Friday, August 27, 2010

"Clash of Civilizations" as Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I've got to admit, the ability of the right to "create its own reality" is now quite advanced. You kind of wish they'd create one with rainbows and pony rides.

Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy:
...the mosque has barely registered on the major jihadist forums which I frequent -- yesterday, on the leading al-Shamoukh forum, it was not mentioned in the headline of a single one of the first ten pages of posts (more than 500 in all). There have been a few threads, as Evan Kohlmann has claimed, but it's a fairly minor theme within the forum debates ("Burn a Quran Day" has actually had more traction than the NY mosque thus far, actually). Certainly no triumphalism about how they'll soon have a monument to victory, as you hear so often out there on the American lunatic fringe. I have no doubt that al-Qaeda and like-minded extremists will eventually use the anti-mosque movement in their propaganda, since it so perfectly fits their narrative of a West at war with Islam --- the very narrative which both the Bush administration and the Obama administration worked so hard to combat over the last few years. I suspect that the participants in the forums aren't talking about it much is that it simply confirms what they already believe about America. They'll use it, but don't see much to argue about.

That's the opposite of the Arab mainstream, which is vigorously arguing about what it means for the future of America's relationship with Muslims --- both in America and in the world. Where the anti-mosque movement and escalating anti-Islam rhetoric is really resonating is with the Arab mainstream --- that vast middle ground which had hoped that the election of Barack Obama would mark a real change from the Bush administration but have grown increasingly disappointed. The mosque issue has been covered heavily on Arab satellite TV stations such as al-Jazeera, and the images of angry Americans chanting slogans and waving signs against Islam have resonated much like the images of angry Arabs burning American flags and denouncing U.S. policy did with American viewers after 9/11. The recent public opinion surveys showing widespread hostility towards Islam among Americans have also gotten a lot of attention.

It all contributes to the ongoing deterioriation of their residual hope in Obama's ability to bring about meaningful change. It's confirming the worst fears of too many mainstream Arabs and Muslims, and thus providing fodder for the extremists who hope to exploit that atmosphere. It's become a cliche to say so, but it's true: by fueling the narrative of a clash of civilizations and an inevitable war between Islam and the West, this unfortunate trend is empowering extremists on all sides and weakening moderates....

But, you know, there are a lot of people who gain in the US from the perpetuation of the mythology of the "clash of civilizations." It's good for TV ratings, good for defense contracts, good for demagogic politicians, and ultimately good for those who make the coffins that'll be shipping the troops home. Burning Korans and protesting mosques may succeed as some sort of emotional release for tough-guy ignoramuses (I love the one where one idiot out of the endless stream - too lazy and too pointless to dig up the guy's name - says Muslims worship a "monkey god." That would be Allah, AKA "God" or "Yahweh," in a religion that includes "Jesus" as a prophet). But that kind of confederacy of dunces bigotry wherever it comes from is ultimately a generous contributor to homicidal and suicidal policy.

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