"Muslims do not kill Muslims". Illustrating the victim complex

The experiences of Sky's Tim Marshall about the Muslim world's victim complex mirror my own

by Robin Shepherd, Owner / Publisher on 14 October 2012 11:04

The excellent Tim Marshall, Sky's Foreign Affairs Editor, has a highly illuminating piece in the Spectator this week discussing the naivety of Westerners over the so called "Arab Spring". I've been saying much the same for a long time now (as an example, see this piece from May 2011 lambasting the West's stupidity).

What is especially noteworthy in Marshall's piece though, is his description of something he witnessed while giving a lecture at a charity to a group of international journalists:

"...during the lecture [] I used the phrase, ‘Muslims killing Muslims’. It was the response to this statement which took away my breath. I accept that the phrase might be construed as provocative and that few people would say ‘Christians killing Christians’; but it was a statement of fact nonetheless.

"Among the audience of about 30 people from all over the world, was a young woman from south Asia. She stood up and said: ‘I cannot let you say that. Muslims kill Muslims’. I replied that we were all journalists and hopefully could discuss things in a rational manner, giving a few examples of how the Taliban were killing people in Pakistan and how hundreds of Pakistani Shia Muslims die in sectarian murders every year.

"At this she turned red and almost shouted: ‘How dare you talk about my religion. I do not talk about yours!’"

A man from an Arab country then interjected in her support: "‘I also cannot allow you to say this. Muslims do not kill Muslims.’"

It is a sobering illustration of something I have also witnessed at first hand. Marshall was being confronted with one of the defining features of modern Muslim political culture -- the victim complex. It is never their fault. The Muslim is always the victim, never the oppressor. Oppression is always the preserve of someone else. Guilt lies elsewhere.

Try raising the subject of imperialism, for example, with a group of politically engaged people from a Muslim country. The default assumption is always that you are talking about "Western imperialism". It is as if the empires of the Ottomans, or the Arabs had never existed.

I said that I had experienced this sort of thing at first hand myself. To give one example, I was at a major international security conference in central Europe earlier this year. Due to the "Arab Spring" such conferences have now started to attract journalists and analysts from the Arab and Muslim world.

When it came to a discussion of events in Egypt, a British Member of the European Parliament stood up from the audience to raise the plight of Coptic Christians, dozens of whom have been murdered by Islamist extremists since the overthrow of Mubarak. He made his point fairly and reasonably, more in sorrow than in anger.

The response from two Arab ladies sitting next to me on the front row was nothing short of furious. I cannot vouch for the precise words after so many months but, near as damn it, this is what one of them stood up to say: "It is shocking and disgraceful that such slurs on the Arab people can be aired publicly at such a prestigious event." The other said that the MEP should effectively be ashamed of himself merely for having raised the subject at all.  

Above all else, it is important to note that Marshall's example and my own (I could provide many more; I presume he could too) are not drawn from encounters with the poorly educated or with people who would count as extremists by almost anyone's definition of that slippery term. This is the Arab and Muslim world's political intelligentsia.

And, once you internalise what this all means, you have gone a long way to understanding why everything from efforts to get the Palestinians to sign up to a peace deal with Israel, through the building of democratic societies across the Arab world, to dealing with Iran's nuclear programme present us with such monumental problems.

Robin Shepherd is owner/publisher of The Commentator. Follow on twitter @RobinShepherd1

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