US needs to ask itself: Why do Muslims hate America?

Posted by Faheem Belharvi

Last week was one to remember. It was the 11th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon — the symbols of US might, its soft and hard power and prowess. For the last few years, Al Qaeda seemed to be in retreat, dismantled, with its wings chopped off with the killing of Osama Bin Laden and other top operators and leaders being tracked and gunned down by countless drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

Al Qaeda, along with the fear of its retaliation, which dominated and overshadowed the previous two presidential elections in 2004 and 2008, seems to have fizzled out. It was a non-issue up until the vulgarity of the trashy movie was aired on YouTube and consequently ignited mayhem. The poorly produced amateur movie which is still a mystery — no one is sure who is really behind it. What kind of a wicked mind would have the audacity to mock, defame and denigrate Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)?
The disgusting movie is an insult to all Muslims who vented out their frustrations against the US diplomatic missions and embassies, culminating in the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya — Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff in the US Consulate in Benghazi. Spiralling out of control, protest attacks were then launched against the US embassies in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Numerous demonstrations and burnings of the US flag followed, from Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean to Jakarta, Indonesia, in the Pacific Ocean. This movie has insulted and inflamed the feelings of 1.6 billion people. It has galvanised and united Sunnis and Shiites, who all came out in solidarity to defend the honour of their beloved and revered Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Almost two decades ago, the late Samuel Huntington warned of a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam. Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001, and the US wars and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and its misnomer, “war against terror”, have exacerbated the relationship between Islam and the West, mainly the US, and validated Huntington’s warning.
With US President Barack Obama’s reconciling gestures on assuming office, his speech at Cairo University in 2009 about the US making up with Muslims, and that the US, never was, is and it won’t be at war with Islam; his conciliatory remarks and his Muslim background, put him in stark contrast of the bellicose and gung-ho, gun boat policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. Needless to say, the relationship between the West and the Muslim world witnessed a detente over the last few years. But there were some hiccups with the continued hate crimes against Muslims and their mosques in the US. Obama failed to fulfil his promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison, but his bigger failure pertains to the Arab-Israeli peace plan and retreat in position over his vision of a two-state solution — reflected in the very real threat of vetoing a move for Palestine’s membership of the UN. There were also the scandal by the New York City Police Department spying on Muslims, the opposition and making fuss over building an Islamic centre a few blocks away from the site of the World Trade Centre, and the burning of copies of the Quran by a radical and little known pastor, Terry Jones.
The Obama administration says it has nothing to do with the amateur movie which disrespectfully mocks the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and denigrates Islam. It was shocking and alarming to hear some demonstrators in Cairo, Benghazi, Doha, Kuwait and Sana’a chanting “Obama, Obama we are all Osama” — considering the damage and the rift Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda did by staging terror attacks that inflicted more damage on Muslims than on Westerners!
The Obama administration is clearly distancing itself from this “reprehensible and disgusting.” movie. Furthermore, the White House officially has requested YouTube to conduct a “review of the controversial anti-Muslim video posted on the site.”
The Obama administration would like the people of the Arab and Muslim world to know that although the demonstrations and rallies were against the provocative movie mocking the Prophet (PBUH), the truth is much deeper and poignant. The real reason of the angry demonstrations is related to US policy in the region.
It is naive to believe that this graphic backlash is only because of that trashy amateur movie. It is much deeper than that. The movie was the straw that broke the camel’s back and has brought to fore all the Arab and Muslim grievances against the US for decades of failed and double-edged politics, of supporting autocratic regimes that were toppled by the Arab awakening and those that were condoned and shored by successive US and western governments. It is the unwavering and unequivocal support for the transgression and occupation of Palestine and Arab lands by Israel and tacit support or silence against its atrocities and occupation. It is because of US occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and continuing wars in many Arab and Muslim states — from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia — and for targeting Iran while not lifting a finger at the Israeli nuclear programme.
Washington’s dilemma for too long has been how to strike a balance between democracy and liberty on one hand and security and stability on the other. The former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was blunt and straightforward when she had admitted back in 2005 on how the US had been dealing with the Middle East. “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.”
Finally, the demons and ghosts that Obama thought he had buried by killing Bin Laden are back to haunt him as he tries hard to win a tough battle for a second and final term at the Oval Office.
Finally, the US would do itself, the Muslims and the relationship between the West and Islam a big favour if it addresses the real causes for discontent and grievances among Arabs and Muslims, to avoid a real clash of civilisations. The US should be as vocal, resolute and vehement about criminalising those who defame and denigrate faiths and religions, as much as it is about anti-Semitic expressions. This could finally offer an answer to the often repeated question asked by Americans: “Why do they hate us?”. It should also stop the death of its soldiers and ambassadors and put an end to converting its embassies into fortresses!

(Abdullah Al Shayji— Courtesy:Gulf News)

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