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Notes

Reader comment on item: After Saddam? Remaking the Mideast

Submitted by Alo Kievalar (Saudi Arabia), Feb 12, 2003 at 11:37

Like his colleague at UCLA, Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl, Fouad Ajami appears to take a pro-western stance in the turbulent Middle Eastern debate swirling around us at present. Unlike the notorious Edward Said, of which the less said the better, El Fadl and Ajami place the backwardness of the Arab world squarely where it belongs, at the feet of Arab regimes, both past and present. (Edward Said places it at the foot of the Statue of Liberty).

But if you carefully read what all these gentlemen write, not a single one approaches Islam as other than a benign and misunderstood factor in the turbulence.

Said, of course, is a Christian, but Christian or not, he's an Arab down to the core. (In fact, his petulant tome "Orientalism" was largely written under the impetus of having been "treated" for years as "the foreigner" by his colleagues at Columbia). Abou El Fadl sees Islam as having been hijacked by unsavory characters and if Islam could only be cleansed of these guys, why, everyone would see the true nature of Islam……and become Muslim (!)

I'm not so sure about Fouad Ajami. He is a practicing Muslim, albeit a Shite (which perforce brings up all kinds of other issues) and his writings seldom bring Islam into focus. In a 1997 US News and World Report, however, he contended that Islam and economic reform in the Arab world are not mutually exclusive, although I don't quite understand why that would be an issue.

Anyone hearing Bin Laden's taperecording last night could hardly help but conclude that Bin Laden's Islam and that of the 3 gentlemen above are totally different entities. But they aren't.

Ajami's prescription for the Middle East is a sorcerer's potion. It's a dream. I too believe the US should invade Iraq, but not for the reasons usually stated. And I have no illusions that democracy in the Middle East could even remotely be a result of the invasion. Let's not forget that the word "democracy" does not exist in Arabic. There's a reason for this.
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