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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Delusions about Islam and the Arab World

All such idealizers [of a mythical Arab past] , Kelly points out in a passage still relevant for many commentators today, indulge “shame at Britain’s imperial past,” “an anxious deference toward the sensibilities of their Arab clients; and a muted hysteria in the indignation they evince in support of those clients’ grievances, notably concerning the establishment of the state of Israel.” Kelly exposes the masochism of such attitudes when directed toward Arab Muslims, the creators of one of history’s greatest imperial powers: “The Arabs understand perfectly well the essence of imperial rule and recall their own era of imperial domination with pride. What has baffled them is the spectacle of an ex-imperial but still great power failing to behave in accordance with its stature but reacting to almost every challenge with a pre-emptive cringe.” Today it is the U.S. that damages its own prestige and effectiveness by failing to behave as the “strongest tribe,” and hence inviting contempt for its weakness....

...Naipaul’s important insights include the overwhelming influence the Islamic faith has over politics and government in Muslim nations. If the state or the economy fails, the fault lies not in its flawed structure or the corruption of its leaders, but in the failure of the people to practice a pure Islam.

This belief, of course, has been at the heart of modern Islamist theory propagated by the likes of Sayyid Qutb, Osama bin Laden, and the numerous jihadist outfits active throughout the world. Also significant is the dependence of Islamic nations on the more productive economies of the West, particularly “the export of its own citizens” and the “earnings they remit from abroad.” This dependence on the West creates a painful resentment and ambivalence, “the whole Muslim dilemma of treating with a civilization held to be anathema by the true believer but whose liberties and institutions he is only too ready to exploit.” One thinks of the strip clubs visited by 9/11 terrorist Mohammed Atta, or the abundance of pornography discovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad lair.

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