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No Freedom, No Prosperity: The roots of Middle Eastern rage lie in their closed societies
Reason Online ^ | 10/25/01 | Michael W. Lynch

Posted on 10/25/2001 11:45:14 AM PDT by Jean S

There’s been much talk that the roots of Islamic terrorism are buried in Middle Eastern and North African poverty. This might seem odd to those who don’t pay attention to the region when its sons aren’t flying passenger planes into buildings. After all, fuel prices often come close to $2.00 a gallon. We know how much gas our SUVs guzzle, and Middle Eastern countries sell a lot of oil. But poor is exactly what millions of people in the region are, with per capita incomes ranging from $18,000 in the United Arab Emirates to less than $400 in Yemen. Even the residents of relatively wealthy states have seen their lots decline, as population surges and oil revenues recede.

Yet if the root causes of terrorism are open to debate, the root causes of this poverty is no mystery: That’s what countries get when they combine socialist economists with totalitarian politics.

Every year, Freedom House publishes "Freedom in the World," a report which, among other things, details how North Africa and the Middle East have managed to buck a global trend toward democracy and civil liberties. Also annually, The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation team up to produce an Index of Economic Freedom. Here again, North Africa and the Middle East fare consistently poorly.

Lack of freedom has consequences. Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally, rates poorly both in civil and economic liberties, and has experienced a relative economic decline in recent years. Its 7,000 princes aren’t hurting, but the same can’t be said of its quickly growing non-royal population, which has seen per capita income fall from $28,000 in the early 1980s to less than $7,000 today. This slide has destabilized the Saudi social contract, in which the subjects refrain from political agitation and the government refrains from asking them to work. Saudi leaders are currently trying to create productive jobs, which isn’t easy in a country only partly open to outside capital and totally closed to outside ideas.

Similarly, Egypt, which pulls in nearly 10 percent of its budget in American foreign aid, is rated not free by Freedom House and mostly unfree in the economic index. Like anyone who’s been sentient during the last 30 years, both regimes must understand the relationship between freedom and prosperity. And indeed, Saudi Arabia has recently opened some sectors of its economy to foreign investment, albeit with many strings attached. Egypt, meanwhile, has gradually moved away from complete socialism -- every university graduate, for example, is no longer guaranteed a government job.

But there’s a critical relationship between economic freedom and political freedom, and neither government is willing to budge on the latter. Not a single country in the Arab world tolerates a free press. In Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the government controls the airwaves and hires and fires the editors of the print press. In Saudi Arabia, according to Freedom House, "Freedom of expression is severely restricted by prohibitions on criticism of the government, Islam, and the ruling family." In Egypt, those who criticize the government can wind up in jail.

While no one is allowed to criticize the regimes, the regimes are free to criticize whomever they want. To distract from their horrible political practices and economic shortcomings, they scapegoat. Muslims are poor because Jews are rich; the United States, which fought for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, is actually an Allah-hating Great Satan. In this unreal world, the September 11 attacks were committed not by Islamic radicals, but by Israeli agents.

The lack of freedom can’t completely account for the September 11 attacks and the others that are sure to follow. Nothing can. Bin Laden himself is wealthy, not poor, and many of the hit men were educated members of the middle class. The larger burden falls on a strain of Islam that dehumanizes the infidel.

But these factors aren’t mutually exclusive. The religious radicalism is certainly fueled by the pathetic performance of many closed Middle Eastern societies in the modern world. In a worldview that holds Muslims superior to infidels, it’s difficult to accept it if you’re not measuring up in any visible way. If we’re so great, many an angry young Muslim must ask, why are we so miserable?

The popular answer is that foreign powers are screwing you. The correct answer is that your own political powers are screwing you. And that things won’t get better until that’s fixed.

Michael W. Lynch (mwlynch@reason.com) is REASON’s national correspondent.


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 10/25/2001 11:45:14 AM PDT by Jean S
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To: JeanS
Silly me, I thought it was their stupid "religion".
2 posted on 10/25/2001 11:48:34 AM PDT by garyhope
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To: JeanS
"...your own political powers are screwing you."

And add your own religion as well. The Koran and the Islamic tradition spawned out of religious and political rage from its inception are completely inconsistent with principles of toleration, peace, and coexistence. It is nothing less than the expression of totalitarianism cloaked in the garb of religious superiority.

3 posted on 10/25/2001 11:51:32 AM PDT by eleni121
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To: JeanS
Important stuff, here; and thank you.
4 posted on 10/25/2001 12:01:27 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: eleni121
Their politics and their religion are inseparable. There is no such concept as "separation of church and state" in Islam. They are probably going to have to develop one soon, however.
5 posted on 10/25/2001 12:10:43 PM PDT by ikanakattara
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To: JeanS
What is happening in Saudi Arabia, is what happened in China.

The Chinese written language, for example, was purposefully difficult and not taught commonly, until the last two centuries, in an attempt by the previous centuries' dynasties, to maintain control over the populace, by keeping them ignorant.

6 posted on 10/25/2001 12:13:03 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: JeanS
Another factor will some come into play; defense of family and homeland. Remember the Russians refused to fight for communism but had no problem fighting for motherland.

On another topic, are any Middle-Eastern products - besides carpets and cotton - competitive on world markets?

7 posted on 10/25/2001 12:27:32 PM PDT by liberallarry
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: ikanakattara
Their politics and their religion are inseparable. There is no such concept as "separation of church and state" in Islam.

The Turks would disagree with you.

9 posted on 10/25/2001 12:35:53 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: ikanakattara; JeanS; mommadooo3; harpo11; mercy; snopercod
ikanakattara,

I'd like to add to your remark, that in addition, there is no lawful concept of the separation of church and state in the United States.

There is a "legal concept," but the enforcement is not lawful; that is, it is not Constitutional.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing any religion as THE religion of the country and our government.

But the First Amendment does not prohibit our being a nation under God, nor does the First Amendment excoriate God from our country and our government.

The actual "separation" is with respect to power. Which is to say that the government is without any power to order what will be a person's religion under God. It is government that is "walled off" and limited.

Please note, that I said "under God." Because the definition of religion within the context of our Constitution, is with respect to God, in contrast to "belief systems" not about God.

Continuing, the government does not have the authority to separate God from our lives, nor does the government have the power to separate we and our religious beliefs from state property.

But therein lays one of the rubs, while exemplifying why we have the First Amendment "protection."

To commune and socialize without risk of religious "wars," to be frank, while on state property, i.e., the commons.

The First Amendment is instructive: Respect one another's religious inclination and maintain understanding and peace.

All these points were our framers' wisdom, calculated upon they and their forebearer's failure analysis over the centuries of previous governments which burdened and over-burdened men and women's lives and souls.

Welcome to America, where the country and government and Constitution respect your religion and your religious differences.

You might say that the First Amendment is the first civil rights act of the Constitution, long ago respecting peoples' differences. Indeed, the First Amendment gives notice, that you have the right to think and be different.

Within reason.

But most importantly, we should emphasize that the First Amendment, as is true for all the Bill of Rights, is primarily concerned with furthering the limits upon government, fencing in government, restricting again, what government can do, to what is on the list: enumeration of its authority.

The Constitution is a list of what government can do, binding it to only what is on the list, by reserving all other power to the people and to the states. It actually says that, right there in the Bill of Rights.

Would it be too much to ask, that high-school graduates and people applying to become legal immigrants, ought to be able to write out the Bill of Rights and explain their foundations?

Next time a "liberal" gives you grief, ask them what are the historical foundations for the First, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments.

And if said socialist is so upset at the "intolerance" of "diversity," and they cannot "get closure" about the "old dead white guys" who nearly all were the "Christian Right" who also made up the "vast right-wing conspiracy" against government tyranny ... then you'll hear that one is suppose to "embrace multi-culturalism" while eschewing individualism: Being an individual and owning property are bad.

Tell it on the mount.

10 posted on 10/25/2001 12:52:36 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: mommadooo3
I'm out of fuel.

Remember that I'll always be around.

11 posted on 10/25/2001 12:56:44 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: JeanS
Many seems to forget the real important fact. That is, violent radical Islam championed by Khomeini and Bin Laden actually produced results in Muslim's favor. These days, just about everybody appears to believe that radical Islam dominated for many decades. That is not so. Until mid 70's, Arabs were into socialism and Marxism. They tried to defeat "Western Imperialism", using that ideology. But it did not produce good results.

Then Khomeini came along and decisively toppled Shah's regime. The unwavering fanaticism of Iranian Shi'ites and their apparent success to intimidating Americans and Soviets showed Muslim that there is much better way for their struggle. Pan-Arabism has been always there. All Arab countries get united and stand up against infidels as another big power, if not superpower. Now, radical Islam replaced socialism as the leading ideology of Arabs for driving out "Western powers", controling their governments, the powers which are blamed for all of their problems, which may not be true.

The popularity of Jihad comes from the fact that Jihad produced many tangible results. The defeat of Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the defeat of U.S. in Iran. Short break after the Gulf War, there is a string of high profile terrorist attacks. WTC bombing, Saudi American barracks' bombing, East African Embassy bombing, the bombing of U.S.S. cole, and now the destruction of WTC. To Arabs, Jihad is on a roll, it is working. No wonder it is popular. Only the complete defeat like '67 War or Gulf War can stop it by making Arabs lose their faith in Jihad.

12 posted on 10/25/2001 12:56:47 PM PDT by TigerLikesRooster
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To: JeanS
Freedom House bump. Great post!
13 posted on 10/25/2001 12:57:18 PM PDT by headsonpikes
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To: NonZeroSum
The Turks? The Turks who commit genocide against Christians and deny it? The Turks who play a phony game playing off the West and their Islamic brothers against each other. Boy do they have Americans hoodwinked.

Very naive I say.

14 posted on 10/25/2001 1:39:35 PM PDT by eleni121
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To: First_Salute; MadIvan
Having just finished Sarum, a historical novel of England from pre-history to WW II, I can't help but note the similarities between England in the middle ages, and the modern-day Middle East.

During those dark ages, there was a deadly symbiosis between the church and the state which the Muslim states have never outgrown. Human sacrifices, disembowelments, burnings at the stake, imprisonments, banishments...

People who have never learned their history don't understand how grateful they should be that the U.S. First Amendment guarantees that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

People should read their history and shudder. It could happen again.

15 posted on 10/25/2001 1:58:11 PM PDT by snopercod
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To: snopercod
'Nother bulls-eye; and thank you.
16 posted on 10/25/2001 2:47:39 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: eleni121
The Turks? The Turks who commit genocide against Christians and deny it?

They killed Armenians, who happened to be Christian. And it happened before Attaturk. Certainly they're not proud of it, any more than we are proud of how we treated the aboriginal people in the Americas. How does that prove that they today have an Islamic State?

The Turks who play a phony game playing off the West and their Islamic brothers against each other. Boy do they have Americans hoodwinked.

Examples?

So you're saying that Turkey is an Islamic State? I think that most residents of Turkey would be surprised to hear that. What is your evidence for that?

Very naive I say.

Physician, heal thyself.

17 posted on 10/25/2001 7:25:19 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: NonZeroSum
The Turks? The Turks who commit genocide against Christians and deny it? The Turks who play a phony game playing off the West and their Islamic brothers against each other. Boy do they have Americans hoodwinked.

Very naive I say.

18 posted on 10/25/2001 7:29:11 PM PDT by eleni121
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To: liberallarry
On another topic, are any Middle-Eastern products - besides carpets and cotton - competitive on world markets?

Hashish, opium/heroin and the Iranians sell a lot of pistachio nuts

19 posted on 10/25/2001 7:36:44 PM PDT by dennisw
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To: NonZeroSum
Ataturk's assumption of power happened smoothly. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire and the Turks of today are one and the same, only there are a lot fewer Christians surviving: Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, etc. etc.

The Turks are not only proud of themselves but they actually deny anything ever happened. They twist, distort, and rewrite their history blaming the victims of their holocaust.

The American expansion in the new world has nothing in common with what happened in Turkey in the 20th century! The American expansion came about through a series of wars, treaties, and yes, terror on both sides of the aisle. The Turks obliterated innocents by the millions and the terror was committed by them alone. The Cold War is over and I wish the US would send the Turks to hell! They allied themselves with the Nazis and the Germans in both wars and Turkey was the first nation to recognize the Bolshevik regime.

The evidence is all there and I will be happy to enlighten you by sending you websites and titles if you wish. But I am sure you can find the information yourself.

20 posted on 10/25/2001 7:42:53 PM PDT by eleni121
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To: eleni121
The evidence is all there and I will be happy to enlighten you by sending you websites and titles if you wish. But I am sure you can find the information yourself.

You continue to miss the point. I never claimed that Turkey was a model society. I was only disputing the statement that it is not possible to have a secular state with an Islamic populace. It is indeed possible to separate church and state, even in Islam.

21 posted on 10/26/2001 10:39:48 AM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: NonZeroSum
"I never claimed they were a model state."

"They killed Armenians, who happened to be Christian. And it happened before Ataturk. Certainly they're not proud of it, any more than we are proud of how we treated the aboriginal people in the Americas. How does that prove that they today have an Islamic State?"

99.9% of Turks are Muslim. It is an Islamic state in all but name only and that is because they are clever enough to have played the Cold War card and NATO was and is stupid enough to have bought into it to the detriment of our true allies - Greece etc. Christians live in virtual terror and remain because of the Patriarchate mainly.

Bottom line: You are an apologist for the Turks. AND - For you to compare what happened in the US and Turkey is an abomination! There is no comparison!

22 posted on 10/26/2001 11:11:57 AM PDT by eleni121
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To: eleni121
Bottom line: You are an apologist for the Turks.

I'm not apologizing for them. The slaughter of the Armenians was odious. I'm simply pointing out that they are a secular state with an Islamic populace.

AND - For you to compare what happened in the US and Turkey is an abomination! There is no comparison!

Of course there's a comparison. There's always a comparison--it is illogical to say otherwise. Arguably, we treated the Indians worse than the Turks did the Armenians--at least the Armenians still have their own independent nation. We thoroughly decimated the native American population, through slaughter, disease and destruction of their food supplies. I'm not saying that we should necessarily apologize for it (they were no shrinking violets when it came to killing and torture themselves), but it is an historical reality.

23 posted on 10/26/2001 12:32:22 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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To: NonZeroSum
"Arguably, we treated the Indians worse than the Turks did the Armenians--at least the Armenians still have their own independent nation. We thoroughly decimated the native American population, through slaughter, disease and destruction of their food supplies."

You are d**n right it's arguably but you again mistate the facts. Sure, the Armenians have their own homeland no thanks to the Turks. The remnants of refugees who made it out alive and then had to live under Soviet oppression...gee whiz those lucky Armenians...From the beginning, North America witnessed battle after battle, war after war with the natives who were fighting amongst themselves too. There was never -I repeat never -an official policy of extermination of any people in the US. There were declared Indian Wars yes, but at no time did you see hordes of Americans/Euros rushing into indian villages and slaughtering men, women, and children like the Turks hace done for generations. In fact. as many Euro Americans died over the past several hundreds years at the hands of Native people as the other way around. To the contrary, there was an official policy developed by the ottoman Turks and then the Kemalist Turks to eradicate the "yiaours", the Christians etc.

Today there are millions of native aborignals living on the North american continent. Where are the Christians (Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, etc) in Asia Minor? Answer that!

24 posted on 10/26/2001 1:09:04 PM PDT by eleni121
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To: eleni121
None of this is relevant to the original point (which you continue to ignore), that it is possible to have separation of church and state in an Islamic country, and Turkey is an existence proof.
25 posted on 10/26/2001 2:26:53 PM PDT by NonZeroSum
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