'Why do they hate us?'
(Page 7 of 8)
Ahmed and his friends are well-dressed, middle-class boys, and represent neither the old-money security of Pakistan's elite nor dirt-poor peasants who make up the bulk of Pakistan's angry conservative masses. They are the silent majority of Pakistan, with their feet firmly planted in both the East and the West. On weekdays, they listen to Whitney Houston and Michael Bolton, wear Dockers and Van Heusen shirts. On weekends, many switch to traditional salwar kameez outfits and go with their fathers to the mosque to pray.Skip to next paragraph
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They have much to gain from a Western style of life, and most have plans to move to the United States for a few years to make some money before returning home to Pakistan. Yet despite their attraction to the West, they are wary of it too.
"Most of us here like it both ways, we like American fashion, American music, American movies, but in the end, we are Muslims," says Ahmed. "The Holy Prophet said that all Muslims are like one body, and if one part of the body gets injured, then all parts feel that pain. If one Muslim is injured by non-Muslims in Afghanistan, it is the duty of all Muslims of the world to help him."
Like his friends, Ahmed feels that America has double standards toward its friends and enemies. America attacks Iraq if it invades Kuwait, but allows Israel to bulldoze Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It ostracizes a Muslim nation like Sudan for oppressing its Christian minority, but allows Russia to bomb its Muslim minority into submission in Chechnya.
And while the US supported many "freedom fighter" movements in the past few decades, including the contra movement in Nicaragua, America labels Pakistan and Afghanistan as terrorist states because they support militant Muslim groups fighting in the Indian state of Kashmir and elsewhere.
"There is only one way for America to be a friend of Islam," says Ahmed. "And that is if they consider our lives to be as precious as their own. "If Americans are concerned about the 6,500 deaths in the World Trade Center, let them talk also about the deaths in Kashmir, in Palestine, in Chechnya, in Bosnia. It is this double standard that creates hatred."
Ahmed's ambivalence about America - his desire to live and work there, his admiration for its values, but his anger at its behavior around the world - is broadly shared across the Muslim world and Arab world.
"I think they hate us because of what we do, and it seems to contradict who we say we are," says Bruce Lawrence, a professor of religion at Duke University, referring to people in the Middle East. "The major issue that our policy seems to contradict our own basic values."
That seems clear enough to Muslims who sympathize with the Palestinians, and who say that Washington should force Israel to abide by United Nations resolutions to withdraw from the occupied territories. "The Americans say September 11th was an attack on civilization," says Mr Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister. "But what does civilized society mean if not a society that lives according to the law?"
It also seems clear to citizens of monarchical states in the Gulf, where elections are unknown and women's rights severely restricted. "Since the Cold War ended, America has talked about promoting democracy," says John Esposito, head of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington. "But we don't do anything about it in repressive regimes in the Middle East, so you can understand widespread anti-Americanism there."
At the same time, the state-run media - which is all the media there is across much of the Middle East - often fan the flames of anti-American and anti-Israel sentiment because that helps focus citizens' minds on something other than their own government's shortcomings.