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14 February 2011

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Kerim

Well, well, well it would seem these moslems are a complex lot...
It will be interesting to see if the western world is capable of dealing with that complexity and the new challenge.
Thanks FB Ali for this piece which should be mandatory reading for those who would like to understand the dynamics at work in the muslim world.

judith weingarten

"Even the attacks on the USA by al-Qaeda were claimed to be in response to US support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

This was only one of Osama bin Laden's three reasons for war against the West and it wasn't originally his primary grievance. His fatwa of 1998 is quite clear, giving his reasons in this order: First, was the US presence in Saudi Arabia, the holiest of places; second the First Gulf War which he blamed for over 1 million Iraqi casualties, as well as the continuing blockade of Iraq; third was the state of Israel and occupation of Palestine.
It's as well to get the actual history right.

ISL

Thanks FBI Ali for a very insightful (and largely lacking in the mainstream) analysis. I would like to propose that if the US is to understand these important aspects, it must be willing, yet there always is significant resistance to change and preference for consistency in any large institution.

For example, despite ample evidence that business as usual on Wall St. crashed and nearly destroyed capitalism globally (absent an unprecedented and ongoing expansion of the money supply) the Obama admin. has preferred consistency and made no meaningful changes.

Thus, IMO, the changes to date in Egypt are insufficient to cause a reassessment of policy against the agents that benefit from the status quo.

I would greatly appreciate feedback from the SST community on what level of change would suffice to cause a non-superficial reassessment of US ME policy.

IMO it will require an Shah-Khomenei level of change (note islamicistic or true democratic are both equally challenging to US ME policy) in Egypt, the House of Saud, maybe Pakistan, and potentially one or two other countries (but not most).

I appreciate your mention of Turkey, where the changes have been equally significant, but have (I argue) occurred so slowly as not to incite a re-think (Consider, a NATO ally refusing US airplane passage against one of Turkey's long-term enemies, Saddam's Iraq).

FB Ali

Kerim,

I wrote about activists. However, the general beliefs and attitudes of political and religious Islamists are reflected in the general Muslim population, though they push only a relatively small number into activism. So, yes, a “complex lot”. Like any other world community.

Judith Weingarten,

Thank you for supplying the other reasons for AQ’s attacks on the US. You will have noted, of course, that both these others fall squarely within the general jihadi motivation that I had stated: attacks on Muslim peoples or their lands.

VietnamVet

Brigadier Ali,

Excellent Presentation.

Islam and Christianity are evangelistic religions always in conflict that around 1600 settled into an uneasy lines of separation south of Europe, up through the Balkans, across the Hindu Kush and in Asia across the Southern Philippine Islands. In response to this conflict, the Reformation in Europe led to capitalism, science and secularism (i.e. Thomas Jefferson). All tried to understand the world as it really was. This gave a profound advantage to the British. The sun never set on their Empire and their language. After WWII, America tried to take up their mantle. It did a passable job up to 1989. Then in a profound tragedy, as a result of the Eastern European revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the neo-liberals seized power and the United States and the UK made the Great Jump back to Robber Barons, Colonial Wars and the 19th Century.

Four decades ago when I was in SE Asia, there was a profound difference in outlook and temperament between native speakers and those who learned English in school and could communicate clearly in English like you. There are Islamists who never learned English. They have power locally, maybe nationally, but never internationally. This is why our colonial war against the Taliban is so stupid. Then, there are the English speakers that turn into Islamists and fly airplanes into high-rises.

In the 21st Century there are the new secular international English speakers. As an Egyptian girl said on TV, “Of course I speak English, I am Egyptian.” Since the US and UK have jumped back a century, and are cutting government spending in face of the Great Recession and continuing the forever wars, there will be millions and millions more unemployed in America, Ireland and Great Britain. They will learn from the secular Egyptians through the internet, facebook and tweeter. The next Western revolutionary generation will take up the Egyptian cry; ‘We are prepared to die because we are already dead.’

We are all Egyptians now.

judith weingarten

FB Ali, You are right, of course, that all three reasons reflect the idea of an "attack" on Muslim peoples/lands -- but it should also be emphasized that the US bases in Saudi Arabia comprised a metaphorical "attack" -- their mere presence, and not their hostility -- which is somewhat different. In theory, then, any Western presence in any Muslim land could fall into this category and invite reprisals.

JLCampos

It seems to me that Islam and the State being coextensive any failure of the State is tacitly a religious failure and therefore the rise of a fervid religious man that promises prosperity through religious strictures is a necessity for the maintenance of both the State and religion.

BillWade

I think Obama missed a great opportunity to enhance relations with the Muslim world by not providing a mechanism to remove Mubarak forcibly (along with his staff) and quickly. Heads should roll over this mistake. But then again, I said the same thing the day after 911.

"They hate us for our freedoms", makes me sick every time I recall that propaganda from Bush.

Clifford Kiracofe

To "get it right" the US would have to drop its Israel-centric foreign policy. Will "domestic politics" in the US allow such a change in policy?

Republican presidential hopefuls are making journeys to Israel right now with a view to 2012. Ritual travel to Israel for the 51st primary? (or 1st?)

FB Ali

Judith Weingarten,

....the US bases in Saudi Arabia comprised a metaphorical "attack" ‒ their mere presence, and not their hostility....

For the US their troops were just “present” ‒ indeed, at the invitation of the Saudi government. That is not how it seemed to AQ and other jihadis. To them it was an “occupation” (which is what I wrote in the article), facilitated by the US lackeys who ruled the birthplace of Islam. Hence justifying an attack on the homeland of the occupier.

JL Campos,

You have missed the whole point I was making, namely, that Islam is viewed differently by different Muslims. For political Islamists (and ordinary Muslims who think on those lines) the “State” isn’t a religious entity, but mainly a political and economic one. Such Muslims don’t respond to any fervid religious man that promises prosperity through religious strictures.

Medicine Man

I have always regarded al-Qaeda's first grievance, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, as being a convenient way to attack the Saudi monarchy. I realize that this theory doesn't contradict your observations about the motives of Islamic groups, Brigadier FB, given that any political group — Islamic or otherwise — must first be interested in attaining power, often at the expense of the existing rulers. Is this cynical view of AQ somewhat plausible though, or are they strictly ideological in your opinion?

JLCampos

FB Ali:
I don't want to appear to be contentious but my statement regarding Islam requires some background. I have in mind people like ibn Tumart Khomeiny and al Wahhab and the many Israelite prophets. They preached that the evils of society were due to a distancing of customs from the real religion, and that only by a return to what they understood as the pure religion felicity may be obtained.
In other aspects Condorcet's paradox shows that the majority choices are self annihilating that only a minority rules the state.
This is clear in economics where the cost at the margin rules the prices in general and it is the Lenins and Maos whose will eventually rules the day.
I wish the Muslims the greatest happiness but from the standpoint of experience one cannot deny the power of the single man or the small dedicated group.
Hegel defines fanaticism as the impossibility of seeing nuances. Many religious men have this problem and they may be eloquent enough to convince a large amorphous majority of their truth.

Grumpy

Sir, I am not a Muslim, but I don't expect the world to believe the same way as me. I want everybody to have the right to choose their own faith. As I read you were please, I appreciated the fact that you tried to explain the differences for dumb old Vets, like me. If I step back and clinically look at this, I should see no threat, but that is not the case. You suggest that this is a regional issue, for only the Middle East. The more radical segments have objectives of absolute dominance of the whole world. This is one of those times, where I would be glad to be wrong. At this point in time, I don't see the necessary evidence for that response.

Saeed Malik.

A very good analysis indeed. One point generally missed out is that nearly in all cases, including that of al Qaida, all Islamist movements, of either stripe, have been built up, at one time or another,with the help of the West.This was done to counter socialist,secular, and nationalist movements in Islamic lands.And these latter were sufficiently beaten down, so that they did not remain a threat during the cold war. However, these were the movements that could check the Islamists at the political level. Their dismantling has left the field to the Islamists, and now has come the time to reap what has been sown, in a better part of the Muslim world. But if the West has to make a start to dousing the fires of upheaval that have erupted, or threaten to do so, it would be worth their while to start with dispensing justice, and seen to be doing so.
Saeed.

Cal

Grumpy..

What leads to think that radical Islam want to dominate the 'whole world'?

And how do you think they would go about dominating the whole world?

With what?

Charles I

Thanks FB.

Nice rubric. Fits nicely with what we saw on Taheer Square,and the contrast with recent news video of Pakistani's demanding erstwhile consultant Mr. Davis' execution comports with your analysis.

Peter Principle

Certain recent positive trends have caused these negative factors (which have prevailed for long but have recently intensified) to now acquire the potential to lead to an eruption: a preponderance of young people in the population, wide access to information through the internet and TV, and in some countries (e.g, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iran) lots of educated young people.

So is this the Muslim world's 1968? Or will it be something more significant and lasting?

JimTicehurst

Yes Saeed..
You are very correct..
Ironic isn't it...
We don't even learn from past Mistakes..Even the Russians Keep it Simple..
Seems Best not to Cook to Many Meals..If you Burn the food..or Don't like the Taste later..
The Dirty Dish's Just keep Piling Up..Don't they..

rjj

@Grumpy - "If I step back and clinically look at this, I should see no threat, but that is not the case. ... The more radical segments have objectives of absolute dominance of the whole world."

Islamists, Grumpy? Not the radical Mammonite fundamentalists who have stripped our production capacity, indentured us to China, and raided the treasury?

Grumpy

Cal,

Are you saying that radical Islam is*not*trying to dominate the whole world? I should be more accurate, does their behavior support that viewpoint? As I look at the recent behavior of many of the Islamic hierarchy, I see the readers imposing their viewpoint on passive Muslims. Without getting into too much detail, it should be each individual's choice. if you are going treat women a certain way, the same should be true of men, including leaders. There are many ways to deal with transgressions. Please, tell me why the men were the leaders, many times are not punished at all? When we look at the term, “leader”, what do we mean? First, a leader is an example in all of the ways. When a leader fails, the punishment should be much worse for him. But when that very same leader is compliant to a basic respect of all faiths, then I would have no problem. We all need to respect each other's faith.

Jake

General,

Thank you for the education and writings.

What is the likelihood that the Ikhwan can be compromised by extreme religious factions? The reason for this line of questioning is that the PEW Research Poll seems to indicate a very sharpe difference and a religious bent to governance in the ME which in some cases means Egypt as well. Or do you see another Turkish style of governance developing?

http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/

FB Ali

Jake,

One needs to be cautious in interpreting the results of such polls. The methodology requires them to use as representative a sample as possible, but, due to the highly stratified structure of most of these countries, the views elicited by the polls may not be the “effective” ones, ie, those that guide the actions of the governments or even the peoples of these countries.

For example, in April-May this Pew poll found that 67% of Turks had an unfavourable view of Hamas. Who could have predicted from this result that, barely a month later, Turkey would break its deep ties with Israel over Hamas and Gaza (of course, Israel’s stupid and brutal response to the aid flotilla helped)?

I don’t think more conservative, religious sentiment in Egypt (not well organized) will stop the Ikhwan from pursuing a “political” policy ‒ though they will continue to pay lip service to the concerns of this constituency.

Grumpy,

I can assure you that Muslims, Islamists and even jihadis are not even dreaming of “world domination”; they’re too busy trying to get out from under the control of the power that does dominate the world ‒ the US.

As many people have been saying on this blog, there are powerful interests in the US which want its people to be so scared and concerned about this ‘looming danger’ that they don’t notice they’re being robbed blind, of their wealth and their liberty, by these interests.

For many decades they had people s*** scared of the big bad Commies who were seeking “world domination”. When that paper tiger collapsed, they had to find another bogeyman to keep people scared and under control.

There are dangers around you, my friend, but they are not Muslims seeking world domination.

Jake

General,

Yes while you are very correct to advise caution on interpreting poll results. We however, also have to be very cautious on interpreting reactions by a government and how its views its foreign policy issues and responds to it verses, how it's citizenry understandings it and responds to it...

Both are not always on the same wave length.

Hence, part of the cause and effect of revolutions.

Ingolf Eide

Apologies for being so long in responding, Furrukh. What a marvellously clear conceptual framework. Thank you.

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