More than once [while living in Egypt] I heard people there criticize American culture for its innately violent nature and declare that Americans are an aggressive and brutal people who lack respect for human life. Some Egyptians who made the case pointed to the extraordinary level of violence in American film and television. Some cited the results of American studies published in the Arab press that establish the murder rate in the United States as one of the highest in the world, and off the charts when compared to nations with a similar standard of living and cultural level. As one Egyptian acquaintance told me, "You Americans start wars all over the world, but you never fight for your own soil or on your own land. You exploit the fears and pain of others in order to take over somebody else's natural resources or exploit their labor."
I was shocked the first time I encountered this view because, although I consider myself critical of many aspects of American culture, what I heard is simply not the perception that I have of myself and my fellow Americans. It also gave me pause about many Americans' opinions about Muslims and Arabs, because, in fact, it is common to hear virtually the same critique by Americans leveled against Arabs: "Arab culture (or Islam) is innately violent, and Arabs (Muslims) are an aggressive and brutal people who lack respect for human life."
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Reuven Firestone, in An Introduction to Islam for Jews, writes (pp. 235-6):