Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace Sparks a Personal Comment on “The Film” . . . The Mobs . . . The Violence

Today, September 21, is International Day of Peace. It was established by the United Nations in 1982 to “encourage all of mankind to work towards worldwide peace.” 

How ironic that this year the date falls just as our world grapples with seemingly never ending whirlwinds of protests and violence fueled by hate.

The media headlines of the past week are disturbing; because of an amateurish crudely made film, The Innocence of Muslims, more than 30 people are dead and mobs have rioted in 20 countries.  All allegedly in the name of avenging an insult to a religious leader whose religion, Islam, means peace. 

Why are we letting the fanatics on both sides control the agenda?

First we have a minority of fanatical Islamic leaders who for years, maybe centuries, preach to their illiterate, disenfranchised young men a continual message of hatred of and violence towards the United States of America (USA), Christians and others who they consider infidels. Then add a fanatical Christian (of which a basic belief is you are to treat your neighbor as yourself) in the USA who takes advantage of American’s right to free speech and makes an extremely hateful film degrading a revered religious leader with the expressed intention to enrage.

Nobody bothers to watch the film for 16 months until suddenly it goes viral on a social media platform sparking wide spread mob violence against the USA government. Refusing a request from the White House to take the film off the Internet, owners of the social media platform claim it “is clearly within our guidelines of no hate-speech” but they do “block” it in some Arab countries where it has been declared “illegal.” The world’s media keeps the violence “up front” aiding and abetting it to spread around the world. The new rich footage triggers soaring ratings.

What is a sane, sensible person to do with all of this? 

Did this happen because pent up fervor was unleashed by the Arab Spring? Did it happen because of long standing USA foreign policies that are unpopular in some Arab countries? Did this happen because a few zealots exploited the uneducated by feeding them inflammatory lies and manipulating them to violence? Did this happen because those who thrive on hatred and intolerance want political control?

I certainly do not have the answers to all this. I am trying to understand but I am really angry. How dare they rob me of my sense of peace. I want to march in the streets and say, “No more hatred! No more intolerance! No more violence!” But instead I sit at my computer and vent my frustration on my keyboard.

Wednesday I went to Satwa, an India section of Dubai known for its textiles, to pick up some cushions I had made.  As the proprietor was getting my cushions ready, I spoke to him and his young friend who was in the store. As I usually do, I inquire as to where they are from. With a big smile and pride in his eyes the second gentleman answers “Iran” and inquires where I am from. USA I reply just as proudly. Instantly a worried look crosses both men’s faces and there is silence.

The younger man responds, “Well, there are good Americans. Yes, Americans are good people.”

I reply, “Iranians are good people too!” 

There is a flurry of conversation in in Farsi between the two men and they both agree, “Yes, there are good Americans. Do you like Obama?”

 I reply, “Some good – some bad.” They nod.

I cautiously ask them if they know about “THE film.”

At first they profess no knowledge of what I am talking about. More Farsi dialogue. The younger gentleman says, “Yes, Americans are good but American government can be bad.”  

I reply, “Yes, Iranian government can be bad too. Perhaps if we left it to just the people we could all get along.” They both eagerly agree.

“Yes, we are friends with you,” the younger man adds. I respond, “Yes I am friends with you.”

This was no more than a simple exchange between people from different worlds who hold no hatred, advocate no violence but just embrace a mutual understanding that we can live in peace.  

But the insanity continues. . .

Thursday the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon mocking the Muslim prophet resulting in more protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. How does this help?

On Wednesday Fatima, a 22-year old woman suicide bomber and member of the Afghan militant group Hezb-e-Islami, kills 13 in Afghanistan in protest over the film. How does this help?

On Tuesday those monitoring terrorist Internet forums hear Ahmad Fouad Ashoush, a prominent figure in the Egyptian Salafistic-Jihadist community, issue his fatwa against the cast and crew of the film calling for their death.  How does this help?

I ponder if history is repeating itself. Can a single person set off a chain of events that trigger catastrophic events?  

In 1914, a 19-year old Gavrilo Princip, a member of the nationalist Young Bosnia movement, is supplied with weapons by a Serbian terrorist organization and assassinates Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand pushing the world into World War I.  

Adolf Hilter, gorged on a fanatical sense of nationalism, rallies a defeated German people with venomous speeches against rival politicians, Marxist, Jews and anything non-Aryan, to set in motion World War II.

Please tell me we are not in another downward spiral.

How can we regain control of the agenda? Where are the religious and political leaders who are going to end this madness. Who will stop the insanity?

Postscripts . . . .
The Gulf News on September 17, 2012 ran an editorial by professor and author Tariq Ramadan An appeal to contemporary Muslims which I found very interesting.

I did an Internet search looking for an editorial in the USA that could compliment Ramadan’s but I was unsuccessful. Can anyone provide me with one? 


  1. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for such a moving piece on Peace Day. I realized a day late and didn't acknowledge it on the 21st but, then again, shouldn't every day be peace day? The latest outbreak of violence spurred on by 'the film' saddens me too. I'm too sad to be angry. I hope and pray that the type of exchange you had with the shopkeepers in Satwa becomes more the norm and begins to capture the airwaves. Hope springs eternal but I have a gnawing doubt that those types of interactions never will since they're not dramatic enough. I have another question to add to your already long list of unanswered pleas... how long must we wait before the meek inherit the earth? I must say my faith is sagging a bit.

    1. Don't let you faith sag!!! It is what keeps us hopeful for a better day.

  2. I agree with you both. I want peace but a number of fanatics seem to rile up the young with untruths. Any book or film such as this one also riles others for only the purpose of more dying everyday. I pray that leaders will someday refuse to fight and talk things through and maybe just agree to disagree without killing. Yes I am wishing,praying and hopeful to stop the violence.

    1. Do you think maybe the problem is some of the "leaders?" If we take it down to the common people to people can't WE get along?

  3. Katie, I share your frustration. Recently I've spent many hours contemplating "the heart of man" for I am convinced it is there that the root of the problem exists. Thank you for sharing so eloquently and firmly.

    1. "The Heart of Man" is both the hope and the problem. A good heart vs a bad heart . . goodness vs evil . . . we just have make certain that the good hearts win!

  4. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with your website. Dhow cruise Dubai

    1. Yes, I have received powerful feedback that many people are in agreement. I believe that from bad there always is good . . perhaps all this will help us understand each other better.

  5. Thanks for your well-reasoned, on-the-scene report. I guess I just hold onto the hope that, after two world wars, nobody is crazy enough to start a third. Question for you: Would it help matters if there's wasn't such a large American presence in the Muslim world? Would it help if we got our military out, our oil companies out, our meddling politicians out? Or would that just make things worse? I dunno. I wish there was an answer.

  6. The forward thinking rulers/governments here welcome the American assistance in building and defending their countries. They understanding they need the expertise for their countries to progress as they work to educate and train their populations to handle the tasks. However, when the USA supports dictators it is hard for me to understand how the we can do that. I think the answer is education - each culture needs to understand the other and not transgress into areas that would be offensive. The moderates on both sides have to gain control of the agenda and make it their own - not leave it to the fanatics on both side. I have seen some very positive commentaries this past week here suggesting just that.

  7. I agree with everything you say in your well-expressed post. There will always be fanatics among us and they know how to tap into what they perceive as our weakness--free speech. As soon as the vast majority of Muslims enjoy free speech they'll see what a treasure it is and, hopefully, become more tolerant and less subject to manipulation.

    1. You are so right on! There have been a number of editorial pieces over here that talk about how the Muslims in these Middle East countries have no concept of "free speech" . . they are baffled by the fact that the President of the US's request to YouTube to take down the film was not honored. It all goes back to education and understanding each others values and cultures.

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  9. Great post Katie! I concur wholeheartedly with your experience in Satwa. I have had many similar positive encounters with people all over the world here in the Middle East. We, the people, get along. If only that was enough to end the craziness that surrounds us.

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