We were recently interviewed by Reza Saiedi of Fars News about current events in the Middle East. Here are the questions and our answers.
Q. It seems that there is a different basis for the unrest faced in Libya, Syria and Iran compared with that faced in the rest of the region. All the situations are surely not the same. In your opinion, what is the solution for this puzzle?
A. The situation in each of the countries in which unrest has taken place is unique. What is special about Libya is that it is a country with no central state. Gaddafi rules neither by a constitution nor by common law but by his personal influence on local “peoples’ committees,” which are really little more than armed gangs. His opposition is diverse, but is strongest in the eastern part of the country which is why the revolt so easily exploded into a civil war. While the opposition is indeed civilians, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, THESE civilians are armed. Further, Gaddafi was a populist who used part of his country’s wealth for the benefit of his people, not only for schools and roads, but most notably in the unparalleled high level of home ownership. Libya’s economic problems are due to its socialism, which resulted IN falling productivity, unlike Egypt and Tunisia where the economic problems were due to crony capitalism that resulted in a misdistribution of the wealth. The unrest in Syria was surprising. Although the regime is unquestionably authoritarian, it had been more consistent than most Arab regimes in its opposition to Israeli aggression, therefore causing observers to expect that it would be more effective in painting opposition groups as foreign dominated, as suggested by diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks indicating U.S. State Dept. support of opposition groups. In the case of Iran the unrest is neither regional nor foreign dominated, but a reflection of the fact that those out of power in Iran feel that the system has put barriers in the way of alternative means of protest. Opposition newspapers are easily shut down, reform candidates are too easily excluded from the ballot, and those who suspected fraud in the previous elections felt there was no independent body to which they could take their complaints other than the streets.
Q. Do you think American policy has been changed towards Iran? If not, what is going on within America and Iran?
A. I see no significant change in the American policy towards Iran. American policy continues to be driven primarily by the concerns of the Zionist lobby: (1) to impede Iranian support for Hezbollah and Hamas and for Palestinians in general; (2) to maintain the status quo in Sunni-Shia hostilities (that is, to avoid a peaceful resolution that would end intra-Muslim rivalry which Israel has used to its advantage while at the same time avoiding a boiling over into a violent confrontation that might cause the fall of states which, like Bahrain, are pro-American, or Syria which, while anti-American, have been highly predictable); and (3) to preserve Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the Gulf.
Q. What is behind the Islamophobia in America?
A. Islamophobia in the United States has become an increasing problem. Politicians are using the general ignorance of the American public about the religion of Islam, its teachings, and its history in order to manipulate the fears of average Americans to think that a so-called “sharia law” is about to be imposed by the small Muslim minority upon the enormous majority of Americans who are secular or Christian. In order to benefit from this manipulation, the politicians rely on media stereotypes about Muslim law, ignoring its fundamental calls for justice and tolerance and instead misrepresent it as a matter of imposing a Muslim penal code and culture on non-Muslim Americans. They devise nightmare fantasies of women forced into burkas in order to provoke working class Americans into thinking they must take pre-emptive action against their Muslim neighbors who are plotting to deprive them of their beer and pork chops. Many Americans, who are devoted to those universal values that Islam shares with America, such as the freedom of minorities to practice their religion, are speaking out and acting, but they too are under attack. The silliest of these attacks is the accusation, believed by 18% of Americans that President Obama is a secret Muslim.
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute