Sunday, April 25, 2004

Ok people, this week I finally got ME's answer to my concerns expressed in my post of March 21st.

In short, it was a piece on the West's concerns with the worldwide rise of Islamic fundamentalism. I've been in contact through email for some time now with a Middle-Easterner I refer to on this blog simply as "ME", since I promised not to reveal his/her identity, gender, profession or nationality. What I can tell you is that ME is IMO a respectable, hightly educated person. The following is ME's answer to my rant, which I truncated in two because it's quite an elaborate piece. Btw, thank you for your effort ME.


a.) the reasons he/she cites for the rise of militant Islamism in especially Europe, at least only to some extent namely
that European racism is partially responsible for creating extremist Islam.

b.) his/her assessment of the Mujahideen being "abandoned" by the West after the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan

c.) the wording at times used, most notably in the horrendous killing of the four Blacwater employees in Fallujah

d.) the so-called extermination of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Although many live in appalling conditions, (to what extent is it their own fault?) I don't call that an extermination. 6 million shot, gassed or otherwise murdered Jews I call an extermination. 8,000 gunned down Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica is an extermination.

That said, I think it's really worthwile to read through ME's addressing of the "problems with Islam" as we perceive it in the West.

If we can agree to disagree it's already a starting point. For the hardliners here, don't think I've gone soft, I'm only attempting to grasp what's on a Middle Easterner's mind.

Go ahead ME:

You know Michael , Kerry ,Tom, Scott, Drazil and Mark , I enjoy reading your blog immensely. even though I found it pro-Israel and pro-America and frighteningly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. So maybe you are hardliners in your view but I don’t think so you are probably just like me afraid of the future. I nevertheless think that if I could talk with you we could perhaps make our voice heard and tell our mutual friends that we are not a threat to each other.

After you finish reading please do not flame or curse me, I think you will find that I have been very pragmatic . Dissect whatever you want and keep on asking questions we will find a solution together in the end.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Michael’s diatribe carried a lot of heavy loaded questions, which would require rivers of ink figuratively speaking or megabytes to answer. However it is summed up in 2 questions.

(1) What is the root cause of so called Islamic terrorism

(2) Why is it mounting?

Before voicing my theory, I would like to explain my opening statement to him with regards to the rise of Islam in Europe. I said this not because I was making a demographic count, not at all, I just stated what is widely believed by many Muslims according to the theology studies. For me that is a fact, but I am aware that for you it is not easy see this nor be convinced as that requires a leap of faith. I am unable to back this up scientifically; it is all in the realm of beliefs.

However, in discussing the part about demographics, I would like to stress that most converts I met are highly educated individuals, successful I their own fields. Though I was wondering why should there be a stigma to people financially challenged embracing Islam? Islam usually acts as a catalyst for them to strive to better themselves, feel worthy and rise from their sorry state. It is more like a way of life.

It is not my duty to preach, nor my intention; I’m hardly the candidate for that. I would simply like to address the two questions above mentioned and which started this whole debate.

The majority of North African Muslims have immigrated to Europe for economical not ideological purposes. This probably also applies to Asians and Turks. None had a pre-packaged baggage of ideologies or religious fervour; but traditions and their own culture yes. If they could make that kind of money at home then they would have definitely remained there. Please remember that Europe and the West in general had encouraged them and still do because they are cheaper labour, although nowadays they have competition from the former Soviet bloc states.

I am not going to discuss the other African or Asian people who have also gone to Europe but who are not Muslims.

Here’s the lowdown, we have literarily millions of Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds living, working becoming citizens, marrying and procreating in Europe. Their offspings consider themselves, French, Belgian, British, German etc.. They are not thinking of going back to the land of their ancestors. Yet still do not tell me that these people have been treated like the other Caucasian Europeans as equals, there has always been that item of condescendence and misunderstanding towards their customs. I am talking of the traditions indigenous to each country ( ie Algeria, Morocco, Egypt ,etc..) not to Islam. This resulted in them marrying people of their own race of even someone from back home Getting a bride from the old homeland is not because she is a better Muslim, it is just because the white French girls would not all have been widely excited about marrying them. You know sleeping with an exotic person may be okay but actually marrying the person is a difficult decision. This goes both was for men and women.

It is not because the generation of Muslim women in the west has become more ‘emancipated’ and therefore would stand up to their men. Though I admit that these ladies have become more westernised, which is not a crime in my book. I think it is good to learn from other people take the good part and make your decisions on how you wish to lead your life. Maybe these women wanted to marry a French man for example?

So racism has and continues to be an important factor. Please note that in France they still call French youngsters of Arab origin ‘Beurre’, despite these kids being 3rd or 4th generation immigrants. I’ve heard it as recently as last year from a French friend of mine who was describing the gorgeous girls he met at a beach in St.Tropez, even though I know that he is cultured and non-racist, but this expression did slip his tongue . How does that sound then when someone seriously means it . You cannot ignore that these small factors , molehills , add up to make mountains. So all the bills passed and all the efforts made by respective European governments have never been able to get at the underlying racism. Do not proceed to tell me that there has been no aggression or mistreatment towards these immigrant, no racial profiling , no thinking that the worst comes from them. This is even prior to 9/11 and earlier terrorist attacks. Have you heard of the 1967 massacre of Arabs in France and why this was carried out ? 1961 Massacre of Algerians in Paris.

I think that mostly comes from the inner fear of the ‘alien’ other, from ignorance about others and from unwillingness to learn, meet, interact with them at a deeper level, because of not really caring. A cheap working force is good for those jobs the Europeans may not want to do anymore, but there is an attitude of let’s not socialise with these people. Misunderstanding breeds and festers very negative feelings. I am not negating here all the efforts of serious, kind enlightened Europeans who have welcome these people in their midst but I would like to say that the current against them was more prevalent. Please try this little exercise, you are poor and have come to Tunis to work because you heard that there were jobs available and you will be earning much more than in Belgium. Then you find out that the population tolerates you barely at work and has absolutely no intention of socialising with you , except as a prostitute for example because that is not binding. How would you feel? No friends, no human contact? You will try and find some other person from you village or country and living in Tunis so that you may talk to each other and go out for a drink and generally be supportive. But you would be hurt by this snub and rebuke from the host country especially if after many years you have made your life there, have become Tunisian and feel a stranger on the other side of the Mediterranean, and economically you would be literally a beggar if you immigrate in reverse. Then why should you ? Tunis is as much you country as theirs now, you pay taxes, rent, serve in the police and work in all the strata of the society . Now that was a very simple example. Try multiplying it by thousands and hundred of thousands, what do you get ? Especially that if something happens, the Tunisian police will immediately raid your house. These combined situations: FEAR & SUSPICION and the rise of European nationalism because the economy has not been that healthy make the view of the outsiders even more as enemies and job-grabbers. Europe does not have my Jew cousins as a scapegoat anymore.

This leads to, depression, dissatisfaction, impotence (not in a sexual context here) maybe even anger, we are humans after all. Find me one ordinary person who has never felt angry ( except for Gandhi or Jesus Christ ) Look at you all, on the comments section , emotions flare up and people hurl insults at each other , and yet these are total strangers so how would it feel if you perceive to be deliberately targeted continuously? You freak out right ? look at America after 9/11.

Now let’s move to the next step, many immigrants have had great to moderate success and were able to move out of the ghettos, they are relatively safer from the discrimination. But what about the millions of others? They are making a living, they are in their own country but they are in essence poor . What happens to poor people, many of them drop out of school. Please look at the statistics of the British schools, many 16 years old kids drop and these are not just Muslims or Arabs, they are white little British kids. Where do dropouts hang ? logically they try to get menial, simple part time jobs if they still think correctly no decent institution would hire them since they have no skills or experience. I wouldn’t if I could choose between a graduate and a dropout it is a simple as that ! So let’s baby step back to where or with whom these poor dropouts hang: drug gangs, thieves and other undesirable shady groups who lure them with easy money, but money nonetheless which caters for their financial needs. This is common to all, be they European or American Caucasian youths or Japanese or even Arabs for that matter it has absolutely nothing to do with religion. So they all head for a life of crime, unless someone fishes them out before they are killed or imprisoned.

The ranks of the immigrants have been swelled in the last decade by those who have escaped from wars in the Middle-East namely Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Some have decided to evade the draft; other just could not stand the civil war whilst some just wanted a chance of a fresh start in a peaceful land.

I’m not a political analyst not even a sociologist so I will not venture any opinion from that aspect nor try to prove anything I just want to speak about it from the average understanding of the man on the street . I won’t tay that Arabs have not made mistakes , oh no we’ve made scores , but so have others if it is any consolation. This though does not in any way excuse our shortcomings. But we are in agreement that at some point in recent/modern history America and other western countries have armed and trained and sponsored Islamic factions because that was perceived as in the interest of the west. These people have become better trained, highly experienced combatants with an agenda. When their use had expired they were left high and dry, no hero’s welcome back home as they were thought to be a threat to their respective government and totally undesirable in the countries which has supported them in the first place. That is a huge number of disenchanted individualswith a sense of betrayal. These are not thugs or bandits; many are doctors and teachers, and engineers and lawyers and other people who really believed they were performing a good deed to repel the communists. They succeeded brilliantly with the help of western and specifically American firepower. Their mistake was they did not stop to think that America was not waging a Jihad against the communists to defend an Islamic country; it was doing this because of its own personal vested interest of defeating the Reds. They were in a sense used as canon fodder in America’s wars ..

Now you’re thinking oops ME’s digressed into the usual boring bla bla wich was hashed over and over again. Please bear with me; we are still talking about the roots of so called Islamic terrorism.

In parallel to these events, sponsorships and encouragement from the West, results in the rise of what for lack of a better word I will call here ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, although it has nothing to do with Islam but the name. These people infiltrated the social ranks , they seem to know what the are talking about. Try it yourself, you’re trying to convince me of something so you hurl at me all these urls now, I don’t know much about that subject, I’m ignorant, young, disenchanted, I’m having an identity crisis in the West and am very impressionable. I’m a school dropout who has not been thought how to look for information on my own (cause if I did I would still be in school anyway) but I hardly know Arabic culture remember as I’m French , German or Belgian or even American , but there is still some hope in me and I want to be saved. I therefore listen fervently to the incomplete information spoon-fed to me by these people, and I see that they have legal status and encouragement by my country ( in the EU or the US). The result, two types of people straying from the normal path : education, work, contribution to society ad family building. The first are those becoming criminals and the second as are those who arrogantly think that now they know all the answers and turn into ‘extremists’ . These are an ignorant and dangerous species. Let us agree that these 2 are bad youths.

What do usually BAD youth do ? Easiest thing is to bully people.

We all know how bullies are and how should we act with them.

Why is no one offended when black gangs in NY prevent people from entering their street or are constantly jibing others , standing in defiance of transgressors on what their see as their turf .Now I’m being mild I’m not even mentioning the drug wars. Others bully their peers at school or family members. It is the same thing , a EU citizen of Arab/Muslim ethnic origin could possibly bully his sister and maybe even mother for many things including wearing a scarf ? So why the shock ? why the racist intonations?

Another factor goes into the equation, most of us have studied maths and we know that the more factors you add to an equation, the more it becomes complex right ?

The media , what is it doing ? it is blaring non-stop about events in the Middle-East , also the other geographical areas too , but this is what I’m focusing on. Now please do not bring Aljazeera of Alarabiya into the equation as these are fairly recent, I’m talking about CNN, Fox , BBC , TV5 and many other not mentioned here each with their own agenda . There is obvious double–standard applied… do not tell me that Western broadcasting is fair and impartial, do not tell me it is only for the sake of getting to the truth … there is always a hidden or open agenda. I am not talking about conspiracy theories here, merely about the right of any country/individual to do what it is best for her/him.So I’m not even laying on blame, I’m quite content and accept that this is what the westernes think is good for them and they want to achieve that goal. So there is this double-standard in treatment dished out to the countries from which the ancestors of these European citizens originate and in which they still have families . There is surely an added element of pain and humiliation, which is doubled because they realise for many of them it would be impossible to escape their conditions, and there is nothing to look back upon in the land of their ancestors. They would not even know how to, they are European citizens remember, albeit of different ethnic background. They identify with both, they look like their ancestors and behave like their host countries, they are lost between the East and the West .

Meanwhile Palestinians are being exterminated, (I’ll talk about that thorny issue another time), other Arabs (Muslim or not ) are humiliated worldwide or perceived so. Their ancestral homes are daily robbed by those in power , propped up with the tacit support of the West for its own interests ( I don’t blame them, the West has a right to do so for it’s own sake . I mean let’s be realistic why not if you have everything to gain !!).

The seething anger is poised to explode, criminals and drug dealers and junkies (whites and non-whites) commit felonies, crimes and murders, the others become potential recruits for terrorist agencies with private agendas, promising them Valhallas. These kids come usually from broken homes and their parents have rarely knowledge about Islam to answer their simple or more sophisticated inquiries. I don’t think their parents even pray. As for the terrorist agencies, I believe that it is difficult to begin to even know who is really and I mean really behind them and what are their motives. The fight for power is all consuming. I even heard that someone had given 20 $ to some people in Fallujah to mutilate those for mercenaries for the benefit of filming them, so some unscrupulous people did that, after all the guys were dead so would not even feel the mutilations. I agree that it was barbaric and uncalled for , but this theory could also be possible when you think about it . Scary hey that this may have been done for money or show, who benefits? I just wanted to illustrate that everything is possible and fair in war.

I am not defending anybody, nor being a racist anti-western.

We have also established that not all become, thugs and criminals nor potential terrorists.

There are also those as I mentioned above who successfully complete their education, but this does not delay the experiencing of that all defining identity crisis. I would be correct to assume so right ? I would further be correct that belief in a higher being or God is a very important factor too. Therefore we agree once more that Religion or faith is an important question. If we cannot find the answers at home or within ourselves, we resort to our church, mosque , synagogue or temple , the more enlightened devour books in libraries. In all these places, one either learns about heritage and religion, and has some kind of plan or idea on how to find his/her path or regrettably one becomes a brainwashed fundamentalist Christian, Muslim, Jew or even Budhist. We agree that there are a lot gun-toting wackos running around, from the American heartland to the Far South East Asia, passing through Africa and Europe. Not even Australia is spared.

I thank our readers who have come this far for their effort and I also think it was worthwile.

Any comments are welcome.

Will you now leave me alone, I got some work to do and it's getting late.

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