In belated response to a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed published in a Danish paper and subsequently reprinted across Europe, scenes of outrage filed out of London, Beruit, and Damascus, among other cities this weekend. Flags and embassies burned. Placards (in London!) read: "Behead those who insult Islam."
In light of the anger unleashed, National Review Online asked some experts on Islam and/or the Mideast for their read on what's going on and what can/should be done. We asked each: Is this a clash of civilizations we're watching? What can be done? By Muslims? By everyone else?
Mohamed Eljahmi :
The violence, intimidation and threats about the Danish cartoons show that neither the U.S. nor the West can afford baby steps when it comes to political and economic reforms in the Arab world. It is sad to note that the U.S. has allowed Arab autocrats to dictate the terms of political reforms. Despots like Qadhafi and Mubarak continue to be marketed as models, the first for giving up his WMD program and the second for winning a sham election. To Liberal Arabs, it is no surprise that Qadhafi closed his embassy in Denmark, Mubarak used his media and rhetoric to inflame the public and sparked the boycott, the Saudis boycotted the products and the Syrians torched the Danish embassy. Liberal Arabs know that Arab despots work harmoniously and each has a scripted role, because their survival depends on jointly oppressing dissidents and sedating the less educated.
In Arab societies, mob-mentality rules and the individual has no right, because according to Salafism, the whole defines the part. In a free society, the part defines the whole, therefore, the economic pie is bigger and people care about better schools for their children, gender equality, the elderly, the handicapped, and other issues that make government accountable to its people. In free society, religion is an individual choice and there are political and legal guarantees that protect individual rights. In the Arab world the Koran rules, thus it is impossible to go against the mob or argue with the divine. In Mubarak's Egypt, kidnapping of Coptic women and forcing them to convert to Islam is not offensive. In Qadhafi's Libya the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or grotesquely forcing Italians to exhume the bodies of their dead and take back to Italy is acceptable.
If the Bush administration and the West are serious about advocating for reform, then they must stop letting the despots dictate the terms of reform, because political reforms in the Arab world are not luxury but they are essential for American and world security.
— Mohamed Eljahmi is a senior software engineer with over 22 years of experience in the software industry, where he has worked in design and in development of software applications. He is a Libyan American, who is advocating for genuine political reforms in Libya. Eljahmi has lived in the U.S. since 1978 and has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 1990.