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article imageThe Muslim World According to Eric Margolis

By David Silverberg     Oct 4, 2008 in World
Why is there is so much anger between the West and Muslim world? Is Iran bluffing about its nuclear powers? Do we truly understand what Muslim women go through? Columnist and author Eric Margolis answers these questions in a revealing interview.
Digital Journal – Eric Margolis wants the West to come to terms with the Muslim influence on Earth. In fact, that influence has been shaping the global relations for centuries but only recently has the demographic reached the adult table of political conversation. In light of the 9/11 fallout, more Westerners are curious about Muslim regions and how those people will cultivate policies in diplomatic and military areas. The U.S. is especially looking eastward with interest.
Margolis is the author of American Raj: Liberation or Domination?, a new book compiling the journalist’s travels and interactions in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and North Africa. He hopes to educate the public on how the Muslim faith has progressed to where it is today, while also finding out how to resolve the ancient conflict between the West and Muslims.
In an interview, Margolis – a syndicated columnists whose articles have appeared in the Toronto Sun, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Times of London – explained the varied nuances in how the Middle East is evolving. Margolis doesn’t mince words, and he spoke bluntly about his views on the precarious position the West finds itself as it gets involved in Muslim regions.

On Why Muslims Don’t Trust the West

“People have to realize that violence emanated from the Muslim world due to a combination of factors. It has a lot to do with a history of Western colonialism. America inherited a business model created by the British when they ruled India. One of the most galvanizing moments came when the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan and the Muslims found itself with a victory. It’s the first they had in hundreds of years. That victory also allowed Muslim radicals to formulate jihadism as a way to drive Western influence out of the area.”

On Afghanistan Dubbed as the “Central Front of Terrorism”

“Afghanistan is unfortunately on the political radar. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to fight in Afghanistan, Obama as much as McCain. NATO commanders are screaming for more troops even though they said the conflict will fall apart. India is more involved than ever before. It’s an ugly dangerous situation.
But Afghanistan isn’t the central front, which is ironic. Al Qaeda, supposedly based there, has long since vanished. And Taliban is not a terrorist group but an anti-Communist religious movement initially funded by Pakistan and the U.S. Taliban has nothing to do with 9/11, and putting Taliban in the same camp as Al Qaueda is a mistake. What has to happen? There needs to be some kind of political settlement to end the chaos in Afghanistan.”
The cover jacket of Eric Margolis  book
The cover jacket of Eric Margolis' book
Courtesy Eric Margolis

On Iran’s Bravado and the American Backlash

“Look at all the hysteria whipped up by politicians. Actually, Iran is very far away from producing deliverable nuclear weapons. They don’t have accurate weapons or miniaturized warheads. In fact, Israelis have an indestructible nuclear triad of air, sea and missile capabilities. Even if Iran launches a surprise attack and hit the country, Israeli forces figured it can’t be destroyed. Israel would wipe Iran off the map.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is stupid. He is giving a green light to Israel, a pretext to attack Iran. It’s all empty bombast and it was done for political considerations. And realize one thing: Ahmadinejad does not have direct authority over the military. That control is held by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has who shown himself to be cautious.”

On Pakistan as a U.S. Ally

“Pakistan has always seen the U.S. as an ally; Zardari has said an alliance with the U.S. is a blessing because indeed it is. Once a month, Washington brings to the country crates of $100 bills. Pakistan is almost bankrupt, and the U.S. consistently supplies billions in official aid money. Then there are more in secret payments via the CIA. The problem is Zardari has become Musharraf’s number two man. He has inherited his power, and extreme worldview. Zardari is the paymaster general for American funds, so he can buy and bribe lots of people. He has been accused of being a U.S. stooge, and that comes with a baggage of corruption, putting him in a precarious position.
As for Muslim influence in Pakistan, Islamic people never commanded more than 12 per cent of national votes. It’s real backwards fundamentally. In north Pakistan, bullets are whizzing, and tribes think unbelievers are those who come from another part of Pakistan. The problem is the Pakistani military keeps bombing Pashtun areas, inflaming opinion against the central government and thus creating more extremism.
The only way out is for the U.S. to broker a political settlement. And neither presidential candidate is impressing me right now. I’m disappointed with Obama for taking such a shallow view of the area with little understanding of the problem. McCain was using Cold War rhetoric when he was debating with Obama about Russian and Georgia. That’s worrisome. Washington doesn’t understand the ethnic politics of region.”

On the Treatment of Women in Muslim Countries

“Tribal practices create a different opinion of women in backwards countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and places in North Africa. In urbanized areas, there has been enormous progress for women rights. But in all Muslim regions, the woman is considered the queen of the household. In the home, her word is law. Older women aren’t put into old folks’ home – they have to be protected. Quite a different view than what we have in North America.
There’s lot of bad press regarding how females are treated in Muslim nations. But in India, women can be buried alive if they marry the wrong caste, as Hinduism perceives it. In China, men take two or three wives. I don’t approve of the barbaric treatment some women face in Muslim countries, but I’d like to see people be more uniform in their indignation and not merely focus on backwards regions of the Muslim world.”
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