Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Western Street

The “Arab Street:” It’s the Arabs who are angry and violent towards the West (and, in particular, the U.S.) for its relative prosperity, its at times hypocritical foreign policy and its support of Israel and of westernized, Arab ruling elites that rape and pillage Arab homelands but provide stable economic returns in Paris, London and D.C. In the disgusting violence at Abu Ghraib and in the revolting attacks against Muslims in France we can see the rising prominence of another “street:” the Western one. The Western Street saw the Twin Towers fall by men who cried “Allah” before massacring thousands of people. In the eyes of the Western Street, the Arab world, if not complicit in these acts, rejoiced at them. The Western Street merges the “Islam” of Islamic Jihad with the use of suicide bombers; and it looks scornfully upon the countless failed Arab governments lecturing others on human rights. Arab protestations are ignored because they are only turned upon the “infidels.” Muslim immigrants escape their homelands and pour into Western countries, only to seek to replicate in new lands the hell of intolerance that they fled. Such are the views of the Western Street.

It is too easy to dismiss as pure evil the soldiers who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib or the people who adhere to the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Front National. It is more realistic to understand their actions in context. There is a dialogue, whether implicit or explicit, that is happening between the Arab world and the West. One may impute some (even much) of the violence in the Arab world to failed Western politics and communication skills. However, this is not a one-way street. The atrocities in Abu Ghraib spring from an anger that the Arab world must learn to address. If not, the Arab Street will meet the Western Street in a deluge of blood.