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TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Articles on the Arab world after 2015
ISIS Got it Right, or The Merging of Civilizations
Allah is great
Articles on the Arab world before 2015

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

  • (December 2015)
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (December 2015) ISIS Got it Right, or The Merging of Civilizations.

    First of all, there is a difference between the two terrorist attacks in Paris, the January attack that mainly targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the November attack that mainly targeted a dance club. When Muslims attack a magazine guilty of mocking a prophet, they are attacking freedom of thought. In fact, they are attacking "freedom of truth": Mohammed was not a prophet, and Allah is just a ridiculous medieval superstition. Making fun of superstions is the first step towards a modern, secular society. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Muslims in the world de facto sided with the killers, i.e. with superstition. Even many in the non-Muslim world seemed to condone the killings based on the fact that the cartoons were "offending" a religion. I ranted against this tolerance of intolerance (see We are Charlie Hebdo, or The Globalization of Blasphemy and Allah is great). Those terrorist attacks were carried out by Al Qaeda (the Yemeni branch) to punish blasphemy.
    This time, instead, the attacks in Egypt (that blew up Russian tourists), Lebanon (that blew up Hezbollah supporters) and Paris (that blew up French citizens) were retaliations carried out by ISIS (not Al Qaeda) for bomb strikes and military operations carried out by Russia, Hezbollah and France against ISIS in Syria. In other words, the motivation was military in nature, even though the targets were civilians (to be fair, ISIS cannot shoot down the Russian and French warplanes that are bombing its fighters).
    France's reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks was a police operation aimed at arresting those responsible. Back then, France did not bomb Yemen. (For the record the man responsible for ordering those attacks was later killed by a US drone strike in Yemen). France's reaction to the November attacks, instead, consisted of bombing ISIS-held territory (alas, mostly abandoned buildings), an action that de facto legitimizes ISIS as a state (see ISIS is both Islamic and a state) and configures the fight against ISIS as a war between armies.
    The attacks on Charlie Hebdo were typical of the clash of civilizations: on one hand those Muslims who still believe the letter of a medieval superstition, and on the other hand all the people of the planet (not only Westerners, but also Chinese, Indians, and even Muslims) who believe in science and technology, and increasingly in democracy and capitalism, and don't think that "offending" a superstition is a big deal.
    The November attacks, instead, did not divide Muslim and non-Muslim civilizations as much as they united them. They are increasingly united in fighting the idea of an Islamic state. World War IV (see World War IV) has always been both a war between "radical" Islam and the rest of the world AND a civil war within the Islamic world itself; and, thanks to ISIS, now those two wars are increasingly becoming one.
    ISIS is fighting for a state, and, like it not not, it already has a state, and precisely an Islamic state, with good chances of surviving in one form or another, no matter what the world powers decide to do. The same is true of their brethens in arms: Boko Haram, Al Shahab, and Taliban. They all hold territory. They all caused a massive exodus of refugees. They all mainly kill Muslims.
    The best news for non-Muslims is that Muslims don't want such a state. These new attacks, military in nature, unite the non-Muslims of the world with the vast majority of the Muslim world in despising such a state. "They" are as afraid as much as "us" that ISIS might win. In fact, more than us: it is their homeland that is at risk. The nations that risk being dominated by ISIS and their affiliates are Muslim nations like Syria and Iraq, not Russia or France. In fact, most of the victims of ISIS are Muslims, not Russians or French. If you think that the attacks in Paris were horrific, think about the thousands of women enslaved, raped and killed from Nigeria to Iraq.

    You can see this difference between the Charlie Hebdo case (that didn't cause any demographic change in the world) and the exodus of 10 million people from Syria. The ones being admitted into Europe are only a tiny percentage, but the propaganda victory for the non-Muslim West is colossal: these are people who de facto admit that a literal interpretation of their religion has created hell on Earth. Europeans who are afraid of this Muslim "invasion" are missing the point: many of these Muslims are likely to convert out of Islam or at least adopt a very non-Muslim lifestyle, and, whenever they return to their countries, they are likely to bring with them the very Western values that ISIS is trying to eradicate. The refugees are the least likely to recreate the society they left. Instead of Europeans being afraid of minarets popping up all over their cities, it should be ISIS to be afraid of losing millions of Muslims and of the contagion that they may bring back to the Muslim countries. ISIS is trying to capitalize on the clash of cvilizations, but, ironically, it may help bridge that clash. It would be a pity if secular European countries didn't seize the opportunity and ended up punishing the very refugees fleeing ISIS.
    ISIS, and before it Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and, in general, the whole Islamic world, have capitalized on depicting a war waged by the West (and non-Muslims in general) against Islam, a narrative that media such as Al Jazeera have fueled through conspiracy theories and talk shows. Very few Westerners read Arab media or listen to Arab talk shows. Westerners would be surprised to realize how widespread is the belief that Islam is not attacking but being attacked. This narrative preexists terrorism. According to this narrative, it is the West killing innocent Muslims everywhere the world, not Muslims committing acts of terrorism in Western countries. Even the terrorist attacks carried out by Muslims against fellow Muslims in the Middle East is routinely blamed on Israel, the CIA, etc.
    The rise of ISIS might mark the turning point when that narrative gets replaced by a "secularist" narrative in which the problems of the Islamic world are due precisely to religion and the solution is precisely to marginalize Islam.
    We outsiders mostly focused on the clash of civilizations (the tribal backwards Muslim world vs the secular, industrial and democratic West), but the real phenomenon of the last 25 years has been the "merging" of civilizations. After the fall of the Soviet Union (i.e. the end of World War III) most of the planet has undergone a very rapid process of integration. The last 25 years have witnessed a "merge" of civilizations as disparate regions of the world have become massively interconnected by industry, trade, finance, entertainment and (thanks to the popularity of English) even language. The West, the Far East, India, Latin America and, more recently, sub-Saharan Africa are rapidly converging towards similar models of lifestyle and economic development. Young people dress the same everywhere in the world. They use the same digital gadgets and get roughly the same education in school. This constitutes a dramatic departure from the local traditions of the previous centuries. What the merging of civilization means is a dimished role for (and probably the rapid dismissal of) the ancient superstitions that we call "religions". This process has united the West, the Far East, India, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.
    The major exception has been the Islamic world. Too much of the Islamic world has spent the best part of those 25 years in mosques and madrasas, with the result of being left behind in just about every social, political, technological and scientific field. While the non-Muslim world is rapidly becoming secularized, today the Islamic world represents the last bastion of religion. The Islamic world is the last region of the planet in which so many people believe in the letter of the religious scriptures, i.e. in prophets, books dictated by gods, and the likes.
    That world is indeed under attack. ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Boko Haram (whose name means "no to Western education") are absolutely right: Islam is indeed under attack.
    The rest of the world, and in particular the Western world, is indeed eager to secularize the Islamic world. We want the Islamic world to join the rest of the planet in worshipping democracy, womens' rights, peace, science, technology, math, etc. These are all anti-Islamic values. Islam is about having faith in Allah, not about discovering new physical laws and inventing technologies to improve peoples lives. The founder of Islam was a warrion, not a scientist. We who live in secular societies want engineers and scientists, not prophets. Hence, ISIS and the other jihadists of the world are absolutely right: there are billions of us (certain me) who are fighting an unholy war against the excessive power of religion in the Islamic world. In other words, we are attacking Islam. It probably started with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt: "Religious wars are basically people killing each other over who has the better imaginary friend" (Napoleon). Islam is under attack from all sides because the rest of the world wants to live in a secular planet, which entails secularizing the Islamic world too. "It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion" (Bertrand Russell).
    ISIS got it right: Islam is under attack. In fact, this war is even bigger than they think. Islam is the last religion that still has so much power. Allah is the last god. All the other religions are declining very rapidly, or, at least, they are not interpreted literally anymore. Their followers study other religions and respect them, an implicit admission that all religions are equally false. Religion is increasingly a very minor priority for the non-Muslim world. The Islamic world is the only region in which religion is still widely practiced. There has been no major religion, no new god, born after Islam. Therefore Islam is the last religon. Allah is the last god. This is truly religion's last-ditch battle. As it stands, in one or two generations the world will be free of gods and assorted supernatural beings. The Islamists represent the last surrounded battalion of religion, desperately trying to resist.
    Of course what i call secularization is a religion in itself, except that it worships progress, knowledge, human rights, freedom of thought, music, art, literature, etc; which is the exact opposite of worshiping a god of which nothing is known and who prescribes that we should know nothing but simply have faith. There is no worse enemy of modernity than a medieval superstition according to which we have to trust an inscrutable god who created us for whatever neurotic whim and has already decided how the world will end based on his own idea of good.
    There is obviously a clash between secularization (that aims to replace superstitions with scientific explanations) and jihad (the mission prescribed by the Quran to every Muslim, and we can discuss whether it has to be carried out by violent means or not).
    That constitutes indeed a "clash of civilizations", but it would be more appropriate to see it as Islam's resistance to being assimilated in the grand "merging of civilizations".
    In fact, we didn't realize that the real "clash" was taking place within the Islamic society itself. An increasing number of Muslims has joined the world-wide secularizing movement: they want for their countries exactly what the Chinese want for China or the Indians for India; namely, progress, prosperity and political rights. There is a civil war that is being fought within the Islamic world between the progressive Muslims (ready to dump the Quran for Einstein and Twitter) and the conservatives (ready to dump Einstein and Twitter for the Quran). These progressive Muslims are eager to join the merging of civilizations. While the rest of the workd is discussing the recent innovations from Silicon Valley, studying how the brain works, discovering new medicines, etc, the Islamic world is fighting to avoid the burqa and compulsory Quranic studies.
    Therefore, Islam is under attack twice, first by the non-Muslims (notably the Westerners), who want to secularize the Islamic world, and secondly by the progressive Muslims who are eager to be secularized.
    Our campaign to secularize the Islamic world has laid the foundations for the radical Islamic movements that terrorize the world today, but it also created a counter-movement of Muslims eager to catch up with the rest of the world.
    ISIS is indirectly helping fuel that civil war to the point that the critical mass may shift from the "clash" of civilizations towards joining the worldwide "merging" of civilizations.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (June 2015) Allah is great.
    The double standard that the West (perhaps the entire world) applies to Islam is mindboggling. We almost never treat Islam the way we treat other religions, ideologies, movements. We consistently grant Islam immunity from judgments that we routinely unleash on other beliefs, whether secular or religious.
    No wonder then that the problem is simply getting worse. In a sense, those like me who started ranting against Islam decades ago (mostly on the basis that the Islamic world was falling behind every other region in the world in every possible political, economic and social aspect) should feel vindicated: our direst predictions came true.
    All countries in the world except for Latin America and the southern half of Africa are threatened by Islamic extremism, obviously the #1 threat of the 21st century, but the world dones't seem to be able to come together in a global strategy. This is a world war (See World War IV) in which one side's formation is clear (Taliban, Al Qaeda, various Pakistani terrorist groups, Al Shahab, Boko Haram and now ISIS) but the other side still hasn't coalesced. No wonder that the organized side is winning. For the record, this is precisely how Islam started: it defeated the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire easily when while were bickering all the time.

    The dis-organized side (that includes the West, Russia, China and India) keeps finding justifications not to fight Islam. And this situation is not all that different from the days of Stalin, when many intellectuals in the West were not willing to condemn Stalin's atrocities or even denied it; and it is not all that different from the days of Hitler, when many Western intellectuals were not willing to admit that Hitler wanted to invade all of Europe and exterminate the Jews.
    The double standard begins with the way criticism of Islam is categorized: if i speak out against Israel or the Pope, i am labeled as a left-wing radical; if i speak out against Islam, i am labeled as a righ-wing radical. A critic of Zionism and Catholicism is placed in a different category than a critic of Islam.
    We rarely read an article describing why Islam naturally leads to terrorism (Islam was founded with a war to destroy all other religions, and the founder of Islam personally led this war and killed scores of people) but we are flooded with articles that explain how one billion Muslims are nice and peaceful folks and a tiny minority has "hijacked a great religion" (quoting George W Bush, one of Islam's main defenders). Of course, i agree that the vast majority of Muslims are as honest and peaceful as (and perhaps more than) Christians or Hindus. But by the same token, there were people in 1940 still willing to claim that Germans were nice people and that the great German spirit had been hijacked by a madman: that too was correct, except that this kind of superficial (and fearful) analysis does not stop the murderous ideology but actually legitimizes it among those very "nice and peaceful" people.

    In other words, we help the hijackers by refusing to unequivocally condemn the ideology. The "tiny minority" of hijackers wins easily the argument when even their enemies condone the fact that Mohammed started a war to destroy all the other religions and created a totalitarian state (that went on to occupy the homelands of Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastranism and Hinduism). That is no more and no less than what the Taliban and ISIS want to achieve.
    One wonders what evidence the world needs. I am writing this article on June 26th and here are the headlines (in just one day): "Tunisia attack on Sousse beach kills 39", "Kuwait Shia mosque blast death toll rises to 27", "Man decapitated at factory near Lyon", "Islamic State kills 120 civilians in Kobane", "Al-Shabab kills 30 at African Union military base". Repeat: this is just today, the 26th of June 2015. And these are probably only the news that reach the outside world. I suspect that a lot of lenient opinions on Islam are based on ignorance of what is going on in the world. (And this could also be a consequence of people reading the news on their digital devices, which really means "click only on the first line and skip the rest"). The people who defend Islam as a peaceful religion are either indoctrinated to say so or they don't know what is happening. On the 26th of June they were checking the Facebook feed or browsing sport news and never saw those five headlines. For the record, the statistics reported by Paul Taylor in "The Next America" (2014) show that Millennials (people born after 1980) "are consuming less news than older generations did when they were younger". For the record, it was difficult to find any trace of these events on CNN, Fox News and CBS (much easier on Al Jazeera, BBC News, Deutsche Welle and France 24, the four excellent non-US channels that i get in my area).
    I am revising this article on June 30th before posting it on my website and today i read "More than 100 dead in Egypt's North Sinai" and that Boko Haram suicide bombers (including a 12-year-old girl) have killed 33 people in Chad's capital N'Djamena, 40 people in several attacks in Niger and 10 people at Nigeria's Wagir market in just the month of June. Also, a little footnote that the Islamists of Russia's North Caucasus pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, and China's admission that dozens were killed in an attack on a police checkpoint in its Islamic province. But nobody in the West, in Russia, in China or in India seems particularly worried (the way so many US politicians are terrified by the nuclear deal with Iran or by the prospect that gays will be allowed to get married). Life goes on normally even if Islamists basically telegraphed that they will soon kill a lot of Russians and a lot of Chinese, not to mention a lot of Europeans.
    And, ultimately, that's because our own media continue to spread the double standard.
    When, in March 2015, a mob of fanatical Muslims attacked and beat to death 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada for burning a copy of the Quran, most Western media rushed to prove that she did not burn the Quran and "therefore" she was innocently lynched. If someone were killed for burning a copy of the Gospels, there would be no doubt that this is a heinous crime. If the book in question is the Quran, though, Western media don't defend the right to burn it, they question whether the act was truly committed. Indirectly, this is an admission that one can burn any book in the world, including the Gospels, the Tanakh, the Vedas and the Buddhist scriptures, but not the Quran.
    When, in January 2015, Islamic extremists attacked the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, guilty of publishing portraits (and offensive portraits) of the founder of Islam, the New York Times refused to republish those portraits stating "We do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. Many Muslims consider publishing images of their prophet innately offensive and we have refrained from doing so" (Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times). This statement offended all the atheists, and it turns out there are more atheists than Muslims in the USA (and perhaps in the world - Muslims get killed if they "convert" to atheism, whereas atheists don't get killed if they convert to Islam, so the official numbers are unknown), but i guess the feelings of atheists don't really count. However, the feelings of another religion should count: six months later, the same newspaper was happy to publish a portrait of the Pope made with thousands of condoms (at the Milwaukee Art Museum). The New York Times' editor Phil Corbett explained that there was a reason to ban the Mohammed cartoons and accept the Pope cartoons: "...the very different reactions bear this out. Hundreds of thousands of people protested worldwide, for instance, after the Danish cartoons were published some years ago. While some people might genuinely dislike this Milwaukee work, there doesn't seem to be any comparable level of outrage." The New York Times is basically stating that one has to become a suicide bomber in order for the New York Times to respect her or his religious feelings. No wonder that so many Muslims do become suicide bombers: we are telling them to do so. Catholics would have to start beheading people and blowing up markets in order to get the same degree of respect that Muslims get. "Let's not forget the Muslim family in Brooklyn who read us and is offended by any depiction of what they see as their prophet," Baquet explained back then in an interview. Apparently he is not concerned about the feelings of the millions of Catholic families in Brooklyn. Last time i was in Los Angeles i saw shirts for sale at the beach with Buddha cartoons. Try selling shirts with Mohammed cartoons and probably the city of Los Angeles, the state of California and the president of the USA would intervene.
    To prove that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, US president Barack Obama likes to quote the Quran's verse 5:32: "Whosoever slays a soul it shall be as if he had slain all mankind; and whoso saves one life it shall be as if he has saved all mankind". But he stops there. That sura continues stating what the punishment for enemies of Islam should be:"execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet".
    We routinely read articles written by historians or anthropologists that doubt something written in the Gospels (even the historical existence of Jesus), but we rarely read articles that do the same to the Islamic texts. And, still, it should be fairly simple: either you believe that Mohammed was indeed a prophet sent by Allah or you don't, and, if you don't, then Mohammed to you was either a charlatan or a madman. Why is it so difficult for non-Muslims to say that Mohammed was either a charlatan or a madman? If you don't say it (out of respect for the religious feelings of one billion people), you indirectly support the belief that he was indeed sent by Allah, and you indirectly embolden those who follow his example of religious intolerance and caliphate building.
    I am not sure what is the right approach (see We are Charlie Hebdo, or The Globalization of Blasphemy) but it is a fact that the world respects Islam more than any other religion: we don't care when someone offends our religions, but we immediately share the outrage of Muslims when someone offends their religion.
    Allah is indeed great.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Articles on the Arab world before 2015

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TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.