NEW YORK, April 18 (UPI) —
*They hate us for our freedoms.
*They hate us for what we have.
*They hate us for what our culture represents.
*They hate us for our prosperity.
*They hate us for our confidence.
*They hate us for our happiness.
*They hate us for our technology.
*They hate us for our strength.
*They hate us for our consumer luxuries.
*STOP! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!
*They hate us for WHAT?

Who invented this game anyway? The “They hate us because” game? I mean, it was cute for about five minutes when President Bush said it on Sept. 12, but he had the advantage of being ”’the President,”’ who is expected to say things like that.

Why does no one ever say, “They hate us because we have troops in Saudi Arabia?”

That’s actually the No. 1 reason that Osama bin Laden gave when he declared jihad on the United States five years ago. That’s an actual verifiable “They hate us because.”

The other reason they hate us is because we support Israel and, to their way of thinking, oppress Palestinians. That one is also traceable to actual terrorist writings, although it ranks a little further south on the list after the primary outrage of placing foreign troops in the land of Mecca.

The truly revealing thing about the “They Hate Us” game is that it’s based on the assumption that the world is full of sneering wolf-men with fire in their eyes who spend most of their time sitting around comparing themselves to us. Most people don’t compare themselves to anyone, much less to foreigners living 10,000 miles away. Aside from the occasional tricked-up travel brochure, showing palmy balmy Miami or some such place, there’s probably not much in the United States that’s all that attractive to a practicing Islamic fundamentalist.

These are people, after all, who pray publicly five times a day and mean it. If we had anyone like that — taking prayer breaks in the office — we would think they were, at the least, oddballs, and at worst the kind of people who should be regarded as dangerously superstitious. Chances are that if you said to, say, a Yemeni pan-Arabist that the United States was a place where nobody prays aloud and everybody watches five hours of TV a day, he would dismiss it as beneath his contempt, not say, “I hate them for their TV!”

Look, the reasons they hate us are all laid out in the fatwa of February 1998. For the record, No. 1 is “occupying lands of Islam in the holiest of its territories, Arabia.” No. 2 is “threatening” the neighbors of Arabia (this would have to be updated). No. 3 is “humiliating” the Arabs. No. 4 is using military bases in Arabia to fight against other Islamic people. (This one overlaps with 2 and would need to be upgraded to include Iraq, even though bin Laden had previously declared Saddam Hussein to be an infidel.)

So basically they’re talking about ”’one thing”’ — troops, soldiers, armies. And who could blame them? Nobody wants foreign troops in his country. Germany doesn’t like it, Italy doesn’t like it, South Korea doesn’t like it, Turkey doesn’t like it — about the only place we have troops where the host country likes it is Great Britain, and not ”’all”’ of them like it. The difference in all those other places is that nobody vows war against American civilians while the troops remain.

I actually think there’s one other reason they hate us. They hate us because we’re not a Muslim state. This is based on a strong religious feeling that we consistently underestimate. Religion is not just an element of this — in some cases, for some fundamentalist groups, it’s the ”’only”’ element. In Islam, despite what its modern defenders say, it’s OK to fight against an infidel for no other reason than that he ”’is”’ an infidel. He doesn’t have to ”’do”’ anything, and it certainly doesn’t matter whether he has civil liberties, or a big-screen TV, or money. He would be equally contemptible if he were a ”’poor”’ infidel living in an African hovel.

In other words, all this “They hate us because” stuff tells us more about Americans than it does about Arabs. On one level, it’s a form of braggadocio: look at all this stuff we have that they don’t! On a deeper level, of course, it’s a form of insecurity: is this what our culture should be based on?

These Islamic wars have taken the same form wherever they occur, whether that’s in Bosnia, or Chechnya, or the Philippines, or Timor, or the Sudan, or now in the United States. They hate the person who takes Islam lightly. They don’t care whether he’s confident or happy or not, and they certain don’t care what car he drives.

”’Joe Bob Briggs writes a number of columns for UPI and may be contacted at joebob@upi.com or through his Web site at joebobbriggs.com. Snail mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas, 75221.”’

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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