Internet Clarity Doesn't Always Solve World Problems

To know Islam is to loathe it.

I'd like to teach the world to sing
in perfect harmony.
I'd like to hold it in my arms,
and keep it company

I'd like to see the world for once
all standing hand in hand.
And hear them echo through the hills
for peace throughout the land.

- Heard all too often since the 1960s

One of the articles of faith of the world's peaceniks is that, underneath all the various artificial conflicts of our greedy and selfish ruling elites, normal people are pretty much the same; so, if only our leaders would get out of the way, we'd all get along fine.  Wars are not caused by substantive conflicts between entire peoples; they are evilly created so that giant corporations can fleece the taxpayer, arms merchants can get rich, and demagogues can increase their power, or so it is said.

It follows, therefore, that modern communication and transportation technology is often viewed not just as a generally useful tool for commerce but as the means to World Peace!  Where once England's Neville Chamberlain could say that the buildup to World War II involved "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing," now large chunks of the British electorate routinely fly off to Czechoslovakia or Poland for a weekend's carousing.

There aren't too many parts of the world that are really, really far away anymore, and even the most economically and politically insignificant countries such as Haiti can instantly command global attention if something bad enough happens there.

However, all these hopes for grass-roots friendliness rest on one less-than-solid assumption: that people really are mostly the same, value similar things, and think more or less the same way.

No, I don't want to buy the world a Coke
if they'll just make a Molotov cocktail
out of the bottle!

Wired magazine brings us news of a new venture that if it works will finally and conclusively test this thesis, quite possibly to destruction.

A new site hopes the seemingly simple idea of eliminating the language barrier, letting you write in English and be read in Arabic - and vice versa - will cultivate citizen diplomacy between the Middle East and the West. It aims to reduce tensions at the grassroots level between two cultures that increasingly co-exist but seem a world apart.

Meedan, which officially launches Monday, lets users post stories and comments in English and have them automatically translated into Arabic, or the opposite. People who don't share a common language can have an online discussion in near real time.  [emphasis added]

The article goes on to cite, by way of example, the issue of child marriages.  In the West this practice is condemned as self-evidently bad, but in the Arabic world it is the subject of some debate.  Presumably, being able to view the internal discussion and to dispassionately evaluate the argumentation of those gentlemen whose taste runs to twelve-year-olds will bring mutual respect and avoid the Clash of Cultures we see on the news every night.

The Truth Can Set You Free - But Really Hurts Sometimes

Meedan's backers certainly seem to mean well, but they haven't thought this through.  The only reason Westerners tolerate Muslims even to the extent that they do is because the mainstream media has blatantly lied about the dictates of that particular religion and the opinions of its practitioners.

You may have heard that Moroccans, for instance, "overwhelmingly disapprove of suicide bombings against civilians."  Great - common ground!  You may not have heard that those same Moroccans

...are the most likely to see it as a justifiable tactic against Americans and other westerners in Iraq.

Perhaps you've heard that support of the Muslim man-on-the-street for terrorism in general is diminishing?  Indeed it is: from two-thirds down to somewhere around half.  Fantastic - now only half a billion people want to blow us all up instead of two-thirds of a billion.

Scragged is not yet as internationally respected and widely read as its editors would like to think it deserves to be.  Still, its reach is wider than you might suppose.  Several of our recent articles on the subject of Islam attracted a Muslim commenter by the name of "A.L.PURI," who described himself as

...a 69 years old Hydro Power Engineer who is working as a freelance consultant in private Sector. I very humbly and honestly confess that I am neither a religious scholar nor a very good practicing Muslim.

In other words, a Muslim Everyman, just the sort of person with whom Meedan's founders would expect Americans to be able to find common ground.  Mr. Puri and other Scragged commenters and authors debated Islamic doctrine through the comment-pages of Scragged for quite some time.

We are indeed privileged to have enjoyed the insights into everyday Muslim thought provided by Mr. Puri.  It's one thing to hear something said by a Western analyst; it's quite another to hear it from the horse's mouth, or even from the horse's other end.

In a long apologetic as to why Muslims are justified in performing acts of terror in the various countries that they do, Mr. Puri offered up the following explanations in their defense:

Muslim terrorists have murdered innocents in...
The Netherlands (For showing disrespect to Muslim's Prophet)
France (For showing disrespect to Muslim's feelings)
Germany (For showing disrespect to Muslim's feelings)

There you have it, folks: thanks to a free and open dialogue with an ordinary person on the other side of the world, we ignorant Americans have reached a deeper understanding of their point of view, which quite simply is that Muslims reserve the right to gruesomely murder anyone who shows any disrespect towards either their feelings or their murderous, drug-addled, piratical pedophile of a prophet.

And our media thought the "War on Terror" was all a figment of the imagination of Dick Cheney and Mark Steyn!

Let's hope Meedan is successful in bringing truth and clarity to intercultural understanding.  We'll know its operators have reached understanding of reality - when they shut the website down.  Being rich liberals, wider knowledge of reality would have consequences they won't like: for most ordinary, patriotic Americans, to know Islam is to loathe it.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Very cynical here. I like the idea of at least trying to bridge the gap between the West and the Middle East. The Internet is used by lots of Arabs, not just trigger happy fanatics. Iran's current cultural revolution is largely the result of westernization at several Iranian universities. If American youth can talk to Arab youth, the indoctrination at mosques may begin to fall on deaf ears.
February 25, 2010 8:33 AM
That is exactly what the Imams do not want. American culture is based on the best marketing in the world. Americanization more attractive to any young person who gets a look at it than Islam can ever be, particularly to women. The fundamentalist Imams know that unless they keep their youth from seeing our culture, they'll lose.

There are fundamentalists in the US who feel roungly the same way. Note that the guy who thinks it is OK to kill us is 69. I bet the 19 year olds do not think that way but are afraid to say so.
February 25, 2010 4:21 PM
It is said that after ordering the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Pres. Truman lost no sleep. He was aware that the Japanese fought to the last man on Iwo Jima and other places and that they were doing as much suicide bombing as they could. Mr. Truman's military advisors anticipated a million casualties or more in taking the home islands if every wan, woman, and child resisted to the death.

At the time, the American public agreed; it was only later that revisionists questioned the bombing.

Suppose Bin Laden got hold of an atomic bomb and vaporized, say, Manhattan.

Would Americans support waterboarding to find out who did it? What about stronger measures?

Suppose we had good evidence that the bomb came from Iran. Would Americans support turning the place to glass?

If a president did it quick like a bunny, would he be supported?

If he didn't, and someone ran against him on a platform of doing it, what would happen?
February 25, 2010 5:07 PM
Why do many diatribes appearing on "scragged" attach so much blame to Liberals and their socialist agenda- neglecting the similar comparison with the Republicans during the first 8 yrs in this millennium which seems to provoke anger & disgust, as though looking in a mirror?
This is another in series in which the author presents no evidence- other than loathing- for a view, as opposed to presenting the readers with evidence and admitting that some of us do possess the capacity for rational evaluation and would agree with him anyway, based on research & methodical deduction.
I suppose Scragged pays for this stuff based on the number of adjectives, not factual data: such unprofessionalism is its own merit. This is akin the to climate fiasco, & one begs the question that of they are not seeking like minds, but only a bully pulpit, what's the use?
For me it is illumination into the closed, secretive processes of a politically stalemated, morally corrupt, anti-Liberty & anti-capitalist mindset pervasive in the Republican agenda:
on topic as 99,99% of Muslims are anti-violent-
and many who seek asylum in Britain & western Europe are exactly that sort, then what is the harm in dialogue?
It is certainly less expensive than destroyed buildings, trillion $$ wars and the label of "hate monger" which the past administration seemed to cherish.

February 25, 2010 6:58 PM
A great curiosity arose in me when the author has created impression by his poem. Many realities are communicated perhaps objectively. The the conflict does not arise always from the common people and because of the contradictions between the builders of the nation or society, it depends upon the people too when they make their choice while choosing. The observations may be the facts, but who will have the solutions? question is who can really solve the world problems
March 6, 2010 2:46 AM
The only who can effectively solve a problem is the man who has it- others should focus on solving their own issues, yet agreeing to forego violence:- force, laws and other methods of slavery are to be resisted
March 6, 2010 8:36 AM
I am muslim, But I never support islamic terrorist. I think terorist are not real muslim. otherside USA made some wrong. and it really increase violence.

It is true Internet Clarity Doesn't Always Solve World Problems, but they can play a very vital role for world.
March 6, 2010 12:21 PM
You are right Anike.. the world doesn't need haters, or those who act without thinking, including frightened Americans who think everyone is a terrorist, even non-Muslims like myself
March 6, 2010 4:17 PM
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