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Countering Terrorism from the Middle
Nothing can justify massacring
thousands of innocent civilians, such as on September 11th. Islam
forbids the use of terrorism, attacking innocent civilians. No real
or imagined injustice can justify it. In addition, harboring
terrorists, whether by civilians or by governments, is not
supported by Islam. Terrorists cannot be heroes.
Although terrorism cannot be justified, many Fundamentalist
Muslims in the Middle East are angry with the United States. Even
though extremely few Fundamentalist Muslims engage in terrorism,
the anger of many Muslims needs to be understood by Americans to
avoid other types of conflicts in the future.
Right now, the rage of Fundamentalist
Muslims in the Middle East is incomprehensible to most Americans.
After all, many Americans would say, the USA protected Middle
Eastern countries against the aggression of Iraq, as well as
against the former Soviet Union.
The Rage of
Dr. Bernard Lewis is a noted historian
and author on the Middle East. He is recognized as a specialist on
understanding the rage of Fundamentalist Muslims. He has written
articles on the subject and has appeared on television, such as the
Charlie Rose show (10-18-01), to explain the anger of
Fundamentalist Muslims in the Middle East toward the United States.
He gives the following reasons for Middle Eastern anger toward the
Muslims blame the USA for poverty and oppression in the Middle
- The USA provides military support to several oppressive
governments in the Middle East. The majority of people in those
countries, Muslims, live in abject poverty, with no hope for the
- The people in those Middle Eastern countries are not allowed to
protest against their own governments and cannot overthrow their
governments, partly because of American military support for those
governments. (However, the people are allowed to demonstrate
publicly against the USA to vent their anger and frustration.)
- The USA abandoned the Muslim people of Iraq and Afghanistan
after the USA achieved its military goals. After the USA left Iraq,
oppressed people in Iraq who opposed Saddham Hussein were
massacred. After the USA left Afghanistan, the people of that
country were left in abject poverty, had no effective leaders, and
had no hope for the future.
- The USA provides military support to Israel, one of the world's
strongest military powers, and the Israelis use that American
military power against the Palestinian Muslims, who are forbidden
to build an army or have a military force. (Editor's Note - Israel
was created by the United Nations to make a homeland for Jews. The
land, however, was already inhabited by Palestinian Muslims. Many
Muslims, therefore, regard Palestinian territory as being occupied
by oppressors, the Israelis.)
- Fundamentalist Muslim leaders have focused on the frustrations
and hopelessness of the people of the Middle East and promised a
new world in which Muslims control their own destinies.
Muslims blame the USA for a loss of traditional values in the
- For Fundamentalist Muslims, the USA is a symbol of moral decay.
They see the USA as responsible for a decline in traditional values
Fundamentalist Muslims see the American lifestyle as a
dangerous competitor for the hearts and minds of Muslims.
- Fundamentalist Muslims view the technologically advanced and
secular lifestyle in the United States as a dangerous temptation
for Muslims and that it will lead them away from Fundamentalist
Fundamentalist Muslims believe that they are dominated by the
West, especially the United States.
"Of all these offenses the one that is most widely, frequently, and
vehemently denounced is undoubtedly imperialism ...." "What is
truly evil and unacceptable [to the Fundamentalist Muslim] is the
domination of infidels over true believers."
In addition, Fundamentalist Muslims believe that Middle Eastern
tyrants have adopted Western ways to gain military power to use
against their own people. "For vast numbers of Middle Easterners,
Western-style economic methods brought poverty, Western-style
political institutions brought tyranny, even Western-style warfare
brought defeat. It is hardly surprising that so many were willing
to listen to voices telling them that the old Islamic ways were
best...." (The Atlantic - Lewis).
The United States provides a focus for Muslim rage.
"Islamic fundamentalism has given an aim and a form to the
otherwise aimless and formless resentment and anger of the Muslim
masses at the forces that have devalued their traditional values
and loyalties and, in the final analysis, robbed them of their
beliefs, their aspirations, their dignity, and to an increasing
extent even their livelihood."
"And since the United States is the legitimate heir of European
civilization and the recognized and unchallenged leader of the
West, the United States has inherited the resulting grievances and
become the focus for the pent-up hate and anger." (The Atlantic - Lewis).
Many Muslims Are
Sympathetic to the USA
When Dr. Lewis appeared on the Charlie
Rose television show (10-18-01), he pointed out that, contrary to
the news media's coverage, a large percent of Middle Eastern
Muslims actually have strong sympathies with the United States. He
said, for example, tens of thousands of Iranian Muslims
demonstrated to show their grief and sorrow about the September
11th disaster--in direct disobedience to the Iranian
Dr. Lewis thinks we should fight
terrorist networks with great vigor, as long as it takes. He also
said that the USA needs to stop trying so hard to please the Middle
Eastern rulers. Instead, he wants the USA to support the
development of true democracies in the Middle East. He thinks that
the USA should not stop until a truly democratic government is in
place in Afghanistan--or anywhere else we intervene.
Dr. Lewis believes that Americans need to correct the impression
that we do not follow through on what we start. He said that
because Hussein remained in power after the Gulf War, and then
massacred people who opposed him, the United States looked like it
gave up. When the USA pulled back from Somalia after an ugly
incident, we further strengthened the impression in the Middle East
that we would not finish what we started if things got
In short, Dr. Lewis thinks that the seeds of terrorism are sown in
American support for tyrannic governments in the Middle East. In
addition to fighting against terrorist networks directly, the USA
needs to support the development of truly democratic governments
that give the people in the Middle East hope for the future. He
argues that free democracies are the best weapons against poverty,
hopelessness, and terrorism.
Also try Countering Terrorism from the Middle
East, which has other
recommendations for long term solutions and Islam and Liberal Democracy,
Robin Wright's scholarly examination of modern Islamic movements
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