In the marketplace of ideas, the Arab-Muslim world is presently a relatively barren region. Thinking is a perilous venture where dictators, demagogues and mob passion rule.
But when it comes to maiming and killing, the Arab-Muslim world holds a place of prominence. In particular, the ancient land between two rivers, now Iraq, has proven to be greatly fertile as killing fields.
The most famous massacre in Muslim history by armed might of the state took place at Karbala on the banks of the Euphrates in 680. On that terribly bloody day, Husayn bin Ali—grandson of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, by his daughter Fatima—was brutally killed and decapitated as he was offering his mid-afternoon prayers.
Husayn’s male companions were slaughtered by the army of Yazid, the caliph (Islam’s supreme ruler), while women and children in the company of Husayn, including his wife and daughter, were abused and carried as war trophies to the capital of the expanding Arab-Islamic empire in Damascus.
The people of Karbala and surrounding areas passively watched as Muhammad’s family and its claim to leadership of Muslims ended in tragedy. But belated grief tore the Arab-Muslim world apart, and its wounds continue to torment in countless ways a people for whom the massacre in Karbala has become the template of their history.
Karbala is a necessary reminder of Muslims being unequalled tormentors and killers of Muslims. Saddam Hussein as the ruling tyrant in Baghdad was only the most recent incarnation of an Arab Macbeth and the Mongol Genghis Khan rolled into one megalomaniacal killer.
It also illuminates the sheer hypocrisy of Arabs and Muslims who selectively and for political purposes rage against the United States and Israel (and not, for instance, against Russia or China despite the brutal suppression of their respective Muslim minorities) for Arab-Muslim casualties in conflicts that have been, almost without exception, precipitated by Arab-Muslim dictators and demagogues.
This past July was grisly, and not just because of the war in Lebanon unleashed by Hezbollah terrorists against Israel.
Iraq’s health ministry reported July was the deadliest month for Iraqi casualties since March 2003. The figures provided were 3,438 Iraqis killed—1,855 of those as a result of sectarian violence and 1,583 from bombings and shootings carried out by insurgents. Some 3,600 were wounded during the same period.
These figures followed a UN estimate of nearly 6,000 Iraqis killed during May and June. The killings in Iraq have been indiscriminate, and the killers are mostly Arabs, belonging to Sunni or Shiite sects. It is noteworthy that Iraqi Kurds, who suffered Saddam’s genocidal violence, are uninvolved in this sectarian savagery.
There has been no organized protest within the Arab-Muslim world or in the West against the daily toll of Iraqi deaths due to this hate-driven insurgency.
Nor is Iraq the only place where Muslim violence against Muslims rages unabated. There is Darfur in Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Algeria until recently, and hotspots in Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
How, then, might we explain why Muslim deaths seem only to matter to Arabs and Muslims—and to apologists of Arab-Muslim politics in the West—when they occur as a result of conflicts with the U.S. or Israel?
In witnessing worldwide protests over Lebanese deaths resulting from the recent Hezbollah-Israeli fighting, we might conclude it is politically acceptable when Muslims murder untold numbers of Muslims, but entirely unacceptable when they are collateral casualties of Israeli bombings.
This is the Orwellian reality of much of the Arab-Muslim world today, where Muslim and non-Muslim lives are too often seen as readily and contemptuously disposable—except when they become handy tools of propaganda against Jews, Hindus and Americans.