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October 2, 2014 12:53 am

IS and Other Terror Groups Thrive on Mideast Oppression

avatar by Albert Wachtel

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Egyptian protesters celebrating the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi. Photo: Muhammad Mansour.

The Islamic State is a flare up – certainly the most vicious – but just one of a swirling range fueled by Arab discontent. IS crucifies people, buries them alive, piously dices them up, and severs heads with knife blades. Hamas, one hopes the world now sees, is another version of the same terrorist fire, somewhat diminished by its failed political obligations and Israel’s response to its attacks.

Barack Obama and David Cameron, though many Muslims agree with them, are wrong when they say flatly that the violence is not due at all to Islam. Even if radical mullahs and others are using Islam to justify their actions, they can point to passages in the Quran that call for violence.

This violence is being fueled by Muslim discontent with the corrupt, ruling regimes in the region. Anger over political abuse flares wherever possible, sometimes as secular demands and sometimes as fundamentalist terrorism.

Once, political and religious autocrats – garbed in piety, tribal titles, regal vestments, or military uniforms – could deflect attention from their corruption by claiming that the few million Jews in Israel were the problem. But that is no longer effective.

The same disempowerment that produced IS has been flaring up less virulently elsewhere. Disempowerment in the Muslim Middle East has stretched into the 21st century. We remember well that the latest round of protests started, to the harm only of the protester, when Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze to denounce tyrannical authorities in Tunisia who barred him even from selling fruit from a pushcart to support his family.

But when peaceful protests fail, violence erupts. The young people across the Muslim Middle East were inspired by Bouazizi to ignite both metaphorical and literal protest fires. They demanded democracy, better education, and economic opportunity. But in places like Egypt the majority is utterly uneducated. Secular protestors, who risked and lost lives to gain democracy, were outnumbered, disempowered yet again. A religious autocrat from the Muslim Brotherhood was elected and twisted the country toward theocracy. Another enflamed protest by the same seekers of progress led to a military takeover – which is not giving them the rights they asked for.

The military force that took power has been trying to destroy the Brotherhood, but once out of power fundamentalism becomes a voice of opposition. The Brotherhood is alive. Qatar, a supporter of militants, including Hamas, welcomed survivors.

The sands of the Muslim Middle East have gone on shifting. Disempowerment continues to smolder. Repressive monarchies or murderous dictatorships or corrupt theocracies or elected versions of the same must become enlightened and provide for their people’s needs in order for the Arab Winter to end. Israel’s rapprochement with the people of those nations will have to wait upon their genuine education or face to face meetings that dislodge false images of what Jews are. But this rapprochement is possible.

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