Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Outrage and Silence"

Tom Friedman has one of his good columns on the dynamics of the Middle East as he compares the outcry in the Muslim world over the Newsweek-Koran hub-bub to the Muslim world's silence over Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Iraq:

It is hard not to notice two contrasting stories that have run side by side during the past week. One is the story about the violent protests in the Muslim world triggered by a report in Newsweek (which the magazine has now retracted) that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo Bay desecrated a Koran by throwing it into a toilet. In Afghanistan alone, at least 16 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in anti-American rioting that has been linked to that report. I certainly hope that Newsweek story is incorrect, because it would be outrageous if U.S. interrogators behaved that way.

That said, though, in the same newspapers one can read the latest reports from Iraq, where Baathist and jihadist suicide bombers have killed 400 Iraqi Muslims in the past month - most of them Shiite and Kurdish civilians shopping in markets, walking in funerals, going to mosques or volunteering to join the police.

Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim world's silence about the real desecration of Iraqis, coupled with its outrage over the alleged desecration of a Koran, highlights what we are up against in trying to stabilize Iraq - as well as the only workable strategy going forward.

The challenge we face in Iraq is so steep precisely because the power shift the U.S. and its allies are trying to engineer there is so profound - in both religious and political terms.

Read it all (before the Times starts charging you to read its website).


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