Muslim rage: On power politics and envy in the Islamic world

Those who want to escape their misery must abandon their murderous envy and struggle for liberal democracy and capitalism. After all, this is what has made the West free and prosperous

A Libyan citizen films the US embassy ablaze
Ali Alfoneh
On 17 September 2012 15:56

Was the U.S. Ambassador to Libya killed over a blasphemous video depicting the life of the prophet of Islam? Was the global rage against Denmark a reaction to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s 2005 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad? Did the equally blasphemous The Satanic Verses motivate Grand Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa [religious edict] to kill the British author Salman Rushdie?

The answer to all three questions is a resounding no! Contrary to the claims of leftist intellectuals and the Obama administration, the now so familiar Muslim rage against the United States and Western civilization has very little to do with blasphemous videos, cartoons or books. The Muslim rage has everything to do with power politics in the Muslim world, and envy of not living the American dream.

Power politics first:

It all began with the 1979 seizure of the United States embassy in Tehran, the mother of all embassy seizures. As radical revolutionaries stormed the embassy and took U.S. diplomats hostage, the moderate Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan strongly condemned the attack. Khomeini, who wanted to oust the moderates, endorsed the seizure by calling it “a second revolution,” which in turn forced Bazargan to resign.

In Tehran, power shifted from moderate to radical hands, and the world watched the Carter administration go down the drain taking with it hard won U.S. prestige.

Khomeini used the same formula in 1989. Humiliated by defeat in eight years of war against Iraq, Khomeini issued a death sentence against Rushdie, which mobilized the Muslim masses internationally. Once again Khomeini became first among equals in the firmament of world revolutionary leaders. The fatwa had very little to do with the allegedly blasphemous nature of Rushdie’s book, and everything to do with Khomeini’s bid for leadership of the Islamic world.

Khomeini’s success was not lost to ambitious Muslim leaders who learned his dirty tricks. In faraway Denmark, local religious leaders became international celebrities as they mobilized Danish Muslims and the international Muslim community against Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons.

Watching the success of mini-Khomeinis of Denmark, Middle Eastern heads of state, including Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, endorsed the Muslim rage in an attempt to prove their Islamic credentials in the eyes of their respective publics. Once again, the ensuing attacks against Danish embassies in Cairo, Damascus, and elsewhere had nothing to do with the cartoons and everything to do with power politics in the Middle East and North Africa.

The murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya follows the same pattern. The attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi had nothing to do with an amateurish movie produced in the United States, but everything to do with a radical movement’s bid for power in Libya. Power politics rather than rage over blasphemy killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

And now to envy:

Despite the rage, rave, and rampage in the Muslim world over the allegedly blasphemous United States and Western civilization, there is no shortage of Muslims lining up in front of Western embassies to apply for immigration permits.

I would indeed not be the least surprised if those who killed the U.S. ambassador used the opportunity to fill a few visa applications seeing as though they were at the consulate. Who knows – maybe they could get the chance to live in the land of opportunities?

The sad truth is that those who killed Ambassador Stevens envy the West in general and Americans in particular. They hate the fact that they are not a part of the Western success story but instead remain underdeveloped, stuck in backwardness and poverty. Killing an ambassador, the symbol of Western civilization, may satisfy their anger for a time, but the day after, they are bound to wake up to the same old nightmare misery rather than the American dream.

Those who want to escape their misery must abandon their murderous envy and struggle for liberal democracy and capitalism. After all, this is what has made the West free and prosperous.

In the meantime, the West and the United States have nothing to be apologetic about. Rather than apologies, Western governments should protect freedom and prosperity at all price.

Ali Alfoneh is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Follow him on Twitter: @Alfoneh

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