Attacks on U.S. Embassies and Roots of East-West Conflict

Yet another insult on Prophet Mohammad in the name of freedom of expression. Yet another violent outburst in the Arab world. More deaths and destruction.

When can we expect an end to this?

Not until the West comes to its senses. Not until the license Dante used to burn Mohammad in hell is abrogated, and no one else is allowed to carry on the legacy of the prejudiced Italian mastermind. And, not until the Muslims get a spot under the sun.

No doubt, when Muslim masses go berserk violently protesting insult on Islam, they put on display their base instincts – the shallowness of their intellectual side. And, their unscrupulous politicians take advantage of this human folly toward achieving their own ends.

Ordinary folks in the Islamic world – as well as in many other parts of this globe – often resort to violence in dealing with ultra-sensitive political and religious issues. This happens mainly because they do not think their rulers will take right steps to tackle them. They perceive their leaders as ineffective and Western puppets. Presidents Asif Zardari of Pakistan and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan perfectly fit the bill. This chronic frustration provokes angry citizens to take matters into their own hands. In Afghanistan, the hated Taliban are returning to power; in Pakistan, anti-American sentiment is an all-time high, in part thanks to U.S. drone attacks.

The United States becomes a natural target as the world power. But some of its foreign policy blunders hurt this mighty nation. The Israeli and Palestinian saga has been one. This single issue has caused a rift between the United States and the Muslim world as deep as the Grand Canyon, an outcome predicted by some world leaders before Israel’s creation. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, cautioned President Harry Truman in 1948 against dividing Palestine. Truman ignored him, citing domestic concern. Anti-American attitude in the Muslim world would subside once this Arab-Israeli dispute is resolved.

But some Jews and Westerners make an already bad situation worse, especially folks like filmmakers Theo Van Gho, a Dutchman, and Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American. Bacile reportedly made the anti-Mohammad movie, The Innocence of Muslims, provoking attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya this week and costing lives of American diplomats.

This is merely a manifestation of an age-old conflict between Islam and the West. In a broader sense, the problem is not just between Muslim and Western nations. It is an East-West schism, dating to the Greek-Persian war, long before Islam appeared on the scene. Had Persia won the war, the world would look much different today. Since the Greeks emerged victorious, their thoughts have shaped our world.

Following the paths blazed by Judaism and Christianity, Islam challenged the Greco dictum, creating a vast empire, a feat that the two other monotheistic faiths failed to achieve. The West never reconciled with its subjugation by Islam. Rather, it has ever since wished to make Islam disappear into the black hole of oblivion. It called Muhammad fake and branded Islam as barbaric. The Muslims, on their part, refuse to forget what they consider is their glorious past. They remain steadfast in their demand for the right seat at the table. Here is the root of today’s East-West conflict.

The Palestinian-Israeli issue comes into play because Israel wants to foment anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe and America to its advantage. This will not serve Israel well in the long run. It is in Israel’s long-term interest to embrace their cousins rather than push them over the edge. Remember, anti-Semitism took root in Europe long before Islam came into existence, because of widespread belief among Christians that Jews killed the Jesus.

Casting the Muslims as villains has been kosher in the West for too long. It has been a favorite sport in Europe and America to applaud anything negative about Islam, starting from Dante to Rushide, who always sees the evil side of things and makes a mockery of freedom of speech. Those who defend them brandishing the sword of free speech would be hard pressed to prove how their diatribe created positive effects on society. Freedom of expression is no license to shout false fire in a packed theater. Freedom without responsibility causes havoc.

A moderate Muslim but an anti-Western crusader, Dr. Mahatir Mohammad, Malaysia’s former prime minister, once called press freedom a myth. And, many of his fellow Muslims see double standards in the West. It is freedom of expression when it comes to insulting Islam’s prophet or holy book. But it is hate crime when someone challenges holocaust. Criticizing Israel is anti-Semitism, but supporting Palestinians is terrorism.

It is this sense of fairness that is lacking in this debate. Only fairness and justice can ensure harmony. Fair U.S. foreign policy and curb on anti-Islamic rhetoric will go a long way toward it. And, the Muslims are better advised to be constructive rather than reactive. Killing diplomats and burning embassies will hurt them, not help.

B.Z. Khasru is editor of The Capital Express in New York and author of a bestselling book, “Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation War – How India, U.S., China, and the USSR Shaped the Outcome.” (Rupa & Co., 2010)

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