Tuesday, July 13, 2010
An Open Letter to Fareed Zakaria
[This open letter to Mr. Fareed Zakaria is in reference to an interview he did with a radical Muslim on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS". The videos of that interview are included at the bottom of the post]
I would like to thank you for your interview with Anjem Choudary. It was an enlightening exchange, and a valuable window into the psyche of an Islamic extremist. Your show has a record of illuminating complex issues, and is, in my humble opinion, an absolute service to American democracy.
Overall I enjoyed your dialogue with Mr. Choudary and the points you raised really helped to put the warped logic behind his “Sharia Law” views on display. I also appreciated the point you made when you reminded this “jihadist” that his willingness to see innocent people killed runs in direct contradiction to the religion he purports to follow, saying that if he knows his actions will kill civilians then he is morally responsible for those deaths.
My overall satisfaction withstanding, I felt compelled to make some points on your commentary. In your conversation with Mr. Choudary, you asked him to comment on the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Understanding that many people are reasonably aggrieved by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you asked him what motivation Muslim terrorists had for the crime of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks (before the US wars in the Middle East). In your debate with him you advocated the view that there was no reason for Muslims to be aggrieved with the US before this date. Surely, a man with your credentials must know this to be demonstrably false. The September 11 attacks were largely a result of what the CIA calls “blowback”. That is, actions of the American government around the world, mostly unbeknownst to the American people, have generated retaliations from militant factions. In the case of 9/11, the grievances came from the American government’s long-standing involvement in the Middle East, spanning from the overthrow of the Iranian government in the ‘50’s, to US support for Saddam Hussein in the 80’s, consistent and unconditional military support for Israel, and the US government’s sanctions on Iraq in the 1990’s, which are estimated to have starved 500,000 people to death, most of them children. Surely, you are aware of these controversial actions, which have generated support for a vicious form of “jihadism”, which views killing American civilians as a justifiable strategy.
At this crucial point in time we cannot afford to have any more Americans buying into the mythology that we were attacked “for our freedoms”. Without an understanding of what brought these criminal attacks on in the first place, we cannot hope to reduce the threat of terror to the American people. The views of Anjem Choudary are twisted and irrational, as you thoroughly demonstrated. I only ask that you deal with issues like this in the context of an accurate historical record. I understand you would not want to be seen as “America-bashing”, a charge that’s leveled at anyone who chooses to speak publicly of American crimes, but it is critical that Americans understand the sources of terrorism, and understand that violent religious extremism is only one of those sources. Americans need to know that we have the power to reduce the threat of terrorism against ourselves. Disillusioned fundamentalist maniacs like Choudary, wouldn’t have nearly the same power to recruit followers if the US were to engage in a more moral foreign policy. While it would be naïve to assume that adopting a moral foreign policy would eliminate all violent threats against Americans, it is also similarly naïve to think that unjust policies will not result in any sort of retaliation. Extending that thought, it’s incredibly naïve to think we can solve the dangerous problem of terrorism without honestly examining the motivations of the terrorists themselves.
Once this is done, Americans can work to rectify any grievances that are justifiable, while still seeking out and prosecuting those responsible for the crimes. This rational and cost-effective approach to terrorism can only work if the American people understand the nature of the threats against them. The process of critically examining the harmful policies of our government may be uncomfortable, but it is vitally important if we as Americans hope to live in safety and peace.
I noted earlier that I view your program as a service, and I hope that I haven’t come across as ungrateful. I would just like to see my favorite mainstream commentator keep his standards of excellence in examining the issues of our day in a dispassionate and objective manner.