The violence in the Middle East makes sense when viewed from sufficient perspectives.
In the end and in the know everything makes sense. It does simply because it is. The problem is that we don’t always know the whole story. I took the isolated incidents of the anti-Islam video release and the extreme response to it and thought it very odd, as I have many times past, that something that one might expect to trigger a 5/10 on the anger scale resulted in an 11/10.
But that’s because I was observing the situation in “2D”—just seeing the surface of what was going on. This view is fine in noting the action but poor in determining why. Sometimes we do this this and don’t bother searching for a cause at all, simply calling these protesters crazy. I thought I’d broaden the scope in my last post to include their strong religious identification as factors in their anger.
Yet without history and a depth to our understanding, we still miss the boat. For that, we need the third dimension.
Thankfully in recent days, I’ve been introduced to two great articles to help us reach new plateaus in our understanding of the Middle East and the riotous behavior resultant from centuries of activity.
Article #1: The only surprise is there aren’t more violent protests in the Middle East by Seumas Milne in The Guardian.
Milne’s main historical point is decades of Western intervention into the region.
For those looking at the situation in 2D, it would seem odd that Libya would be the location for the most talked about violence: the killing of a U.S. ambassador. After all, as Milne says, “Didn’t we help liberate their country?” Indeed, NATO—the Western military vehicle—helped hand the country to another set of rulers, the likes of which have killed and imprisoned opposition with extraordinary prejudice.
Our hands in the Arab Spring is the latest in decades of hands-on policy with these cultures. And regarding the video protests, Milne says, “As is obvious from the slogans and targets, what set these protests alight is the fact that the injury to Muslims is seen once again to come from an arrogant hyperpower that has invaded, subjugated and humiliated the Arab and Muslim world for decades.”
In just the last two decades, “the US and its allies have attacked and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq; bombed Libya; killed thousands in drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; imposed devastating sanctions; backed Israel’s occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians to the hilt; carried out large-scale torture, kidnapping and internment without trial; maintained multiple bases to protect client dictatorships throughout the region; and now threaten Iran … .”
Milne recognizes religions’s role, but as a channel—not the cause—for a people’s anger of being under the West’s thumb.
As either a direct reaction to our presence (hating us for invading) or the West’s intervention worsening the situation—the term is known as “blowback.”
Article #2: A Billion Marionettes by Muhammad Muntazir Mehdi on Dawn.com
Reader, and Bemidjian, Chance Adams was awesome enough to toss this piece my way. Thanks, Chance!
In it, Mehdi provides a brief, though deep, history lesson of the region: The once-much-larger Indian Empire was conquered in the 1700s by the British and didn’t see independence for another 200 years. During this rule, accusations of religious warfare were bandied about—the British having local Hindu and Muslim soldiers break their religious dietary restrictions. But Mehdi doesn’t use these accounts to fault the West in causing havoc in the region then or today, but rather, that accusations of religious war were and are the work of local leaders leveraging scandal for their own power grabs.
Regarding the current video, Mehdi offers what he thinks would be a “rational response” of criticism without violence of such derogatory works. He then sets up and knocks down several theories as to why Muslims did not react “rationally.” After mentioning religion, youth rebellion, poverty, and Western influence (which Milne stressed), he re-asserts his claim that the culprit is the leaders of these Muslim peoples themselves. (Sort of like a whodunit and the “who” was the one right there the whole time.)
These leaders continue to incite violence at every turn for religious/national unity and more power for them. And the marionettes are the billion Muslims who dance as the leaders pull the strings—either in direct reaction to the incites (protests and violence), or as a reaction to those who react. Mehdi writes, “The average Muslim, going about her daily life, is cracking under fatigue from repeated instances of such traumas and the subsequent disruption in normal life. The sense of victim-hood gets hammered into the collective psyche with every episode.”
Whether the influence of the West, their own leaders, religion, poverty, or mob mentality, the 3D approach helps us better understand that this latest round of protests do not happen in a vacuum. And that their activity makes sense. It’s only a matter of finding out how. I’m glad these authors—as well as many others out there—look beyond calling these angry populations crazy.
Because the better we know and understand one another, the less fear there is of one another, and the better the decisions in how we interact with one another.
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Image courtesy of the author