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Laith Saud: Addressing the “Muslim Problem”

1 November 2010 Uncategorized No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

So let’s talk about the supposed “Muslim Problem.” This week Bill O’Reilly has been on a crusade to warn the American public that there is a “Muslim Problem” and that political correctness is stifling any discussion of it−the firing of Juan Williams being an example of such correctness. Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are all problems and all Muslim: therefore we have a Muslim problem says O’Reilly.

O’Reilly of course is not the only public figure sounding the alarm; Michael Mandelbaum, one of America’s leading foreign policy experts, also claims in his new book The Frugal Superpower “the major test for America to sustain its role” will come from the Middle East and he cites Iran as the most serious, but by no means the only, challenge in this regard.  Mandelbaum’s solution? Reduce our dependency on oil in a time of economic scarcity.  Thomas Friedman, one of our most influential neo-Liberals, agrees with the neo-Con Mandelbaum. So, let’s indulge the question and look at the Muslim world and see if there is indeed a “Muslim problem.”

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia is one of America’s staunchest allies and is one of the few countries in the world designated as having a “special relationship” with the United States.  The kingdom has enjoyed close ties with the United States since 1945 when President F.D. Roosevelt met with Kind Abdul-Aziz.  For the last 65 years, the Saudis have played a crucial role in sustaining American interests in the region: For example, stabilizing oil prices during risky and turbulent times in the region, often caused by our own US policies.

The current King of Arabia, Abdullah, offered to deliver the entire Arab world in a peace treaty with Israel if Israel would accept the 1967 borders, which would put Israel back in compliance with international law at least on that issue. This bold offer was refused, of course, by Israel.

The Saudis have also backed the American sponsored Ayad Allawi in Iraq. In fact, it is the Saudis staunch pro-Americanism that makes them a target of al-Qaeda.  So the Saudis have the “same enemy” as the Americans.

Pakistan:  Over the last thirty years Pakistan has done more than any other American ally in combating both communism and terrorism.  In the 1980’s it was Pakistan, under the aegis of the military dictator Zia al-Haqq that took on a decisive role in the Cold War.  Pakistan facilitated the deep American presence in Afghanistan and helped set the stage for the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union.  Many analysts would argue it was the eventual triumph of the Afghans that lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.

Since 9/11, Pakistan has bore the brunt of the so-called “War on Terror” on behalf of the United States and now the same forces that have targeted America are now targeting the central government of Pakistan, thus the Pakistani government, like the Saudis, have the “same enemy” as America.

Why do Mandelbaum, O’Reilly or Friedman continually refer to a Muslim problem coming from either regimes or peoples when such regimes and peoples are actually and factually in alliance with America?

Iran:  This is everyone’s favorite choice as “evidence” of the “Muslim Problem.” On Tuesday 9/11/01, the United States was attacked by terrorists who happened to be Muslim.  On Friday, 09/14/2001, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei decried “Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned” he said “wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be”.  Iranians were in the streets holding candlelight vigils on behalf of the victims.

Subsequently, Iran worked has with the US in Afghanistan and has held diplomatic talks with the US on Iraq.  You may cite Iran’s support for Hezbollah.  Well Hezbollah likewise condemned the 9/11 attacks on American civilians and its late spiritual leader Sheikh Muhammad Fadlallah was a vociferous critic of terrorism.  This is the same Sheikh Fadlallah that Octavia Nasr was fired for by CNN, when she noted that she personally admired his moderation and nuance.  For Mandelbaum, Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons is really the biggest threat.

Yet, Iran has remained in total compliance with international law in this regard.  No, the only country in the region to be in violation of international norms and hopes in this respect is Israel.  Israel’s possession of hundreds of nuclear weapons has instigated an arms race in the region, one that Iran may or may not be partaking in.

Should I go on?  Egypt?  Crucial to Israel’s existence.  Turkey?  A modernizing, secular force that is a bridge between east and west.  Morocco?  The first country to ever recognize the United States. Syria?  An ally to the US during the first Gulf War and explicitly open to peace with Israel.  What Muslim problem?  There is no Muslim problem.

Terrorism is not a “Muslim problem.”  It is a sociological phenomenon that occurs in certain settings as has been demonstrated time and time again by scholars like Robert Pape. Nuclear weapons in the Middle East are not a “Muslim problem.” They are a Zionist problem. There is absolutely no Muslim problem, in fact Muslims are some of the US’s staunchest allies and we would not be where we are in the world today without Muslim alliances. But neo-Cons and neo-Liberals are more interested in promoting war against the entire Muslim world and our own interests for inexplicable reasons.

I am neither proud nor disturbed by the Muslim world’s disposition to do America’s bidding.  It is not my point. My point is only this: If we are going to talk about “the Muslim problem,” fine, but the facts are clear and unambiguous, Muslims constitute the single most important ally in American affairs when it comes to oil or terrorism. Perhaps the current undoing of this alliance is facilitating America’s decline: It certainly has cost us billions in the so-called “War on Terror” and affected the lives of thousands of Americans and Middle Easterners.

Yet, Mandelbaum, Friedman, and O’Reilly have continued this line of thinking for ten disastrous years and have yet to learn from the consequences of our two wars and countless diplomatic blunders. But, perhaps, intellectual stagnation is the principal characteristic of any nation’s decline.

Original post: Laith Saud: Addressing the “Muslim Problem”

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