Friday, May 13, 2011

President Obama’s “Reset” of Relations with Muslims and a Massacre in Pakistan

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

There’s something particularly poignant about news that at least 80 people were killed in Charsadda, Pakistan, by a Taliban attack on a police training center there. It isn’t that the event was so unique—except for one feature—but it is a suitable symbol of the situation in the Muslim-majority world today and how messed up is the Western perception of that part of the world.

The unique aspect is that the attackers said they are taking revenge for the killing of Usama bin Ladin by the United States.

And so as Americans cheer, 80 Pakistani families are in mourning. Let me quickly add that I do not blame the United States for this new mass murder. The crime is on the terrorists’ head. Nor do I believe the United States should not have killed bin Ladin. Not at all.

But this is a teachable moment so let’s summarize the lessons.

--Terrorism goes on. The death of one man or even of one organization won’t end it.

--If the United States had not killed bin Ladin on that particular day, in that place, or in that way, the Charsadda attack would have happened anyway. Thus, terrorists use specific events as excuses to do what they would have done anyway.

--Pakistan, albeit not to its credit, had nothing to do with the killing. In fact, major elements in the government protected bin Ladin while even more of the regime opposed the U.S. attack. Terrorists don't kill people because their victims are "guilty" nor do they need a "good reason" for murder. Their reason is the attempt to stage a revolutionary transformation of their society which they believe is mandated by the will of God and also would give them wealth and power.

--The main cause of terrorism is not America (or Israel, or any other country) killing terrorists but revolutionary Islamism’s attempts to seize state power or of those revolutionary Islamists (and their allies) already in power (see Iran, Syria, Hamas in Gaza, Hizballah in Lebanon, and perhaps soon the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?) to overthrow neighbors.

--These policemen were targets not because they were oppressive instruments of capitalism or imperialism but because the revolutionaries want to destroy order so they can operate in a situation of anarchy which they hope to replace with their own rule.

--Most of the victims of terrorism are Muslim but those who proclaim their love of Muslims and of Third World people (the Western left and most Muslim activists there) couldn’t care less about these thousands of killings. Their only interest is to blame them on America, Israel, the West, or Islamophobia. In fact, they attempt to interfere with the battle against the terrorists and revolutionary Islamists, thus leading to the death of more Muslims.

--Revolutionary Islamism uses terrorism because it is a reflection of the movement’s ultimate totalitarian and repressive aims.

--If revolutionary Islamism was just a heretical caricature of Islam then no Muslims would follow it. Why did millions of Iranians support the Islamic Republic? Why has Hizballah come to dominate the Lebanese Shia community? Why will millions of Egyptians vote for Muslim Brotherhood candidates? The reason is that revolutionary Islamism is a "legitimate" interpretation of Islam based on its texts and traditions. But it is not the only, or "best," or most beneficial (for Muslims and others) interpretation. To deny that Islamism is derived from Islam won't convince any Muslims because they know better. This is a battle over politics and interpretation, not "Islamophobia," a concept largely created by Islamists for their own benefit.

--Relatively moderate Arab governments are not just using the threat of revolutionary Islamism to stay in power (although they do that also) but as a reflection of a very real danger to their countries and societies. Whatever one thinks of the Mubarak regime, a Brotherhood regime would be worse. In contrast, it is ridiculous to protect the Assad regime in Syria because it is an ally of revolutionary Islamists, helping them to murder people in Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.

--Any true friend of Muslims would want the revolutionary Islamists defeated and the regimes supporting them overthrown. Such a person would join the fight against not only al-Qaida but also Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, and the Taliban.

--Most of the obsessive demonization of Israel today does not spring from some humanitarian impulse but is orchestrated by revolutionary Islamists and their Western allies (witting or otherwise) to commit genocide on Israeli Jews, expel or oppress Palestinian Christians, and impose a totalitarian state on Palestinians.

--Until Western leaders understand the above principles, their policies will not only fail they will be counterproductive for the interests of both their own countries and millions of Muslims, who do not want to be ruled by revolutionary Islamism.

Now here's an interesting question. Suppose the above list of propositions was submitted to leading politicians, policymakers, journalists, and academic experts, how many of these points would they accept as obvious and how many totally reject? If this list was given to average people how many of these points would they say that they've never heard expressed by their mass media or leaders?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

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