Much of the conversation you will hear about America's troubles in the world center around two poles -- that of the President, who routinely says we are attacked because "They hate our freedom" and that of the far left, which has "America is finally getting payback." This last message is branded by conservatives as "blaming America first."
Today I'm recommending the book - "The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror" by Bernard Lewis, copyright 2003, ISBN 0-679-64281-1 because it points out the errors of both sides. This very readable book has an overview of the basic tenets of Islam in relation to government and relationships outside the faithful. As someone who has had a few mideast history classes, it seems fair to mainstream Islamic beliefs. If there's a Muslim out there who has read this book, please comment for us.
Mr. Lewis goes on to trace Islamic - Western relations from the time of the crusades to the present. He notes both Western and Islamic failures.
One of Mr. Lewis' points that may give some comfort to the "They hate our freedom" crowd is by pointing out that other countries such as Syria committed heinous crimes against fellow Muslims (See pages 107-108 for Syrian massacre at Hama, which killed at least 10,000) and yet are not censured by other Muslim nations or groups. As America is the strongest military power in the West, Mr. Lewis suggests we'd be in for some hate no matter what we do.
HOWEVER, Mr. Lewis also rightly acknowledges a vicious double standard held by both the United States and Europe that has led to much suffering and gathering anger in the Mideast:
"As many Middle Easterners see it, the European and American governments' basic position is: "We don't care what you do to your own people at home, so long as you are cooperative in meeting our needs and protecting our interests." - Page 107.
This American attitude in the Mideast exists today. Listen to the President whenever he speaks of greater democracy and freedom. He'll never mention our despotic friends by name. Think back to his November 2003 speech calling for democracy "from Damascus to Tehran." Why not Cairo to Riyadh? Or Cairo to whatever is the capital of despotic ally Turkmenistan? Until the President starts holding our undemocratic allies to real accountability, his rhetoric will ring false for me.
Sorry for the digression, but I didn't know where else to put it. Please read "Crisis of Islam." Especially if you are not familiar with Islamic government and jurisprudence. It is very interesting and relatively balanced.
If you're in the "They hate our freedom crowd," then know that this book is at the top of the Air Force Chief of Staff Professional Reading List. Aren't you curious why the military finds this book worthwhile reading?