Generational Divide in the Middle East

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Friday Prayer [bethcanphoto / Flickr]

More than half of the 250 million Muslims in the Arab world today are younger than 25. The conventional wisdom is that the generation now in its 20s and 30s is more religious, less US-focused or -friendly, and more radicalized than the generation currently in its 50s and 60s.

We’re sketching out generational shifts in the Middle East and the larger Muslim world in the last twenty years or so. It’s a huge topic, obviously, but we’re trying to narrow it down by focusing on a few areas: approaches to — or conceptions of — the west; religious vs. secular impulses; and political currents and action.

We’re inviting a cast of inter-generational Muslim minds to our round table. Obviously, this show can’t exist in a vacuum, and we won’t ignore the worsening situation in Lebanon and Israel. Our hope for this particular hour of Open Source, though, would be to ask not “What do you think about what’s going on between Lebanon and Israel?” but rather, “Do you approach Israel and Lebanon differently than your parents (or children) do?”

Guest List
Nasser Rabbat
Aga Khan Professor of the History of Islamic Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ussama Makdisi
Associate Professor of History and Chair of Arab Studies, Rice University Author, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon
Numan Waheed
Post-doctoral research associate, Institute of Polymer Science, University of Akron
Reading List
Fouad Ajami: Dream Palace of the Arabs
Glenn M. Frazier, August 12, 2002
Sepia Mutiny
July 13, 2005
Parents and Being the First Generation in the U.S.
Fouzan Quaiser
Islamic Psychology, May 7, 2006
Syria: The Next Generation
Daniel Pipes, 1989

Anthea Davis, Why Do Young People Rebel Against the Older Generation?, Islam Online, May 7 2005.

Selma Cook, A Look at the Generation Gap, Islam Online,

Stratfor, A closer look at Hezbollah's motives, Spero News, July 28 2006.

Related Content

  • Old Nick

    I would like to ask your guests for a thumbnail sketch of the people who teach Islam to Muslim youth. I don’t need to know the perceived ‘pressures’ that fuel Islamism – those already comprise much of the stuff of Western conventional wisdom regarding the Middle East.

    Nor do I need to know of the sources: I own a Koran and, like anyone with an ISP, have online access to hadith.

    I want to know about the people responsible for educating youngsters like this:

    ‘One failed Palestinian suicide bomber described being “pushed� to attack Israelis by “the love of martyrdom.� He added, “I didn’t want revenge for anything. I just wanted to be a martyr.� Mr. Zaydan, the would-be martyr, conceded that his Jewish captors were “better than many, many Arabs.� With regard to the suffering that his death would have inflicted upon his family, he reminded his interviewer that a martyr gets to pick seventy people to join him in paradise. He would have been sure to invite his family along.’

    (J. Bennett, “In Israeli Hospital, Bomber Tells of Trying to Kill Israelis�, New York Times, June 8th, 2002 – by way of Sam Harris’s The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and The Future of Reason – )

    Who are these people?

  • As a youngster I was rather taken with a romantic idea of Israel as the Jewish homeland especially after reading Exodus by Leon Uris. It was my Dad who first pointed out to me that Palestinians are people too. If he were still alive today I think we would be on about the same page. He was a lefty and so am I. As a young woman it bugged me that I always voted like my Dad so much that I really studied the issues hoping I could disagree with him but I always ended up coming to the same conclusion. He was right. My Mom on the other hand is a Republican. The year that I was supporting Jessie Jackson for president she supported Pat Robertson. I’m scared to ask what she thinks about the Middle East. Robertson attributed Ariel Sharon’s stroke to divine retribution for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

  • nabobnico

    My first memories are being evacuated from Beirut when the civil war began. For a long time I doubted the veracity of my memory, but in conversation with my mother, she confirmed the presence of tanks as we left for Cyprus (similar to so many who left these past few weeks.) But we were Americans and agnostic and armchair socialists. My father stayed as a journalist until Sabra and Chatilla made it too dangerous and drove him out. Asking him about the mid east when I was a teenager, he wearily said to me, “Look, they are all bloodthirsty a__holes; Sharon, Arafat, the Phalangists, every last one of them, and they won’t stop until everyone is dead.”

    I think of that now. Think of the Phalestina youth raised in refugee camps by parents raised in refugee camps. Everything must have become so unreal, so terrible, so divorced from a concept of right and wrong, that they are totally lost. The youth will have known, even more than their parents, only broken dreams. At least their parents had the PLO and Arafat as an epic hero. Now, since setteling down, the PA has become utterly corrupt. All these kids can know is a corrupt hollow Authority with the looming darkness of Black Israel behind it. What can they hope for? What can they aspire to be? The Palestinian movie, Paradise Lost, captured the morbid aimlessness of the generation so well, I think… All they now is pain and no future. It is no wonder and clear to me why they are drawn to the seemingly heroic acts of martyrdom, drawn like moths to the bright suicidal lights of Israel.

  • I’d like to know if any of your panel is aware of the French Documentary Filmmaker Pierre Rehov, and what they think of his work. He has an up-coming film called “Suicide Killers” being released this month, but he caught my attention with an interview he gave about the project to MSNBC last July. (the interview is published on the bottom of

    In a nutshell, he delves into the Psychopathology of Islam itself — specifically the separation of the sexes. He says there is a sort of culture-wide anxiety that Terrorists use to manipulate suicide bombers. Here is the quote that grabbed me:

    “It is no coincidence that suicide killers are mostly young men dominated subconsciously by an overwhelming libido that they not only cannot satisfy but are afraid of, as if it is the work of the devil. Since Islam describes heaven as a place where everything on earth will finally be allowed, and promises 72 virgins to those frustrated kids, killing others and killing themselves to reach this redemption becomes their only solution.”

    He goes on to describe suicide bombers wrapping their genitals in fire-proof tinfoil so that they are preserved for the afterlife to avoid the irony of arriving at the doorstep of 72 willing virgins with you junk blown off…

    Does your panel agree that this is really the degree of fundamental fanaticism we are up against? And if so, what can we in the West possibly do about it, apart from this cycle where we try to kill the worst of them and take out a bunch of innocents at the same time, which just adds fuel to the fire?

  • Old Nick

    Forgive me please for a second question:

    It has been noted elsewhere that although there are ‘moderate’ Muslims, there are no ‘progressive’ Muslims who disregard entire segments of Islamic scripture the way those brave few ‘progressive’ Christians (like Bishop John Shelby Spong) disavow the Old Testament and other scriptures, like the Book of Revelation.

    Am I simply unaware of the existence of such ‘progressive’ Muslims? If so, are there websites I can visit to read their thoughts?

    And if not, is it due to the fear of heresy and the (potentially fatal) condemnations that would accompany such accusations?

  • joshua hendrickson


    oh god, your mom supported Pat Robertson? Shudder!

    I see the rise of fundamentalism among youth as a problem not confined to the middle east. It is outside of the scope of this discussion, I know, but I would be curious–in the oh-the-horror sense of curiousity–to know what could possibly become of a world facing a future controlled by a mature generation of monotheist fundamentalists raised on bloodshed and apocalypse. Or should I say, what will definitely become of such a world–to be reduced to a burned-out cinder, though no doubt, a godly cinder.

  • Everyone fights for/with God and everyone has their fantasies for making tolerable the misery they inflict on themselves and on the other by engaging in the illusion. Wouldn’t it be great if we could replace all these religious fantasies of violence against the “enemy” with another fantasy that says God wants none of it. The struggle for political independence however with individual freedom is valid. But also It seems to me that the fantasy-teachers of Zionism and Christian fundementalism are as much responsible for driving Moslem youth torward becoming fantasy-martyrs as the misguided Mullas that teach them. I was wondering if the members of your panel also see some connection in that regard.

  • wisam

    I personally believe that young muslims are studying islam more than the older generation i myself has studied more books about other religions as well.I know more about the history of palestine,lebanon and israel and this has made me broadminded and has not made me fanatic,therefore islam as a religion can not be blamed for fundamentalism and history tells us that when muslim rulers practiced the true islam they ruled witr justice and even the jewish and christian people had better days under muslim spain than their other rulers.I believe that muslim youth are misguided by some pseudo scholars who wants to exploit the religion for political motives and present islamic teachings to them in a twisted manner and giving them wrong interpretation of quran and hadith.My question to the panel is that how can we protect muslim youth from these pseudo scholars.

  • Mystique

    As for the Generational shift in the new generation, it is true, yet there are always exceptions.

    Islamic awareness has changed significantly and being a practicing Muslim as well increased, in the 50’s and 60’s people were less religious and more open.

    My parents find what is happening between Lebanon and Israel like many people in Saudi Arabia do, it is a war between Islam and Judism, Jews hate Muslims and they want their country and want them out, it is more of a Jew killing a Muslim…

    And since the war in Lebanon started, their immediate reaction was that “The Jews want to kill more Muslims, and want their country”. and there were couple of pictures published on the internet, of Israeli children, writing on the rockets that were later on the reason of killing Lebanese children, that of course made the matters worse. Back where we live, mostly everyone believes it is a war against Islam, and that Muslims are always targeted, and that Muslims should maintain the strong bounds with their culture and religion.

    As for me “Where I happen to believe in all religions and do not practice any”, I don’t over analyze the issue, I am simply against any kind of occupation, and war. the occupation in Palestine, the political occupation in Syria, the previous Syrian occupation of Lebanon.. the issue is merely political..

  • Eteraz

    I was born a Muslim; decided I didn’t want to be one; and then came back to being a Muslim, in a more Humanist manifestation. While I have always been wont to think that my new critical view is a consequence of my own education and learning I have realized that it was my parents’ assertion that the Quran belonged to each and every person as an individual that gave me the requisite autonomy and sense of individuality to think for myself when it came to issues regarding the Middle East. While there certainly is a generational gap between my parents and I in terms of both political Islam and ritual (I tend to be far less stubborn in my political affiliations and far more lenient in my ritual obligations), I think the generation of educated Muslims that preceded us — many of whom risked everything to come to the United States — does contain a significantly high number of those who do recognize that the lordship of the mullah is not the kind of Islam they want to live. Today the media, and indeed the whole world, is convinced that all generations prior to the current Muslims have only illiteracy and belligerence to offer the world. I believe that does a great disservice to the legacy of the generation of Muslims that preceded mine. That generation includes immense intellects and amazing reformists such as Riffat Hassan who fights on behalf of honor killing victims in Pakistan, includes Asma Jehangir (a Human Rights lawyer in Pakistan), Shirin Ebadi (the nobel Prize winner from Iran), Allama Javed Ahmed Ghamidi (the amazing jurist in Pakistan who lives under threat of death), Khaled Abu al Fadl (the pre-eminent American-Muslim jurist, and Orham Pamuk (the Turkish anti-totalitarian novelist). In each generation of Muslims there is an increased diffusion of Humanist principles.

    Ali Eteraz

  • scribe5

    Anyone remember the Mumbai bombings in India?

    “Saudi-based NRIs funded Mumbai blasts: ATS”

    How about asking about this tonight’s show?

    Which generation is funding Islamic terrorism?

  • siennaf1
  • joshua hendrickson

    Eteraz points out that there are growing numbers of Muslims influenced by humanism. This is true also of Judaism and Christianity. Humanism, though, does not blend easily with monotheism; one or the other ingredient tends to dominate the recipe. And in most cases today, fundamentalist monotheism gets all the attention by being louder, angrier, and more ruthless. All I can say is that I hope that humanism’s influence grows throughout the world, and that monotheism declines; but I’m not sure I see it happening that way, not with the current generation under 25 anyway.

    Is it possible that it will reach a critical point in this younger generation, against the odds, and help turn the tide, at the last second, against fundamentalism? That is my question to the panel.

  • scribe5

    Ask about this too:

    “We can’t bear pictures of the dead. Hezbollah want to see nothing else”

    David Aaronovitch,,6-2293538,00.html

    “Some clue as to how things have changed was offered on Sunday night’s Panorama. Though it was incidental to its story, what the programme showed is how organisations such as Hamas propagandise the children and adults in their care, exulting martyrdom and teaching them to embrace death. We saw schools that celebrate suicide bombers and school computers full of jihadoporn. Had you been watching the evening drama on al-Manar recently you could have seen a Syrian drama series on the Jewish plot to take over the world. One scene was set in a brothel where a Jewish prostitute thinks she is dying from some disease. “I implore you,â€? she tells the Madam, “send me only Christian clients. I don’t want any Jew to be infected by me.â€? It’s The Forsyte Saga as scripted by Heinrich Himmler.

    If that’s the cultural you can imagine the political. But just in case you can’t, let me help you. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah (thinks, how exactly did he become leader of Hezbollah?) is a prolific speaker, but is credited with meaning what he says. Nasrallah believes that the Jews “invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities�. That Israel “is a cancerous body in the region� that “must be uprooted�. More magnanimously: “

    Let us spare bloodshed. Let the Yemenite Jews return to Yemen, the Moroccan Jews to Morocco, the Ethiopian Jews to Ethiopia, the European Jews to Europe, and the American Jews to America.â€? Though even that is generous because: “Anyone who reads the Koran . . . sees what acts of madness and slaughter the Jews carried out throughout history . . . Anyone who reads these texts cannot think of co-existence with them, of peace with them, or about accepting their presence, not only in Palestine of 1948 but even in a small village in Palestine, because they are a cancer.â€? ”

    Read the whole article.

  • joshua hendrickson

    It’s not just the middle east that has suffered a great number of coups overthrowing secular parliamentary govts and replacing them with military dictatorships; since the end of WWII, it’s happened in central and south American countries as well. And so often the U.S. has been behind these coups.

    Noam Chomsky was right: America’s real enemy in the world has always been the “good example.” And now we’re setting up Venezuela/Hugo Chavez….

  • mulp

    With the discussion going back to Nasser and all that past history, one question I have is about how the people in the region view the history of the Zionists and the British. As a kid, I recall the movie about the ship, the Exodus, but I had no idea what it was about.

    Over the years, I have learned a bit more, but it has only been in the past month or so that I have learned of the Zionist terrorists and assassines to targeted the British, who in fact called groups like Irgun and Lehi terrorist groups and tried and hanged a number of Jewish terrorist.

    Having learned of such things, knowing of their role as terrorists, I find the comments of some Israelis to be truly ironic.

    My question is “do the young people in the region learn of Jewish terrorism in their question to break the barriers to unlimited illegal immigration?”

  • lake123

    Isn’t really true that the 15% of the followers of Islam are Shiite and have historically been denied economic resources by the Sunni majority ? Isn’t this a fight between a small group who needed to fight savagely to get what they needed and use Israel as a way of raising their profile as powerful group among all Arabs.

  • Potter

    Liberation, liberation liberation. Liberation from what?

  • joshua hendrickson

    Paraphrase: “the holocaust cannot be made up for by exonerating everything that Israel does.”

    How true! Victims though the Jews unquestionably have been, they are playing the role of victimizer now.

  • Old Nick

    I wish I could listen live with you guys, but the stream is all buggered up (for me in WA, anyway). ROS, can you PLEASE link us to an active (not KXOT) and reliable stream?!

    Thanks. Later, all.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Liberation from what?

    How about, just for an example, liberation from Jewish militias who wear masks and harass Palestinian schoolchildren and beat the christian peacekeepers who are acting as human shields to those schoolchildren?

    Real noble, real brave.

  • Potter

    Joshua, your distorted description refers perhaps to the Palestinian Arabs. The show is about the Arab world. You mean Jews are responsible for greater Arab losses, humiliation, loss of dignity? Seems to me Arabs need liberation from within.

  • joshua hendrickson

    “We have hope in God because we have lost our hope in man.”

    Yes, I suppose it is easier, more of a balm to the spirit, to place your hopes in something imaginary, than to do the difficult work of honing your hopes to fit the complex, challenging, often frustrating, but ultimately, REAL shape of humankind.

  • mr. 10,000

    Whew, I almost didn’t make it in time for the show. I had to cut the arms of my easy chair so I could get closer to the computer. I have half-a-rack of Bud and the first tops been popped. I’m sorry to hear they’re havin’ problems over there. How long’s this been goin’ on? Lookin’ over all the topics this shows discussed I’m sure this whole mess has been figured out by now. Anyone out there who can clue me in? Hopefully we’ll have another 50 shows on the same topic. I find that the more you talk about something the sooner it gets solved. Keep up the good work.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Potter, I don’t think my description was distorted, but, to each their own. As for the rest of your statement, I would agree: liberation from within is the only kind of liberation that ultimately frees an individual, though not, perhaps, a people. I refer not to overthrowing a government, but to overthrowing the shackles of religious thought and identity. Or is that prescription, too, “distorted” to the likes of you?

  • Potter

    “the likes of you” ? That phrase is entirely consistant with the agenda of your 6:25. I’ll liberate myself from this.

  • aware

    There seems to be a large body like Potter who are Zionistic extremist which mirror the islamic extremist. They are in total denial that the Israel has ever commited atrocities. They want Israel to be a pristine victim. Sadly they are more politcally influential and are willing to illogically shout people down. I’m ultimately frightened for the Jewish people as much as the Arab peoples if irrationals like Potter prevail because there is a danger in security that relies on constant brute force instead of dialogue and peacemaking

  • Mystique

    Liberation in all forms is needed.

    Liberation of thoughts, speech, & living, liberation comes in many forms, and Arabs do need that liberation to some extent..

  • Getting back to the original question regarding the change of a generation. Every once in a while I end up in a Presbyterian Church due to family or social obligation. At first I just thought it SEEMED more fundamentalist to me because I’d become an ecofeminist Wiccan but the last time I attended I actually witnessed Presbyterians standing up with their hands raised swaying back and forth. Presbyterians didn’t used to do that. I think my straight-laced Presbyterian Grandma would have been shocked to see such unseemly behavior in church. There does seem to be a fundamentalist trend going on. I do believe that fundamentalism and gender equality are two opposing forces.

    If we are going to get out of this mess I think it is going to be women who put the kibosh on fundamentalism.

  • Old Nick

    ’Scuse me for butting in, but I’ve a record to set straight.

    First, it is every bit as possible to support the existence of Israel without supporting all of its defense polices and actions as it is to support Palestinian national aspirations without supporting the ‘sacred explosions’ of ‘martyrs’ who massacre and main civilians guilty only have having been born into their nation and who live within the borders of its state.

    I would invite anyone so radicalized and scandalized by the word ‘Zionism’ to ponder this from Monday’s guest Gadi Taub: “…the original dream of Zionism: to make the life of Jews normal.�

    I find it IMPOSSIBLE not to sympathize with this.

    We can argue endlessly over the implementation of that dream, but I, a non-Jew and a complete and utter disbeliever in the consciousness-conceit called ‘God’, am willing to consider anyone incapable of similar sympathy potentially ‘anti-Semitic’. (I can’t believe I just said that, but there it is.)

    After millennia of pogroms and the Holocaust, Jews didn’t merely ‘deserve’ a state – a homeland to feel ‘normal’ in instead of ever on the verge of beatings and rapes from roving gangs of thugs…and worse – but needed it.

    You wanna argue over its placement, or over the decidedly bloody history of the Zionist movement? Fine, you can.

    But if you blame today’s Jews for those events of the previous century – and, if you’re an American living off the fat of land whose original inhabitants were massacred by your ancestors – then you’re a hypocrite. There’s no other word for it.

    Think it over.

    Even Yasser Arafat admitted that the Zionist genie was long gone from the bottle. The Israel-the-nation-state ship has sailed, and it although it might yet be sunk, it ain’t ever coming back to its port of origin. That war is over. And good riddance.

    Demonizing Israelis is as counterproductive, pointless, and misguided as demonizing their Islamist opponents. Last I checked, everyone in that region were full human beings, and deserving of human respect, no matter how we might deplore the actions of some of them.

    And last I checked, my frequent correspondent Potter is the least fanatical pro-Zionist American who frequents these pages.

    You wanna vent your fury at zealous defenders of Israel? There’s plenty of bylines representing that attitude here, but Potter isn’t one of them. In fact, Potter consistently argues with the zealots, trying to apply reason over the predictable expressions of defensive anger, scorn, and endlessly dreary and wearying accusations of anti-Semitism.

    And Potter doesn’t merely criticize Israel either: she writes with compassion concerning the Palestinians – which many of her correspondents seem incapable of.

    My proof lies in the various threads she’s graced with her byline.

    It is possible to be pro-Israeli without being an inhuman blood-sucking monster.

    Believe it or not.

    I would suggest that apologies are in order.

  • jdyer

    mulp Says:

    August 2nd, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    “As a kid, I recall the movie about the ship, the Exodus, but I had no idea what it was about.�

    I saw the movie too as kid.

    “Over the years, I have learned a bit more, but it has only been in the past month or so that I have learned of the Zionist terrorists and assassines (sic) to targeted the British, who in fact called groups like Irgun and Lehi terrorist groups and tried and hanged a number of Jewish terrorist. Having learned of such things, knowing of their role as terrorists, I find the comments of some Israelis to be truly ironic.�

    However, soon after I saw the movie I also read the novel on which it was based and that got me interested in the history of Israel.

    I have since read a lot more books and not just some popular potboilers which Uris’s novel was and is.

    I have reached though some very different conclusions from those of Mulpy.

    First, the books itself treated the issue of Jewish extremism and did the movie in a more cursory way. Second, the book and the film condemned these extremists and opposed them to the main stream Jewish organizations at the time which sought accommodation with the Arabs in mandate Palestine.

    Third, I also learned that the book and definitely the film didn’t portray the actual gravity of the Jewish situation and the gruesome way in which they were treated by the British.

    Finally, I also learned that the Jewish terrorists like most terrorist organizations seeking to free themselves from colonial rule at the time targeted military people and not civilians. Many civilians were killed and the efforts by the Irgun actually retarded than advanced the cause of Jewish independence. The conclusion I from my investigations was that terrorism is more often than not counterproductive and had the Irgun taken power Israel would not have become the successful independent State it did become.

    Moreover to equate the Irgun to Palestinian terror groups which murder women and children is a sign of ignorance.

    On the question of the Exodus I would urge people interested in the actual historical ship to read:

    Commander of the Exodus (Paperback)

    by Yoram Kaniuk,

    “My question is “do the young people in the region learn of Jewish terrorism in their question to break the barriers to unlimited illegal immigration?�

    This is an incoherent question. I don’t know what Mulpy means by “illegal immigration.�

    Young Arabs in the region which Mulpy probably knows are indoctrinated to hate Jews, period.

  • jdyer

    Old Nick Says:

    August 2nd, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    Congratulations, you have composed and excellent post. We may disagree on details but not on final goals.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Old Nick,

    that last post was well put.

    Unquestionably, the goal of making Jews normal is laudable. All people, all peoples, ought to feel normal.

    And yes, as an American who grew up in a county named after a tribe that were all wiped out by smallpox, I understand the temptation to hypocrisy, and try to challenge it where I see it, including within myself.

    I suppose, ultimately, I just find despicable the all-too human trait of ignoring your own evils; surely taking sides in a conflict does not preclude recognizing the faults of your chosen side. Unfortunately, for many people, it does.

    I grow heated in exchanges like this. Therefore:


    I apologize for the phrase “the likes of you”. It was uncalled for and uncivil. I do wish, though, that you had at least acknowledged the truth of the incident I referred to. In any case, I’m sorry.

  • These poor professors are missing the point entirely of the Arab Predicament, as Fauad Ajami, astutely called it in 1991. Israel is hardly an aggressive, expassionist, colonialist empire because it is so tiny and largely composed of Arab Jews who were forced from their ancestral homes in Baghdad and Cairo in what is simply a land swap: 900,000 Jews for 750,000 Palestinians. Holocaust special pleading aside, the Arabs followed the Nazis not just in some wartime support but by grasping at the chimerical straw of achieving unity through a negative: anti-Zionism. Like gamblers recklessly staking their most precious possession–their pride, they have kept their Palestinian cousins trapped in refugee camps for 50 years after the 20 million other refugees of the 1940’s have been happily settled, while they keep on going double or nothing on what is an error, examining their misconceptions under a mircroscope and holding not only their social development but the world’s future hostage. But in a sense, Israel is the cure: they have to go through their machismo obsession to begin the process of mature social development. Ironically, they could only unify and develop enough to defeat Israel by giving up on their blind rage and obsession with symbols accepting not only Israel but pragmatic reality.

  • Potter

    doniphan Excellent post above, well said. Fauad Ajami is a favorite… forgot he is Lebanese. It would be great to hear from him.

    Old Nick Thanks for your sentiments and that good post and for sticking up for me ( I have found my long lost brother!) I have been arguing so long on this subject that I can take any side as needed so if I feel like I am defending Israel too much, I think there is something wrong here.

    Peggy Sue, my own awakening that “hey Palestinians exist and they are suffering” came with reading David Grossman’s “The Yellow Wind” in the New Yorker, many years ago ( later published in book form). I was very troubled by the post 67 war “Greater Israel ” movement to settle and annex what was to be a future Palestinian state. Heated arguments with my mother ensued (as many relatives left for Israel).

    Joshua Henderson– I did not expect your apology and so I thank you and accept it. Last night I was in no mood for Israel bashing which avoids the deeper issues regarding liberation. I was reacting only to your 6:25 post last night where you picked a string of negative things to say about Israel as if to blame Israel for all the woes of the entire Arab world. And that is not what those on the program were doing but it was the elephant in the room. It’s too easy to blame Israel. That nasty and continuing habit of blaming Israel for their internal problems is a diversion and seems to perpetuate a psychosis; avoiding looking within for so long, avoiding accepting defeat (calling defeat victory but not being able to believe the lie) and thus perpetuating the next defeat. One thing on top of the other and Arabs/Muslims keep trying to get back to a past glory to escape dealing with the present. Thus the prolonged pain and sinking deeper into humiliation and despair. Arab leaders have taken advantage of this and have used Israel, promoting hatred of “the Zionist entity” not being even able to say “Israel”. Worse, Palestinian suffering has been used to the utmost for political ends

    In my own near despair last night I picked a book off my shelf last night to read- Michael Oren’s “Six Days of War, June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East”. ( He would make a great guest). The first chapter on “the Context” gives a good quick summary of events leading up to this war starting from the beginning of Zionism which he defines as “the Jewish people’s movement to build an independent polity in their historical homeland”

    That is all Zionism is. What it implied is something else… but that came with awareness gained through pain.

    This is different from European colonialism in America, though I appreciate the comparison. Europeans were not returning to America. There has been a constant presence of Jews, albeit in small numbers, in that land now Israel since the beginning (and archeological evidence to prove it.) OTOH, there is no question that there was displacement especially through wars that Jews did not want or precipitate. In 1948 one percent of the population died in the War for Independence. That was 6,000 of 600,000 total population of Jews in Israel in 1948.

  • sunrunner

    As a person who has lived in and traveled widely in the Middle East, I found your program last night fascinating.

    But I had one of those surreal “small world” moments, when you mentioned a blogger named Mystique from Jeddah Saudi Arabia, who I am familiar with through her blog “The Emancipation of Mystical Thoughts”

    Notice that I said “she.” You guys assumed she was a “he” — I imagine because so many people assume that Saudi women are completely muzzled. While that is true of many Saudi women who have had very little opportunity to cultivate any sense of independence, there is a very strong contingent of very strong minded, well educated, well traveled, well read Saudi women. And the young ones are phenomenally rebellious!

    In addition to Mystique’s blog, here are links to two other blogs which many readers may find interesting and give a glimpse into the mindset of young Saudi women: Alien Memoirs and A Thought in the Kingdom of Lunacy. Also Sunshine. Following the links around in their blog rolls and comments will lead you to a world that is not well-known in the west!

  • Another good link to a Saudi blogger who is an excellent writer (though she has an unfortunate propensity to delete old blogs) On MY Own: The Life of a Mislead Nomand.

  • Old Nick

    You’re a good man, Joshua Hendrickson. I’ve let my own emotions run rampant in these threads before (especially when it comes to the thick brick wall of irrationality protecting religion from critical and/or scientific analysis), and so I know how good you must feel to have joined the ROS Mea Culpa Club. My hat’s off to you. (And I’ve got to find my aging videocassette of The Life of Brian – thanks to your inspiration!)

    I’m a bit disappointed in last night’s show. Not that I didn’t learn anything new – I did. But I can’t fully come to grips with this business of ‘Arab humiliation.’ That’s an ‘old meme’ whose lack of evolution into anything less malignant has stunted the growth and evolution of reason in the region. It’s a meme whose hosting minds refuse to let it evolve. It’s as stubborn as a superstition, and just as closed to rational analysis.

    It’s galling that secular Arab governments, who have always manipulatively used the Palestinian plight while barely bothering to help the Palestinians, have unimaginatively ceded the business of memetic evolution to religious minds. Hence Islamism-the-meme-complex is colonizing the minds of the region’s millions of young people.

    So, last night we learned that the Islamism meme-complex isn’t monolithic, and that’s a good thing. But if I take anything new away from the regional events of July and now August, it’s that the Iranian-sponsored Shiite variant of the Islamism meme-complex is gaining many more adherents than before, that Al-Quaida will feel forced to react – to reclaim their own memetic stake in the minds of the credulous – and that we’re therefore doomed to many more massacred civilians.

    And who knows where they’ll strike next.

    Thank you, religion. Thank you so very much.

  • joshua hendrickson


    I appreciate your acceptance of my apologies. Let us hope that the level of discourse here can rise and rise. And your latest post was very informative–I wasn’t aware of that stat from the 1948 war. Thank you.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Old Nick,

    Your posting was very kind. Thank you. And may you find your LIFE OF BRIAN with all speed!

    Ah, the Islamist meme. Sometimes it can be difficult deciding which meme is more arrogant: the fundamentalist Christian meme, or the Islamist meme. Indeed, thank you, religion.

  • Old Nick

    Hey Joshua, if you’re in the mood and have time, I’m doodling with a ‘taxonomy’ of (human) memetic evolution here: . The idea being that belief-memes, which require no empirical validation, differ in essence from the memes of experimentation and technology (like the non-verbally dependent meme-reproduction of paleolithic stone-chipping techniques, and so on).

    And I could use some feedback and further ideas (from anyone).

    It could be fun.

  • Potter

    Joshua I’m glad I went to the book last night.

    The trauma of Israel’s War of Independence left a big mark on Israeli’s. Israel was not at all strong and had to scramble for the hardware/supplies. Many “soldiers” were conscripted off the boat from war-torn Europe. Quite a story. it was not so certain that Israel would survive. The General Armistice Agreement signed in 1948 ( Egypt, Jordan, Syria Lebanon) had Arabs still claiming “full belligerant rights” and denied Israel legitimacy while Israel was hoping for peace. This Arab rejectionism set the stage for wars that followed and continues to today. Context is important.

  • jdyer

    Very important point:

    “Many “soldiersâ€? were conscripted off the boat from war-torn Europe. Quite a story. it was not so certain that Israel would survive. The General Armistice Agreement signed in 1948 ( Egypt, Jordan, Syria Lebanon) had Arabs still claiming “full belligerant rightsâ€? and denied Israel legitimacy while Israel was hoping for peace. This Arab rejectionism set the stage for wars that followed and continues to today. Context is important.”

    Martin Gilbert in his History of Israel writes about something that I heard in Israel: many of the new Jewish conscripts had been liberated from concentration camps in Europe, first German than the allies kept them in camps because they didn’t know what to do with them.

    When in Israel these new conscripts knew very little Hebrew and many of them were killed because they didn’t know how to follow directions in order to keep themselves safe from enemy fire.

    I believe that Kaniuk in his book on Exodus makes a similar point. He also points out that in many cases a new immigrant lived to survive the war in 1948 only to be killed in the war of 1956 or have his son or grandson killed in the wars of 1967 or 1973.

    In some cases three generations served in the army simultaneously.

    The fact that Israel survived and thrived under these circumstances is truly an epic achievement.

  • joshua hendrickson

    Old Nick,

    I went to Frappr Forums, signed up, and responded to your posting on religious taxonomy, but for some reason it wouldn’t accept my name, so it posted me as anonymous. Whatthehell?

  • I got an email from Greta Pemberton…she suggested I reply in here:

    Hi Greta,

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that very much.

    “We’re working on an hour long conversation on the show tonight precisely about “the generation gap between Muslim youth and parents.” Why did that strike you as such an important topic?”

    It struck me as an important topic because its a problem that exists. There are many factors that cause that problem, but none the less the problem exists.

    “Who would you have had on the show? (And since you won’t be producing that series, who do you think would be invaluable voices on our show?)”

    If I were to have chosen that topic, the youth and parents that I would pick out for the show would be from among the immigrant community. Very much among the Indo-pakistani community this exists. I’m sure I would be able to find a good number to help me out with this. Just go to any Muslim community where most of the people are immigrants while thier children are american born.

    “If you were to sketch out a layout for the episodes like you did for “one man’s journey…,” what topics would you have covered?”

    The way i probably would have layed it out is going through the different stages of life of an American youth and act out the typical things that happen. One of the reasons for the formation of the generation gap is that many times immigrant parents tend to give precedence to the culture instead of following what Islam teaches, while the kids have no real interest in following the culture of the parents, because they cant really appreciate it. The major gap starts when the kids enter thier teens.

    Islam welcomes culture. After all what is culture? The cloths we wear, types of food we eat, languages we speak, customs and tradations that are done. The thing that Islam prevents in culture are those things that go against the teachings of Islam. For example, in some parts of India its the custom of people to bend down and touch the feet of the elder. Islamically this wouldnt be allowed b/c bowing and showing respect in that manner is reserved for God, the only One worthy of worship. Other aspects of culture that dont contradict the teachings of Islam would be very much welcomed and encouraged.

    “Where we are, the conventional wisdom seems to be that Muslims now in their 20s and 30s are more religious, less US-focused or -friendly, and more radicalized than their parents’ generation. Do these generalizations hold true, in your experience?”

    I dont know about “radicalized” or “less US-focused”, but from what I’ve noticed, Muslim youth who had the opportunity to join an MSA (Muslim Students Association, in high school/college, or youth groups such as YM (Young Muslims, and MAS Youth (Muslim American Society) seem to be more aware and practicing of Islam than their parents were. But on a whole, you will find that most Muslim youth are not very practicing. If you were to see them, you wouldnt know they were Muslim unless they were asked. Reason for this is that, many immigrants that came to America in the past…thier first concern wasn’t practicing or teaching Islam (which is one of the duties of a Muslim).

    “We’re also thinking about the Israeli-Lebanon conflict, of course, and we’re wondering how the 20-30 somethings approach the conflict differently than the 50-60 somethings do. What’s your view?”

    When it comes to atrocities that happen around the world, I think that among American Muslims, the reaction is about equal throughout the different age groups. The elders may feel more because they may have been from that region or know someone who is from that region. I think you can find the younger generation going to rallys more and speaking out more than the older generation.

    Speaking of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict…have you heard of the Yahoo Hotzone? It’s an online blog for Kevin Sites, a war reporter. The accounts he gives of the people there is quite interesting. Quite a different angle than western media.

    Thank you for the comments and questions you asked. If you have anymore, feel free to email me. 🙂

    – AlBaraa