An interesting article by Ed Husian, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, got me thinking and does a fine job of helping people to put recent Middle Eastern issues into a different context.
Rather than look at events as something that can be eliminated by making people like America more, Husain provides, what I think is, an insightful look at some underlying issues that might be driving these activities
Having lived parts of my life in foreign countries, even through wars in Africa, I’ve always been proud to be an American and without exception, been greeted with great kindness by every culture I’ve met.
Just a week or so ago I was in Russia for two days. You would think that Russia might be one place where people might have some ill will against Americans. But in my travels, that was simply not true.
People I’ve met all over the world generally have the same message, they love America but they don’t necessarily like our politics. It might be a hard distinction for people to grasp but the American culture is almost universally something people want to participate in. But culture and understanding freedom of speech are two different issues.
Imagine if you had been raised in a culture where we were taught and essentially trained that nobody could ever speak ill of apples and all of a sudden you hear pissy messages about apples. That’s not an excuse, it’s just a context.
In the past few days I’ve had conversations with people that are naturally outraged about the murder of the American ambassador in Libya. I am to. And I am especially outraged being the child of a member of diplomatic missions. But talk of “We need to go invade and kill them” is a poor response. When I ask those who says things like this to me to tell me who “them” is, well then the conversation stumbles.
Husain says in his article:
“Arab societies are on a journey. They can easily take the wrong turn. The attacks on the American embassies in Libya, Egypt and Yemen are examples of the ongoing presence of intolerant, tyrannical actors in Arab societies.
These are people who were born and raised in dictatorships. They are accustomed to thinking that a government controls its citizens — that a film or documentary cannot be produced without government approval. For decades, this has been the reality of their lives, and they strongly believe that the Western world and its citizens have a similarly controlling relationship between individuals and government.
In light of this assumption, they hold the U.S. government responsible for the tacky and distasteful film produced by a right-wing Muslimphobe.
Little wonder, then, that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy has called for the prosecution by the U.S government of the filmmakers, and Egypt’s top cleric, Mufti Ali Goma, has called on the United Nations to forbid denigration of faiths. Morsy studied in the United States and Ali Goma regularly visits the West on the interfaith circuit, yet both men don’t yet grasp that religious freedom and the freedom of expression are inextricably linked in America.
It is hard for younger Arabs not born into freedom to understand how individual liberty works in real life.”
It’s certainly an interesting point of view and applies a context that many Americans might not have.
There is no excuse for murder, but made there a bit more to understand about Middle Eastern outrage.
If you’d like to read the full article, you can find it here.
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