The Right Coast

September 17, 2004
Political Ignorance in the Arab World
By Ilya Somin

Iraqi blogger Zeyad on the reasons for widespread anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in the Arab world:

Try to imagine it this way: starting with your early childhood you hear adults around you blaming 'Jews', 'Israel', 'Zionists', 'infidels', 'colonialism', 'imperialism', 'the West' for all the ills of your society. At school you are taught a flowery refined version of Arab and Islamic history. One in which the Ummah was the center of the world. You revel in the glories of your ancestors ..... You then learn about the conspiracies against the Islamic Empire and its divine message for humanity. Colonialism. How the west came to enslave your countrymen and plunder your riches for centuries. You look around you at the Arab and Islamic world today and you wonder what went wrong. How can such a glorious 'chosen' Ummah suffer such a pathetic fate.

Remember that you are completely blocked from the outside world, you only read newspapers and books allowed by the government, the rest are censored. You only watch state-sponspored tv channels . . . Your fellow countrymen who inadvertently step over the lines are strictly 'punished' by the state because they have become 'spies' and 'agents'....

The above situation is not out of George Orwell's 1984, it is what all Iraqis for the last 50 years had to endure. Arabs and Muslims in other countries suffer from basically the same albeit in different or lesser degrees . . .

Read his whole post!

As Zeyad notes, "the process above is not exclusive to Arabs or Muslims." We faced a very similar problem during the Cold War, when the societies of the Soviet bloc were probably even more closed than those of the Arab Middle East today. Just as during the Cold War we found ways to cultivate the Sakharovs, Lech Walesas, and Vaclav Havels of the Communist bloc and spread their message to their people, so today we should do the same thing with the Arab world's Zeyads. And we must do a far better job of it than the we have so far.