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19 September 2012


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Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

One minor quibble - you wrote:

"Islam is an austere religion and so is its culture; it has no ‘pegs’ to which its followers can attach their emotions"

This is true as far as Sunni Islam only.

It does not obtain in Shia Islam, the only place in all of Islam - Orthodox Sunni or Sufi - that there is any delicacy of feeling and subtle emotions.

And emotions and feeling are invariably tied to the family of the Prophet - Ahl al Beit.


This was lovely, thank you. You managed to touch upon every facet that underscores Muslim antagonism towards the West. As long as the US twines itself around Israel, I despair of it ever being able to design a positive, all-inclusive policy towards the Middle East. And, until it does, I don't believe the US can avoid insulting Muslims everywhere.

It's saddening to see how, in Europe particularly, the freedom of expression has been used to disparage the core of Islam, the prophet Mohammed. The irony is that Muslims can't return the favor; Jesus is second only to Mohammed as a great prophet.


Speaking of warp drives, I always think of Dr. Bashir on Star Trek:


The Great-great-great grandson of the Mahdi, who was just as bad as OBL back in the day.

Which one of OBL's great-great-grandkids will be the 22nd century Paris Hilton.

That one can exist, but not the other, is why the Muslim world is doomed.


Very informative, but FB Ali missed one little event:
The US didn't invade Afghanistan because the US Army was bored.

FB Ali

That is why I wrote: He is the only entity in Islam that evokes an emotional response in all Muslims.


I don't know how to respond to this. So if people scream at my country, 'get out of the Middle East'! Or 'get out of every place!' Or if they scream "stop exploiting us and/or supporting people that ARE exploiting us". Or "stop ripping our oil off', Or 'stop threatening us', or 'stop blaming us for unemployment in your nation'. Or, 'stop supporting Israel'! We can talk.

But 'stop making videos'. Or 'allowing them to be shown'. 'or stop allowing people in your nation from making videos', or 'stop publishing cartoons', as far as I'm concerned, we got nothing to talk about.

I am not implying that you are suggesting such a simplistic thing in your essay. I know it seems to me a lot of people whom call themselves Muslims ARE suggesting that. And further, threatening us, if we do not go along with their requests.

Finally, you ended your essay writing these eloquent words:

"Without policies based on such a sound understanding the US will continue to encounter the problems and crises that have so far marked its dealings with the Muslim world"

I would say the same is true for the Muslim world and its understanding or lack of understanding of the US and the Western world in general.

Babak Makkinejad

True as far as it goes.

However, looking at the last 160 years; the expansion of the political power of non-Muslim into Islamdom has been checked and is now in the process of reversal.

FB Ali

I am not suggesting any course of action or solution. I am merely analyzing the problem, since many in the West appear to be unaware of its dimensions.

I agree that, if the Muslim world or any Muslim country wishes to deal adequately with the US, it needs to understand it.

The beaver

"And further, threatening us, if we do not go along with their requests."

I wonder how come some of those fine people on the Hill do bend over backwards when the same threats come from AIPAC or some rich kingmakers from Wall Street to Chicago to LA to Florida.


Thank you for your informative insights. I do not have any solutions or suggestions to solve this dilemma either. As you pointed out, none of this developed recently, even if recent neo-con belligerence has probably made it worse.

The best hope I can offer is the situation in northern Europe today. It is rather peaceful now but it has not always been so.


When are Muslims going to get out of Greek and Armenian lands (i.e. Anatolia) and Hindu lands (South Asia)? If they do, we will take their grievances seriously. Until then, not so much.


A most useful piece, Furrukh. Thank you.

It's good to be reminded of the reasons for the extent and depth of accumulated Muslim antipathies towards the West. For me at least, it was even more useful to get a better understanding of why the Prophet is so uniquely central to Islam.

None of it makes optimism any easier. Our near veneration for the ideal of freedom of expression seems destined to periodically cut directly across Islam's sorest point. Even many Westerners of goodwill baulk at "knuckling under" to what they see as unreasonable sensitivities. Not entirely surprising given how much ridicule and eviscerating criticism Christianity has had to weather.

If we weren't there, with our boots on, I guess tensions would gradually ease. Still, even when we "leave", we'll still be there in one form or another, poking and prodding and killing. Not much help likely from that direction, and I fear it would only take one moderately successful terrorist attack in the States to reignite Americans' underlying fury. And then there's our capacity for making things worse; disappointing as Obama has been, the potential for misunderstanding and escalation under Romney hardly bears thinking about.

Seems I've talked myself into a blue funk. Casting around for a happier note to end on, I'm reduced to hoping that compassion may play a larger role. Right. That, and the wish that Muslims might come to better understand the nature of our free speech totem.


"....no revered saints and martyrs, no resplendent popes and bishops, no ornate churches and temples, no elaborate rituals and services, no hymns and sacred music, no pomp and ceremony, nothing that can engage the emotions of its followers. The one exception is the Prophet."

I read this holding my reservations in check, even past the descriptions of the "wars waged on muslims" as though there were never two parties involved. My reservations however were dropped on reading this passage, which is really nothing more than idealistic propoganda.

No saints, martyrs or revered figures? Then Shia and Sunni are just figments of our imagination? No ornate churches and temples? You can not be serious. Mecca? Al-Aqsa? Please. No elaborate services, pomp, ceremony, hymns or sacred music? Really? The Haj? The Five Pillars? Daily prayer? Sharia "law"? I would argue that these elaborate and specific rituals, ceremony and prescriptions are really what make Islam unique compared to other religions.

Your description seeks to reinvent Islam as a more purely concieved, unworldly (as in divorced from worldly concerns) religion, devoid of the trappings of human desires (and idolatry?) present in other religions and therefore more "Godly", but the reality is completely at odds with your characterization. In fact, it is a rather bigoted comparison, since to non-believers, Islam is no less concerned with veiled selfish human concerns than any other religion.

I'm agnostic on the rest of your post, but really have to call them as I see them on these points. You don't gain credibility by trying to pass on easily disputed whoppers like this.


You are cogent as always. However i believe a lot of the narrative that muslims adhere to (concept of ummah and grievance against west or for that matter anyone else) is manufactured.

There is complete lack of self reflection and self analysis among muslims. Only now i am hearing some brave souls who get on television and ask everyone to stop whining and look at own condition and self inflicted perdition.

Here is such an Egyptian:

and here is a Pakistani:
(this is incomplete with English subtitles so doesn't quite give the true gist)

this is full in Urdu , unfortunately not everyone understands here


Usually, money (as in contributions) works better than tantrums and mindless violence.


Colonel Lang,

Your correspondent FB Ali gives us
accuracy, brevity, and clarity on this
strategically vital topic.

I work daily with a group of younger
folk in the O-5/6 GS 13/14/15 range they
have an appalling ignorance on these
matters [many matters actually].

They are going to take very hard the
melancholy results of their many years
[2001-whenever] of what they perceive
as their "sacrifice". This could be
another of the many manifestations
of "blowback" that haunt us for decades.

I do wish they were SST readers.

On a related but separate topic - I do
not remember ever being concerned that
I was unarmed [well, maybe, sometimes,
a .45 with no round in the chamber] when
I worked with/trained PRUs. I liked them
and I think they liked me [at least to
the extent they could like a Westerner,
colonialist type officer]. I was sufficiently
impressed with them that I spent many years
afterwards [20] studying their language [Chinese].
There is a level of contempt/hatred now that did not exist
then. My son is a senior field grade officer
in a Tier 1 unit and he describes a totally
different war. This is not going to end well;
and is not going to "end" for a long time.

USMC 65=72
FBI 72-96

FB Ali

I was dealing with the basic creed of the religion, not the way it is practised by certain groups. Human beings find it difficult to adhere strictly to a religion which is essentially just a relationship between the human individual and an invisible deity, without any intermediaries. There is no scope for emotional attachment in such an intangible equation.

That is why various groups of Muslims have added to the basics of the religion such things as martyrs and saints, and the veneration of their tombs and memory in elaborate rituals involving devotional songs or sorrowful dirges and ritual mourning. All these engage their emotions, but all of them are extraneous to the fundamentals of the religion.

You obviously don't know much about Islam, otherwise you would not think the Kaaba was some kind of St Peter's, or the genuflections of the daily prayer (which can be performed anywhere, even out in the open) was equivalent to the High Mass.

What makes Islam unique compared to other religions is its basic simplicity. The Salafi movement now roiling the Muslim world is an attempt to rid the religion of these accretions and take it back to its pristine beginnings. (Unfortunately, they would also at the same time like to drag Muslims back into the 7th century).



I do not know how you can bear to listen to a lot of the hateful speech and ignorance among these guys at this point. Somehow the US military failed miserably in trying to instill a sense of respect for the local people and cultures in the places where we have waged war. This is not universal. There are specialized units who have done a great job, the US Marines and GBs who made the Awakening and the SOI possible are an obvious example. But, by and large the line troops never learned anything useful about the envoronment in which they worked and the senior officers in headquarters like ISAF are not much better. Like you I trained indigenous soldiers in insurgenies on three continents. I was not fearful of them and things like these killings did not happen.I went on a lot of operations in SE Asia in which there were several hundred VN, Lao or Cambodians and three or four Americans. Nothing ever happened that even vaguely resembles this. It is all very sad, pl

William R. Cumming

Interesting post and threads! IMO this is just a modern war of religions with each one believing they are the ones with right on their side. Arguments to the contrary are just trying to be PC and mask the history of the last two millenia.

The EU is destabilized now by adoption of the rapacity of American banking practices, but in the rest of the century it will be destabilized by demographics.


I saw the same appalling lack of knowledge of Islam where I worked, but even more there was a total lack of language knowledge. When I asked "when are you going to learn Arabic, or Pashto or Dari?" The answer was generally, "too hard. In three years I'll have a different job."


Those fine people on the Hill want to be re-elected and many who cave do so since they already agree with those positions or they have sold thier integrity for another 2 years in office.

Shah Alam

Another factor contributing to this is that Muslims do not clearly delineate between the state and the public of the Western world: most Muslims perceive the acts of public as part of a state policy. Lack of this understanding widens the gulf further and increases the anger and frustration against the West.

The Moar You Know

Muslims are perfectly free to return the favor, and I wish they would.

The difference is that these days, people rarely die for the crime of insulting Jesus or Christianity.

FB Ali

Shah Alam,

You make a good point. It relates to the next layer among the causes that lead to these periodic (and often violent) outbursts in the Muslim world (in the interests of brevity I just dealt with the deepest layer, which is not much understood in the West).

This next layer of causes has to do with the conditions of the bulk of the Muslim peoples. Most of them are uneducated or poorly educated. They live hard lives, struggling to provide for themselves and their families. Their living conditions are poor to awful. They have no control over their lives, being at the mercy of events and the powerful. No wonder they see the world as ruled by dark conspiracies.

The next layer of causation is the leaders of the Muslim world. By and large they are corrupt and self-serving. It suits their purpose to keep the attention of their peoples directed outwards at foreign threats and conspiracies.

All these factors are at play.


I "obviously don't know much" about a lot of things, including Islam and including Christianity, Judaism Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc., so don't sell me short. But pardon me for pointing out that what you say about "the basic creed" of the religion could be said of nearly ANY religion. You say "never mind the different sects" and rattle off examples of the basic over-arching tenets of Islam, while comparing it to SECTARIAN aspects of other religions. Since you are comparing apples to oranges, at best this lesson has no real purpose, except to say Islam has universal symbols, like the Prophet, the same as any religion. Maybe speaking from your position you believe Islam is "unique" in this regard, but that is only if you believe all Chrisianity is Catholicism with martyrs and saints and High Mass, which isn't the case. Even though I am not a practicing christian, and am generally "obviously not knowing much", I do at least know that is not true.

But by all means, educate me on how the basic creed of Islam is different from the basic creed of Christ's gospel. You would have to provide something different than saying it includes a simple, direct relationship to the Higher Power, because that is also a tenet of most religions.

But a different question is, aside from the pacifism vs. the violence, are the Salafis really much different from the Amish? If you could explain that difference, then we are really going somewhere.

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