Warning: displays left-wing bias!
I’ve always been perturbed by the way that it seems that the immediate reaction of people in the Muslim world to anyone in the West being a bit silly is to charge out in huge mobs, and burn flags of / shout ‘death to’ the country the silly people are from. That is to say, they don’t seem to be able to distinguish the vast mass of decent (say) Americans from extremist loons who burn Qu’rans.
And then I thought, wait a bit: that’s exactly like the people who complain about the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ – they can’t distinguish between Islam and Islamist extremists (who arguably are not true Muslims anyway). And these people are from a stratum of society we don’t often see much in the UK (or the US, where most reportage we see tends to stick to DC, New York, LA and SF) i.e. rednecks. These are the core supporters of the BNP in the UK and the Tea Party in the US. And though redneck culture has been well-known within the US for years, over here, before the rise of Palin, mainstream knowledge of it was pretty much limited to ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’, which is itself an idealisation created by the West-coast elite. But in reality, this is core US culture: the majority of the US is not the country of Michael Moore and Richard Pryor, it’s the country of Rush Limbaugh and Larry the Cable Guy (if you don’t know who he is, which I’m willing to bet you won’t, rather proving my point, here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_the_Cable_Guy, but believe me, you’ll be happier retaining your ignorance; he makes the Duke Brothers look like the Marx Brothers).
So the reason we see more of this unreasonable behaviour in the Muslim world than the west? Or at least, why is more of this kind of behaviour reported in the Muslim world than the west? People who are ill-educated and can’t think except in slogans are everywhere, but the inequalities of societies in the Muslim world are such as to mean that they will be more visible. That’s not to say there won’t be a thinking class who deplore these ridiculous antics, but they’re so few in numbers that the international media don’t find them, while mobs of ill-educated people who will believe whatever a demagogue tells them (not because they’re stupid, or inherently wicked, but simply because they haven’t been given the intellectual tools required to question and dissect statements made by those in ‘authority’) are easy to find and make better stories than moderates holding a press-conference at which they say there is no clash of cultures. And in the US (and to a lesser extent in the UK with the BNP) the recent rise of political redneckerry has finally made it visible to the world, and the media just love to cover it (and to prove it, look how much more publicity the Qu’ran burning Pastor Jones has got than any of the hordes of Christian figures who condemned him). And that gives it greater power and legitimacy, just as the appearance that ‘the people’ are behind them gives Al Qaeda legitimacy.
So if you want to blame anyone for the apparent disparity between a reasonable, tolerant West and a mindless, intolerant Islamic world, blame lazy reporters. But I think, with the rise of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and their ilk, that disparity is going to disappear really rather soon.