Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why Can't The Arabs Just Move On Like Everybody Else?

One of the points made by the apologists for the Arab world in general is that the Western World has done them a terrible wrong, according to which it is perfectly understanable why there is a hatred for the West in the Arab world and it is incumbent upon the West to educate itself to better understand that world and be sure not to offend it further.

To a degree, this obliged deference has been extended to include a special respect towards Islam itself, which has been extended so far as to include the banning of Piglet.

In The Arab Mind, Raphael Patai asks the question why the Arab hatred of the West is so unique when their situation is not:

Why is it that of all the nations who find themselves in a similar situation vis-a-vis the West, this hatred of the West and this "cultural inferiority complex" in relation to it arose in a most pronounced form precisely among the Arabs? (p. 314)
He notes that there are other countries that have managed to overcome their problems with domination by the West without holding a perpetual grudge:

1.) Japan suffered horribly during WWII. In addition, Japan was occupied and ruled by the US for a number of years. Despite this, there is nothing among the Japanese approaching the Arab hate of the West.

2.) A number of Black African states were French colonies and even after gaining their independence their culture retains its French influence--yet again there is no hate of the West or of the French. [The current outbreaks of violence can be attributed to the lack of economic opportunity and to a large extent those who are part of the riots are Moslem.]

3.) India was under British rule for 200 years and their relationship to the British was comparable to the relationship that that the Arab states had with the British from the end of WWI till their independence, yet little of the hatred that is found in the Arab world is expressed by India and Moslem Pakistan. Going a step further, Patai points out that India resented the partition that led to the establishment of Pakistan just as much as Syria, Iraq and Egypt resented the partition of then-Palestine which led to the re-establishment of Israel--yet the political disagreement with Great Britain and the West did not lead to hatred, nor a cultural inferiority complex.

Patai notes:
Here we have, then a number of ex-colonial nations, all of whom had largely similar experiences with the Western powers and all of whom are today in a similar situation with reference to the intrusive, dominant, and often overwhelming Western culture. If of them all only the Arabs display that hatred of the West and that cultural inferiority complex which has been noted by both Arab and foreign observers, the cause evidently does not lie in the colonial and post-colonial experiences of the Arabs, but in a different set of factors. (p. 315, emphasis added)
Patai concludes that there are 3 factors that cause Arab resentment.

One of the factors that separates the Arabs from other post-colonial countries is their contributions to the cultural development of the West.

Another factor unique to the Arabs is their history, during which they met the West in battle on more than one occasion, defeated, and subjected it to their rule--in Spain and as far north as Hungary.

The third factor for the Arabs is their religion, Islam--with their policial defeat, they lost their sense of religious superiority as well.

While apologists for the Arab world--many of them Middle East scholars who are as anti-US as they are pro-Arab--will wax poetic on the topic of Arab contributions to Western culture and how Islam is a religion of peace, the topic of the history of Islamic Imperialism is not touched upon, even while Islamists pine openly for a return to domination in countries such as Spain--and beyond.

Patai, who wrote the book in 1972 and wrote a preface to the 1983 reprinting, thought the Arab world was coming into their own. Oil put them on an equal footing with the West. Egypt's 'victory' in the 1973 war with Israel (before being repulsed) allowed them to save face according to Patai and accounts for why they were then able to be the first to sign a peace agreement with Israel, regardless of its flaws.

Patai was optimistic that the Arab world was on its way to becoming a part of the 20th century, a view that has not been vindicated yet, not even in the 21st century.

The point is that the Arabs are not evil incarnate, and if the anti-West scholars, Islamist organizations (I'm thinking CAIR), and terrorists can be prevented from hijacking the future of civilization as we know it, maybe something can be worked out.

It is tempting to think that the refusal of the Arab world to rally behind Hizbollah may be a start, but Michael Rubin writes in the Wall Street Journal ("Iran Against the Arabs") that such hopes are illusory:

It may be tempting to think that acceptance of Israel is in the air. But such optimism is unfounded. There is no change of heart in Riyadh, Cairo or Kuwait. Saudi princes still finance Palestinian terror. Rather, the recent Arab tolerance toward Israel's predicament and condemnation of Hezbollah signal recognition of a greater threat on the horizon. Wadi Batti Hanna, a columnist in Iraq's Arab nationalist al-Ittijah al-Akhar daily, put it bluntly when, on July 15, he asked, "How long will the Arabs continue to fight on behalf of Iran?"

It never gets easier.

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