Why Westerners Fail to Understand the Crisis of the Middle East

March 18 2015

Asher Susser argues that Western observers, including presumed experts, have routinely underestimated the importance of religion in the Arab and Muslim world. This explains why they were surprised by such events as the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic State, and the collapse of Syria, Libya, and Iraq. Moreover, writes Susser, religious cluelessness goes hand in hand with a failure to understand much else about the Middle East:

Western societies see themselves as societies of individuals. The rights of the individual are at the core of political debate, guaranteed by the state. People organize politically as individuals. . . .

[In the Middle East, you] belong to a group—that is, your family, your extended family, your tribe, and perhaps above all else, your religious denomination. So, you are first and foremost a Muslim, or a Jew, or a Christian—and some kind of Christian at that, either Maronite, or Greek Orthodox, or Greek Catholic; and these differences matter. . . .

Why do we keep getting this wrong? Well, in the West, one unfortunate by-product of Edward Said’s influence is the unwillingness to recognize the otherness of the “Other.” . . . [W]hen [someone] from the U.S. and other Western states looks at the Middle East, he or she explains Middle Easterners not as Other, but as [just like] us! That’s why we got this whole story about Facebook and Twitter during the Arab Spring. It was a way of saying, “They’re just like we are!”

Westerners saw Facebook and Twitter, but didn’t see the Muslim Brotherhood. . . . And then the commentators were shocked when the Muslim Brotherhood walked all over everybody. But they were obviously going to walk all over everybody! The only people who are going to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from walking all over everybody is the military—not the secular liberals. The secular liberals, to kick the Muslim Brotherhood out of power in Egypt, had to use the military—nobody else could do it.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Arab Spring, Edward Said, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Religion

The EU Must Stop Tolerating Hizballah

July 21 2017

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the bombing in the Bulgarian city of Burgas, which left five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian dead. After the bombing, the EU designated the “military wing” of Hizballah, which carried out the attack, a terrorist organization. But unlike the U.S., Egypt, and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the EU doesn’t apply this designation to the Hizballah’s “political wing.” Toby Dershowitz and Benjamin Weinthal write:

[T]he EU needs to . . . recognize, as Hizballah [itself] does, that the organization isn’t bifurcated into political and military “wings.” . . . Hizballah’s terror-financing activities and its critical role in the Syrian war should be enough for the EU to deport Hizballah members from its 28 member countries. Anything short of full designation would enable Hizballah to continue fundraising and operating its front companies. Last year, for instance, . . . German authorities uncovered a money-laundering operation in Europe that amassed nearly €1 million ($1.1 million) a week for more than two years, money that Europol and the U.S. Treasury Department says went to fund Hizballah.

Membership recruitment in Europe is also a significant tool for Hizballah. According to a recent German intelligence report, there are 950 active Hizballah members in Germany. This calls into question the effectiveness of the EU’s 2013 sanctions, which were imposed only on Hizballah’s “military wing.” . . .

Should Europe maintain the status quo . . . it does so at its own peril. European security will continue to be put at risk. And Hizballah will be given the signal that Europe is far from serious about countering terrorism.

Read more at FDD

More about: Bulgaria, European Union, Hizballah, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism