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Do They Want to Kill Us?

What about that claim, anyway, that we are surrounded by people who hate us and want to kill us? As Dr. James Dobson, the gay-hating leader of Focus on the Family, put at a rally in Pittsburgh:

    We are at war in this country with an enemy who wants to destroy us. … Let’s say four percent of Muslims want to kill us. That’s forty-eight million people who want to bring us to our knees.

He probably believes that four percent is a mild estimate. Still, that’s a lot of people chanting “Death to America.” That’s a lot of people ready to swarm our shores, looking for the slightest weakness in our defenses. And what about the Muslims who are already here? Estimates vary, but there might be six million Muslims in America. Four percent of that makes 240,000 homegrown terrorists.

So why hasn’t anything happened? Maybe the paranoia isn’t true. Maybe the experts are right, and there are only a few thousand committed jihadis in the world. Maybe 99.99% of the world’s Muslims have better things to do than think of ways to destroy America. Maybe we aren’t as important to the rest of the world as we think we are.

I spent three years living in Morocco. I was there in July 2006 when the conflict in Lebanon was at its peak. Sitting in cafes, I saw reports from the battlefield every day on TV. President Bush stalled the diplomatic process so that Israel would have more time to punish Lebanon. He even rushed them missles when they were running out. People got stirred up, not just at Israel but at their American sponsors. But this didn’t translate into “hatred of the American people” or “wanting to kill us.”

Most Moroccans are smart enough to realize that Americans and our government are two different things. They know that many of us are ignorant about the world. That isn’t to our credit, but it does let them put some distance between their feelings for us and for our leaders. In the time I was there, I met exactly two people who had anything nice to say about President Bush. Yet I met no one who claimed to hate Americans. They may even feel sorry for us.

Of course, Morocco is a “moderate” Islamic country. Maybe it isn’t representative of the mentality in, say, Saudi Arabia?

Consider the image at the top of this article. It shows a group of Saudi teenagers just returned from a roller skating event. I found it on a site called Despite the site’s name, it has nothing to do with holy war. Jihad is the name of the young man who writes the blog. And “jihad” has a broader meaning anyway that is best translated as “striving”—as in “striving to better oneself,” for example.

The photo brings a number of things to mind. I notice the hip hop look of the kid on the left. I notice the lack of teenage girls. I wonder if the kids are rich or poor. I’m reminded of the tendency of Arab youth to hang out in large groups. But I don’t think, “These kids want to kill us.”

A tour of the Saudi blogosphere convinced me that Saudis are busy with concerns of their own. A young woman writing as Psychedelic D goes on a rant against arranged marriages, presenting a scenario where a young man’s mother visits the home of a prospective bride.

    The talk starts. Our son is…our son is…he is amazing…religious, prays in the mosque all the time (he could be smoking pot at this very minute), he has a great education (passed high school after only the 2nd try!), gets paid really well (could actually be true, cuz his dad knows the owner of the company…), he’s really handsome…
    Then, it’s the girl’s mother’s turn. Ohhh my daughter is amazing too (the girl starts to shake at this point), she is an amazing cook (she fried eggs this morning), she doesn’t spend a lot (the 10K dress you saw at the party, she won in the lottery), she is amazing with kids…and (first and foremost) as you can see, she is “zay il gammar” (well, it’s hard to tell underneath all this make up)…
    At this point the girl blushes, and runs out of the room oh so gently…oh so embarrassed! The women say yahlailha (oh so cute), then pleasure meeting you guys and good bye… Then they call later…ask for the guy to see the girl…her father says NO! not until they get married…so they do, and he pays a lot on it, then they see each other for the very first time…
    Marriages don’t work. Shocker!

One of the best-known Saudi bloggers, Saudi Jeans, has these musings about the slow pace of change in his country.

    Looking forward to the future, I wonder: do we dare to dream? I, for one, do. I dare. And I don’t have only one dream; I have many dreams actually: I want to live to see the day when this country becomes a real democracy with a fully elected parliament; when freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, and no one is afraid to speak his mind no more; when women have their full rights and stand on equal foot with men. This was to name a few. Call me a dreamer. Maybe I am. I know one thing for sure, however: change is coming. This country is changing, not as quickly as I wish maybe, but it is changing nevertheless. Probably I’m just a young lad who can’t wait for this to happen, but who can blame me? If it wasn’t for the young to push change then who would?
    My friend and I went to Java Cafe…. He was amazed by how big and stylish this coffeehouse was. “Revolution is coming to Saudi Arabia,” my friend said. I was startled by the word revolution. The increase and popularity of coffee shops means that people want to talk, he explained, and this is how the French Revolution was started, one cup of coffee at a time.

I did find a Saudi blogger who is angry at the West. Outside Looking In wrote this on July 30, 2006, while Israel was bombing Lebanon.

    I am watching the news at Al-Jazeera at the moment and i swear to God i cannot believe what my eyes are witnessing. None of the footage i am watching is being shown in CNN nor any fucking channel. Over 57 women and kids were massacred only this morning in Qana and people are still being looked for under wreckages. […] Fuck you Bush, Fuck you Rice, Fuck you silent Arab leaders. All hail to the brave souls of Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Rest your graceful souls in Heavens, far away for this disgust.

Yet notice that his final “fuck you” is addressed to “silent Arab leaders.” His outrage springs from the indignity of having leaders who don’t respond to the people. If anger like his is able to resonate in a public forum and find its companions, it could lead to the sort of democratic change that America says it wants to see in the Middle East. If we are serious about democracy, we should welcome such voices. It won’t fan the flames of hatred. Rather, it will build respect.

The Muslims I know are more resigned than angry. Many are convinced that the West is making war on Islam, but after decades of American support for dictators in their part of the world, and centuries of having their religion misunderstood, they don’t expect much. I was in Morocco when the photos from Abu Ghraib came out, and again when Israel killed the leader of Hamas in a missile attack. Both events provoked outrage, but it quickly died down.

Far from hating America, my friends are more likely to worry that Americans hate them. They see how Muslims are portrayed in our media. We see angry men burning flags, raising rifles in the air, throwing rocks and blowing things up. In Morocco they refute this with warmth and candor, and exaggerated shows of hospitality. The cliche I heard most often there was, “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Yet they worry about us. Is America really a democracy? Are we morally lazy? How we can accept what has been done in our name? They wonder how could we have invaded a nation that was no threat to us. Why haven’t we challenged our leaders? Are we really that spoiled? Are we so concerned with our own comfort, that we tune out what is happening just because it is far away?

We hear a lot about the loss of America’s moral standing in the world, and this is what it means. We aren’t leading, we’re floundering. When Bush speaks of the “untamed fire of freedom,” no one is listening. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, and we’ve forgotten the connection. We aren’t behaving like adults. We aren’t accountable for our actions. We are a moral example to no one.

No one even bothers to hate us any more. Why try to kill us when we’re destroying ourselves? America is “in decline” as Hugo Chavez says. We’re like late Elvis, overweight and sweating in our sequined suit. Elvis died on the toilet, and presumably, so will America.


Comment from Me
Time: November 9, 2007, 15:47

And yet there are lots of videos on youtube with Muslims saying that they will take over the world and make all people Muslims. Also, isn’t it the Koranthat says to the Muslims to fight non-believers until all religion belongs to Allah? Their “holy” book instructs them to do what you are denying here.

Comment from eatbees
Time: November 9, 2007, 22:27

The Old Testament describes massacres of entire cities by the Jews, supposedly on God’s command. When the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem 1000 years ago, the streets were running in blood. The problem isn’t religion but human beings, who never seem to have evolved to the point where they stop using religion to justify their crimes. I don’t see Muslims living in some other part of the world as “them.” I see them as “us.” Coexistence isn’t just something I’ve made up in my head, it’s something I’ve lived in Morocco for three years. And yeah, you can find almost anything on YouTube—but videos like the ones you describe are a sick joke, just like Jerry Falwell is a sick joke for saying that America “deserved” 9/11 because we are tolerant of “the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays.”

Let’s move on from all this, and learn to look each other in the eye, okay? We need to treat each other as human beings regardless of culture or belief, instead of finding new reasons to hate those scary people we don’t know. That’s the reason for this article, and this blog. Read a few of the other posts here and let me know what you think.

Comment from Me
Time: November 10, 2007, 01:03

That’s beautiful, but it’s not realistic. I wish that what you said could be implemented NOW, but alas, we are humans and some of us have given our brains to religious BS. As for the Muslims, there is hate against the non-Muslims in their :”holy” books, which makes this religion an obstacle to your vision of how humans should live with each other. If no Muslims followed these “us vs. them, hateful, and violent” teachings, then I would have not cared, but a good number of them do, so what do we do with them? Should we go and “look each other in the eye”? They’ll look you in the eye and behead you and video tape it for propaganda. This is the reality of today.

Comment from Baal
Time: November 10, 2007, 23:43

Education matters. Whatever education you give to people, it matters. If you educate people an ideology of hate and fear, if you teach people that criticizing a god carries the same weight as murder, which carries the same weight as adultery, you are going to get masses of people, who think that criticizing a god carries the same level of damage as murder. And that an immoral action from a woman can cause irreparable damage to the fabric of society, close to the damage caused by murder.

Maybe as young men get older, they will start “learning for themselves” that criticizing and murder are not equal. But then you are still ending up with 15-30yr old sociopaths.

Again if you teach kids an ideology that does not contain the golden rule, you teach kids the opposite of the golden rule. That murder is relative, that anything done against us is bad and anything done by us is good. You are going to end up with the same sociopaths.

In that editorial, you are stating that Morocco is a moderate islamic country, yet even morocco they are now dealing withe the problem of Moroccan suicide bombers. WHY! Why would moderate morocco have suicide bombers? Do you really think your solution will help moderate Morocco’s growing suicide bombing? And all the lower form of jihad leading up suicide bombing?

Your solution is beautiful, but I do not think it will help Morocco.

Comment from Boogeyman
Time: July 5, 2008, 10:50

A bit late, but I just want to drop you a line to congratulate you for being able to see beyond the BS. I am from Morocco originally and have lived in the States for 18 years, and I can appreciate how much it takes to get beyond the thick smoke screens everywhere in this country. Of course there are those in the US who have an agenda and who are on a mission to keep the American people in the dark about the realities of the world. Can you imagine, for example, the consequence of the majority of the American people realizing that Arabs and Muslims are human beings just like them, with the same concerns and same desire in life? I don’t think the exterimist among Israel’s supporters and the religious right would like that. This is why some go to Youtube looking for reasons to hate even more and breach that hate to others. The kind of world you proposed is not a dream at all, I grew up in that world, and that is why most Moroccans and I dare say most Arabs and Muslims make the difference between politics and religion or race.

Comment from eatbees
Time: July 5, 2008, 14:06

Boogeyman — I’m glad to see people are still reading these old posts. I wrote this one when I was just starting to blog, and I wanted to define my mission as building understanding between the Arab-Muslim world and the U.S., which means applying the same standards to “them” that we do to “us.” Sadly, a year and half later this post is just as relevant, because I still encounter the same fears in the media and on the internet. The way Barack Obama’s middle name “Hussein” is treated as an insult is just one example. I think I’ve gotten tired of arguing with such things each time they appear, but on the positive side there is much that people from the two cultures (or any culture) can learn from each other as individuals. Best wishes to you in making a life here in America, and thanks for your visit and words of support!

Comment from T C Bishop
Time: August 27, 2008, 17:50

I am 59 years old. My family is of old English origin.
I really do not understand how or why my Country has permitted this insane extreemist religion to destroy our countrys traditions way of life or our culture. I have always tryed to understand people with different religious direction and have at no time wanted to destroy anybody. Is Hittler Now A Hero ?

Comment from Miriam
Time: December 13, 2008, 10:51

I wish that people would read about islam and learn the qur’an before they start to define islam as a hateful religion. Please educate yourself before you try to educate our viewers. Thank you.

Comment from sara
Time: August 26, 2010, 22:32

Peace .. I do not know English well, Vaadhirni understand that error. But I think you wonder why the Muslims hate the West, and this is not true. Not all Muslims hate of differences in religion. We are human beings first and foremost .. Hate evil, war and murder, and people Kosaba one hand vary in length, and the road makes a mistake because he sees America’s policy, that kill innocent people’s course to avenge his anger, and decorate it himself, and of course we do not support, therefore, address wrong is wrong. We hope the good and peace for all. The picture then reflect adolescents celebrating National Day, expressing their joy to do so. Again, my apologies to those who abuse their right as the Islamic religion, because religion is to us a love of good for others and respect the other, and preserve his rights and preserve his life under the name of (right dhimmi) and to preserve it and keep to ourselves, but what do we do? In order to correct our image and means to inform you?!

Comment from eatbees
Time: August 27, 2010, 05:42

Sara, I wrote this post to say that Muslims don’t hate the West as some people think. Most Muslims are just living their lives, thinking about their jobs, the people they love, and their children. And I explained that the picture is of children celebrating a holiday. Stories of hate give a false image, and I was criticizing that false image. So I’m on your side!

Thank you for visiting my blog. I’m sorry you don’t speak English well, or we could talk better. All the best to you, Sara!

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