"I don't have the knowledge to blame a government," said Bakhtiar Khan, an Afghan man in his mid-twenties. "I don't know about politics, but for our problems I blame the world community. All humans should be equal, but we are not. You ask me who is to blame. You find out who is to blame."
Khan, according to a recent New York Times piece on the origins of Islamic extremism, earns a subsistence level income making bricks in a pit outside the city of Peshawar, an Afghan city of 2 million, nearly 50 percent refugees. When asked about his life, he says, "Life is cruel. You can see for yourself. You wear nice clothes and are healthy. But look at us. We have no clothes to wear and we are not healthy. Your question is amazing."
So, who is to blame?
A recent story on Afghan schools described a teacher who holds up a wealth pie chart. America, she shows her students, controls this huge slice of the pie, leaving a tiny sliver for us Afghans. The not-so-subtle point? Afghans suffer poverty because of America's disproportionate wealth.
But no, Khan lacks the "knowledge to blame a government." For, through knowledge, Khan would discover that his poverty stems from corrupt, dictatorial governments, the absence of capitalism and free trade, and the lack of individual rights and the rule of law. But who, in the Arab world, spreads this message?
Dr. Muqtedar Khan, director of International Studies at Adrian College in Michigan, challenges American Muslims to set the masses straight: "While we loudly and consistently condemn Israel for its ill treatment of Palestinians, we are silent when Muslim regimes abuse the rights of Muslims and slaughter thousands of them. Remember Saddam and his use of chemical weapons against Muslims (Kurds)? Remember Pakistani army's excesses against Muslims (Bengalis)? Remember the Mujahideen of Afghanistan and their mutual slaughter? Have we ever condemned them for their excesses? Have we demanded international intervention or retribution against them? Do you know how the Saudis treat their minority Shiis? Have we protested the violation of their rights? But we all are eager to condemn Israel; not because we care for rights and lives of the Palestinians, we don't. We condemn Israel because we hate 'them.'
"Muslims love to live in the U.S. but also love to hate it. Many openly claim that the U.S. is a terrorist state but they continue to live in it. Their decision to live here is testimony that they would rather live here than anywhere else. As an Indian Muslim, I know for sure that nowhere on earth, including India, will I get the same sense of dignity and respect that I have received in the U.S. No Muslim country will treat me as well as the U.S. has. If what happened on Sept. 11 had happened in India, the biggest democracy, thousands of Muslims would have been slaughtered in riots on mere suspicion and there would be another slaughter after confirmation. But in the U.S., bigotry and xenophobia has been kept in check by media and leaders ...
"It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim World. If you disagree, then prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with. If you do not leave and do not acknowledge that you would rather live here than anywhere else, know that you are being hypocritical.
"It is time that we faced these hypocritical practices and struggled to transcend them. It is time that American Muslim leaders fought to purify their own lot."
But only a few weeks ago, Arab leaders condemned Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for calling Western civilization "superior" because it "guarantees respect for human rights and religion." Harsh criticism forced him to recant his "racist" statement. But if we call Berlusconi's remarks "racist," in what category do we place the statement made by Abdulrahman Awadi, formerly a high-ranking official in Kuwait? When Kuwait learned that Sulaiman abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti citizen, had become a top lieutenant with Osama bin Laden, Kuwait revoked abu Ghaith's citizenship. Awadi said, "This is a wake-up call that we have to be very careful with freedom. Democracy and freedom of choice may be good for Western cultures, but for the Gulf countries, those are dangerous things. These people are using freedom to achieve their ends."
Who is to blame?
Countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt suffer double-digit unemployment rates, estimated as high as 25 percent. Grinding poverty and religious zealotry, wrapped around a blanket of government-led scapegoating of Israel, the United States and the West -- all combine to form a dangerous and deadly Third World victicrat mindset. Blame triumphs over enlightenment, and anger defeats reason.