Winning: Islams Secret Weapon

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February26, 2007: A recent opinion poll of Arab countries (Egypt:, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), questioned a sample of 3,850 individuals, and was done under the direction of American firm Zogby International. Many of the responses will seem odd to Westerners, but not to historians. The responses explain a lot of what has been going on in the Islamic world, and why the most recent outbreak of Islamic terrorism is so deadly and predictable.

Consider the responses to some of the questions posed in the opinion survey.

When asked which national leader, outside their own country, they most admired, the most highly rated individuals were the leader of Hizbollah (Hassan Nasrallah), the leader of France (Chirac), of Iran (Ahmadinijad) and Venezuela (Chavez). The same four were named when people were asked, "which world leader (outside your own country) you would prefer to rule over you and your family?" When asked which world leaders they disliked the most, they responded with U.S. president George Bush, Israeli leaders Sharon and Olmert, and prime minister Tony Blair of Great Britain.

Asked which nation they would prefer to see as the only world superpower, the following nations were selected (in order of preference); France, China, Pakistan, Germany, U.S. Russia, Britain. Egyptians, Lebanese and Moroccans preferred France the most, while the United Arab Emirates preferred the United States the most. When asked to name foreign countries that provided the most freedom and democracy for their citizens, the nations getting the most responses were; France, Germany, United States, and Britain. When asked which foreign country they would most prefer living in, the top favorites were (in order of preference); France, Germany, Britain, U.S., China, Pakistan, Russia.

When asked which two nations were the biggest threat to them, the three most often mentioned were Israel, the United States and (to a much lesser extent that the first two) Iran. When asked what the United States could do that would most improve their view of that country, the most frequent response was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. When asked if they believed spreading democracy was the major American goal in the Middle East, over two thirds said no. When asked what the real American objectives in the Middle East were, the most popular responses were; controlling oil, protecting Israel, weakening the Moslem world and a desire to dominate the region. Over half believed that Democrats taking control of Congress would not make any difference in U.S. policy (16 percent thought it would).

Most respondents believe that the war in Iraq meant less peace and less democracy for the region, and more terrorism. It was also felt that the Iraqi people were worse off because of the war. Moreover, 61 percent believe Iran has the right to have nuclear weapons, and 51 percent believe that Iran is trying to do just that. With regard to last Summers war between Israel and Hizbollah, 61 percent believe Hizbollah won. As a result, 68 percent have a better attitude towards Hizbollah. While 23 percent believe that it's possible for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians (with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital), 38 percent believe Israel would never agree to this, and 29 percent believe Israel should be destroyed no matter what.

In terms of their primary personal identity, 45 percent consider themselves a Moslem, 29 percent a citizen of their country, 20 percent an Arab, three percent a citizen of the world and one percent a Christian. Over the last three years, identity as a Moslem has increased, while " citizen of their country" has declined. Along those lines, 39 percent believe the clergy should have a greater say in how their country is run, and that 42 percent believe that clergy play too little a role in running their country. With regard to women, 38 percent believe women should always be allowed to work outside the home, while eleven percent believe that never should be allowed.

Over half (54 percent) got most of their news from al Jazeera.

The responses indicate that most Moslems seem themselves as Moslems first, and feel that the non-Moslem world is out to get them. The intense hatred of Israel is better understood if you keep in mind some key elements of Islamic history. First, Islam is a very intolerant religion. Their scripture calls for anyone who converts to another religion to be killed. Moreover, that particular rule is regularly obeyed by Islamic conservatives, even if local civil law forbids it. According to the Koran, other religions are only tolerated as long as the infidels (non-Moslems) pay higher taxes, do not hold positions of authority in the government, do not try to convert Moslems, and keep their own religious activities low key. Note, for example, that in Saudi Arabia, non-Moslem houses of worship are forbidden, as are public religious ceremonies for any other religion.

Infidels have been persecuted and driven out of the Islamic world for centuries. The percentage of Christians in the Middle East has been declining particularly rapidly in the last century. Sure, the infidels "get along" with Moslems in the Middle East, but they do so on Moslem terms. Another unique aspect of Islam is the triumph of religious conservatives, and persecution of original thinkers and innovators. This struggle between progressives and conservatives has been going on for over a thousand years, and is a typical feature of most religions. When Islam first appeared it was, in many ways, quite progressive for its time. But seven hundred years later, the Europeans were undergoing a social and intellectual renaissance, and the Islamic world was going in the other direction. That is why, when Moslems talk about all the West owes the Islamic world in terms of science, they must refer to events many centuries in the past. It also explains why the Middle East has such high rates of illiteracy, and such low rates of scientific and economic accomplishment. Israel shoves difference that right into their faces. That's particularly painful because over a third of the Israeli population are Middle Easterners, the descendents of Jews expelled from Middle Eastern countries after Israel was founded in 1947. These "Sephardi" Jews look like Arabs, often still speak Arabic, because their families lived in Arab countries for thousands of years. Yet the Sephardim are much better educated and economically successful than their Moslem cousins. So is Israel as a whole. Many Arabs admit that Israel must go because it embarrasses the Moslem world. The despots that run most Arab countries encourage this concentrated hatred of Israel, and blaming of Israel for the regions problems, as a way to deflect criticism of their own miserable misrule. The whole "Israel is the biggest problem in the Middle East" issue is a scam, to enable local tyrants to keep their people down, and many of the people are starting to wise up.

There is a growing "Arab Reform Movement" in the Middle East, that believes the problems in the Arab world are internal, not external. The fact that an increasing number of Arabs support this movement, and that governments are not trying to exterminate it, is encouraging. But the reform movement is pushing against centuries of conservatism, and opposition to the kinds of things that Westerners take for granted. Meanwhile, Most Arabs still prefer to believe in conspiracies and fantasies, rather than deal with the reality of their situation. Now the opinion poll makes sense.


 


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