Monday, May 23, 2016

"Why They Hate Us": CNN finally airs Zakaria's report, four weeks late; and Saudi Arabia gets a black eye

CNN finally aired Fareed Zakaria’s report “Why They Hate Us” tonight (Monday, May 23, 2016), for weeks after CNN had waffled on showing the episode on April 25.  CNN’s promos video is here. There is an update to CNN's pressroom announcement here.
They heart of the narrative starts in 1949 when Egyptian student Sayyid Qutb  visited a church party in Colorado, where men and women danced to “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.  That’s a phrase I particularly remember from the late 80s for a specific episode.  Qutb was particularly taken back by the way the sexed mixed in the West, and with American postwar modernism in general.

Qutb was sickly and never married, which is curious itself.  His books took off in the Islamic world, which started growing more discontent with western influence motivated by oil (as well as Israel). (Back in 2002, the Weekly Standard had run an article connecting Qutb to the abstract idea of “virtue” for its own sake.) The Middle East would explode in 1979, with the fall of the Shah and the Iran hostage crisis, as well as a siege in Saudi Arabia, which actually turned out to be the most significant. To stay in power, the Saudi royal family allowed Wahhabism to be disseminated throughout the kingdom and get exported to Pakistan. That explains in part why so many 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.  The terrorists at Fort Hood, Boston and San Bernadino all had ties to this line of fundamentalism.

Zakaria presents a walled-of interview with London cleric Anjem Choudary, and gives the history of  born Anwar al-Awlaki, the first US citizen to be targeted by a drone strike and originally trusted as a moderate Muslim.

Zakaria also interviews Irshad Manji, on the meaning of Koran texts.  The "72 virgins" supposedly promised in Paradise are really "72 raisins" in a desert country.

Zakari provided numbers of radical jihadists – less than 200,000 worldwide, about .01% of the entire worldwide Muslim population.  But Zakari admitted that historical politics had allowed the extremist texts in the Koran to become magnified and create a “cancer” of people who saw the world outside their own narrow upbringing as meaningless (and perhaps parasitic or exploitive, much as Communism sometimes viewed much of the world).  Comparable texts exist in Christianity.  But “The Book of Mormon” (or “Sister Act”) doesn’t provoke violent reaction (from Mormons or Catholics) the way cartoons of the Prophet will.  (Maybe the IRA would have made a good comparison).

It seems that the obsession of Qutb and his followers with western sexual mores having something to do with the idea that, to keep passion in marriage in their own culture, they must keep women out of sight so that their internal personal sexual tension is maintained.  That means keeping women covered except in front of husbands after marriage.  (It also means that husbands, in their culture, have a right to have children by their women, and women don't have a right to refuse this duty.) Sexual morality in Christian fundamentalism may not seem as extreme but is motivated by the same psychology.  It's only interesting of everyone else has to follow the same rules as "I do."

Another aspect of the spread of radical Islam is, of course, online recruitment, not so much covered in this documentary but covered in other specials.  It seems that young men (and women), not finding they can "compete" as individuals in western society, look for a sense of belonging and adventure are are willing to go to war to expropriate from others.  But that doesn't need religion -- look again at communism and fascism.

Donald Trump is mentioned as saying “Be Very Afraid” (of Sharia law in the US at gunpoint maybe), but the first subchapter of the last chapter of my first book had that phrase.

There is criticism of Zakaria's views, such as this blog post on Wordpress.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture in Riyadh, p.d. by Ammar Shaker.

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