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February 21, 2006

In the face of hysteria, let's deal with the truth

The Muslim world, or at least a highly visible part of it, has erupted into a raging hysteria over what they claim is rampant anti-Islamic feelings in the Western nations. Most commenters in the West, myself included, believe that this is a manufactured offense, and a manufactured rage. Both the charge and the reaction are based on deliberate misinformation, which has fueled the well-fed paranoia of the region. The antidote to this madness is truth.

In the West we hold to a concept of symmetry and balance that the Muslim world does not share. We try, in our better moments, to treat them with the same fair hand we would hope they would show us. As I mentioned, the Muslim leadership has been clear that they don't hold with this thinking, so we would be naive in expecting them to recognize that they themselves are guilty of what they accuse of the Danish cartoonists. No, this idea of fairness and balance is our morality, not theirs. Nevertheless, it matters. No matter how the Imams and Mullahs feel about the rest of the world, we have made our own position clear. Now, will we live up to it?

We claim that the charges against our society are unfair and untrue. Are they? If we have any hope of ever winning the battle against the psuedo-religious bigotry that fuels terrorism, we will need to eradicate any similar feelings amongst ourselves. When Americans react angrily to the sale of a British company to an Arab owned company, on what facts do they base their anger? Let's be honest; there is only one fact in circulation, the old owners were British, the new owners are Arabs. Apparently, that's all America needs to hear.

Let's deal with the truth, folks. This is why a handful of Imams can raise a riot so easily. We have a habit of providing our enemies with just the ammunition they need. We have long preached a practice we cannot bring ourselves to follow. If we are going to defeat radical Islam, and prove its paranoia wrong, we have to locate and support the moderate Muslims. We have to take real steps to be good friends to people who are willing to be our friends, and demonstrate the that we mean what we say.

Truth is, I don't figure we're much safer under a British-owned company. Having "friends in the region" is a vital part of any victory in this new form of warfare, and friends with money and power are the best sort. But practical considerations aside, there is no reason to object to this deal except for the owners race or religion. That "looks bad", to say the least.

So...the radical rabble-rouser's in the Muslim world have said that Western societies are:

1) Decadent
2) Irreligious
3) Anti-Islam

I'd have a hard time arguing with points one and two. The press, in Denmark and elsewhere, likes to insult my religious beliefs too, and I am sickened by much of what my own culture celebrates. I get angry about it just as they do, and I'd stop reading the Danish press if I had ever started reading the Danish press. For what it's worth, I don't read much of the U.S. press anymore these days either. The third point, however, is the critical one. If it is true, or believed to be true, the gulf between us will become too deep to bridge, and our only hope for peace is in the bridging of this gap.

Our "case" has always been based on an appeal to the truth. We ask to be judged not on rumors or aspersions, what someone claims about our motives, but on the truth of our actions. Our enemies have claimed that we will never offer fairness to Muslims, that we will never treat them as equal partners. This would be an opportune moment to prove them wrong.


UPDATE: Squiggler has some background on the business and the claim that "Bush is giving control of the Port to the Arabs" which is bunk. This is a relatively simple business deal, not a Bush giveaway. The UAE is buying this company from Some Brit's with good money, I assume, they have every right to own a company. Given our good relations with the UAE why should this deal elicit hysteria. Instapundit has more details, although Glenn seems to be doubtful about the contract himself.

There are some good bloggers out there doing themselves a real disservice today. They are saying things that do not stand to their credit, but I have read these authors for months and know them to be better than this. If the company hiring stevedores in some ports was sold to some Chinese investors (not at all an unrealistic possibility) would we be demanding congressional investigations? How about if the new owners were Greek, or Indian? Singaporean? French? Why can't we do business with an Arab company? Is it because it is here in the US that the business services are provided? US firms have been all over the Arab world providing business services for generations. Now that the Arabs are in a position to do business here in the U.S., we're going to slam the door?

I'm not dense, I know this is about 9/11. But this reaction comes from the same unfortunate human weakness that gives rise to the cartoon riots and indeed to much of the terrorism. The U.S. was not attacked on 9/11 by the whole of the Muslim world or by all of the Arab world. This is the sort of broad-stroke identity politics that our enemies use against us. There are people in the world who note that the crusaders were white Christians and feel anger at America, because many Americans are also white Christians. This is dangerously flawed thinking, as I expect most Americans would agree. How then can we hold that because a relatively small group of disaffected Arab men attacked us, the United Arab Emirates cannot be trusted? This terror war is effecting us in a very bad way. We are becoming the people our enemies make us out to be.

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Posted by Jay on February 21, 2006 at 04:32 PM | Permalink

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