WSJ: Scholar Warns Iran's Ahmadinejad May Have 'Cataclysmic Events' In Mind For August 22 Tue Aug 08 2006 10:22:35 ET
In a WALL STREET JOURNAL op-ed Tuesday, Princeton's Bernard Lewis writes: "There is a radical difference between the Islamic Republic of Iran and other governments with nuclear weapons. This difference is expressed in what can only be described as the apocalyptic worldview of Iran's present rulers."
"In Islam as in Judaism and Christianity, there are certain beliefs concerning the cosmic struggle at the end of time -- Gog and Magog, anti-Christ, Armageddon, and for Shiite Muslims, the long awaited return of the Hidden Imam, ending in the final victory of the forces of good over evil, however these may be defined."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "and his followers clearly believe that this time is now, and that the terminal struggle has already begun and is indeed well advanced. It may even have a date, indicated by several references by the Iranian president to giving his final answer to the US about nuclear development by Aug. 22," which this year corresponds "to the 27th day of the month of Rajab of the year 1427. This, by tradition, is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back (c.f., Koran XVII.1).
"This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world. It is far from certain that Mr. Ahmadinejad plans any such cataclysmic events precisely for Aug. 22. But it would be wise to bear the possibility in mind."
The war in Lebanon is being fought not just on the ground but in the media. Both sides complain passionately that they are the victim of double standards. Oddly enough, both sides are right.
The Arabs are right when they complain that Israeli deaths seem to count more to the western media than the deaths of Arabs. The Israelis are right when they complain that the world focuses relentlessly on casualties caused by Israeli military action, while virtually ignoring much bloodier conflicts elsewhere...
Partisans on both sides have their theories. The Arab lobby complains that the American media is controlled by Zionists; pro-Israelis sometimes retort that the European media is anti-Semitic. But the American and European coverage of the Middle East conflict - while different in tone - shares the same basic news values. Israeli suffering first; suffering caused by the Israelis second; suffering in obscure bits of the world such as Congo or Kurdistan almost nowhere.
Part of the explanation has to do with the openness of Israeli and Lebanese society. Ask reporters who were stationed in Turkey at the time of the Kurdish insurgency why the conflict did not receive more coverage and they will tell you that the Turkish authorities made it virtually impossible to report from Kurdistan.
Partly, it is to do with a European and American fear that they will suffer from the blowback of war in the Middle East. The Congolese and their neighbours can kill each other for years without anyone in London or New York feeling threatened.
Perhaps there is a final reason - what might be called "white man syndrome". Israel is an advanced, western society. The deaths of people there are likely to feel more immediate and more shocking to the citizens of similar societies. "Someone like me dies" is big news. But "someone like me kills" is also pretty big news. The Israelis are sometimes told that they are being "paid a compliment" because they are being held to the same standards as every other western democracy.
Chronic joblessness, diminished incomes and difficulty in collecting enough money to marry and start families are all issues that can evoke anger — whether directed at the Saudi royal family, seen by many in the kingdom as spendthrift and corrupt, or at the millions of foreigners who hold high-paying jobs not available to young Saudi men.
"The problem in Saudi Arabia is that the middle class is shrinking," said Turki Hamad, a Saudi political scientist. "And the more poverty you have, the more fundamentalism you have."
"Actual poverty has been endemic in Saudi Arabia now for the last six or seven years. I think I would not be exaggerating if I said people under the line of poverty would be 20% or 30%," said Saad Fagih, head of the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, a London-based group critical of the Saudi government.
"If you go to the south or the very eastern part of Riyadh, or to at least seven or eight [districts] in Jidda, you would imagine yourself in the middle of the Congo," Fagih said. "Extremely poor, and people are living with crime, living with drugs, living with all types of social disintegration."
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