by Asad Khan
Ruel Marc Gerecht's op-ed in the October 14, 2000 New York Times, "The Price
of America's Naivete," lead a reader to believe that
he, like the author of "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World
Order," Samuel Huntington, are the "prophet's of doom." These types of
irresponsible views designed to desensitize the reader were printed in the
German and Yugoslavian newspapers in the 1930's and the 1990's leading to the
slaughter of millions of Jews and thousands of Muslims.
As a former CIA Middle East Specialist, Gerecht skillfully links unrelated
historical events to suggest that a clash of civilization between the Muslims
and the West has existed since the seventh century. I am sure that as a
Middle East "specialist" Gerecht knows that Morocco, a Muslim country, was
the first to recognize the US as a nation. In fact the Treaty of Peace and
Friendship with Morocco, signed in 1786, is the oldest existing treaty
between the US and an another nation. If there was a "clash of
civilization," since the seventh century, this certainly would not have been
What Gerecht fails to note is that Muslims and Arabs were subjugated by the
European colonial powers. These colonial powers later established arbitrary
borders without regard to ethnicity or religion to create nations (Middle
East and Indo subcontinent) that exist in turmoil today.
To strengthen his false position of a clash between Islam and the West,
Gerecht makes no mention of the fact there are over six million American
Muslims coexisting peacefully in the US, and millions others throughout
Europe. In fact, the US Muslim population now exceeds the population of more
than eighteen Muslim and Arab countries (Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain,
Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, UAE, et al). American Muslims, despite the
existing stereotypes generated by those who hold views similar to Gerecht,
are productive members of a western society. Muslims don't have a problem
with the West; they have a problem with oppression.
Being biased, Gerecht makes no mention of the deplorable and apartheid-like
conditions the Palestinians have endured over the last fifty years. Israel,
being in a position of power, treats the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs -
Muslims and Christians alike - as second-class citizens with restricted
rights. This is the source of frustration for both the Muslim and Christian
Palestinians; while religion is the means to rally the extremists on both
Unfortunately for us, American made Apache and Cobra helicopters, F-16s, and
M-16s are used by the Israelis against the Palestinians and until recently
the Lebanese. The use of these weapons against civilians undermines Israel's
democratic values, and America's neutrality and world standing. It also
creates the perception that America provides Israel with the shield (in the
UN) and the sword (weapons and billions of dollars in aid) to oppress Arabs
with impunity. This perception continues to embolden extremists and
radicals, causing the death of over three hundred Americans through the
insidious acts of terrorism -- bombings in Beirut, Kohbar Towers, Embassies
in Africa, and recently, the U.S.S. Cole.
Power and prosperity should make one benevolent rather than arrogant. The
power of arrogance subjugates, as it did during the colonial era, leading one
to dictate terms without due consideration of others. If Israel, rather than
acting like a colonial power, recognizes and respects the Palestinians and
Israeli Arabs as coequals, there is no doubt that over time, as descendants
of Abraham, all of them can collectively live as brothers in peace.
The Islam bashing mantra is a distracter from the critical issues at hand and
leads us into the web of doom. Anyone, even with a limited knowledge of
Islam, knows that Islam in not monolithic. There is no one controlling body
or a religious leader like the Pope or a Chief Rabbi. Therefore, no one
person can speak on behalf of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims.
Mr. Gerecht, as an American Muslim, I can assure you that there is no Islamic
conspiracy leading to a clash of civilizations. I am fortunate to be able to
raise my family in a country that has strong fundamental values - right,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. More importantly, my country respects
my inalienable rights regardless of race, religion, or color.
As a Muslim, I do not subscribe to Gerecht's false assertion that "Jews as
[being] unrelenting hostile to the Islamic faith." Nor do I view Christians
as hostile to my faith. Similarly, Gerecht suggests that "Jews are usually
characterized in Islamic tradition as cowardly and weak." This again is
false. Muslims share all the Jewish (and Christian) prophet's and hold the
Jews (and Christians) with the utmost of esteem as a people that have
persevered. In fact in the 15th Century, it was the Ottoman Muslims that
protected the Jews that were thrown out of Spain by Queen Isabel.
Mr. Gerecht manipulates "America's na•vetˇ" by misguiding the readers, and
presumptuously telling me what my beliefs are. The Koran teaches us that both
Jews and Christians, as the people of the book, are my brothers and sisters.
In fact, I am happily married to a Christian and we have three wonderful
Middle East specialists like Gerecht (having worked for the CIA) and notable
authors like Huntington have over the past two decades influenced US policy
on the basis of their personal biases. It is time to recognize the root
causes that lead to frustration and conflict and make the necessary changes.
Not to do so, will eventually fulfill Huntington's and Gerecht's
self-fulfilling prophecy that creates fear in people's heart on the basis of
religion and emboldens extremists and radicals on all sides. It is time to
set aside the policies influenced by the "prophet's of doom" and reach out to
the people - Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike.
[Asad Khan has a graduate degree in National Security and Strategic Studies]
Copyright © 2000 Asad Khan - All Rights Reserved.