|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
22 - 28 November 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Cartoon by Osama Qassim
Sir- Ms Michael Jensen wonders why there is a nosedive in US- Saudi ties (Al-Ahram Weekly, 15- 21 November). She had neglected the most obvious reason of all: It is because 15 of the 19 terrorists who caused the disasters of 11 September entered the US on Saudi visas.
Ten years ago, Americans were viewed as heroes for defending Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein. Now we are viewed as infidels whose presence pollutes Islamic lands. This is an opinion shared by Crown Prince Abdullah and fellow Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden.
Perhaps US Saudi ties could be improved if Saudi revenues went into improving social services for Saudis and Palestinians instead of to madrassahs where impoverished Arabs learn hatred instead of the Qur'an.
889 Alvarez CtBerkeley,
Jihad of the selfSir- I teach psychology at two American community colleges. As I read the news as presented in your articles and editorials, I can't help but see a disturbing psychological bent to them.
In essence, what real personal liberty and a good education gives a person first is the realisation that the awful attributes one recognises in "other" people are usually attributes that one is afraid of seeing in oneself (one's "shadow" self, if you will). This psychological principle was obvious in World War II, where the Nazis scapegoated the Jews as the embodiment of evils which Germans did not want to see but were actually running rampant in their own psyches. The German need of a scapegoat for their inner resentments probably had a lot to do with the pedagogy in Germany at the time, where the father held total unquestionable authority over his family, creating generations of repressed and psychically abused people. But, for whatever reasons, using any group or cause as the personification as "evil" is a psychological method of denying one's own evil within.
The stupidity of equating Jews with evil is obvious, but it is a sad fact that the nasty human psychological principle which created such an equation for the Nazis was not "liberated" with the survivors of that terrible war. You may dismiss my insights as being merely "intellectual," but I point out that not becoming aware of one's inner shadow has more destructive power in human affairs than any atomic bomb, evidence for which is the fact that 50 million people died in World War II! The psychology of hate is essentially a psychology of avoiding waking up to one's own responsibility for one's own inner evils. And it is obvious to me that just such a blindfold is currently wrapped around Arab Egyptian eyes, made all the easier by the current of resentment swirling in the personal psyches of each disenfranchised, repressed and unfree individual in the Arab world. This, by the way, is no different from the blindfolds around American eyes such as Timothy McVeigh's. But blindness is still blindness no matter what the nationality.
I should first point out that Mr Bush is not one of America's great thinkers; and his equation of Bin Laden with "pure evil" is only the jingoistic speech of a relatively poorly educated and neophyte leader who is trying to explain a defensive war to grade schoolers. Obviously, the reason the United States must destroy Bin Laden has nothing to do with "evil" per se; it doesn't have to do with anything other than the reason a man must shoot before being killed. Finding Bin Laden -- despite the thoughtless rhetoric about justice and evil that Mr Bush has used -- is simply an act of self-defence, nothing more or less.
However, Bin Laden's reasons for inciting violence on America are not jingoistic or simple- minded at all. They have all sorts of quasi- political/religious "justifications." I can see that, psychologically, Bin Laden resents his own powerlessness and uncreativity. He, with all the blessings that Allah has showered upon him (money, good looks, intelligence, friends, health, children), has not been able to create anything other than a band of violent thugs with his gifts. He has not even used the power given to him to help those less well endowed. He has harmed and repressed those whose lives were put in his control in Afghanistan. Nor has he used his power to further the peace and intellectual flowering for which Islam has been recognised throughout history. Instead, he has wasted his life by loving death more than life, in repressing and disenfranchising others, especially those who are weaker than he is (picking on the weak is the sine qua non of a bully, not a leader).
Naturally, Bin Laden wants to avoid contemplating his own sins and so avoid seeing the shadow in his inner self. He "projects" his own inner failings and sins onto the world, especially the symbol of freedom and creative power in the world: the symbol "America." Bin Laden does not want to face the fact that he has failed in using his wealth and his gifts and so he projects his resentment onto America.
Analogously, Bin Laden's failure of insight is the Arab failure. Arabs are afraid to recognise that they have been blessed with enormous wealth and have generally not used their wealth creatively to engender greater freedom and wealth for their own country or their neighbours'; nor have they relieved other people's suffering. Like Bin Laden, they chastise America for not aiding the poor, but do not want to do the hard work of creating the institutions that engender free thought and are dedicated to civilisation. Instead of that hard work, Arabs "project" their own guilty shadow "sleeping giant" attributes onto other "powers," especially "America." It is time Arabs see their projection onto America as their own repressed but potential inner intellectual and creative powers -- powers which have been wasted, but can be revived if Arabs will do the hard work of self- examination before it is too late for us all.
I think you will agree that Bin Laden would have had a great life actually living in America where he could have used his intellectual and financial powers freely for creative purposes. But the question you should be asking yourselves is why couldn't Bin Laden find the fulfilment in his own country of creating a great university dedicated to truth, say (instead of cells of poor boys taught not to think but to hate)? This is the question Arabs should be asking themselves, not why America isn't doing more to improve the plight of the world's poor. Do you realise that Arabs are acting as if America is the source of all evil and poverty, an equation just as stupid as the Germans' equation of evil with Jews, or Bush's equation of evil with Bin Laden? Two, three, or ten stupidities will never make a truth! Recent editorials in your paper imply America bombed itself so as to bomb Afghanistan! Arabs today are reminding me of some of the Republicans after 11 September, who tried to blame terrorism on Bill Clinton! Hate and resentment are always so impenetrably blind and stupid!
The wise realise the stupidity of projecting our shadow selves on others. I am an American. I know Bin Laden is not the source of evil in the world. I know that America is not the source of world poverty either. I know that there is enough evil in every individual person and every country to blast all human beings to smithereens in a nanosecond. All sides -- Arabs, Americans, Palestinians, Israeli -- need to wake up, affirm life, reach across to forgive and forget the past. Arabs need the US, to help them do the hard work of creating great educational institutions. Americans need the vibrant energy and intellectual reinvigoration of the Arab world. We all need to work alongside the weaker peoples everywhere, to create oases of life and hope in the vast unrelieved suffering in the world, especially in Africa, where such naked suffering is being allowed to exist by both of our countries as we stay busy hating instead of helping. We need to recognise the priceless value of every single human being on the planet. We all need to focus on life, to stop hating Americans, or hating Jews, or hating Arabs, or hating Bill Clinton or anyone else. It is time to recognise that the differences between human beings are very few compared to our similarities. The wise wake up and stop putting blame on other people for their problems; instead, they get down to the hard -- but satisfying -- work of creative and life-loving occupations. It is time to stop the stupidities of projecting our inner self hatred out onto any other people. It is time we recognise we're all "a bunch of characters" as a friend of mine would say.
Arabs all around the world need to be called to a new jihad, a war on ignorance! As I understand that word in the Qur'an, jihad really means to psychologically wake up and fight the good fight against the evil inside one's self. America too needs to do this. We all need to invest in building schools everywhere, in the occupied territories where the Palestinians need to study life, not death and hate. In poverty-ridden Tennessee, where I live, American students need to study the history of the world and the foundations of freedom in America. In Afghanistan, whole generations of children need to learn to think and discuss and make decisions about what seems more true to them.
However, instead of this call to what is best in the Arab world, Arabs seem to me to be giving in to the psychology of hate: yes, it is easier (and in the short run less expensive) to blame others instead of recognising the essential similarities between the disenfranchised Palestinians and the disenfranchised Jews. (If Arabs had invested in education instead of hatred, the Palestinians would be the shining stars in the Arab world instead of the sad bearers of a psychology of hate and death.)
No religion can possibly be about hate and death and do much good. If Islam is about what its name is supposed to signify, i.e., peace, then it is obvious what Arabs must do. They must invest in education for Arabs, including Palestinians. They must outlaw any more stupefying schools of simple-minded one-sided hatred toward the US and Israel, or against other religions. Islam was historically the religion of tolerance of other religions! They must create schools which teach young people to think, to question, to know the truth of their own experience, to be free and dedicated to reality, which also means questioning their leaders and their religious foundations. Life and truth can bear such questioning. Lies and death prefer unquestioning obedience.
When will we realise that cutting off the heads of the other people in the room will not make any of us taller?
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Liar, liarSir- I am an American from York, Pennsylvania. I read your lies with great interest tonight. It is indeed wonderful how the Internet can disseminate information and illuminate your ridiculous pack of lies to those you abuse with those lies. It must be so very embarrassing for you when the Taliban have fallen and the Afghan people are celebrating in the streets, playing music, shaving their beards, and dancing in the streets. I don't understand how these images which are all over the "free" world press don't seem to have made it to you. But of course, this would contradict the many lies you spread about America committing genocide in Afghanistan.
You complain about the lack of direct news coverage but you don't say it is the Taliban that would not let reporters into their country. You make it sound like America was hiding things from you. Hey, now that the Taliban is defeated you have free access and can go to Kabul today. Let's see if you can find the 1,500 civilian deaths you claim. Of course, they do not exist -- no more than the 1.5 million deaths in Iraq that your lies claim America has caused. Iraq of course is another dictatorship which does not allow the press to verify anything.
Dictatorship -- interesting concept of government... Oh yeah, that's the kind of government you have! Egypt -- a dictatorship with one third of the population illiterate and getting a $2 billion a year handout from the USA. Do your readers know that? Even before 11 September, the majority of the food aid for Afghanistan came from the USA. The bags of wheat in those Red Cross warehouses you mentioned all say USA on them. I swear I did not see even one that said Egypt. This is so strange that we would be committing genocide by starving them as you say and yet we send them more food than anyone else in the world.
I don't care that your country hates us, but I do care that we give money to liars and people that hate us. There is a movement now to stop such foolishness. I am writing my congressmen and senators tonight and providing links to your articles as I have already done with Fox News Network. Fox News is currently doing a story on the Muslim countries that we provide aid to that hate us. Two billion is probably a lot of money there, as it is here.
We hate the Camp David agreement also. It forced Israel to give you back the Sinai and we have paid billions to settle a problem we had nothing to do with for a people that hated us. The call to stop your aid is coming. Good luck without it. America was part of your solution to the overpopulation of an agrarian economy. Unfortunately, the pride of the intelligentsia has made them stupid and committed the whole society to economic failure.
By the way, as far as "evidence" against Bin Laden is concerned, why do you act so stupid? Have you read the fatwa he issued in 1998 to kill all Americans? It is not exactly a confusing message, so why are you confused? His camps trained over 20,000 terrorist in the last several years. Do you think those people took the training to make pizzas or to kill people?
Sir- I've been long of the opinion that the right to freedom of speech is a lot more tenuous around Zionism than most other products of the West.
The deliberate confusion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is the prime example, confusing the very real disagreements people have with the Zionist movement, and the callous manner it has abused the human rights of Arabs in what is now Israel and Palestine, with the deliberate malice of the anti-Semites whose names are too familiar to mention here.
So they cut into one's freedom of speech by suggesting that the only reason one has for criticising Israel is deliberate malice towards the Jews as a people. The US during the latter stages of the Cold War attempted the same tactic, which managed to drive me into anti- Americanism, as a result of its apparent belief that there was "terrorism" and then there was "French tourism," and so what if the French sunk a protestor's boat in the harbour of a nation at peace with France?
It's grim, and quite possibly the only way to maintain the right of freedom of speech in Israel is to establish it solidly in Palestine. (That thought terrifies me when I think of how difficult it would be to implement it under the current circumstances. Not that I would be unwilling to put in some effort myself to see it happen. Still, one can hope -- among other things, for Ariel Sharon to be convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.)
I had the idea, a short while ago, that the best way to a) defeat the US/Israel demands for the proscription of Hamas et alii, and, b) get the Palestinian constitutional aspect of self-government under way, would be for Yasser Arafat to call for a constitutional convention at which all Palestinians would be represented, either by themselves or through a representative. As this would require a certain amount of peace and quiet, and non-interference, Yasser Arafat could then quite legitimately call upon the UN to send in peace- keepers, à la East Timor, in spite of the war- mongering going on from the Israel side of the line -- after all, there is supposed to be some sort of "peace process" going on, and in a similar situation in East Timor the UN was quite legitimately empowered to intervene.
One could also use the American attachment to democracy quite well in this matter -- there are a set of people living in this territory, born there, and so were their parents, etc., who want to be able to choose a) their own government and b) the form this government will take. Draw the Americans in with the bait of "help set up a democratic government" -- part of the bait the Bush regime is going to try in Afghanistan to gain support -- and once they have bitten, the Israelis may well be forced to backpedal all the way to before June 1967.
Please feel free to get a debate going on this matter. I think it may have merit, but that is only my opinion.
Sir- I have been following the Arab- Israeli conflict for 30 years. I have also had a keen interest in relations between America and Muslim states. I do not feel that the statements made in the Arabic and American news media reflect the true feelings of Americans in general.
The question of American support for Israel is simple. The Ideal State was created at the end of World War II. At this point in time, the world was horrified at the mass murder of Jews by the Nazi regime (not the German people). I think the world felt it owed the Jewish people an apology for allowing the Nazis to practice genocide. American public opinion is divided right now. Most of us are against the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. We also would support a Palestinian state. In fact, I for one think this is the only true solution to the problem. But the continued attacks by Palestinian forces against civilian targets in Israel make it hard for us to demand Israeli withdrawal. Military action should be taken against military targets, not civilians. One can argue that the Palestinians are not capable of confronting the Israeli army. This is true in conventional warfare, not guerrilla warfare.
The Arab and Islamic world is making a big mistake in declaring America its enemy. We have done more to support Islamic and Arab nations than any other country in the world. Without the US, who has the influence to make Israel moderate its actions against the Palestinians? No one! We cannot tell Israel what to do, just as we cannot tell Egypt what to do.
America is not just Americans. The only true Americans are the Native Americans. We are made up of people of all nationalities and religious groups. Someone from almost every country, ethnic group, and religious group lives in America. To declare war against America is to declare war against the world.
I have been to Egypt twice. In both cases I found the Egyptian people to be warm and friendly. The only political concern that the average Egyptian (that I talked to) had was, did I think that the Israeli problem would draw Egypt into a war. Average Egyptians are just like average Americans. Their main concern is: How do I feed my family?
I must admit that on my trips to Egypt, I made it a point to sneak away from the normal tourist areas so that I could meet "real" Egyptian people. I think I have been to towns in Egypt that no tourist has been to in a hundred years. I have also been to areas of Cairo that I doubt tourists would even want to visit. No historical sites, no fancy restaurants, just Egyptians in their daily life. When travelling in Egypt, I know there are fanatics that would love to kill an American. I truly believe that they are a very small percentage of the Egyptian people. In walking the streets of America, I know that I can be robbed or murdered. To be honest, I think that I am safer walking the streets of Cairo than walking the streets of Miami. I love the people of Egypt and I will return. Financially I cannot return now, but I am planning my third visit to Egypt at the end of September 2002.
My recommendation to the Islamic and Arab world is, stop the hate. Stop the killing. If you do this Israel will not have any reason (or excuse) to continue its war against Palestine. A simple peace process is this: all countries recognise Israel and its right to exist. All countries declare peace with Israel. Israel must do the same. It must recognise the Palestinians' right to exist and have their own state. Israel must also declare peace with its neighbours. The only true stumbling block that I see is Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not just a city. It is the religious centre of the world and must be open to all people. Settle all your other differences and then address the issue of Jerusalem.
In the beginning, terrorism was an effective tool. Even the Jews used it to help create the Jewish state. It no longer works. Terrorism is its own worst enemy. The people of the world are tired of hearing about women and children being murdered in the name of God. What God could there be that would reward His followers for murdering children? I have never read the Qur'an or the Jewish Holy Book but I do not believe that either one says to go out and murder innocent people. I know that the Christian Bible is against murder.
The Islamic and Jewish people have been hating each other for so long that the leaderships of both are not capable of rational thought and peace. When the wars are gone, what will these people do? What purpose will they have? None! This is why they insist on continuing the killing. To justify their own existence, not for God. I don't know who will receive this e-mail and I know that it will not change anything that happens in the world. If even one person reads this and it helps them to see a different side to the issues, it will have been worth it.
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