Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Putting Some Sense to Senselessness

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Putting Some Sense to Senselessness

Article excerpt

There are many people who believe that what is happening in the Middle East, especially in Egypt, is merely senseless. There are many Middle East commentators who definitely agree with that and perhaps go further to accuse all the protests to be mere terrorism. However, even though I agree that Muslims' reactions whether in Tunisia, Egypt or Libya could be described as insane, I disagree that it is senseless insanity.

The notorious movie depicted the holiest human being to Muslims, Prophet Muhammed, as a buffoon, homosexual, violent and a pedophile. This is indeed gigantically shocking. However, attributing some Muslims' insane and often criminal reactions to that movie alone is quite misleading. I believe this crisis is another manifestation of a great deepening gap between the Middle East and the West, especially the United States.

In Egypt, there are multiple factors that led to this swift unnecessary escalation of events. The first is attributed to the Egyptian condition itself. Egypt is a country with a very bad education system, almost 40 percent illiteracy, almost 30 percent below the poverty line and religious education is mostly informal as many Egyptians do not trust official religious institutions, such as al-Azhar or the Iftaa Institution. It is a very fertile ground for rumors, fanaticism, radicalism and manipulation.

The second factor is the media. The media, especially the right- wing religious based media, contributes magnificently to shape average Egyptians' minds and thoughts. Many Egyptians take these religious-based media sources as their needed religion fix. The majority of the so-called sheikhs who appear to lecture on these channels did not receive any acknowledged religious training from Egyptian Islamic institutions such as al-Azhar, which is known for its relative educational excellence and moderation.

It has been shocking for moderate and liberal Egyptians to hear the infamous Osama bin Laden being called a hero and a true warrior of God by these sheikhs on these channels.

So picture the following: Hundreds of innocent young uneducated youths who were born perhaps few years before 9/11 learning from their trusted shiekhs that bin Laden is a hero. What would be the result?

The third factor contributing to this mess is the U.S. itself. Many Egyptians have negative sentiments toward the American government and sometimes it confused with the American people as well. This should not be news for anyone. The problem is that this sentiment has grown through the last few years. George Bush and the Republican rhetoric in general, is perhaps the worst public relations disaster any country would have. Egyptian negative sentiments have grown extreme after a much better atmosphere during Bill Clinton's presidency. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice are notorious names to the Egyptian ears just like bin Laden to the American ones. …

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