FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Violence in the Eye of the Beholder

The sectarian carnage in Iraq is just further proof to many Americans that Muslims, especially when dealing with themselves, are blood-lusting and depraved.

A Washington Post poll from last March found almost half of Americans have a negative view of Islam, while a full third believe Muslims are prone to violence. The latter figure more than doubled from a poll conducted four months after September 11.

The poll, however, did not ask Americans what we think of ourselves. That is perhaps the more pressing question, especially considering an estimated 655,000 Iraqi civilians have died since we invaded their country.

If the war on terror has accomplished anything, it seems to be the far-reaching belief that Islam is a religion of violence and that Muslims ultimately decide the viability of a peaceful future.

This dilemma has caused many, such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, to ponder, “Where is the Muslim Martin Luther King?”

In Tuesday’s column, Friedman said, “I raise this question because the only hope left for Iraq — if there is any — is not in a U.S. counterinsurgency strategy. That may be necessary, but without a Muslim counter-nihilism strategy there is no hope for decent politics there.”

Friedman’s dim perspective is quite striking, considering he once said, “If war turns out to be the only option, then war it will have to be.” Then, two weeks before the invasion, he declared, “Regime change in Iraq is the right choice for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the world.”

British war correspondent Robert Fisk characterized this sort of turnaround best by saying, “A new phenomenon is creeping into the pages of The New York Times and those other great organs of state in the U.S. For those journalists who supported the war, it’s not enough to bash Bush. No, they’ve got a new flag to fly: The Iraqis don’t deserve us.”

If that doesn’t seem like a fair assessment, consider for a moment Friedman’s terms for peace. He highlights the urgency of “a Muslim counter-nihilism strategy,” while assuming, a U.S. counterinsurgency strategy “may be necessary.” Essentially, Friedman is asking Muslims to learn the ways of nonviolence, while leaving the door open for our own use.

Dr. King would clearly not endorse this strategy. Lest we forget his searing attack on the Vietnam War one year before his assassination, in which he called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

Friedman’s understanding of nonviolence is framed by a government King was ashamed to call his own, an admission he must have known could cost his life. Therefore, using his name in such a wrongfully militaristic context is an unfitting degradation of something Gandhi called “satyagraha” or “the force which is born of truth and love or nonviolence.”

This understanding is not foreign to Muslims, despite what Friedman and many Americans believe. In Pakistan, there was Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a close ally of Gandhi during the Indian independence movement, who raised a nonviolent army that had over 100,000 members. He believed jihad should be the ultimate form of nonviolence, where only the enemies hold swords and are forced to withdraw or create martyrs.

In Sudan, there was Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, who amidst the birth of Islamist extremism in the 1960’s, wrote extensively on the original peaceful teachings of the Koran, condemning intolerant and vengeful verses as a product of the medieval era. He was ultimately hung for his convictions, by the same regime responsible for Darfur.

There are also nearly half a dozen more such figures from Palestine, but for various reasons, not the least of which are marginalization by the Israeli and US governments, have been unable to capture western ears.

Rather than blame Muslims for the violence that occurs in the Middle East, Americans must come to terms with our own perpetration of violence on the same soil.

As a Palestinian Jew famously said, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

BRYAN FARRELL is a journalist based in New York. He can be reached at: bryanfarrell@gmail.com

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 19, 2019
Richard Falk
Burning Amazonia, Denying Climate Change, Devastating Syria, Starving Yemen, and Ignoring Kashmir
Charles Pierson
With Enemies Like These, Trump Doesn’t Need Friends
Lawrence Davidson
The Sorry State of the Nobel Peace Prize
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Scourge in the White House
Urvashi Sarkar
“Not a Blade of Grass Grew:” Living on the Edge of the Climate Crisis in the Sandarbans of West Bengal.
Thomas Knapp
Trump and Netanyahu: “Mutual Defense” or Just Mutual Political Back-Scratching?
Dean Baker
Is There Any Lesser Authority Than Alan Greenspan?
Gary Leupp
Warren’s Ethnic Issue Should Not Go Away
George Ochenski
Memo to Trump: Water Runs Downhill
Jeff Cohen
What George Carlin Taught Us about Media Propaganda by Omission
Stephen Martin
The Perspicacity of Mcluhan and Panopticonic Plans of the MIC
September 18, 2019
Kenneth Surin
An Excellent Study Of The Manufactured Labour “Antisemitism Crisis”
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Crown Prince Plans to Make Us Forget About the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi Before the US Election
W. T. Whitney
Political Struggle and Fixing Cuba’s Economy
Ron Jacobs
Support the Climate Strike, Not a Military Strike
John Kendall Hawkins
Slouching Toward “Bethlehem”
Ted Rall
Once Again in Afghanistan, the U.S. Proves It Can’t Be Trusted
William Astore
The Ultra-Costly, Underwhelming F-35 Fighter
Dave Lindorff
Why on Earth Would the US Go to War with Iran over an Attack on Saudi Oil Refineries?
Binoy Kampmark
Doctored Admissions: the University Admissions Scandal as a Global Problem
Jeremy Corbyn
Creating a Society of Hope and Inclusion: Speech to the TUC
Zhivko Illeieff
Why You Should Care About #ShutDownDC and the Global Climate Strike  
Catherine Tumber
Land Without Bread: the Green New Deal Forsakes America’s Countryside
Liam Kennedy
Boris Johnson: Elitist Defender of Britain’s Big Banks
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail