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Post Partisan
Posted at 03:00 PM ET, 09/17/2012

PostScript: Fouad Ajami and insulted Arabs

PostScript's got a gusher for you today! Fouad Ajami's piece outlining reasons that cultural insults can lead relatively easily to violence in the Arab world got more than 5,000 comments. Since a seemingly trivial YouTube clip looks to have incited deadly riots last week, this is a hot topic. Ajami outlined historical and psychological reasons why disrespect from obscure, powerless Westerners can lead to mobs murdering respectful, powerful diplomats.   

And, according to the comments, there are a hundred other reasons.  So PostScript is going to shut up and let the commenters add to the list. 

 mediamaverick says it's a problem of perception:

[In some Arab countries] there is little understanding of what "free speech" truly is, for most of these people have not lived under a government that allows it.  
If one lives in a society where the government can and does regularly clamp down on the people and the press, it's difficult to understand that a nation like ours does not. Thus, it seems as though the anti-Muslim "film" had the tacit approval of our government.

patriot17 thinks it's about the conflation of religion and identity:

I think the primary reason the Arab world is so easily offended is the rise of fundamentalism. What I mean when I say fundamentalism is an inability to distinguish between one's belief system is and one's ego. When a fundamentalist's beliefs are threatened, the fundamentalist reacts as though they themselves are threatened. 

lmmbham cites the psychological profile of oppressed groups:

Clinging to past injustices coupled with a keen sense of current socio-economic inadequacies can lead to a lot of anger, despondency and just plain acting out. It can also lead to being marginalized.  The United States is not without similarly situated groups of people.

Which TEQ1 questions:

You mean all the Arab extremism we see — the riots, mayhem, IEDs, RPGs & tragic deaths — are because the men (no women allowed) in the Middle East have an inferiority complex? 

Adifferentpointofview says that reacting to disrespect with violence won't help anyone gain respect:

Muslim people need to realize that they won't change how they are perceived by committing acts of violence. If Muslims want greater respect in the world, they need to act in ways that earn respect, not in ways that earn condemnation. 

Centsorsense thinks there’s an underlying, recent animosity due to US actions:

The enmity of the Arab world to the U.S. is based on our support of dictatorships, Israel, and of course our history of bombing the region and killing people. 
Americans have caused more deaths in the Arab world, in living memory, than any other country on Earth. Combine this with how many Arab nations such as Iran use the U.S. as a scapegoat for their internal problems.
Then there is the huge problem of unemployment in the region. Historically if you want violence, combining high unemployment with large socio-economic disparity will do it every time.  

globalvillage, too, sees specific religious factors at work as well as underlying conflicts with Israel:

There is no reference whatsoever to the internal doctrinal conflicts in Islam that have manifested themselves in violence as well as fragmentation in the Islamic part of the Arab world.  
No one can understand the Arab world today without looking at the conflicts with Israel, and the sense (justified or not) of righteous indignation at the unflagging U.S. support for Israeli positions. Nor can we set aside the psychologically debilitating conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis — conflicts which have significantly hindered the development of a more unified Arab posture toward the rest of the world. 

CH-ican, on the other hand, argues that conflict with Israel isn't as important as people think:

“U.S.-Israeli relations” — I beg to differ.  I know this is being touted as “fundamental” today and is the “current thinking,” but having watched since the 60s I find it difficult to believe. Why? Because the interest in using the Palestinian issue as an “excuse” for any of the “sensitivities” has actually been very recent.  
I remember the decades of internal war between Palestinian factions, when Palestinians factions/leadership caused all kinds of problems for Lebanon, were thrown out of Jordan, Tunisia. Black September is not a reference to an Israeli massacre of Palestinians, by the way. No Arab countries wanted them or showed great interest really from the start and for decades.   
Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have no mention in their founding documents of Palestine and It was also decades before Bin Laden decided he could use the issue as an excuse. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States have been conspicuously silent about Arafat — sending money at times like to al Qaeda but not very vocal at all.  

Butteoid says another reason is the peculiar circumstances of oil-rich countries with oppressed citizens:

The flood of Western wealth into the Middle East to pay for oil carried with it political, social and religious corruption in countries that had oil resources and envy in those Islamic countries that did not. Obscene wealth in oil-rich countries created generations of well-educated young people with nothing to do after college, since everything could be bought and nothing built. At the same time poverty exploded in countries that had no oil, and theocracy is a time-tested way to control the suffering masses and stop any movement to make life better.  

EthelredtheUnready says it's too many people, not enough resources:

This piece leaves out a major contributing factor to the general unrest: overpopulation. The population in the Arab world has more than doubled in the past 30 years. Egypt will have almost 100 million people by 2020 and the youth unemployment rate is currently around 25 percent. Yemen has one of the fastest growing populations on earth, and 60% of its children are malnourished. Grain production is dropping, food is getting more expensive, and water supplies are diminishing across the region. Meanwhile, 10,000 more people are added every day.  
So, basically, the misery index is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. And it's not the happy campers of the world who riot. 

And edbyronadams comments on a post that has been deleted by the moderator, presumably because it was culturally disrespectful:

Apparently one of the faithful is acting as moderator, the better to keep the editors and publishers of the Post from a fatwa.

How meta! The very Washington Post is hoping not to incite insults or violence in this comment section! PostScript is keeping her fingers crossed. Unless there are offensive cultural ramifications of crossed fingers that she had not considered.

By Rachel Manteuffel  |  03:00 PM ET, 09/17/2012

 
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