Muslims don’t like us. We don’t like Muslims. It must be our fault.
That’s pretty much the way the chatterers have been chattering about the two recent Gallup polls which reveal the stunning news that Arab countries don’t like us and that we ain’t exactly in a hurry to name our kids Osama or Waleed.
I’ve written about this at length when it comes to racial issues. (See, for example, “World of Feelings.”). Some Asian or black or Jewish or gay college kids believe that if they perceive racism or bigotry, then the racism or bigotry is an ontological fact. A few years ago, a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. warned that the budget might be “niggardly” — a word of Scandinavian etymology, by the way — and because a bunch of people were ignorant of its meaning, it became a hate crime and cost the man his job. It’s like a magic spell, your own ignorance and low self-esteem can be used to conjure a real offense where none existed.
Oh sure, as a matter of diplomacy, the fact that all of these countries don’t like us is something of a black eye for the cookie pushers at the State Department who are in charge of convincing foreign countries that we’re the good guys. After all, as Tom Friedman noted the other day, we could be reminding these countries that Americans have shed blood for Muslim peoples three times in the last decade. A lot of Arab countries can’t say the same.
According to the survey of over 10,000 people in nine Muslim countries, only 17 percent of Muslims have a favorable view of President Bush. Only 9 percent believe our war in Afghanistan is “morally justifiable,” while 77 percent think it isn’t. And 74 percent of respondents do not believe Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. Meanwhile, in a subsequent poll of the United States, only 24 percent of Americans have a favorable view toward these countries.
When the poll of Muslims came out, the talk shows were keenly interested in knowing what we did wrong. When the second poll — of Americans — came out, they were run side-by-side as if what they had to say revealed roughly equivalent phenomena. “Only one in four Americans have a favorable opinion of Muslim countries,” reported USA Today. “That’s roughly the same percentage of the Islamic countries’ residents who look favorably on the United States.”
The only morally and intellectually responsible reaction to this stunning finding is a heartfelt “so what?”
Imagine if I wrote: “Only one in four cops have a favorable opinion of criminals. That’s roughly the same percentage of criminals who look favorably on cops.” Would that tell you that cops and criminals views of each other are based on the same set of grievances? Would you say that the criminals have a roughly equivalent case? Would you give a damn at all? Okay, maybe you would, but only because nobody wants their police force to have a favorable view of criminals at all.
Now, before the American-Islamic Federation for the Relentless Heckling of Offensive Pundits starts another letter-writing campaign against me, let me say that I am not saying, nor do I believe, that Arabs or Muslims are criminals. What I am saying is that just because they have negative views of us and we have negative views of them, doesn’t mean they’re not entirely wrong and we’re not entirely right.
You see, a bunch of Arabs and Muslim fanatics blew up the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon, attacked the U.S.S. Cole, and various embassies of ours. They are trying very hard to get nuclear weapons to kill more Americans and they have all sorts of “religious” rulings that assert the morality of killing innocent men, women, and children.
Yeah, yeah, I know: These fanatics constitute a tiny minority of the countries they come from and claim to be fighting for. But, we also know thanks to Gallup, that very significant portions of these countries are cheering them on. Only nine percent of these people believe that the U.S. is morally justified in the war in Afghanistan. The Saudis have been exporting the sort of Islamic extremism which fuels these psychos. The official press of such countries as Syria and Egypt actively blame Jews for the 9/11 attacks. Put aside the anti-Semitism of these governments. They are essentially accusing the United States of declaring war on wholly innocent Arab and Muslim populations and organizations. After all, if the Jews did it, why are we beating up al Qaeda?
In other words we have very good reasons to have negative attitudes toward Arab countries.
And, hell, even if Sept. 11 never happened and Osama bin Laden had followed his true calling and became a cross-dressing apple-bobber in Amsterdam, we would still have a legitimate reason to have “negative views” toward Arab countries.
You know why? Because they are undemocratic stagnating cultures led by tyrants who drink daily from a heady cocktail of brutality, corruption, and crapulence. I am so fed up with the criticism that it is “arrogant” to express such opinions. Fine, it’s arrogant. I plead guilty. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, does it? The same people who talk about the folderol in the Florida election recount as if George Bush executed his opponents and seized the White House at gunpoint, bat their eyelashes as if I emitted a foul and offensive odor when I say “Saudi Arabia is a bad country.” In Saudi Arabia it’s illegal for five guys to stand on a street corner and talk about politics, for Pete’s sake.
And yet, James Zogby, the head of the Arab-American Institute insists America has to work harder to persuade these countries that we have a lot in common with them. President Bush, he says, has a lot of work to do in explaining that we share their values. Hey Jim, we don’t want to share too many values with these countries.
Enough moral equivalence already. According to the news reports, al Qaeda captured one of our soldiers in the latest fighting and promptly executed him. We’re being called barbaric while letting our well-fed and well-tended prisoners wear turbans and chat with government provided clerics. We are the good guys and no matter how many envious or chest-thumping foreigners tell pollsters otherwise, that fact won’t change.