Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What the Sunnis Fear

I hope my newly increased librarian readership will forgive me if I change topics momentarily. Middle East scholar Dr. Fouad Ajami has a superb essay in today's Wall Street Journal that is well worth a look:

The remarkable thing about the terror in Iraq is the silence with which it is greeted in other Arab lands. Grant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi his due: He has been skilled at exposing the pitilessness on the loose in that fabled Arab street and the moral emptiness of so much of official Arab life. The extremist is never just a man of the fringe: He always works at the outer edges of mainstream life, playing out the hidden yearnings and defects of the dominant culture. Zarqawi is a bigot and a killer, but he did not descend from the sky. He emerged out of the Arab world's sins of omission and commission; in the way he rails against the Shiites (and the Kurds) he expresses that fatal Arab inability to take in "the other." A terrible condition afflicts the Arabs, and Zarqawi puts it on lethal display: an addiction to failure, and a desire to see this American project in Iraq come to a bloody end.

Zarqawi's war, it has to be conceded, is not his alone; he kills and maims, he labels the Shiites rafida (rejecters of Islam), he charges them with treason as "collaborators of the occupiers and the crusaders," but he can be forgiven the sense that he is a holy warrior on behalf of a wider Arab world that has averted its gaze from his crimes, that has given him its silent approval. He and the band of killers arrayed around him must know the meaning of this great Arab silence.

[...]

It was the luck of the imperial draw that the American project in Iraq came to the rescue of the Shiites--and of the Kurds. We may not fully appreciate the historical change we unleashed on the Arab world, but we have given liberty to the stepchildren of the Arab world. We have overturned an edifice of material and moral power that dates back centuries. The Arabs railing against U.S. imperialism and arrogance in Iraq will never let us in on the real sources of their resentments. In the way of "modern" men and women with some familiarity with the doctrines of political correctness, they can't tell us that they are aggrieved that we have given a measure of self-worth to the seminarians of Najaf and the highlanders of Kurdistan. But that is precisely what gnaws at them.



Heart of Darkness

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