Puzzling Remarks on America's Foreign Policy
I read some rather puzzling remarks yesterday in Souad Mekhennet's column for the New York Times, "In Search of Common Ground Over Muslim Dress Codes" (September 20, 2011). Ms. Mekhennet was reporting on a forum held recently in Zurich by One Young World, an organization founded by David Jones and Kate Robertson. This is a nongovernmental organization with the following mantra: "For the first time in history, the young are seeing history made before it is censored by their elders." I guess this means that the young get to censor it first. Anyway, this forum reportedly "brought together about 1,600 people, mostly under 25, from 190 nations" to discuss common ground among people of all kinds and creeds. Apparently, everyone was happily agreeing on how we can all get along, when the discussion shifted a bit:
[A more conflictual] discussion was initiated by a resident of Latvia who is now studying politics at Duke University in North Carolina. Anastasia Karklina, 19, has most likely passed through enough social upheaval and heard enough pretty words in her life. So this non-Muslim went straight to her point: It was understandable, she said, that participants only wanted to discuss tolerance, and not reality. "In many Western countries," she opined, "the hatred against Islam is being used for justifying the foreign policy, especially in the U.S."There followed an argument between two Muslims over the niqab -- one in favor of the freedom to wear it, the other in favor of banning it, giving as reason that "It is nowhere mentioned in Islam and does make our religion look bad."
It is no use, she added, to debate war in the name of religion or to urge tolerance, without discussing the double standards in politics.
"How do we want to create an interfaith dialogue if they ban the burqa, discuss the headscarves, don't allow Muslims to build mosques and then even have a preacher who wanted to burn the Koran?" Ms. Karklina asked.
That remark alone is an interesting point that deserves closer attention in light of various other things that make Islam "look bad" and could likewise be banned, but I would prefer to focus on Ms. Karklina's remarks -- which have puzzled me -- and merely pose a few questions:
What examples might be presented as evidence that US foreign policy is being justified by hatred against Islam? The Bosnian intervention that saved Muslims? The Kosovo intervention that saved Muslims? The war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda? The war against Saddam Hussein? The support for the Libyan rebels against Muammar Gaddafi?But I don't know, really, whom to blame for my puzzlement, Ms. Karklina for offering a 'censored' history by not being specific enough or Ms. Mekhennet for not reporting more fully due to careless journalism, but perhaps the latter is culpable, for in relating what Ms. Karklina 'opined,' she first identified the nineteen-year-old woman as Lithuanian, before correcting to Latvian through re-editing.
What "double standard" in politics does she mean? Assisting the 'revolutionaries' in their overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt vs. maintaining distance from the protesters seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria? Should we have the same standard for both cases?
Who is this "they" who want to ban burqas, discuss headscarves, forbid mosques, and have a preacher burn the Koran? Europeans? Americans? The West? That's a rather broad brush with which to paint "they"!
Incidentally, I'm guessing that Ms. Karklina is Latvian Russian based on the name "Anastasia," her Russian language skills, and the fact of Latvia's large Russian minority of 27.4 percent. That could also explain Ms. Karklina's vaguely anti-American remarks since Latvians are otherwise generally pro-American. But I'm merely speculating on this point, and there is, in fact, evidence of rising though diffuse anti-Americanism in Latvia in recent years.
And the source of her anti-Americanism doesn't matter anyway, just the fact of whether she is right or wrong in her views . . .