Published on Thursday, November 6, 2008 by Inter Press Service
For Peace, The
by Cherrie Heywood
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Barack Obama has been elected U.S. President at a time when the number of extremists has risen dramatically since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, going by the resistance to Western forces in the region. The U.S.-led 'war on terror' has itself now become a threat to peace.
Women view a mosaic image of Barack Obama made from stamps, at a stamp show in
A combination of despotic Arab regimes propped up by the West, neo-colonialism, religious intolerance, educational stagnation, a clash of cultures and religious ideology, and a
Given the possibility of an attack on
"There is still a possibility for the relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East to be repaired, but it will require a quantum change in the attitude of the U.S. administration towards Arabs and Muslims if this is to occur," Dr Ahmed Yousef, political advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told IPS from his office in Gaza city.
But Dr. Moshe Maoz, Israeli professor emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, and senior fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, told IPS that "significant self-reflection and hard work too has to be done by the Arab governments and extremist Islamic leaders themselves if there is to be any hope of a political breakthrough."
Several years ago, following a peak of death and destruction in Iraq, the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), a U.S. think-tank, held a conference which examined what went wrong between the West and the Muslim world, and why.
Milton Viorst, author of 'Storm from the East' and an expert on the region, said there is indeed a clash of civilisations here.
"I really do believe that we have two civilisations here which we have to understand, and I also believe that the war in
The bloody massacres during the Christian Crusades since the first of them in the 11th century, led up to the confrontation with the Ottoman Empire that finally folded up in the early 20th century.
"Britain and France, the two great imperial powers, decided what they were going to do because the
Shibley Telhami from the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, says clashes of civilisations have occurred throughout history, and that this in itself does not explain the intra-civilisational clashes such as those between moderate and hard line Muslims in the Middle East.
"During the Second
Dr. Anthony Cordesman from the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said "the struggle is religious, cultural, intellectual, political and ideological, not military nor driven by secular values. As such, the real war on terrorism can only be partially won within Islam and at a religious and ideological level."
Many of the poor and disaffected in the
Furthermore, many Arabs say the current U.S. strategy of military force is counterproductive if the desire is to win the hearts and minds of the majority of moderate Arabs and Muslims in the Arab street.
"There are too many memories of colonialism, and there is too much anger against
"This is the core of the issue," said Yousef. "Arabs and Muslims are fed up with
Cordesman said efforts to change the
Moaz told IPS that in order to truly defeat extremism and terrorism, it was also necessary for corrupt Arab governments to work towards establishing democracy and a more equitable distribution of wealth away from the ruling cronies and elite, as most Arabs were more concerned with day-to-day issues of survival above Western concerns for human rights.
But forcing democratic elections prematurely before these societies have established political systems which incorporate sound legal checks and balances to tackle political demagoguery would be counterproductive, he said.
"It is a catch-22 situation. How can free, democratic governments be established if the short-sightedness of the West is aimed at its own short-term geopolitical and economic interests which involve supporting despotic and dictatorial regimes as long as they are pro-Western."
Shibley said the problem was that neither the unelected Arab governments nor their Western benefactors cared much about Arab public opinion and their needs as long as their own interests were being served.
But despite the bitterness towards the
"We respected the technology and the traditions of democracy and human rights. We were all with
"We don't hate the ordinary American people and we have no sympathy whatsoever for the criminals who perpetrated 9/11. But these people are going to win even more support from extremist elements if the
© 2008 Inter Press Service
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs