be looked at by [Western] history as a positive advancement of humankind. This is a great deal to expect, but it could become a reality.
As long as Muslim children are taught that the Koran in its exact original form is the ultimate law and that its model of rights and wrongs applies, Islam will remain a threat to world peace. Advancing Islamic education to take into account that the words in the Koran represent guidelines, not absolute values, will likely allow Islamic nations to become peaceful members of the family of nations.
Following Israel’s model, a country with a very strong Orthodox voice, an Islamic nation could also update its thinking and accept the idea that the written words in the Bible (be it the Koran, the Old Testament, the New Testament, or some other writings) are guidelines rather than absolute dictates. Such a move, one that could hopefully start in the new Iraq, may help create a more peaceful community of nations.
Even if Iraq becomes the torch-bearer of Islamic reform, its example will not necessarily spread to all other Islamic nations. Having a Shiite majority, not the largest sect of Islam, an Iraqi model may not be very effective. However, since Shiites allow a much larger role to imams and ayatollahs than does the majority Sunni sect, getting the clergy to accept change could be very significant. The clergy has the most to lose if Islam changes, its power could be vastly reduced, as would be its political and economic stature.
Establishment of a secular government in Shiite land where the clergy is powerful may make it easier to move this model into Sunni nations where the clergy has less influence.
Arab-Muslim modernization in Iraq does not mean that other Muslim nations would follow. Power in many cases depends on the status quo, and the likes of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and other nations, both Arab and non-Arab states, may elect to lag behind and maintain the power structure of their leaders and their clergy.
In Iraq today, the Shiite majority is influenced by the Iranian clergy and is likely to remain an ally of Ahmadinejad who is attempting to gain [some] control in Iraq and a voice regarding Iraq’s future. Some of his rhetoric is clearly designed to influence the Arab people, in particular the people of Iraq. Singling out Zionism and the United States as major enemies plays to the insurgents in Iraq and is likely to continue. Playing on Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s military humiliation is another tool the Iranian leader uses and it appears quite effective.
Should Iraq’s constitutional democracy take hold, and should it allow for reform in education and basic law, Ahmadinejad’s influence will likely be reduced. If his efforts in the area of nuclear-fuel enhancement continue, and should they bring upon him effective economic sanctions that prove instrumental in reducing the standard of living of the Iranian people, his days may be numbered. Rhetoric alone can carry a tyrant for only a short period before delivery of promises is expected; Ahmadinejad’s days may be numbered especially should Iraq emerge as a proud and functioning democracy.
In 1983 Hezbollah blew up a US Marine Corps barracks killing a large number of American servicemen; the United States identified the source behind the act as Iran. In 2006 Hezbollah attacked Israel, an act that from all indications was also initiated on orders from Iran.
President Reagan intended to retaliate for Hezbollah’s act, but for some unclear reason, the Department of Defense did not follow through and no retaliation took place. In 2006, Israel, a close ally of the United States, did take retaliatory action.
In 1983 Iran did not admit the connection to Hezbollah that was a small organization without a credible voice. In 2006 Iran still denies any connection to Hezbollah (except for moral support) but Hezbollah in 2006 has a voice to which the international community listens. Hezbollah can credibly claim victory against Israel and its United States sponsor.
Israel is a parliamentary democracy. Its leadership, by admitting a humiliating defeat to what is conceived to be a weaker enemy such as Hezbollah, will suffer significant political harm. That notwithstanding, admitting that the smallest of all Arab countries was able to hold off the mighty Israel may be a significant step towards the restoration of Muslim-Arab pride.
If Israel does not insist on claiming that it achieved its military goals against Hezbollah and agree to deal with Hezbollah as part of the Lebanese government, a great stride towards reducing Islam’s need for proving its worth to the world may have been taken.
Israel has another window of opportunity Israel is in a position to elevate the Hamas political wing to an equal negotiating partner. This may be a difficult undertaking as long as Hamas is set on destroying Israel; however, a great deal may be accomplished through economic incentives. Allowing Hamas to feel that Israel and its allies do not look down at it could be the key to establishing a Palestinian state.
Finally, a success in Iraq may well be the bell-weather that could get Islam to feel that its pride has been restored and that it is indeed accepted as an equal member of the international community.
When Iraq’s democratically elected government starts to speak for the Iraqi people and when the perceived occupation by the allies starts to show signs of nearing an end, Iraq would likely become the Islamic pioneer of cultural, industrial, and legal modernization.
Here too, just as in the case of Israel and Hezbollah, the United States government, at the risk of losing [domestic] political favor, may be well advised to admit that it may have won the battle against Saddam Hussein, but giving credit to the Iraqi people for winning the terrorist war was the key to establishing a democracy in their country.
In spite of progress in Iraq, its cultural mores and archaic legal system will have to be brought into the twenty-first century. Most notably, modernization must include a significant updating of Islamic laws, in particular its system of rights and wrongs.
Pride back in place and democracy practiced are but two of many steps Iraq must take in order to be the most positive force within Islam. Iraq could be the vehicle that will start to steer Islam toward equal membership in the family of nations.
Iraq, one hopes, will not follow the Afghanistan model of an Islamic Republic bound and controlled by Islamic law, but will rather become a more modern state and be guided by a forward-looking secular constitution. Unlike Afghanistan, a nation poor in natural resources Iraq can succeed in its entry into the modern world and become a significant player in the world economy. In addition to vast oil reserves, Iraq can develop and maintain other industries that use petroleum as their base; it can also build on a thriving agricultural economy.
One cannot expect miracles. Iraq, however, is blessed by having many well-educated and talented politicians and professional people. Many Iraqis who studied in the West are now bound and determined to bring their nation into the twenty-first century.
If the Iraqi model succeeds, it will not be because of farsighted Western leadership; it will be more because times are changing. The West must recognize that cultural differences will remain but are acceptable as long as the basic values are brought in line with the fundamental model of rights and wrongs employed by the rest of the civilized world.
If the coalition is to leave Iraq as the Islamic torch-bearer for Arab-Muslim advancement into the modern 21st century, it could cause history to consider the two embattled leaders, Blair and Bush who led the effort to remove Saddam Hussein, as two men who collectively advanced the cause of mankind in the 21st century.
The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel P. Huntington, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, v. 72, n. 3, p. 22 (28)
The Clash of Civilizations: Asian Responses,edited by Salim Rashid, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997
Strategic Geography and the Changing Middle East…Geoffrey Kemp and Robert E. Harkavy, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1997
i Ishmael is the [Biblical] ancestor of Muslims, and his half-brother, Isaac, is the forbearer of the Jews and Christians.
ii In spite Biblical promises of a land “of milk and honey,” the land of Israel, especially when compared to its Arab neighbors is very poor in natural resources, unless one accepts the Jewish cerebral prowess to be Israel’s natural resource.
iii Most notably Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938,) who on 1935 assumed the name Ataturk (“Father of the Turks”) in Turkey, and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980) in Iran
iv Studies and personal observations, coupled with inputs fromthis author’s father(who was a world-renowned forester with expertise in reclaiming arid zones and who spent many years in Turkey advising its government) He did not observe any significant modernization in Turkey. The late Dr. A. Y. Goor described the Ataturk effort as one that was largely limited to men wearing Berets rather than the traditional Islamic head
v Throughout years in Iran, my personal observation suggests that Iranians in general, and Iranian politicians in particular, are very boastful people who fit the Patai model of rhetoricism’ists.
Ever since the [Jewish] Matriarch Sara used deception to humiliate and deprive Ishmael[i][i] of his rightful birthrights, Ishmael’s offspring’s felt cheated and deprived by offspring’s of Isaac.
In recent years the Jewish offspring’s of Isaac who by virtue of Sara’s deception became Abraham’s heirs, reclaimed [a part of] Palestine as their homeland. The vehicle used by the Jewish people was a movement called Zionism. In 1887 a group of European Jews declared that: “Zionism seeks to secure a public ally recognized, legally secured home in Palestine for the Jewish people.” The mission of Zionism ended in 1948 when the State of Israel was established.
The fact that the mission of Zionism was completed notwithstanding, the term itself became a rallying term of Islam for condemning Isaac’s offspring. The Arab world contended that the State of Israel, and thus Zionism, took away from them what rightfully belongs to their people. For example, as recently as October 16, 2006, Saddam Hussein told a Kurdish prosecution witness at his trial that he, the witness, was splitting the Iraqi people and playing into the hands of the Zionists.
When in 1948 the upstart State of Israel defeated and humiliated the Arab states that attacked it in an attempt to end its existence, a deep rooted desire for revenge developed. Zionism became a term of evil, in the mind of Muslims it became all that is evil, it included Israel and all who supported it.