Whether its burning prisoners alive or chopping off heads of civilian hostages or bloody demos of stoning girls accused of adultery or youths accused of sodomy, the buzzword in the entire region now is “savagery”. Not a week passes by without a shocking bloody ‘demonstration’ flaunted by Daesh (self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
Much has been said about what is called “savagery management”. Yet, the shocking scenes raise a question about the secrets behind this savagery and the logic behind such ostentation in the exercise of savage acts.
A single repugnant fact that is looming over this region is that a great monster is stretching its tentacles to entangle all the countries of the region. In geopolitical terms, this monster is expanding between two continents: Western Asia — with its strongholds in Iraq and Syria, with hidden levels of sympathy in some neighbouring countries — and to North and West Africa — the Sinai Peninsula and in Libya and Tunisia recently. Not to forget of course the Boko Haram loonies in Nigeria who had declared loyalty to the leader of Daesh.
But the question is: How was this monster born and how did it grow in this frightening manner? Is it just religious fanaticism that is fuelling this monster with volunteers everywhere? Despite the insistence of western media on this explanation and linking it to Islam, this logic does not seem convincing enough. The heavy legacy of oppression and tyranny that has dominated (and still is) this region provides a reasonable objective interpretation and reminds us of the rule of ‘the executioner and victim’, while other interpretations go deep down in terms of tackling the whole issue as a result of a regional struggle by linking Daesh to this country or that. Others argue that this creature is part of a larger conspiracy, western of course.
The answer/s may be a combination of all this, though not necessarily so. But regional struggle for influence and sectarian fanaticism does not alone explain this level of brutality and cannot explain why the conflicts in this region have become unethical to the extent that the conflicts have turned into be a “zero-sum game”. That is why we notice that there are no differences between authoritarian regimes and the opposition targeting to topple such regimes. In a historical context, I would argue here that an insightful induction of the history of this region will lead us to a single conclusion to summarise this in terms of a devastating impact: Humiliation. It is not just an emotional definition taken from daily life, but it is also a political and historical act and maybe it comprises the untold definition of politics through all ages.
Whether it is the invasions in ancient times or in politics in the present day, “humiliation” seems an essential component of politics and of daily life as well. There is no act that can explain persecutions and enmities in politics and summarise the objectives of politicians or military leaders more than humiliation. Whether in politics or wars, victory and defeat have always had one meaning: Humiliation. Whatever the political objective, it always revolves around the victor humiliating the vanquished. That is why a treaty such as the Treaty of Versailles (1919) was described as “humiliating” by Germans, no matter the merits of that treaty for the victorious Allied forces. The humiliation of that treaty led to the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler and the outbreak of the Second World War.
Almost all treaties in history involve humiliation for the defeated or the weaker parties. Colonial history has many such instances. How can we define, for instance, an act such as the colonisation of the Indian sub-continent by the British, forcing the Indians to destroy their local cotton industry and forcing them to buy English cotton products? This was nothing short of humiliation. Overall, what is the right justification of occupation of a country by blood and fire, ruling it by tyrannical laws and imposition of apartheid measures and suppression of all resistance?
Unfortunately, politicians and people do not read “terrorism” in its historical context, but within the narrow context extracted from history and often through an immoral blindness.
Almost, 12 years ago, American writer Thomas Friedman (I’m not one of his fans) advised George W. Bush on how to deal with his troubles in Iraq and Palestine in an article titled ‘When will Bush know the effects of humiliation of Arabs and Muslims?’ The tenor of that advice was that president Bush ought to have read and pondered carefully a speech by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad at the Islamic summit in October 2003. The key word that Friedman had picked up from that speech was “humiliation”.
Mahathir repeated that word five times in his speech according to Friedman. Following a short excerpt from the speech, Friedman said: “If I have learned one thing from covering international affairs, it is that humiliation is the only force most ignored in the international relations” (New York Times, November 10, 2003). But despite his eloquence in talking about forms of humiliation felt by the Iraqis, Friedman, like most of western writers and commentators, practices ethical blindness in tackling the situation in Palestine. Trying to explain the effect of humiliation in Palestine (at that time), he came out with a twisted interpretation when he said that Yasser Arafat and Palestinian leaders rejected former US president Bill Clinton’s offer to establish a Palestinian state in Camp David talks, because they considered it “humiliating” and “want to get this state by fire and blood”. What Friedman didn’t talk about was the real meaning of the occupation and the “most ignored” fact about it — humiliation.
The main factor resulting from the occupation of the land of another people and uprooting them from their land and subjecting their lives to constant discrimination and oppression is humiliation. Just a little twist of an incandescent truth by blaming the victims, not the executioner. Thus, for Friedman, Israel and its occupation should always be immune to any ethical or political stigma.
Friedman does not regale us — until today — with his thoughts about what could be the result of a siege of two million people in the Gaza Strip be. Doesn’t depriving people of normal life tantamount to something more than “humiliation”? Furthermore, doesn’t demolition of Palestinian homes and uprooting their trees in the West Bank and replacing them with colonies for Jewish colonists from all world mean much more than “humiliation”? And the sufferings of Palestinians in constantly moving from one place to another in their homeland, through dozens of Israeli military checkpoints, doesn’t that mean much more than humiliation?
In that article, and after presenting an amusing story about him and an Iraqi fixer and some details about feelings of humiliation among the Sunnis in Iraq, Friedman goes over to speak eloquently and say: “That’s why a Pakistani friend told me that what US needs in Iraq is a removal strategy of all feelings of humiliation and restoring dignity among Iraqis.”
Absolutely, In Iraq — but not in Palestine.
I am not trying here to promote a theory about Israel creating and backing Daesh, but I am only arguing about the massive invisible influence of humiliation on human beings. In this regard, the unethical ways of Israel and the West — historically — are the biggest contributors to the humiliation and depravity of successive generations of Arabs and Muslims. And the tyranny in our societies completes the rest of the mission.
Such blindness on the part of the West and western mediapersons such as Friedman is humiliation of another form. Falsification of facts and manipulation of truth, spreading lies and slanderous propaganda against others — all comprise continuous humiliation.
This humiliation does not result in rationality or logic moderation, but stokes a strong and inherent desire for revenge by all means. That is why the brutality of Daesh is evident on such a massive scale and that is also the reason why some average people sympathise with it.
Mohammad Fadhel is a Bahraini writer and Media consultant at “b’huth” (Dubai).