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An Overview on the Political and Social Relations of Muslim and Westerners In Scholarly Essay Format (Including a Narrative Introduction

) By Christina Springer Ventura, California June 23, 2013

“Why Do They Hate Us?” On September 11, 2001, my mother came early to pick me up from my first grade class. She was obviously distressed as she gently tried to explain to her six year old daughter why she had to take me home. I was obviously distressed as I tried to understand; at the time, my world was no bigger than home, my brightly colored classroom, play-dates, grocery shopping with Mom. Still learning to read and write, I did not yet understand the heavy concepts of death, hatred, or suicide. So I asked questions: “Why would those men crash planes into buildings to hurt people, Mom? Are they going to try to hurt us, too? Why do they hate us?” Little did I know, I had asked a question that even the most educated political and religious analysts could not answer. Nearly twelve years later, debate still rages over the topic and no definitive answer has been found. But the conflict has not been solved: deep-rooted mutual hatred continues to exist between Arabs and Westerners, as evidenced by recent terrorist attacks such as the Boston Marathon Bombings, Muslim fury over the disrespectful cartoon depictions of Muhammed and other Islamic symbols frequently released by Westerners, and continued American military presence in the Middle East. Opinions on why the conflict exists and has resulted in war and terrorism differ greatly, but I personally believe the long history of


Here. But In 610 AD. especially in military operations. and radical Islam are largely responsible for the tense relationship. he became head of state and quickly grew powerful. The Historical Origins of Conflict between Muslims and Westerners There is little dispute over the historical origins of the conflict between Muslims and Westerners. failed rulers and ideas in the Arab world. and greedy. In the 7th century.S.” while 54% of Westerners claim Muslims are “violent and fanatical. the Muslim prophet Muhammed declared that he had begun to receive revelations from the god Allah. beginning the competing Muslim faith. A 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center found that an average of 66% of Muslims believe Westerners in countries such as the U. However. immoral.war between the two cultures along with careless United States foreign policy. Muhammed quickly attracted religious followers and was invited by the leaders of the city Medina to act as an “arbitrator of their urban squabbles. 2 . Christianity and its many different forms held immense power as a primary religion of the developed world. the Muslim-Westerner conflict’s deeply rooted historical background has made mitigating this tension difficult. and Europe to be “selfish.” converting the city to Islam. These unnecessarily bitter stereotypes are an incredible barrier to global peace and have resulted in worldwide aggression. Peace is possible.” Furthermore. the impact of the media. Westerners overwhelmingly cite Islam as the most violent religion (Muslims who disagree believe Judaism is the worst offender).

Overall.” and “demonworshippers. this expansion of territory came at the expense of the orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire.” The Crusader’s violent antagonism towards Muslims inspired Middle Eastern generals to also use Islam to promote a united defense. Notable of the Crusades was the Christian church’s use of religious propaganda to unite its people in hatred against Muslims. the Muslims soon re-took Jerusalem. In his military domination of the Middle East.” contrasting with his referral to Christians as “the faithful of God. Muhammed took control of the city of Jerusalem in Israel. However. which was at the time a revered center of Christian worship. turning the Crusades into a war between two religious peoples and massively strengthening feelings of hatred between them (Rooney 1). a serious of religious and political wars between the Roman Catholic Church and Muslims between 1095 and 1291. 3 . but drastically increased mutual hostilities between Muslims and Westerners (Gottschalk 24). the success of the Arab Empire must have come at the hands of Satan (Gottschalk 16). Despite the Crusader’s initial success. Muslim control of Christianity’s most holy city sparked European fury and eventually inspired the Crusades. though the region would continue to host further Crusading efforts over the next two centuries.Muhammed’s success resulted in an astonishing expanse of Arab power. In Pope Urban II’s call to the Crusade in 1095. creating an enormous Muslim empire. who believed that since the success of Christianity resulted from the grace of God. in which Christians attempted to regain access to Jerusalem and the holy places near it. the Crusades had little physical impact on the Middle East. he referred to the Muslim people as a “vile race.” “barbarians. The sudden loss of Byzantine territory and rapid conversion of Christian souls brewed confusion and unrest in the Christian community.

militarily.” “traditional. These stereotypes flourished throughout the stages of European colonization in North America and later.” For many Europeans.and sword-armed soldiers and his sensually and scantily clad harem [meaning ‘forbidden woman’]. Those who resisted and strove to define their cultures apart from the Europeans’ were painted as “regressive. This is best illustrated by Camel Cigarettes. According to Gottschalk. These groups carried their religious intolerance against Muslims with them as a “social memory perpetuated through popular narratives and religious instruction” (Gottschalk 27). forcing the rest of the world to rely on Western methods of living. whose early advertisements featured a camel standing in front of pyramids and played to this exotic 4 . Americans also frequently used the religion of Islam as a source of sensual entertainment. “nineteenth-century American depictions of the courts of Muslim rulers rarely missed an opportunity to depict both the tyrant’s spear. global European imperialism and hegemony resulted in the rising success of Europeans economically.Beginning in the 15th century. One “enlightened” British official remarked that Islam was “the only undisguised and formidable antagonist of Christianity… an active and powerful enemy” (Gottschalk 30). marked most notably by Columbus’ 1492 expedition to the Americas and the settling of European colonists in the New World. European imperialism also inspired a period of global exploration. and scientifically.” Advertisers capitalized on this American association of sensuality with Muslims and used images of Arab associated objects to market their products. the American Revolution. but a barrier to national development. and remained well integrated in the minds of the newly independent American people. Islam no longer represented only a simple competitor in theology.” and “backward.

which killed nearly 3. 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon brought the conflict between Muslims and Americans into global focus.sense of Arab romance. The Present Day Arab-Westerner Conflict The tragic disaster of the September 11. but at the cost of reinforcing aggressive feelings between the cultures. a country whose population is 99. shocking the world with its unexpectedness and devastation. These concerns heightened in the 1970s when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) instigated an oil embargo against countries in support of Israel. It is important to understand the historical roots of the conflict between Arabs and Europeans. which would give $400 million dollars in aid to Greece and Turkey. In 1947. foreign policies.8% Muslim.000 people. These advertisements effectively sold products. the United States firmly continued sending aid to the country. 5 . when the primary foreign policy interest of the United States became containing the Communist threat. Americans also became concerned with the Middle East for its wealth of oil. President Harry Truman declared the nation’s willingness to back “free peoples who are resisting subjugation by armed minorities or outside pressures” in a speech to Congress calling for the creation of the Truman Doctrine. The attack. However. Because the region was so critical to American economic interests. an action that infuriated the Arab population in the area. governments. according to the CIA website. the liquid success of economies and militaries. present-day technologies. as they are largely responsible for creating the intense stereotypes still held between the cultures today. However. and terrorists have thoroughly complicated the issue. Arab identity drew much more American attention after World War II.

millions of these Arabs live in the war zones and have lost family members. the cruelty of continued sanctions against Iraq. homes. the small country has been able to continuously win wars against its Middle Eastern adversaries. a staff writer of the Christian Scientist Monitor. where US policy has bred widespread anti-Americanism. These weapons have become “the visible face of American policy in the Middle East. brewing resentment on a personal level as well. the carnage of September 11 was retribution… [for] the injustice done to Palestinians. footage which is often obtained or created for the purpose of fostering aggression towards Israel and America. Furthermore. This previously unseen and incredibly violent attack left citizens struggling to understand why the attackers seemed to hate America and how to combat terrorism of mass destruction. who have become deeply resentful of the US-Israel alliance. the historical mood of resentment towards America was bound to cultivate hostility and violence. and the repressive and corrupt nature of US-backed gulf governments” (Ford 1). Because the United States gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel each year. and even whole communities to the violence. Perpetuating the issue.left Americans feeling vulnerable and terrified of an Islamic threat and made terrorism one of the defining issues of United States foreign policy. 6 . Middle Eastern media often air images of Israeli or American military brutalizing and killing citizens and innocents. Peter Ford. many would argue that US support is the only reason Israel has not been defeated. argues that “to many people in the Middle East and beyond. where military might has held the balance of power for 50 years” (Ford 4). the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East. In fact. Many Arabs believe the United States has no place in directing Middle Eastern affairs and are therefore angered by its hegemonic and arrogant display of power.

Egypt. The government is efficient in only one area: squashing dissent and strangling civil society” (Zakaria 3). the Egyptian failure and the similar failures of other Middle Eastern countries seem astoundingly humiliating. When compared to the success of Israel at the hands of the United States. “socialism produced bureaucracy and stagnation… and the republics calcified into dictatorships. to whom the United States often extends support. However. for example. attempted independent rule in the 1970s under Gamal Abdel Nasser. many Middle Eastern governments have melted into corrupt disasters with aging dictators and greedy kings. The once great country of Egypt now has an unemployment rate of 25% and has experienced a serious intellectual decline.Fareed Zakaria. the United States’ support of many of these oppressive dictatorships has not been well received by the people who suffer under their rule. claims that Arab resentment also stems from the Middle East’s history of failed rulers and regimes. Western economic and political strategies have historically been the ones that actually work and foster development in the real world. Zakaria states that “this disillusionment with the West is at the heart of the Arab problem. Though they once promised freedom and economic prosperity at the hands of the people. Because of widely-held stereotypes denouncing “Americanism” in Arab countries. Obviously. Returning to the example of 7 . it is often argued achieving modernity has become difficult. who advocated socialism and Arab unity and inspired other Middle Eastern countries to do the same. However. It makes economic advancement possible and political progress fraught with difficulty… this fear has paralyzed Arab civilization” (Zakaria 4). Editor-at-Large of Time Magazine.

Arab nations began to fear Western ideals. when the government failed and began to oppress its people. with more than half of most countries’ populations under the age of 25…. relates Islamic fundamentalism with the rise of fascist parties in Europe: “When the state or political parties fail to provide a sense of legitimacy or purpose or 8 . Therefore. “modernity has been one failure after another.” Enter radical Islam. many Arabs have turned to religion for social services like medical care. and counseling (Zakaria 6). Each path followed – socialism. and arrogance and capitalism with gluttony. “For the Arab world. airing Western television and promoting a culture of consumers. a Princeton scholar. joining radical Islamist groups has given Arab citizens the political power their oppressive governments have kept from them and appealed to a tradition world view after modernization proved futile. A huge influx of restless young men in any country… usually produces a new politics of protest. the independent ruler Gamel Nassar advocated his political theory as modern and Western in the 1970s. when the country turned to socialism in an attempt to develop their culture with the rest of the world. sexuality. “Arab societies are going through a massive youth bulge. which has provided a cause for which to rally. Zakaria also points out that currently. nationalism – has turned into a dead end” (Zakaria 5).” according to Zakaria. and a strategy intended to solve the Middle East’s problems in a very anti-American way. an answer to cultural confusion. Furthermore. secularism. causing its people to associate the West with greed. Imagine the American reality television show “Jersey Shore” airing in the Middle East! This off-brand strategy of modernization has confused and disrupted the conservative Arab world. housing. Where their state governments have failed them.Egypt. Shari Berman. Middle Eastern governments have instead attempted to buy modernization by importing foreign goods.

its solution has included waging war against and isolating Iraq and Afghanistan. All will not be lost if America scales back its politically volatile presence in the Muslim world. fascism. argues that retreating from the Middle East and adopting a more isolationist strategy is the best way to go. other organizations have often been able to step into the void…. disagree and personally believe completely retreating from the Middle East would be careless at such an unstable time as 9 . Pankaj Mishra. Israel. to a relationship of mutually assured dignity” (Mishra 2). it is wise to keep in mind that Muslim terrorists are almost always part of a poisonous minority of radicals. Islamic fundamentalism is specific to the region. whose policies are not advocated for by the grand majority of the religious population.basic services. He states. and sponsoring oppressive minority rulers in several states. and even populism in the United States. However. In fact. So far. but the basic dynamic is similar to the rise of Nazism. However. “the case for a strategic American retreat from the Middle East and Afghanistan has rarely been more compelling… as growing energy independence reduces America’s burden for policing the region.” These above factors combined have resulted in a violent resurgence of twenty-first century terrorism. shows alarming signs of turning into a loose cannon. as it has with its former enemy.the correct strategy must be a peaceful one. The United States clearly must strive to find a solution to combating Muslim terrorism. These violent strategies have done nothing but promote aggression and unrest. Vietnam. It could one day return. an acclaimed author and op-ed contributer for the New York Times. imposing deadly sanctions that have ultimately done little but starve innocent civilians. and its supposed ally. the murder of innocent American civilians is strongly denounced by non-radicals and clearly does not find justification in the Qur’an.

Arab relationships with Israel are on a downward spiral. and American sanctions have caused incredible harm to innocent civilians. and eventually. With resolve. dedication. and unselfishness. I strongly believe peace between Arabs and Americans is possible. deeply rooted cultural stereotypes. 10 . because it is the restless and confused citizens who turn to radical Islam and become the terrorists that threaten Americans. mutual respect. United States policy changes that primarily consider the Arab people and not its own interests could result in serious change. Instead. and current chaotic state of the Middle East.the Arab Spring. despite the long history of war. the United States should pursue energy independence and realize that our foreign policy actions must consider the needs and opinions of Middle Eastern citizens. By aiding the interests of the majority instead of supporting corrupt puppet governments. the United States could begin to undo the careless problems it has caused in the region and create a stronger foundation on which to begin retreating. when continuing civil war in Syria has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Simply listening to the voices of the Arab public and detangling American moral interests from its foreign policy investments before brashly deciding on strategy would begin to alleviate tensions between the two warring cultures.

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