Rami Khouri, editor-at-large of Lebanon’s Daily Star, and a frequent NPR guest, today actually blamed Ariel Sharon for the rise of Islamism in the Middle East. Appearing on the syndicated NPR program On Point, Khouri charged (click here to listen):
... the results of his [Sharon’s] policies are bringing to power Islamist groups all over the Middle East, and remember Hamas and Hizballah are ... grandchildren of Sharon’s policies in Lebanon and the West Bank. You would not have had Hamas and Hizballah if it wasn’t for people like Ariel Sharon ...
In fact, Hamas was created in 1987 by the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. And the Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt and has long been the leading Islamist group in the Arab world, opened its first office in the Palestine Mandate in 1945 – when Ariel Sharon was all of 17 years old. Finally, since the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, the year also of Mr. Sharon’s birth, it would be difficult to blame his “policies” for the group’s extremist ideology, or its rapid spread in those years across the Arab world.
Similarly, Hizballah was created by the Shiite Islamist regime of Iran, as part of its effort to spread its extremist brand of Islam to the Arab and Muslim world. Hizballah is thus the “grandchild” not of Ariel Sharon, but of the radical regimes in Syria and Iran, without whose support Hizballah would not have been born, nor made significant gains in Lebanese politics.
In addition, Ariel Sharon has nothing to do with the Islamist Wahhabi regime in Saudi Arabia, which came to power in 1932, and which has used its vast oil wealth for the past 50 years to spread its puritanical and radical form of Islam around the world. Nor can Sharon be blamed for the Wahhabi movement itself, which was founded in the 1740's.
Nor can Sharon be blamed for the radical Islamist bloodshed elsewhere in the world, such as in Algeria and Sudan, and in the Afghanistan of the Taliban.
Nor, finally, can Mr. Sharon be blamed for perhaps the greatest boost for Islamist radicalism in modern times, the Islamic revolution in Iran, in which the Western-friendly Shah was overthrown by the forces of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Not only, as mentioned, has the Islamic Republic directly supported Islamist groups (and terrorists) around the world, its very being is an encouragement to Islamists, including Sunni Islamists, that old, seemingly permanent orders, can be swept away, if only enough religious fervor can be mustered.
Khouri’s false blaming of Sharon for the problems of Islamism in the Arab and Muslim worlds are yet another example of Bernard Lewis’s observation that many in the Muslim world habitually blame others for problems of their own making:
For the oppressive but ineffectual governments that rule much of the Middle East, finding targets to blame serves a useful, indeed an essential, purpose—to explain the poverty that they have failed to alleviate and to justify the tyranny that they have introduced. They seek to deflect the mounting anger of their unhappy subjects toward other, outside targets. (What Went Wrong, The Atlantic Monthly, January 2002)
It’s a pity that in blaming Ariel Sharon, Mr. Khouri chooses to act as a handmaiden to these oppressive, tyrannical, failed regimes.