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Gaddafi, Ahmadinejad and the Muslim Political World’s Ongoing Clown Show

Jonathan Kay
24th September 2009 - National Post (Canada)

Pop quiz: Who is the President of Indonesia?

If you knew the answer was Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, award yourself a gold sticker in the shape of the Wikipedia logo. But if you're among the 99% of readers who didn't, don't worry: You're in good company.

Virtually no one could pick the leader of the world's most populous Muslim state out of a lineup for one simple reason: because Indonesia is a stable democracy, with a responsible government that quietly focuses its attention on domestic issues, and which fights terrorism, rather than sponsoring it. If Mr. Yudhoyono instead followed the example of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and busied himself with denying the Holocaust, sponsoring Middle East terrorists, and promoting eschatological Muslim cults, then everyone would know his name. American magazines would put his face on their cover, and60 Minutes would be hounding him for an interview.

The twinned fates of Messrs. Yudhoyono and Ahmadinejad symbolize the perverse state of political culture in the Muslim world - and the equally perverse manner by which we in the West reward the worst offenders. Clowns such as Mr. Ahmadinejad are treated like rock stars, while the restrained President Yudhoyono - last seen heading off to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to deliver a speech about climate change - are ignored. Maybe if Mr. Yudhoyono blamed global warming on the Jews, someone would pay attention.

And Mr. Ahmadinejad isn't even the biggest loon in the club of Muslim leaders - an honour that now surely must go to Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who on Wednesday treated the UN General Assembly to a 90-minute monologue that seemed to have been cribbed from the ramblings of a panhandling schizophrenic. After a lackey introduced the Libyan dictator as "the king of kings of Africa," Mr. Gaddafi tried to tear up the UN Charter, demanded a new investigation of the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, called the Security Council a "terror council," spread crackpot theories about the origin of swine flu, and urged the creation of a single Jewish-Palestinian state called "Isratine" (which sounds like the kind of stomach medicine you take when you visit the less reputable parts of South America).

Oh, and let's not forget Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who this week was denied the leadership of UNESCO after it emerged that he had pledged to burn any Israeli books he found in his country's libraries - a declaration that he made as part of a one-upmanship campaign with Egypt's even more phobic and Israel-hating Muslim Brotherhood movement (which, for its part, had accused Mr. Hosni of being homosexual - the proof being that he tolerated unveiled women).

This is what Muslim political "leadership" has descended to in the Middle East: a general farce in which public figures prove their bona fides by denying the Holocaust, baiting Jews, and accusing one another of being a heretic or a homosexual. Western liberals and NGOs are forever wringing their hands over the causes of Islamophobia. May we humbly suggest that the main source of the problem is the nonsense coming out of the mouths of Muslim leaders themselves?

The great irony is that many Islamists and Arab nationalists like to blame the backward state of Muslim civilization on Western "imperialism." Yet the few parts of the Muslim world that have made any substantial political progress are those that have embraced democracy (such as Indonesia) and otherwise opened themselves up to Western influences. The two politically freest parts of the Arab world, for instance, are Iraq and the "occupied" Israeli West Bank. Indeed, even some of the Jewish state's fiercest Palestinian critics will concede - in between shouts of "Death to Israel" - that proximity to Israel's vibrant democracy has infused local Arab politics.

Responding to Mr. Hosni's loss of the UNESCO job this week, Egyptian newspapers blamed it on "a clash of civilizations" and the machinations of the "Jewish lobby." But Egypt's culture minister and the region's various leaders don't seem to need "Jewish" help in making asses of themselves on the world stage. Instead of endlessly blaming their problems on the West, perhaps the angry men of Islam might like to look to Jakarta to see how a grown-up Muslim politician conducts himself.

Tags

indonesia, muslim, political-islam