Sunday, November 13, 2005

"Massacre in Amman" - Chickens coming home to roost (Khalaf)

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on a wedding party in Amman, Jordan, Norman Geras alerts us (on Normblog) to some disparate items that share an important theme--the connection between this atrocity and the widespread, long-standing tendencies in contemporary Arab political culture to glorify, or at least excuse, the terrorist murder of civilians (as long as they are Jews or Americans--or even Iraqi Shiites--and not Jordanians). Although many people in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East expressed revulsion against this particular attack, it still seems difficult for many of them to grasp or acknowledge this connection.

(The same is also true for people elsewhere--London, for example--who see no problem with supposedly unequivocal condemnations of all terrorist attacks against "innocent civilians" which make an exception for murdering Jewish or Israeli civilians.) (For some further details, see Condemnations of terrorism -- real and bogus ... and also this.)

=> A Jordanian blogger who calls himself Khalaf suggests that many Arabs and Muslims who feel horrified by this massacre need to take a harder look at themselves in the mirror ("Massacre in Amman"):
Last night, triple terror attacks on hotels in Amman left 57 dead and 115 wounded. Apparently, many of the casualties were Jordanians, attending a wedding reception in the Radisson SAS hotel. The fathers of both the bride and the groom were among the dead.

While everybody is condemning the atrocity in the strongest possible terms, I believe that we should look at ourselves with more scrutiny than we are comfortable with. The truth is that while who the actual perpetrators are is not yet known, what has happened follows a pattern that continues from New York, Madrid, London, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Baghdad, to name a few. The extremist ideology driving the terrorists is well known, if not totally comprehensible.

The uncomfortable fact is that while we nurse our historical grievances, we have allowed ourselves to lose ourselves in a culture of victimization and self pity. Thus, Arab and Moslem discourse typically finds room for justification for such horrors, especially if it happens somewhere else. In some cases, people who do such things are considered to be heroes. Heroes, indeed. [....] People dance and give sweets when this happens in Israel, and if it happens in Iraq, well, they deserve it because they are Shiites and Shiites are not fighting the occupation as we think they should. Of course, we felt that 9/11 was a big victory. Now we have one of our own. Let us think about this.

Religious extremism is a major driving force for the young cannon fodder who are still too young to know any better. This is a fact. Our governments tolerate and enable all sorts of forms of religious intimidation and indoctrination. We pretend it is all benign. Well, it is not all benign. When you walk the path of extremism, some people are going to take it its logical conclusion. Talk all you want about tolerance in Islam, but the fact that we must face is that religious discourse is what is driving these young men to blow themselves up in crowds of innocent victims.

We owe it to the victims, their families who grieve and ourselves to learn the lessons of this, and to take stock in them. This is not a trivial matter.

May God rest the souls of the victims, alleviate the suffering of the families and shield humanity from future outrages such as this. [....]
=> That's one reaction. Unfortunately, it appears to express a minority perspective. As Geras points out, some of the other responses to this atrocity in Jordan and the rest of the Middle East are less reassuring ... not least because they are so unsurprising.

Regional reassurance (November 13, 2005)

There has been much reporting of reaction in the Arab world against the terrorist bombings in Amman. While that reaction is welcome, some of it is mixed with more repugnant elements. See this report:
"I am not ashamed of what his [Zarqawi's] group is doing fighting the US occupation of Iraq, but killing civilians, killing Muslims here in Jordan is shaming." [JW: It is worth emphasizing that Zarqawi's contribution to "fighting the US occupation of Iraq" consists overwhelmingly of the indiscriminate and unapologetic mass murder of Iraqi civilians.]
In Zarqa, Munder Moomeni, a 38-year-old former soldier who lives next to Zarqawi's house, 13 Ramzi Street, described his former neighbour as "a bastard".

"By killing Jordanians here in Jordan, civilian Jordanians going to a wedding, they did something that not even a Jew would do," he said. [JW: As a Jew, I will take that as a compliment.]

And see this one:
The Maktoum Mosque was crowded with worshipers for Friday Prayer as the imam sharply criticized the suicide attacks on three hotels in Amman, saying those who committed the crimes were not Muslims, no matter what they called themselves.

Afterward, on the street, people agreed that whoever committed such an act could not be a Muslim. But many meant this literally, that the attack must have been carried out by outsiders, namely Israeli agents.
The suspicion of some here over the hotel killings mirrors the unfounded rumor that thousands of Jews did not show up for work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, because Israel was behind those attacks.

In Egypt, Israel was also widely blamed for the bombing attacks in Taba and Sharm el Sheik over the last year, and for the recent sectarian violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Alexandria. In Syria, officials at the highest levels of the government have blamed Israel for killing Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.


As Geras says, read the rest.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub