In the wake of the Paris bloodbath, the attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Bamako, Mali, and murders elsewhere before and since, people desperately want to understand the root cause of all this violence. That’s true not only in the West, where many blame Islam itself. It’s true in the Middle East, too, where we are struggling to come to grips with the carnage and the region’s role in it.
Many of the usual suspects were singled out in the reaction here to the most recent attacks. Various Arab and Muslim writers blame Iran and Israel; others point to the West’s policies in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Of course, some media voices repeat the well-worn view that we Arabs are the victims of hidden conspiracies. But more self-critical voices have arisen as well.
Though their influence might still be minimal, a few journalists are speaking out. In the Arabic newspaper Al-Mada, Iraqi writer Adnan Hussein offered a suggestion: We must overhaul the educational system. In a piece published just two days after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, he said that from elementary school through university, our young people are taught — sometimes with a stick — that Islam is not only great, but also better than other religions, and that those who are not like us belong in hell. What has emerged, he wrote, is a “savage faith that stirs up decapitation, spills blood, instigates plunder and rape.” As for the real Islam, he lamented: “It has no place in our lives, or in the best of cases, it has a barely audible voice that almost nobody hears.”