As Islam was going through it’s turbulent formative stages, there was much violence and killings directed at early religious figures. The most significant event was the murder of Ali, son in law of Mohammed. This single event was to have violent and repercussions that have lasted to this day. Ali’s death led to a huge schism between early Muslims. There were those who considered Ali to be the rightful ‘heir to the throne’ and as such, the rightful successor to Mohammed, and there are those who refused the idea of that kind of succession. Followers of Ali morphed into the Shiites, while the majority of Muslims became the Sunnis.
The Sunni persecuted the Shiites, referring to them as non believers or a corrupter of Islam. Within the Sunni Islamic world, the Shiites are considered a sect, a breakaway group that has forsaken Islam.
Both groups have developed ideologies that have persecuted Jews and Christians, an ideology that originated not so much as a religious expression, but rather, as a way of dealing with feelings of inferiority and fears of illegitimacy. By displacing those fears on others (all non believers), they believe they show their dominance over them and at the same time, they are ‘fulfilling God’s will.’ The highest form of that displacement results in the destruction of all their enemies, and thus, they will be seen as most ‘worthy in God’s eyes.
In fact, in order to understand and comprehend Arab conflicts with the west (Non Arab Islamic conflicts are for the most part, very different), one has to understand the nature and history of the ever increasing and escalating Muslim conflicts with each other.
Each culture and society defines conflict differently. What may be grievous offenses in one culture are mere slights in others. Cultures also can be differentiated in how they deal with conflict. Some cultures demand violence and confrontation, others insist on negotiation and accommodation.
In all cases however, conflict is a mirror that reflects a comparison between the players, one in which the true character of those players and conflict emerges.
The genesis of all consuming and blind cultural and societal hatred are the symptoms of wounded pride and perceived insult. Once that pot starts to boil, that enveloping rage boils over into a self hatred, because that rage only serves to highlight an inability to maintain self control- and that inability to maintain self control cannot help but be compared with societies and cultures that can and do maintain that self control.
As long as cultures and societies remain relatively isolated, those comparisons meant little, because most societies and cultures were unaware of what was going on ‘outside.’ Their reality was their existential four cubits. Over the last two hundred years, that was to change dramatically. As technology, travel, trade and political/economic exchanges developed, the isolation of backward Arab societies (in relation to western cultures) from the rest of the world was to come to an end.
The exposure to the western ideas, politics, technology and economic successes posed a direct challenge to a more backward Arab world. By any standard of measurement, they were found to be lacking. It was in how the Arabs responded to the new world and new ideas that was to determine their future. Rather than achieve similar successes for themselves, successes that would reflect their unique identity and culture, the Arab world believed that by imitating western culture, they would advance. This was to be a complete failure and utter failure. The Arabs have fallen even farther behind.
In the meantime, the attempt to imitate the west has had the expected backlash. Religious ideologues have determined that even the effort to move into the 21st century, is a threat and an affront to God. Real Muslim glory can only be achieved by looking back, not forward. A new Caliphate (one that will punish and subordinate non Muslims), strict and inflexible, is the vehicle that will bring happiness and fulfillment to the ummah.
The movement to restore Islam to it’s former glory is the clear ideology of Whabbism, a belief that spiritual ‘rededication’ meant the purification of Muslims- and that purification and Islamic religious and cultural renewal was to embrace the notion that non Muslim ideologies were to be rejected and scorned.
Western and non Muslims ideologies are held responsible for the decline of the Muslim empire. It is the non Muslims that have humiliated the Arab world. It is the non Muslims that have exploited the Arabs and it is the non Muslims that have oppressed Islam. Non Muslims are guilty of keeping the Arab world from their rightful place of leadership, dominance and prestige. As we noted yesterday, the establishment of a successful Jewish state in a tiny corner of the Middle East is a direct affront to the Arab world. Al the spinning and dancing in the world cannot change the truth that
The creation of the State Of Israel could not be explained away, denied or hidden. As far the Arab world was concerned, the establishment of the Jewish state, in their neighborhood and on their watch, was indeed a catastrophic event. In fact, it was cataclysmic, because Israel was undeniable evidence that the rise and domination of the Islamic world, led by the Arabs was indeed over. Notwithstanding Arab failures for over a thousand years, the establishment of Israel was a truth that not even the Arab world could deny. That catastrophe worsened as Israel ascended into the first world and they fell even further behind. In the same way that Da Vinci and Galileo were to stun the church with scientific truths, Israel stunned the Arab world with the successes that could only serve to highlight a millennium of Arab failure and darkness. The divine law, given by God Himself, that gave Muslims dominion over all mankind was upended- and by Jews, no less. The magnitude of the event cannot be understated.
Israel not only reflects Arab failure, she also reflects the successes 0f western ideologies and western predicates for success. The Arabs would have you believe that the rejection of western successes are justified by saying they are rejecting the western culture and values that are anathema to Muslims. They cannot explain the successes of Muslim societies in Singapore and Malaysia. Those nations succeeded because they achieved their own successes on their own terms. They did not imitate or attempt to define themselves by western cultural expressions.
In any event, in the Arab world, any expression of western ideas, ideologies or beliefs are deemed ‘satanic.’ The choice of imagery and words are no accident.
Bernard Lewis noted that in the Islamic world, the principal functions of Satan is to assume the role of ‘tempter.’ Arab religious expression defines the ‘tempter’ as offering democracy, technology, freedom for women, sexuality without religious constrictions, education and success, material and emotional.
Those straight-jackets that have ‘kept the Arabs down,’ have naturally resulted in resentment in the Arab world. The religion induced euphoria can only result in the realization that the promise is unfulfilled. As prayers go unanswered, crushing disappointment becomes hate. Western temptations elicit hate and then greed. Everybody wants a piece of the pie- right now. They don’t want to work for it. They want to take it, because that is their right. It is in the taking that pride can be restored and disappointmet can be obviated. It matters little who gets hurt in the process.
In the Arab world, pride can be regained not by excelling or achieving, but rather, by destroying…
Greed and envy are organisms that cannot exist without each other. Greed that cannot be immediately sated leads to obsessive envy. Also true is that envy ferments and results in the intoxicating beverage that results in the lust that is greed, and the cycle from which there is little chance of escape, begins.
Frenzy begets the lust, which begets the frustration and rage, which begets the need for revenge. The cycle then repeats. The process results in a merry go round of conflicting emotion. The individual feels superior, then inferior. He believes that he is of stature and then he becomes invisible and irrelevant.
It is for these reasons that the successes of Jews and Christians and the establishment of Israel have been traumatic for Arabs. Their entire world was upended. The successes of the ‘other’ only served to highlight their own profound failures. It became clear for all to see that the Arabs were now the dhimmi, the second class citizens. Even worse than that, the Arabs were ignored. Every Arab understood that without oil, Arabs would be relegated irrelevance- mostly by their doing. They understood that blaming the ‘other’ or blaming colonialism was no more than a shell game, designed to deceive no one but themselves.
The Arabs are engaged in a schizophrenic battle of monumental proportions. Moderates recognize that the western ‘temptations’ can offer redemption and success on their own terms (by achieving and not imitating) . Fundamentalists are determined to destroy the ‘temptor,’ Satan, embodied by America, Israel, Jews and Christians.
The tempted cannot simply resist the temptations- they must destroy the temptor so that they might not succumb. hey do not see that resisting temptation is powerful than destroying that temptation. The justification of destroying temptation, as opposed to simply resisting comes from the elevation of the temptor. Christians are the agents of Satan, Jews are pigs, non Muslim women are ‘uncovered meat’ and whores that defile family and community. All non Muslims are fair game, as are all Muslims who are ‘not on the program.’
That is how we end up with indiscriminate murder and the justification and elevation of evil.
In their world, heroes kill. In ours, heroes save lives.
In their world, heroes are mass murderers… In our world, heroes come to liberate and give life.
What shame there must be in the Arab world…
The contrast in how heroes are defined cannot be more clear or crisp. That contrast also helps to defines the the chasm of differences between cultures.
The Arab world will have to find it’s own redemption. If it doesn’t, it will implode and cause untold damage.