When Terrorism Becomes Unnecessary
© Jordan White Enterprises
September 28, 1999
With the release of the Edward Zwick film, “The Siege”, has come a resurgence of discussions on the stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims in the entertainment industry and the effect this portrayal has upon the lives of ordinary persons of Middle Eastern descent.
Once again, one is seeing articles in the press with the general theme, “all Arabs are not terrorists and shouldn’t be seen as such”, and “all Muslims are not fundamentalists and shouldn’t be seen as such”, as so on.
Of course, this is perfectly true. It is also perfectly obvious. It is also not the point.
The point is: Why, then, are there those who are?
Many Westerners, unfortunately, believe that there are “elements” of Middle Eastern society, terrorist groups, if you will, who simply wish to disrupt non-Muslim society and have taken terrorism as their modus operandi, just because it is so effective in winning attention for their cause. It gets the results they are looking for.
Well? What about it?
It is certainly something to think about, that there really is only a very limited forum for the redress of some very real grievances done to the Arab and Muslim peoples, their society and cultural identity by the governments of Western nations and by the nation of Israel.
Perhaps if Western-thinking people would take the time and effort to learn something about what these grievances are, and give a respectful ear to them, and make a very real and honest effort to bring about peaceful redress, terrorism would actually become unnecessary!
Do you think these people that we have recently seen destroy themselves in car bombs really wanted to die? Do you think they wished to see their mothers become childless, their wives become widows, their children fatherless?
Any thinking person knows the answer. So why then, do they do it?
It is because they perceive that they have no other forum, no alternative. Think about it, no other means to make their point than death.
These are not crazy people. They are desperate, misunderstood people.
When they bring their grievances before the UN, the US makes sure the UN’s decision on the matter is "favorable" to its ally, Israel.
When they attempt to use the Western press to air their complaints, Israel's vast public-relations army mobilizes to ridicule and downplay their reality, making them look like wild-eyed fanatics who want nothing but death and destruction.
Is it any wonder, then, that the average Western citizen has no inkling of what these people are asking for?
Let's discuss just one small area of importance.
In Middle Eastern society, particularly Muslim society, there is a system, a trust, known as the Waqf.
It is very difficult for the Western mind to fully grasp the implications of the work of the Waqf.
In part, it is a group that administers a sort of sacred trust; land and buildings (and their contents), as a witness to a religious, social, cultural heritage. It is unthinkable for any person to violate the trust implied in this system. It provides a window to the past, a proof of the continuity of a people's national identity and consciousness. The Waqf's domain may contain any or all of the following: libraries, mosques, schools, burial grounds, works of art, relics(mementos), and many thousands of historic religious and secular documents. To put it very simply, it is a primary source of national identity for a people who have always struggled to maintain one, in spite of domination from outside influences, including the Romans, the Ottomans, the British Mandate, and the republic of Israel.
The problem comes when outside influences bulldoze, pillage or otherwise destroy these monuments to a magnificent and fragile civilization. At present, it is Israel that is particularly guilty of this activity. For example, in late October, 1997, Jewish settlers in Hebron (West Bank), illegally excavated land beneath a marketplace and piled the dirt from their excavation on Waqf land. This step was widely seen as a move to take over this land.
To the Middle Eastern mind, this kind of activity amounts of cultural genocide, a blasphemy of utmost proportions, an obscene violation of that which is most important, sacred and meaningful in their lives.
If our leaders would choose their allies based on shared goals and bonds, and their enemies based on true threat of military invasion or world domination, and cease playing political games that designate some as "winners" and others as "losers", it might be possible for the truth of what is actually happening in the Middle East to come out. And, with the truth, we might actually begin to achieve some sort of understanding of a civilization so old, so enduring that teaches so much, enriches so much, enlightens so much.
Instead, our leaders use the Middle East as a sort of cinematic villain, a foil to cover up their own wrongdoings, and a sort of rallying point to raise sagging national pride and patriotism. Middle Easterners have been so vilified in the press and entertainment media that they are an easy target to unite Westerners in self-righteous hatred. In so doing, the Western world is not only dooming themselves to forever missing the beauty and complexity of an old and enduring civilization, but is likely perpetrating the need of some elements of that society to the desperate acts of terrorism.
It is time for Westerners to rethink their long-held concepts of Arab and Muslim society. It is time to promote peace by creating a forum for the expression of very real grievances done and to identify the real problems and problem-causers. It is time to stop building up systems that tear down others, time to stop supporting governments that destroy the national identities of millions of people.
And, finally, it is time for our leaders to start acting like leaders, and to stand up and insist that justice prevail. They must have the courage to bring about a peace based on understanding and respect, rather than on force and prejudice.
Let us stop talking and start doing.