I once worked with someone who told me that the best thing that happened to the Arab countries in the middle east was the creation of Israel. Although the Jewish people and Israel have a history that spans thousands of years, the person was referring to the State of Israel that was created in 1948 shortly after World War II. Even though Jews and Arabs lived for centuries together, my former associate postulated that Arabs of all ethnicities banded together in 1948 against a common enemy – Israel. While there have been longstanding antagonisms between the Arabs and Israelis, Arab ethnicities have seen 25% of the armed conflicts of the world since 1945 amongst themselves (even though they only make up 8% of the world’s population), according to a 1996 UNESCO study by Saad Eddin Ibrahim. The study, which is 17 years old, claimed that over 16 million Arabs lost their lives between 1945 and 1996 as a result if these conflicts. These numbers have obviously grown since 1996. In the current Syrian civil war, we know that more than 100,000 people have been killed.
Indeed, Brett Stephens who writes for the Wall Street Journal, stated in a June 3, 2013 column that we are witnessing a Muslim Civil War. In his piece, he states that “Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the prominent Sunni cleric, said Friday that Hezbollah and Iran are ‘more infidel than Jews and Christians.’ Coming from the guy who once lauded Hitler for exacting ‘divine punishment’ on the Jews, that really is saying something.”
And now we are once again witnessing a barbaric slaughtering of people in Egypt. As a Catholic, I found it repulsive to read of the atrocities committed by the the Muslim Brotherhood against Coptic Christians. I found it even more disgusting that President Obama, who I now refer to as Professor Obama (all he ever does is orate about what “should be” from behind, as opposed to implementing policy as a leader a priori), essentially sat on the sidelines once again as this situation spiraled out of control. While there are cogent arguments that can be made on both sides for what America’s position should be in the current conflict, one thing is for sure – we should have had a policy and acted on it.
But that’s not the reason for this blog post. The violence in this part of the world just begets more violence. If I lived in Syria, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Iraq, or Iran, and, I witnessed my child, wife or parent murdered, I too would be filled with hate and fury and want to retaliate against those who committed the crime. The problem is that my hypothetical retaliation would only escalate the violence further, and this would just lead to a never ending spiral of innocent, fragile and God created people being destroyed. No good can come from this – ever. I know that every side has a story, and that there is probably some truth in all sides. But, no side can win in this conflict.
There are fundamentalists in all religions, and they are self-righteous and un-accepting of all but those who share their beliefs. Fundamentalism is myopic; it makes no allowance for different points of view. Fundamentalists of all faiths are most often those who commit terrorist acts. While it’s easy to talk about the wars in Syria or Egypt, we should really be focusing on the tyrants, dictators and fundamentalists behind these conflicts and not generalize to the people of these nations.
© August 15, 2013 James Stuckey