discussing the crisis - 3
lewis, in his latter chapters discusses the rise of america in the arab consciousness from being just another western civilization at the other end of the world to its present representation as the great satan. an argument cited by lewis as carrying a lot of weight in the arab, and i must say a large portion of the non western world, is the issue of american moral depravity. radical and nationalistic commentators often decry the lack of societal values in america and by association, that of the western world. another closely related topic is the apparent lack of a civilization of america as a nation. both of these arguments are intrinsically flawed, though they may do have some elements of truth which have been used to justify the easy manner in which the america, as a society, has been subject to arab ridicule and derision. lewis quotes sayyid qutb,
To attract clientele, churches advertise shamelessly and offer what Americans most seek -- "a good time" or "fun" (he cited the English words in his Arabic text). The result is that church recreation halls, with the blessing of the priesthood, hold dances where people of both sexes meet, mix, and touch. The ministers go so far as to dim the lights in order to facilitate the fury of the dance. "The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone," he noted with evident disgust, "the dance-hall becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold hips, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust."bill allison talks from personal experience in a very interesting post with reference to this specific quote.
it is easy to see why such arguments have gained so much currency not only in the arab countries but also in other conservative cultures like those in india. i was horrified when i first saw the jerry springer show, a feeling worsened by being subjected to trashy talk shows like those of ricki lake, jenny jones and even emmy winning 'outstanding talk show host' montel williams. it may be contended that such material on television either does not affect public behavior and should be taken as some form of perverted entertainment, or the 'the gun is not at fault it is the person wielding it' argument may be used to justify the continued existence of such idiocy on the idiot box. with the news networks' enslavement to public opinion evident from the recent war coverage it is atleast obvious that the talk shows do not represent american society in general, they merely seem to be playing to the audience's perverse fantasies.
osama bin laden and fellow extremists, in their harangue against america keep referring to this apparent flaw in the american society and perhaps strongly believe in it along with their fantasy of divine license to root that filth out. by disregarding america's military might with the moral depravity argument the islamic radicals probably committed their biggest tactical error, unfortunately also causing thousands of lives, a major upheavel in the gulf's and the world's political landscape and significant damage to the image of islam in the west. it is their behavior that, and i'm saying this from my own experience, makes muslims subject to verbal abuse from people with little to no knowledge of islam and its followers. the quran, an object of the greatest muslim reverence, has been called the guidebook of terrorists, an assertion that is not only wrong but also rather frustrating. just as the arguments used by the radicals has convinced a portion of their intended audience, so has this talk of islam being an 'evil and wicked religon' and the quran being a tool for recruiting terrorists, created a false but convincing picture of the muslims in the western mind.
though it would be tempting to, it is not possible to absolve for its own botched foreign policy in the years following world war II. bernard lewis quotes the incident of the 1953 mosaddeq government in iran being overthrown as an example of american interventionism that constantly alienated the arabs and led to their hate and distrust of america. the cia's cowboy behavior where diplomacy would have played a greater role in winning over the arabian countries to democracy may have contributed as much to the current crisis as anything radical islam came up with. other reasons that continue to fester the wound, so to speak, is the perception that america is solely driven my material gains, of america's eagerness to go to war, its support for israel even in the face of world opposition and of its abject failure in bringing about a lasting solution to the 'palestine problem'.
in summary, radicals have attacked america on the basis of its culture, or rather, the alleged lack of it. their belief that american society is intrinsically flawed and will not stand up and fight, literally and figuratively, powered their thrust which eventually resulted in the attacks on the world trade center. the solution to this problem is not that propsed by the people at pnac, neither is it belligerence. the solution, very simply stated, will require the americans to be impartial in their approach to the israel-palestine issue, and to cap their interventionist urges. it will require for the arabs to grow out of their self created cocoon where they refuse to accept all the good that american technology, philosophy and thinking has brought the world.