It would be wildly illogical and unfair to say that George W. Bush was responsible for the attacks, but it is certainly accurate to say that his wars roiled the Muslim world.
There can be no arguing the fact that the two wars were unpopular in the United States and that, according to a Pew Center poll, 73 percent of the world population had an unfavorable opinion of the invasion of Iraq and the continuing Afghan struggle.
Polls aren’t necessary to convince anyone with an open mind that the wars in the Middle East would anger and embitter the native population just as Americans would object to Canada sweeping down to depose our president.
Yet there is plenty of objective evidence of Muslim anger.
According to polls conducted by the Arab American Institute, four years after the invasion of Iraq, 83 percent of Egyptians had a negative view of the U.S. role in Iraq; 68 percent of Saudi Arabians had a negative view; 96 percent of the Jordanian population had a negative view; 70 percent of the UAE and 76 percent of the Lebanese population also described their view as negative.
It is understandable that Muslims would decry unprovoked attacks on their culture as in Iraq, but what is the logic or emotional explanation for the demonic attacks on innocent bystanders at the Boston Marathon?
What can explain the deliberately designed cruelty of the devices built by the Tsarnaev brothers, explosives stuffed with shrapnel to maim the legs and lower bodies of victims who survived the blasts.
Even more baffling is the fact that they enjoyed the benefits of an American education, which offered more creative and effective means of protest: organizing and projecting American Muslim anger or running for office.
The absence of logic to explain the Tsarnaev brothers’ senseless attack could be extended to the whole world of Islam: what does it want, where is it going, who is its leader?
What did Osama bin Laden or the Taliban want? Surely not the rebirth of Islam as a thriving, modern Muslim society where education and development found useful work for its youth and a broader outlook on other cultures.
Al-Qaida and the Taliban showed no interest in the development of their own people and, by their acts, proved an obsession with destroying the West and what they considered its shallow culture.
A cadre of educated, informed, worldly Islamic leaders would know that destruction of the developed nations of the West, and the Far East, is a task so far beyond their reach as to be impossible.
Recognizing that reality, these sophisticated Islamic leaders would devise ways to live in harmony with the West, preserving the best of their own culture and religion and accepting some of the best of the developed world.
But that would be logical in a region where passion overwhelms thought.
Where are the leaders of the Islamic world? The last pan-Arab leader who sought peace and normal relations with former enemies was Anwar Sadat. He was murdered by extremists of his own faith.
The only leader who actually unified the Islamic world was Muhammad, who died in the seventh century.
Where is the contemporary Muhammad, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela of the region? At least one other voice is asking the same question.
“The Islamic world has produced no Mandelas despite the daunting challenges it faces,” writes Ajaz Zaka Syed, the opinion editor of the Khaleej Times in the United Arab Emirates. “Ours is a world of short-sighted pygmies. And we need visionaries who can look far and ahead, beyond their noses, to lead us to a new dawn of hope.”
He continues: “The Muslim world may not be fighting apartheid and colonial repression like South Africans once did, but it has other far more dangerous demons to fight. From ignorance to illiteracy to poverty to violent extremism, we perhaps face even greater challenges than the people of South Africa ever did. Despite its rich natural and human resources, ours remains one of the world’s most backward and dispossessed regions.”
How do we change the dynamics of a world where the West must strain to avoid terrorist attacks and the Islamic world must stare in terror at the skies where death by drones are concealed?
Perhaps a start would be a summit of the leaders of both worlds. Why not? It hasn’t ever been tried. Maybe one of the sessions could be hosted by the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta.
H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.