by Avi Melamed
The violent events in the Arab and Muslim world sparked by the movie “Innocence of Muslims” do not reflect the majority of Muslims. In fact, it is doing them a disservice because the truth is that the majority of Muslims reject extremism.
That being said, the events do reflect the deep feelings of frustration and inferiority which are rampant today in the Muslim and Arab world. These feelings stem from the fact that the Arab and Muslim world today is by and large an “underachieving” society – socially and economically – plagued by suffocating poverty, high rates of unemployment, ever-growing corruption, paralyzing illiteracy, lack of civil and personal rights, and escalating violence.
The events that followed the film also highlight another component of the depressing reality of today’s Muslim and Arab world. Unfortunately, it is still easy to incite and manipulate people in order to distract them from the real challenges and it’s still easy to channel frustration into hatred and violence aimed at external addresses – mostly Israel, the USA and the West.
The responsibility for the bleak reality within the Muslim and Arab world today rests first and foremost on the shoulders of its own leaders. For generations, Muslim and Arab politicians, clergy, journalists, academics, artists and intellectuals, avoided responsibility by developing and nurturing a culture of self-denial, double-standards, shallow slogans and hollow and pretentious rhetoric designed to whitewash the dreary day to day living conditions in the Muslim and Arab world. These people continually perpetuate the concept of the Arabs and Muslims as the victims of foreign conspiracies, created mostly by the West and Israel.
The mindset of the “Forever Victim” and the concept of “Foreign Conspiracies” has become so deeply rooted within the minds and souls of Muslims and Arabs that it has completely distorted their perception and has deeply compromised their ability to have a rational, logical thinking process that analyzes reality based on facts, events, and outcomes. To a large extent, the Arab and Muslim world has lost the ability to see reality as it really is.
I will give three recent examples to support my thesis:
1. Radical Islamic Jihadists groups have officially launched war on the State of Israel, and they openly call to slaughter Jews wherever they are.
In June a Jihadist group attacked Israeli workers who were building the fence along the Israeli-Egyptian border in the Sinai Peninsula. One worker – an Israeli Arab – was killed.
This terror incident is part of continuing attacks, including the shooting of rockets on Israeli cities and attacks on Israeli cars traveling on the Israeli road along the Egyptian border. These attacks have caused Israeli casualties – mostly civilians.
The Sinai terror attack was covered in Arab media outlets.
Click here for the report in Al -Arabiya’s website. As of the writing of this article, this report resulted in 148 comments in Arabic – obviously made by Arabs.
I read all 148 comments and here are my findings:
Two comments out of 148 can be considered reasonable: One said that “violence is a dead-end street and peace is the only solution”; the other said that the “attack was made by a Jihadist group.”
The other 146 comments were along the lines of: “the attack was a conspiracy of the Israeli Mossad / Iran / both/ aimed to embarrass and discredit Egypt in the eyes of the world” or; “The attack was planned by Israel to justify the Israeli conspiracy to occupy the Sinai Peninsula.”
2. The second example is the attack that was conducted on August 5 by a Jihadist group on an Egyptian military post in Sinai in which they slaughtered 16 Egyptian soldiers. The attackers then stormed into Israeli territory and were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt formally blamed Israel for the attack.
Arab analysts, Journalists, intellectuals and retired Egyptian senior officers argued in articles and interviews that the attack was orchestrated by the Israeli Mossad. These views were echoed endlessly in Arab blogs and obviously in comments made by Arabs in Arab media outlets.
3. The third example is an editorial published on September 22 in the influential Arab newspaper Alquds Al Arabi entitled “Sinai is Israel’s Nightmare” written by the newspaper’s Chief Editor, Mr. Abdel Bari Atwan. You can read more about him in my article Black is White, Up is Down: Master of Distortion (February 2012).
Here is a quote from Mr. Atwan’s article: “Israel is the source for all the troubles, wrongs and instability in the Middle East.” I believe the quote speaks for itself and needs no analysis.
What is most disturbing is the fact that views like the ones shown in the above examples are not exceptional. On an average day one can come across dozens of similar examples including arguments such as “Israel is Iran’s best ally” or “Israel is behind the war in Syria” and the list goes on and on…
The events that are occurring in parts of the Arab world today called by some as “The Arab Spring” may indicate the beginning of small steps in the changing of the mindset among Muslims and Arabs. The healing of the Arab and Muslim societies requires such a change. The path to change is a winding one and it will be long and difficult. The longer people like Mr. Abdel Bari Atwan and those like him continue to shape public opinion, the longer it will take the Arab world to heal.