What Have We Learned?
The life of a nation ten years later.


The experience of 9/11 notwithstanding, Americans seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to be surprised by the ability of the Islamic world to repeatedly repel Western ideals of moderation and modernity.

We were shocked when Yasser Arafat turned down the generous offers for peace made to him at Camp David in 2000, and we shrugged our shoulders when Mahmoud Abbas turned down an even more generous offer in 2008. The Bush administration was perturbed to realize that Iraqis saw the fall of Saddam Hussein primarily as a chance to assert their tribal and sectarian allegiances or that many, if not most, Afghanis see American aid primarily as something to be plundered.

We fell mostly silent when Lebanon’s hopeful Cedar Revolution was overturned by Hezbollah’s assassins. Hillary Clinton was surprised as Condi Rice had been before her when the “reformers” in Damascus defended their regime by brutalizing civilians. The New York Times was stunned to discover that the Moslem Brothers had vastly more support in Egypt than did the admirable students of Tahrir Square. And now, lo and behold, it turns out that the “freedom fighters” in Libya are led, in significant measure, by men with ties to Al Qaeda.

The reality is that in dealing with a culture whose long-term decline and great strength both derive from its ability to maintain itself by repelling outside influences, we optimistic Americans are bound to time and again misconstrue the situation. If we learn from our past misconceptions, we will realize that in dealing with the Arab-Islamic world the choices are between bad and worse.

— Fred Siegel is with Saint Francis College in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Institute.

We learned that Saudi Arabia has long been indoctrinating its students in an ideology of religious violence, which key U.S. intelligence officials have linked to facilitating and supporting terrorists.

Ten years on, Saudi textbooks, disseminated on websites and translated here, have yet to be cleaned up. They continue to teach:

- “Jihad has two concepts…[including] a specific meaning which is: putting effort and energy into fighting for the sake of God to spread Islam and defend it.” (12th grade);

- “The Jews and Christians are enemies of the believers.” (9th grade);

- “The clash between this [Muslim] nation and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.” (9th grade);

- “It is part of God’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment]. The good news for Muslims is that God will help them against the Jews in the end.” (8th grade);

- Apostates and blasphemers should be punished by death. (10th grade);

- “Major polytheism is a reason to fight those who practice it [including Shiites, Hindus, etc.].” (12th grade);

- Magicians and those practicing witchcraft “must be killed.” (10th grade);

- “The punishment of homosexuality is death” . . . by being “burned with fire,” “stoned,” or “thrown from a high place.” (10th grade);

- “The apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.” (8th grade).

We also learned that the U.S. government has been unwilling to take on the ideological challenge posed by Saudi-sponsored education. Over two administrations, it has annually praised Riyadh for the “glacial” (as a Wikileaks cable put it) pace of reform. Meanwhile Saudi Wahhabi extremism spreads in Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan , India , Algeria, the Balkans, the U.K., and elsewhere.

— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.