Volume 1, Number 24
3 October 2001

Why Do They Hate Us?

The Christian Science Monitor (9/27/01) tells why:

From Jakarta to Cairo ... a mood of resentment toward America and its behavior around the world has become so commonplace that it was bound to breed hostility, and even hatred. And the buttons that Mr. bin Laden pushes in his statements and interviews — the injustice done to the Palestinians, the cruelty of continued sanctions against Iraq, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, the repressive and corrupt nature of US-backed Gulf governments — win a good deal of popular sympathy.

Here is a quotation from USA Today (9/27/01):

One student's vow: "I will get your children!"

Peshawar, Pakistan — Morning at the Dar-ul-uloom Haqqania madrassa, or religious school, begins with a prayer and a defiant chant: "Oh Allah, defeat the enemies of the Muslims and make Islam and the Taliban victorious over the Americans in Afghanistan," the 3,500 students say in unison in the school's courtyard. Then they break into a chorus of "Jihad! Jihad!" or "Holy War! Holy War!" Their words bring a smile to the face of the school's chancellor, Maulama Sami ul Haq ... "Osama and the Taliban would be proud," he says.

Have you seen the pictures of crowds of happy Middle Easterners, faces bursting out in smiles, as they cheer what to us was an overwhelming tragedy?

Are there any other reasons?

Long before the tragedy of September 11, I have been aware that we are hated all over the world. I spent ten years communicating with Latin American Marxists who hated America, and who said that if they had the chance they would have joined Che Guevara to promote guerrilla actions against the Capitalist system. See TQE #16, My Ten Years in Marxistland. The points in Janet Minshall's essay in TQE #23, Pacifism in the Face of Terror, are the very ones they raised.

Universities in Latin America (in their economics, sociology, and political science departments anyway) — and I presume the Middle East as well — are full of students who hate America. I have taught them and discussed with them. Our economic might is hated all over the world, and it is this hatred that we must overcome if we are to be secure.

One reader of TQE chided me for using the tragedy to propagate my economic views (see Readers' Comments, below). But I truly believe they are related. The hatred stemming from our actions in the Middle East is but another layer built upon the solid base of hatred because of our economic and military power.

A complex hatred

The main thread linking all these reasons for hate is the wealth and power of the United States. If it were solely the arrogance with which we flaunt our power, the Islamic countries would be even more guilty: consider how the Taliban has brought Afghanistan to abject poverty and stoned women to death for disobeying their creed; how clerics have denied democracy to Iranians who cry out for it; how Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait; and — farther back in history — how the Islamic peoples conquered from Poitiers, France, through Spain, North Africa, into India, and all the way to the Philippines. They have been just as arrogant as we have, much more oppressive, and much more imperialistic. The main difference is that we have been successful economically, and they have not.

This is the first time in our history that we have felt hated. In the next Letter, TQE #25, I will offer some thoughts about how this complex syndrome was brought about.

What to do about it?

In the short run, we must (1) Bring the criminals to justice, by the usual means of doing so. With international cooperation, infiltrate their ranks, and keep them on the Most Wanted List. (2) Draw on the many peace-loving Muslims to support us in rooting out the terrorists. (3) Tighten security in the airlines; follow El Al's example. (4) Prepare for an entirely different attack — not on an airplane.

Still, remember: The Islamic empire, during its heyday, offered most or all of the freedoms we are accustomed to in the West, including freedom of religion and freedom to trade. Islam is a religion of peace. Most of the world — including Muslims — does not want to live by the rules of terror. Therefore, the long run is on our side.

For the long run, we must teach our children humility. We must expand our trade and contacts with those who hate us. Student exchanges, living abroad, and all those. But most of all, we must trade with them. Drop our barriers against less developed countries. Support the World Trade Organization as an international body in which these barriers may be negotiated away.

What would you do? Please write.

In Peace,

Jack Powelson

Readers' Comments

Please send comments on this or any TQE, at any time. Selected comments will be appended to the appropriate letter as they are received. Please indicate in the subject line the number of the Letter to which you refer! The email address is tqe-comment followed by @quaker.org. All published letters will be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity, and brevity. Please mention your home meeting, church, synagogue (or ...), and where you live.

When you mention the schoolkids in Peshawar screaming "Jihad! Jihad!", my mind wandered back to the the times of the Hitlerjugend and their Satanically-gripped mentors who learned in the saddest, most destructive manner the wrongness of their beliefs. We must all pray that some of these children are not placed with Kalishnikovs before Abrams tanks. And don't think that something like this can't happen.

— Maurice Boyd, Friends Meeting of Washington (DC).

In a society whose all-male power structure regards women as chattel to be treated in any way the whims of her male superiors lead them, it would not surprise me at all that they would find the egalitarian, democratic, secular Western society unsupportably offensive. So it is all very fine to hear that Islam as a religion is gentle, nonviolent abhorrent of murder, etc., etc... But, I think the place of women can't be anything but a nearly unbridgeable chasm between their world and ours. The upshot is that the posture of the West and the USA in particular should be to mend ways the Muslim world finds offensive wherever possible, but to be prepared for a long face-off resulting from almost irreconcilably different values, particularly as they relate to the place of women in society.

— Tom Todd, Jamestown (RI).

One of the corollaries of living in an economically and politically unsuccessful region is powerlessness. Another is being ruled by unscrupulous bastards who have inordinate power over you. Both these things tend (I suspect) to make people less likely to compromise, and more likely to seek violent solutions. I think this holds even for the wealthier individuals like bin Laden. Because it has less to do with the individual's wealth or poverty, and more to do with the overall "social capital" of the system, the simple transfers of wealth from our regions to theirs that some are suggesting will do nothing (I believe that support for educational institutions and health care could help, however).

— Geoffrey Williams, Bethesda (MD) Friends Meeting.

The arrogance the US is accused of is entering other territories and creating death and harsh conditions when they could have done that better for themselves unmolested. The Taliban creates their own misery in the belief they are enforcing fundamentalism. A great difference, though the end result at ground zero may be alike.

— Steve Willey, Sandpoint (ID) Friends Meeting.

I believe the WTO's ability to reduce hate through trade is mixed at best. A large part of the fundamentalist's complaint is the westernization of their culture, which the WTO promotes through increasing access to markets for Hollywood and McDonalds.

— Larry Powelson, Seattle (WA).


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Publisher: Russ Nelson, St. Lawrence Valley (NY) Friends Meeting

Editorial Board

  • Roger Conant, Mount Toby Meeting, Northampton, MA.
  • Virginia Flagg, San Diego (CA) Friends Meeting.
  • Janet Minshall, Anneewakee Creek Friends Worship Group, Douglasvillle (GA).
  • Jack Powelson, Boulder (CO) Meeting of Friends, Principal Editor.
  • J.D. von Pischke, a Friend from Reston, VA.
  • Geoffrey Williams, Attender at New York Fifteenth Street Meeting.

Members of the Editorial Board receive Letters several days in advance for their criticisms, but they do not necessarily endorse the contents of any of them.

This newsletter was formerly known as The Classic Liberal Quaker.

Copyright © 2001 by J. D. von Pischke. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for non-commercial reproduction.

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