Sunday, August 11, 2013

Palestinian Leaders Must Halt the Hatred. By Andrea Levin.

Palestinian leaders must halt the hatred. By Andrea Levin. Boston Globe, August 8, 2013.


As renewed negotiations get underway between Israelis and Palestinians, it’s vital for the success of the endeavor to identify what went wrong in earlier discussions.
Secretary of State John Kerry wisely stressed in his July 30 briefing with Israeli and Palestinian leaders the central aim of “ending the conflict” and he emphasized as well the “end of claims” against Israel. These are basic tenets of any rational definition of peace and would mean, finally, the end of the drive to remove the Jewish state. They would mean genuine acceptance by Palestinian Arabs of the sovereign rights of a Jewish nation in what is an overwhelmingly Muslim-dominated region.
Notwithstanding the many previous signed agreements, hand shakes and photo ops, such acceptance has been largely cosmetic. While Palestinian leaders have endorsed coexistence in speeches for Western audiences, including at Washington think tanks and international gatherings, too often for the audience that counts most — Palestinian Arabs who live next door to Israel and who need to hear their leaders’ clear affirmation of the legitimacy of the Jewish state — the message has been the opposite.
Indeed, the Palestinian leadership over the two decades since the signing of the landmark Oslo Accords in 1993 has failed disastrously to prepare the Palestinian people for peace with their Jewish neighbors.
Ironically, before Oslo, there was no Palestinian-controlled TV to demonize Jews, but after Israel’s ceding of territory and authority, official media outlets came into existence that regularly glorify terrorist violence, deny Jewish ties to the land of Israel, denigrate Jews in crude stereotypes, vow expulsion of the Jews and claim all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as Palestine.
Regrettably, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to play a double game. Thus on May 26, 2013, at the World Economic Forum, Abbas offered up the familiar public rhetoric, declaring: “We don’t teach and we don’t educate our children to hate or even discriminate against any religion, be it Judaism or any other.” He said: “We strive to spread the culture of peace among our people.”
Yet, for example, on July 3 another of hundreds of broadcasts on Palestinian television directly controlled by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority featured young girls reciting crude anti-Jewish bigotry:
Oh, you who were brought up on spilling blood
You have been condemned to humiliation and hardship.
Oh Sons of Zion, oh most evil among creations
Oh barbaric monkeys, wretched pigs. (Palestinian Media Watch)
The murderers of Jews are constantly extolled in what is cast as a fight to the death with Israel. On May 9, 2013, for instance, a TV segment was devoted to praising and thanking Abdallah Barghouti, currently serving 67 life sentences for his participation in such terror attacks as the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem. In that attack families were singled out for particular slaughter and included Malki Roth, a 15 year old who was lunching with her best friend. They’re buried next to one another.
Extreme fabrications regarding Jewish history may seem to the uninitiated too ludicrous to take seriously – the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, is said to have no Jewish connection despite vast archeological, biblical and other evidence. Jesus is said to be a Canaanite Palestinian teaching Islam, a claim that repudiates Jewish and Christian history together. Moses is said to be Muslim. Newspaper columns and broadcasts in official Palestinian media deny any ancient Jewish ties to any of the land of Israel, relentlessly altering place names and substituting Muslim ones. The ferocity of the campaigns in every aspect of society, saturating Palestinians in false beliefs – and hatred – make the prospects of normalization almost impossible to imagine. Indeed, the content of the invective against Jews and Israel is so violent – one Gazan speaker urged the harvesting of Jewish skulls – that many in the West seem prone to averting their gaze from what is clearly genocidal rhetoric with vague claims that progress in the peace talks will help do away with the unpleasantness.
But the cycle of indoctrination and violence cannot be broken without facing up to its existence, to the need for Western media attention and, above all, to the necessity for the Palestinians’ own leadership to halt the hatred and declare clearly in Arabic to Arab audiences that Israel and its people have a rightful place in the Middle East.

Egypt Blockades Gaza. Where Are the Flotillas? By Khaled Abu Toameh.

Egypt Blockades Gaza. Where Are the Flotillas? By Khaled Abu Toameh. Gatestone Institute, August 9, 2013.

Peace Is More Than a Piece of Paper. By Emily Schrader.

Peace is more than a piece of paper. By Emily Schrader. Jerusalem Post, August 10, 2013.


Obama’s public condemnation of Israel rapidly sent his entire first term down the wrong path for American supporters of Israel.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, obviously wiser than all the leaders of Israel as well as every secretary of state who preceded him, is now overseeing the resolution of the longest-running conflict on earth – the conflict between Arabs and Jews. And he and the Obama administration appear quite certain that peace is just around the corner.
This unparalleled arrogance is nothing new. The Obama administration has repeatedly strong-armed Israel from the start, perpetuating the myth, believed by many European countries, that Israel takes unnecessary actions that harm the prospects of peace with the “oppressed” Palestinians. Obama’s public condemnation of Israel as one of his first actions as president rapidly sent his entire first term down the wrong path for American supporters of Israel (which happen to be most Americans). With every word he spoke, he seemed to place all blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict squarely on Israel’s shoulders, all the while ignoring the racist incitement, corruption and hypocrisy from Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.
In March 2013, however, it almost seemed as if Obama had turned a new page with Israel, visiting for the first time and delivering a rousing speech in support of the Jewish state. But alas, with John Kerry as secretary of state, it seems any improvement was fleeting and the administration is back to its old tricks: Israel concedes, but not the Palestinians.
What has Israel done to restart peace talks? In addition to setting no preconditions, when the Obama administration wanted a settlement freeze, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conceded.
The response? The Palestinians still refused to come to the negotiating table and blamed Israel for not extending the settlement freeze.
When Obama pressured Israel to negotiate with Hamas for a cease-fire during Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel bit its tongue and negotiated – even taking no action when rockets were repeatedly fired immediately preceding the cease-fire agreement.
And now, not only has the US government strong-armed Israel into releasing over 100 cold-blooded terrorists in order to appease the Palestinians, but it has simultaneously ignored Abbas’ statement to the Egyptian press that Palestine will be Judenrein. One can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if Netanyahu had stated that no Arabs will live in the State of Israel.
Kerry stated on Tuesday that “two states deserve countries to call their own” and that “the time has come for a lasting peace” – but Mr. Kerry, this is not what lasting peace looks like. Lasting peace is two parties coming to the negotiating table equally because they truly want to resolve this conflict. The Palestinian Authority has made it abundantly clear that peace is not their objective – so where is American pressure on the PA? The answer is that it’s non-existent.
The Americans place no pressure on the PA; this administration seems to have achieved a level of willfully ignorant arrogance that allows it to believe it doesn’t need to.
The first example of this is illustrated by the Obama administration operating from the false premise that if Israel surrenders sufficient territory, the Palestinians will stop the conflict. History of course teaches exactly the opposite.
What’s more, the PA can’t even control its own population, demonstrating time and time again its ineptitude at enforcing existing peace agreements and preventing violence.
Second, the Obama administration seems to think that because Obama visited Israel and showered Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres with praise, Israel will now do this administration’s bidding, even making unprecedented concessions. This proposition, both arrogant and naïve, relieves the Palestinians of virtually any responsibility at all.
But the height of both naiveté and arrogance is that the Obama administration appears to honestly believe that a peace agreement signed by the leaders of Israel and the PA will actually bring peace. This is undoubtedly, and sadly, the most dangerous aspect of Obama’s misguided hubris, and one need look no further than Oslo for proof.
Peace can only come when the people of Palestine learn to value individualism and life, and have representation that believes in those same principles of liberty.
Instead, they have leaders who blame others for their shortcomings and demand the world pay for their services because of irresponsible and corrupt leadership. Of course, what Kerry and the Americans are missing, or refuse to accept, is that the Palestinian leadership doesn’t want to stop the conflict.
In addition to radical factions opposing the existence of a Jewish state in the first place, the PA itself has no interest in resolving conflict because it’s how its leaders prosper. At the end of the day, the PA could not enforce an agreement even if one were to be reached. For the Obama administration to think otherwise is dangerously imperious.

Kansas and Al Qaeda. By Thomas L. Friedman.

Kansas and Al Qaeda. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, August 10, 2013.

Arab Muslims Yearn for Lost Greatness. By David Ignatius and Hisham Melhem. NJBR, July 14, 2013.


SALINA, Kan. — I’ve spent the last few months filming a Showtime documentary about how climate and environmental stresses helped trigger the Arab awakening. It’s been a fascinating journey because it forced me to look at the Middle East through the lens of Arab environmentalists instead of politicians. When you do that, you see the problems and solutions very differently. Environmentalists always start by thinking about the health of the “commons” — the shared air, soil, forests and water — that are the basis of all life, which, if not preserved, will undermine the whole society. The notion that securing the interests of any single group — Shiite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, secular or Islamist — over the health of the commons is nuts to them. It’s as laughable as pictures of gun-toting fighters strutting on the rubble of broken buildings in Aleppo or Benghazi, claiming “victory,” only to discover that they’ve “won” a country with eroding soil, degrading forests, scarce water, shrinking jobs — a deteriorating commons.
Our film crew came to look at the connection between the drought in Kansas and the rise in global food prices that helped to fuel the Arab uprisings. But I stumbled upon another powerful environmental insight here: the parallel between how fossil fuels are being used to power monoculture farms in the Middle West and how fossil fuels are being used to power wars to create monoculture societies in the Middle East. And why both are really unhealthy for their commons.
My teacher here was Wes Jackson, the MacArthur award winner, based in Salina, where he founded The Land Institute. Jackson’s philosophy is that the prairie was a diverse wilderness, with a complex ecosystem that supported all kinds of wildlife, not to mention American Indians — until the Europeans arrived, plowed it up and covered it with single-species crop farms, mostly wheat, corn, or soybeans. Jackson’s goal is to restore the function of the diverse polyculture prairie ecosystem and rescue it from the single-species, annual monoculture farming, which is exhausting the soil, the source of all prairie life. “We have to stop treating soil like dirt,” he says.
Jackson knows this has to be economically viable. That’s why his goal is to prove that species of wheat and other grains that scientists at The Land Institute are developing can be grown as perennials with deep roots — so you would not need to regularly till the soil or plant seeds. The way to do that, he believes, is by growing mixtures of those perennial grains, which will mimic the prairie and naturally provide the nutrients and pesticides. The need for fossil-fuel-powered tractors and fertilizers would be much reduced, with the sun’s energy making up the difference. That would be so much better for the soil and the climate, since most soil carbon would not be released.
Annual monocultures are much more susceptible to disease and require much more fossil fuel energy — plows, fertilizer, pesticides — to maintain. Perennial polycultures, by contrast, notes Jackson, provide species diversity, which provides chemical diversity, which provides much more natural resistance and “can substitute for the fossil fuels and chemicals that we’ve not evolved with.”
Jackson maintains some original prairie vegetation. As we walk through it, he explains: This is nature’s own “tree of life.” This prairie, like a forest, “features material recycling, runs on sunlight, and does not have an epidemic that wipes it all out. You know during the Dust Bowl years of the ’30s, the crops died, but the prairie survived.” Then he points to his experimental perennial grain crops: “That’s the tree of knowledge.” Our challenge, and it will take years, he notes, is to find a way to blend the tree of life with the tree of knowledge to develop domestic prairies that could have high-yielding fields planted once every several years, whose crops would only need harvesting and species diversity could “take care of insects, pathogens and fertility.”
And that brings us back to the Middle East. Al Qaeda often says that if the Muslim world wants to restore its strength, it needs to go back to the “pure” days of Islam, when it was a monoculture unsullied by foreign influences. In fact, the “Golden Age” of the Arab/Muslim world was when it became a polyculture between the 8th and 13th centuries. Of that era, Wikipedia says, “During this period the Arab world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education. . . .” It was “a collection of cultures, which put together, synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge gained from the ancient Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine and Phoenician civilizations.”
What is going on in the Arab world today is a relentless push, also funded by fossil fuels, for more monocultures. It’s Al Qaeda trying to “purify” the Arabian Peninsula. It’s Shiites and Sunnis, funded by oil money, trying to purge each other in Iraq and Syria. It’s Alexandria, Egypt, once a great melting pot of Greeks, Italians, Jews, Christians, Arabs and Muslims, now a city dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, with most non-Muslims gone. It makes these societies much less able to spark new ideas and much more susceptible to diseased conspiracy theories and extreme ideologies. To be blunt, this evolution of Arab/Muslim polycultures into monocultures is a disaster.
Pluralism, diversity and tolerance were once native plants in the Middle East — the way the polyculture prairie was in the Middle West. Neither ecosystem will be healthy without restoring its diversity.

Dear Jeff Bezos, Here’s What I Saw as an Analog Nobody in the Mailroom of the Washington Post. By Kara Swisher.

Dear Jeff Bezos, Here’s What I Saw as an Analog Nobody in the Mailroom of the Washington Post. By Kara Swisher. All Things D, August 7, 2013.

The Washington Post and the Future of Journalism. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, August 11, 2013.

Declining Industries vs Growing Jobs: What the WaPo Deal Tells Us About Innovation. By Michael Mandel. Progressive Policy Institute, August 6, 2013.

Washington Post’s sale: What it means for journalism. Video. Meet the Press. NBC News, August 11, 2013.

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Arabs Can’t Blame America for All the World’s Problems. By Hussein Ibish.

Arabs can’t blame America for all the world’s problems. By Hussein Ibish. The National (UAE), August 11, 2013.


Anti-Americanism, a ubiquitous feature of contemporary Arab political culture, arises from an insidious and deeply- ingrained concept: the myth of American omnipotence.
Thus the will of the United States becomes the default explanation for everything that happens in the Middle East, particularly when people don't like it.
America the omnipotent occupies a unique position in the moral economy of contemporary Arab political thought: it is always blamed for whatever people don’t like, but rarely gets credit for anything that most in the Arab world find good.
Recent events in Egypt are only the most striking and current demonstrations of this very long-standing pattern.
Supporters of the former Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, are convinced that the United States was directly responsible for his removal from office.
But his opponents believe, perhaps even more strongly, that Washington had put Mr Morsi into power and wanted to keep him there.
The Egyptian media has been full of the most bizarre theories, from both sides, about various supposed conspiracies hatched by US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson.
Virtually the only thing Egyptians now agree upon is that whatever it is they don’t like, it must be the fault of the United States.
The same kind of assumptions apply in Syria. Last year I took part in a televised debate, on an Arabic TV outlet, along with three Syrians.
The first, a Salafist, argued that the Americans wanted to keep the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, in power, and that this was at the behest of Israel, because the Israelis feared the “Islamic Awakening.”
The second, a nationalist, agreed that the US did indeed want Mr Al Assad to stay in power, but for a different reason: because he had cooperative relations with Israel.
The third Syrian participant in the broadcast, a regime stooge, insisted on the contrary that there was an American plot to overthrow Mr. Al Assad, because he was the leader of “resistance” against Israel.
But how did it happen that the United States has become this “great Satan” that is said to deserve, and that gets, the blame for all bad things?
Like western Islamophobia, the pervasive anti-Americanism we see has been fuelled by centuries of rivalry between Muslims and the Christian West. Arabs feel, and for good reason, that they have in many ways been mistreated by the colonialist powers.
Further, decades of nationalistic, religious, xenophobic and chauvinistic propaganda have entrenched anti-American narratives. After all, since the 1950s, the US has been the primary regional power in the Middle East and has acted like it, with all the regional resentment that naturally follows.
But the underlying, latent theme actually seems to be a profound sense of unrequited love.
Of course anti-Americanism is consciously and cynically abused in much Arab political rhetoric. But it’s so pervasive and visceral that it most closely resembles the rage of a jilted romantic partner.
Why is America so inexplicably biased towards Israel? Why are their policies always so unfair? Since America is omnipotent, and bad things keep happening, why does the US do them?
Yet while Arabs rail against the United States, they indisputably love its culture and products. They fight for visas, and to send their children to US universities. Even Islamists like Mr Morsi studied and taught in California.
Arab sensibilities about international relations are defined by a profound sense of disempowerment, which is even stronger when contrasted with the illusion of American omnipotence. These fantasies feed each other in a neurotic vicious circle.
Even as American influence around the world is palpably waning, absurdities – such as the idea that the recent abdication of the Emir of Qatar was, for some reason, “ordered” by Washington – remain common.
Things look radically different from DC, where a new and uncharacteristic sense of helplessness has taken root in the aftermath of the Iraq fiasco, the Afghan failure and the fiscal calamity.
Washington looks at Syria and incorrectly sees no good options. It thinks that it has virtually no influence in Egypt. Even in its most familiar territory, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, US policymakers feel that they are at the mercy of the domestic politics and caprices of Tel Aviv and Ramallah.
The new US feeling of impotence, or at least risk-aversion, is just as exaggerated as are Arab delusions about US omnipotence. There is much the US can do to help its friends in the Arab world, if only it would. But there is a persistent, crippling reticence to support those who share American goals or values, particularly if they are not fully trusted by Israel.
Arab anti-Americanism rests on two pillars: disillusionment and perceived betrayal by an ideal, combined with a wild overestimation of US power. Arabs therefore oscillate between yearning for American leadership and resenting American clout.
Contrast the ubiquitous negative Arab sentiments towards the United States with the Arab world's almost total lack of interest in the role of Russia. Yet if there is an external power up to no good in the Middle East, it is Russia. Its support for the Syrian dictatorship has helped kill at least 100,000 people in the past two and a half years.
But there is no unrequited love affair with Russia, and so no sense of betrayal, no feeling of an abandoned ideal or a love-hate neurosis. That Russia does what’s in its interest is simply accepted with a shrug. The dearth of outrage about Russia’s Syrian role, and of conspiracy theories about the Kremlin’s machinations, reveals Arab anti-Americanism to be a collective neurotic symptom, fundamentally disconnected from reality.

Stop Blaming Israel for Every Grievance in the Middle East. By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Stop blaming Israel for every grievance in the Middle East. By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The Independent, May 2, 2011.


First came the Arab spring (followed, in some lands, by the harshest of winters) and now Hamas and Fatah have signed a deal for unity. Naturally, Israel is as panicked as are Arab despots by the shifts and quakes, the shaking ground beneath their boots. Israel depended on an everlasting, adamantine status quo. Nothing will ever be as it has been. Successive Israeli governments and their global cheerleaders and backers across the world are guilty of crimes against the humanity and rights of the Palestinian people, they who were made to pay for the European Holocaust. Hitler’s unspeakable annihilation project can’t be laid to rest and shouldn’t. But excruciating historical experiences do not entitle a nation to grab land, to humiliate, to destroy the livelihoods of others and to expect no censure; in effect to be above international law.
I am as pro-Palestinian as the next leftie and try to do my bit; to speak up against repressive Israeli policies and acts, which is never easy, as many of us have had to learn. We go to protests against the collective punishments meted out in Gaza and elsewhere in Palestine and on Arab citizens of Israel; others lobby influential people; the brave ones go on flotillas, and the less brave but committed refuse to buy Hass avocadoes and instead purchase olive oil from the West Bank. All of us need to stop and think, to use this moment of upheaval to scrutinise ourselves and our habituated responses to the Middle East.
For many years now, British and American Zionists have complained that progressives pick on Israel, expect higher standards from that government and most iniquitously, that any criticism of their land is in effect a lightly disguised and now approved expression of anti-Semitism. Using a combination of guilt, suggestion and aggression they have managed to, if not suppress, certainly inhibit fair and free debates on the Zionist nation. Think of it as global super injunction. The unreasonable, absolutist supporters of Israel include some crazies but are mostly highly educated, talented professionals and fierce advocates of free speech. These days they are heeded less and so are getting more strident. But what if some of their complaints are valid and justifiable? Do I dare think that, and then say it? And if I do, is that a betrayal of a righteous cause?
These thoughts have been spooling round and round in my head this last month. As Gaddafi systematically massacres his people and the country descends into civil war, as armies slaughter civilians in Yemen and Bahrain, now Syria, I ask why good people have focused only on Palestine/Israel for more than half a century and not attended to the brutality and oppression endemic in the Islamic states. Is it OK for dictators to do what they wish within their own borders to crush democratic demands? I think not, and strongly. No flotillas for their victims? One fact that is kept tightly sealed and buried is this: More Muslims are killed by their brethren in religious and power struggles than are killed by foreign powers and that, as far as I can ascertain is true even after the war on Iraq. It could be that some of the relentless focus on Israel does indeed rise out of a deep stream of anti-Semitism. It is also a useful displacement activity.
Last week I drove past the Syrian Embassy – where I know and like some individuals – and there were a handful of protesters outside, looking hopeless and pathetic. No massive demos pass outside the grand Saudi or Bahraini sites in London either while boys are being hanged in Bahrain for daring to dissent. Why the double standards? We have an obligation to judge all governments and rulers by the same universal values, to listen to Zionists who complain of unfair treatment and open our minds as we enter a new era in the Middle East.
Reading nuanced analyses by thoughtful Jewish thinkers has been illuminating. Change is in the air. On the website of the Union of Jewish Students you can find, for example, the text of a speech by Mike Davis at the Herzliya conference: “[the unfolding events] show that the world can change with alarming speed and that our basic assumptions can be overturned in the blink of an eye. They and the reactions of the West demonstrate the potency and very real nature of the security challenges faced by Israel at this juncture in history. . . .” Davis goes on to tackle the “line between criticism of Israel and delegitimisation.” “Not every criticism of Israel is delegitimisation. Not even every untrue or unfair criticism of Israel is delegitimisation. In fact, the link between ‘criticism’ and ‘delegitimisation’ is sometimes overstated, damaging the credibility of our responses . . . If the Israeli government had internalised and prioritised the threats to its legitimacy then perhaps it would have understood the need to be seen to be doing everything possible to break the deadlock. We control the land. We hold the people. It is up to us. We need to accept that burden.”
We Muslims need to accept our burdens too. Whilst still holding Israel to account, we must stop dumping blame on it for all Middle Eastern grievances. The same happened to South Africa under apartheid. It was necessary for the world to come together and help topple that loathsome, racist regime. What was never right was that the worst African dictators were allowed to get away with more violence and viciousness against their citizens while sounding off about evil South Africa. It’s always the same. Humans easily excuse themselves and their own for foul acts they condemn in their enemies.
The mulishness and narrow-sightedness of the most unrelenting Zionists is today almost matched by the mulishness and narrow-sightedness of their unrelenting counterparts, anti-Zionist activists. I am not abandoning my total support for Palestinian nationhood and right of return, and here renew my vow to that cause. But that struggle is only one in the big fight for freedom in the Middle East. It is no longer morally justifiable for activists to target only Israel and either ignore or find excuses for corrupt, murderous Arab despots. That kind of selectivity discredits pro-Palestinian campaigners and dishonours the principles of equality and human rights. It has enabled hideous Arab ruling clans to carry on disgracefully for too long.

The Dream of Muslim Democracy Is Dead. By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

In Muslim lands there was a dream of democracy. But now it has died. By Yasmin Alibhai Brown. The Independent, August 9, 2013.


It hurts to write this essay when Muslims are celebrating Eid after Ramadan. Summertime fasts are tough – 19 hours without water, other fluids or food. It tests personal strength and faith. Fasters are also supposed to give more to the needy. This is a time to feel good about being a Muslim.
You are meant to reflect too on the religion itself – its significance and future. When I do that, the tranquillity and joy of Ramadan soon dissipate and I fill up with guilt, shame and anxiety. Muslims try so hard to live a good life, yet round the world the most horrific violence is perpetrated by Muslims, most often against fellow believers. Promises of democracy fade faster than a summer tan; freedoms are snatched, liberties crushed, equality excised from the official vocabulary. Misery, misery everywhere. Worldwide, Muslims are dying to be free, to live in just and fair societies. The Arab Spring was real and authentic, a surge to claim human rights and remake ossified nations that were ruled by dictators. The world was caught up in that extraordinary moment. What happened next?
In Tunisia, where it all started, two popular secular leaders, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, have been assassinated this year and people are afraid and on the streets again. Back in 2011, a young Egyptian vet told a reporter: “We are sick of the military council which is using the same tools as Mubarak.” Now the military is back and posing as a liberationist army. Before the coup, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, once elected, instantly turned authoritarian. Assad, the butcher of Syria, smiled winningly during Eid prayers, a smile that said he was quashing the very idea of democracy by any means necessary. Massacres and torture are normalised in that wretched country from where millions of refugees are fleeing to Jordan.
Violence, it appears, is the easy answer for all Muslim problems. Look at Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan – and in countries where Muslims share the land with others. In northern Nigeria, where Christian-Muslim enmity goes deep, Boko Haram bombs and slays Christians in order to provoke a religious war. In Libya, chaos grows and vendettas never stop. Saif al-Islam goes on trial in a lawless country.
Last month, in one day alone in Iraq, more than 50 people were killed. Minority Muslim communities in Pakistan are routinely murdered, as are girls and women for daring to get a life. That letter from the Taliban headman to Malala Yousafzai revealed how millions think out there. A bomb hidden in a cemetery in Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan, killed seven women and seven children who had come out to celebrate Eid.
The Turkish state was the great white hope (pardon the phrase) of the Islamic world. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a temperate, Islamicist politician who took care of his people, improved the economy and seemed inclusive and respectful of all views. Then he showed his true colours. Secularists and environmentalists who came out to protect an Istanbul park from development and vent other grievances have been savagely put down. A wedding party in the park was tear gassed. Now dozens of secular army chiefs, academics and journalists have been imprisoned for life for a “deep plot” against the state. Turkey already imprisons more journalists than any other country. Those who wanted to keep Turkey out of the European Union for the wrong reasons can now argue rightly that the leadership barely understands the basic principles of freedom and democracy.
You find oppression and tyrannical leaders in non-Muslim countries too – in Russia, Zimbabwe and China, for example. But these places are not indicative of a pattern, a widespread cultural sickness. One finds that pattern, that sickness, in large parts of the Muslim world. In a tweet, I wondered why Muslims the world over were so destructive and self-destructive, which led to many responses on the web and in the post. Some were from the usual bigots, as well as the educated followers of the atheist ayatollah Richard Dawkins – buzzing and stinging like late-summer wasps, asking to be swatted. The most moving were outpourings from good Muslims themselves.
Naila, an Egyptian woman I befriended in Cairo just after the fall of Mubarak, wrote: “You remember Yasmeen [sic], you were with us during Eid and we were so happy. You gave me a shawl and I gave you perfume. I was thinking Egypt is free, Egypt is free. It is not. I went to the square with other free Egyptians and three times, men tried to touch me badly, push me, one pulled my blouse up and pushed me to the ground. My country is now in the biggest prison. Muslims will never be free. They don’t know what to do with freedom. We can only have dictators. Pray for me sister and my country.”
So is she right – that Muslims can be controlled only by dictators? No. She is completely wrong. Some of the most ardent campaigners for democracy I know are Egyptian, Algerian, Libyan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian. Duplicitous American and European governments prefer Muslim dictatorships (like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) to messy elections, and will never do anything about Israel’s ambitions and illegal operations. But these democrats want in their lands the democratic entitlements of Muslims in Europe and North America. Alas, after this summer – in which brutality has been the habitual mark of leaders as well as citizens – that energy, zeal and optimism seem to be weakening. A new realism is blowing in.

Muslims are becoming more self-critical, and about time too. Some now believe this is our dark age, when rage rules and there is no place for the intellect, humanity, love, civic responsibility and co-operation that were all part of our great civilisations of the past. In response to my tweet, Ahmad, an Independent reader, sent me a short story (not for publication) in which a suicide bomber leaves a note saying: “Guns and bombs have killed Islam. I die. There is no hope.” But there is hope. There must be.