10 Dangerous Myths about the Middle East

  1. It’s always been this way, so why try to be a peacemaker.
  2. All the “bad guys” can be killed and then there won’t be any more.
  3. The Islamic religion is why the Middle East is a mess.
  4. An American form of Democracy works great for us, so why not in the Middle East.
  5. It’s prophesied to be like this – so…again – why try to bring peace or build bridges.
  6. It’s a dangerous place and you shouldn’t go there.
  7. Arabs all want to “drive Israel into the Sea.”
  8. Palestinians seems to be naturally violent.
  9. Arab Muslims don’t speak out against the radical fundamentalists in their midst.
  10. The Israeli lobby (AIPAC) is untouchable and the so the Arabs shouldn’t even try to be heard in the West.

Answers to the 10 Dangerous Myths about the Middle East

  1. First of all, we’re called to be peacemakers by Jesus himself. In fact, “Peacemakers” will be called the “sons of God” says Jesus in the beatitudes. Secondly, it hasn’t “always been this way.” Muslims, Jews and Christians have historically been great friends. It’s a more recent phenomena that they would fight. Thirdly, a world living without violence (political peace) isn’t the end goal, but it’s a good start and makes it easier to bring real peace.
  2. If there were 8,456 bad guys in the Middle East (terrorists) then we could find them and kill them and they would be no more. But that isn’t the way it works. There are deep-rooted social, educational and economic issues that fan the flames of hatred – mostly requiring international remedies.
  3. The Middle East is a mess for a lot of reasons, but there are Muslims, Christians and Jews all living there. Maybe we can fairly say that religion in general adds to the mess, but it would not be fair to point out Islam as the problem. And most of the problems there are political power issues (like everywhere else). Mix in limited land, oil and religion, and you have a mess.
  4. Much of the Middle East is still very tribalistic. Democracy does have a hard time being compatible with that. It’s not a Muslim issue, it’s a tribal issue.
  5. Whether or not your view of end-time prophecy “allows” for a chaotic Middle East or not, doesn’t seem like the issue. God will, in fact, do what He wants “in the end.” But that doesn’t relieve us as followers of Jesus in being actively involved in peacemaking and reconciliation on all sides. Fulfilling prophecy is God’s business not ours.
  6. Actually the Middle East is not that dangerous. Compared to many large cities in the west, it’s quite safe. Chris and our kids would walk the downtown streets of Beirut almost every night – after dark. Our kids would walk to the grocery store by themselves when they were in grade school. The Middle East feels more like the 1950’s Midwest than anything else.
  7. This is one of the hardest myths to debunk – I’ve never met an Arab Muslim who wants to drive Israel anywhere. There will always be some crazy puppet like the President of Iran – Ahmadinejad – who says such things. But he’s a joke and everyone in the Middle East knows that. But the vast majority of Arab Muslims want to find a way to live at peace with Israel. At the Arab summit in Beirut in 2004, all Arab countries agreed on the desire for normalized relations with the current state of Israel.
  8. Actually, I would say that Palestinians are “naturally” peace-loving. If you could see the conditions they live under, you’d wonder why more of them aren’t engaged in violence. They are incredibly restrained in fact. A recent poll among the Palestinians of the West Bank showed that 85% would take a real peace with Israel on any basis.
  9. Muslims are constantly speaking out against the radical elements in their midst. Terrorists hurt them more than anyone else. The other Muslims all know that. Everywhere I go in the Middle East, I hear voices from the Muslim community speaking out loudly against Muslims extremist. The question is – why don’t we hear that in the west?
  10. The Arab Middle Eastern countries do need to be better at voicing their concerns here in the U.S. Many Arab-Americans don’t feel empowered so they don’t speak out. They come from countries where that’s not so common and/or they feel insecure about speaking out as they often feel indicted after 9/11 as guilty. So they are quiet. We need to encourage Arab-Americans to speak out.