Terrorist Attacks: Where Is the Outrage?
An American friend protested once: If Muslims really are against terrorism why
don't I hear strong condemnation coming from every direction - religious
leaders, intellectuals, media and all?
Recently, he called again surprised at the level of outrage against the London
attacks and wondered: There are more brutal ones in Iraq, why only London you
He meant to say: I understand the sympathy with Sharm El-Sheikh and Egypt, but
the English standing in the Muslim world is supposed to be just like that of
ours. Both countries invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. They are
closest allies in the "war on terror." Why the difference in treatment?
I explained to him what he probably already knew: Media is about new, amazing
and shocking news. The terrorist attacks on London and Sharm El-Sheikh fit the
bill. The story in each case was huge, surprising and new. It was more of one
big fireball, rather than small and similar flashes. This is the problem with
the Iraqi terrorist attacks - they are all the same. Just like the stories
that streamed from the world's troubled areas, like during the civil wars in
Lebanon, Sudan, Congo, Nicaragua, Bosnia and Kosovo. Unless you have a new
angle or dimension, they taste like old news.
During the Vietnam War, international media, including the American, was not
as interested in reporting daily events as they were in the beginning. Yes,
when there was a shocking new story, like the aerial bombardment of North
Vietnam, the reports were front page. No one was as much interested in daily
During the first Gulf War between Iraq and Iran, I remember how the news made
front-page headlines. Months later, it started getting slimmer and withdrawing
to inside pages.
People get used to repeat bad news. They become numbed and start to care and
feel less about them. The first murder crime in a neighborhood might get
people talking for a long while.
But in a dangerous neighborhood were crimes are daily affairs, no one talks
about them as much. This is basic human nature.
My friend wasn't totally convinced. He knew better. As he suspected, I wasn't
telling the whole story. Maybe because it was long and complicated. Maybe, I
was in a hurry. And maybe I was self-defending.
Here is the rest of the story. The situation in Iraq is much more complicated
than in London. Here, we have occupying powers that invaded a sovereign
country under false pretexts. Occupation, as history of nations testifies,
produces resistance. Resistance generates retaliation. The vicious cycle goes
on and on, along with all the resulting resentments, mistrust and hatred from
both sides. Such negative thinking about the "enemy" makes the heart colder,
morality confused, and emotions mixed. Yes, people get upset when some of
their own get killed in the crossfire, but they usually blame it on the other
side, especially if it was the one who started it.
I am not trying to justify the muted reaction in the Muslim world to the
mayhem in Iraq, but only to analyze and explain.
As for my own stand, here it is: I feel that the best for the Iraqis now is to
continue their democratic reforms and nation-building. Only when they manage
to rebuild their civil and security infrastructure, they may demand gradual
withdrawal of foreign forces.
My stand is based on cool reasoning, not hot emotions. Public opinion is not
always based on rational thinking. The French and Dutch said no to the EU
Constitution for emotional reasons. Many didn't even care to read it. They
feared for the future, they were angry with their own governments and
politicians; many were unemployed and poor. They said no to that more than to
In the fog of war, accurate and objective intelligence is as hard to get as
water in a desert hell. Information tends to be colored and biased. Emotions
cloud reasons. Anger poisons perception, decisions and stands. As a result,
the public, via the media and the rumor factory, gets a much-skewed picture of
what is going on. This explains the different reactions to seemingly similar
events. There are no easy answers to difficult questions. I hope my American
friend is reading this right now. I hope this time I fully answered his valid,
but tough questions. And I hope he would appreciate, accommodate, and