Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why is the Muslim world so thin-skinned?

So now the Islamic world is in an uproar because the Pope made the incredibly incendiary point that there's something wrong with forcing people to your religion by gunpoint/swordpoint. That's a controversial point? Am I on some kind of weird alternate universe where things like violence to spread your religion is actually acceptible dogma? I'm perfectly tolerant of other religions and faiths - whether they're mainstream like Islam or ridiculous like (pick your favorite cult) - but that tolerance ends, unapologetically - when it interfere's with my rights to exercise whatever ridiculousness I wish.

The Islamic world right now is incredibly thin-skinned. From the Pope's recent remarks to the Danish cartoons, there is such a feeling of victimhood and, well, low self esteem that Muslims take offense at just about anything the west says or does.

This is particularly hypocritical from a part of the world that regularly spews vile, noxious, and vitriolic anti-Semitic (yeah, yeah, I know that many Muslims are technically Semites; let me just replace that, then with "anti-Jewish") poison in its press, which regularly questions the holocaust, and which forbids the practice of other religions.

I can't say I've ever heard a Muslim protest these offensive practices. For that matter, whenever a Muslim does something heinous in the name of Islam, such as the recent shooting of a Jewish community center in Seattle, the worries of reprisals are voiced much more loudly than the condemnations of the act. In the Seattle case, fortunately, the Muslim community actually was much better about reaching out than in other recent events, but even so the cries of worry were still pretty loud. Funny, though, how rare is the act of terrorism or reprisals against Muslims compared to the acts committed by Muslims in the name of Islam. Reprisals against innocent Muslims is entirely unjustifiable and wrong, but perhaps if the community were more vocal and active about not tolerating these madmen then there would be no reason to fear reprisals.

I think the reason for this thin-skinned nature is that the Muslim world right now has a cancer of victimhood. And to quote Cher in Moonstruck, I'd like to tell the Islamic world: "Snap out of it!".

The Muslim world - particularly but not exclusively the Arab portion of it - has many ills plaguing it. (I don't mean to paint such a broad picture, but it's largely true, especially in the middle east and northern Africa.) Some of these ills are undoubtedly due to the west. But they blame the west for all of them, and more importantly have not looked inward to themselves as both a cause of these problems and as the primary source of the solution to them. Instead, they grasp onto their victimhood.

Heck, look at Bin Laden - he's still upset about the crusades and the fact that Spain is no longer Muslim. I'm serious (and unfortunately, so is he). It's been 800 years, it's time to get over it.

I sincerely believe that this is one of the reasons that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has been so intractible. The Israelis want to move on and build a country. The Palestinians can't get over the fact that 60 years ago they got a deal that they didn't like. And when they finally got some control over their situation - autonomy of Gaza - they didn't do anything to improve their situation, instead they voted in Hamas, whose primary objective is still to wipe out Israel, not to do anything to improve the lives of Palestinians. This is the culture of victimhood.

The world is not a fair place. Has the west done bad things to the Arabs/Muslims? Sure, I have no doubt. Have they done bad things to the west? Uh, gee, yeah. Quite a bit, actually.

But other cultures who have suffered military or political defeats, or who face serious economic/education problems - notably Japan, China, Germany, India, etc. - have been incredibly successful when they decide that yesterday is past, and that the single most important key to future success is themselves. Sudan, Syria, Iraq (previous to the invasion as well as now), Iran, even relatively "stable" countries such as Pakistan and Egypt simply have not grasped this; they seem to prefer to wallow in their victimhood rather than do something positive (key word there!) about it.

The Muslim world would do very well to take a deep look inside, take a deep breath, and make themselves part of the solution. And most importantly, thicken their skins to the insult and anger that they seem to feel at the wind blowing the wrong way. I think that if they do, they will find that attitudes about Muslims in the west will change rather dramatically for the better.

Do they want to solve their problems or remain victims? So far the evidence, sadly, points to the latter. Which suggests a lot more terrorism ahead.

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