My last three days in Dubai went past much more quickly than I would have liked. On Tuesday the 7th, my day featured a whirlwind of Islamic culture. First, I visited the Jamirah Mosque for a tour and lecture on Islam. That evening, the family went to an iftar celebrating the end of the day of fasting for Ramadan at the Sheik Muhammad Center for Cultural Understanding. After the meal, we retired to the Mosque for another lecture on Islam, as well as an interesting Q & A session.
First, the context is important to understanding what ensued. The mosque was full of tourists, many western, but also many from Asian countries. Therefore, the responses the imam gave to questions was clearly dictated by what the official government line was one these issues. In fact, many of the responses to questions were word for word renditions of the lecture I had received that morning at Jamirah Mosque.
At any rate, someone in the audience asked about what sect of Islam Daesh (ISIL) practiced. The imam responded that Daesh, and other radical islamists, did not originate in GCC countries but can mostly be linked back to European influences. The imam argued that the free speech afforded to radicals in Europe could be identified as a cause of this radicalization. In the Arab world, the Imam argued, radical islam was dealt with in the mid 1980s but was allowed to flouish outside of it. Secondly, a history lesson on banana republics: like Guatemala et al, Daesh, the Imam argued, was a contraption of an (unnamed) foreign power.
I was quite troubled by this response. My thoughts, notated at the time, were this:
“There is a lack of responsibility from both Arab and western nations in regards to terrorism. Muslim countries rightly feel castigated by the west because of ignorance in the west. I.e Donald Trump argument that Islam is a violent religion, etc. however, this argument, while absolutely valid, is taken too far; it seems that the gcc countries are willing to shirk their responsibility to sponsoring and abetting terrorism at various stages/locations. This also could partially explain gcc unwillingness to accept refugees from the Syrian civil war. They see the refugees as the wests fault; and the west shares a large share of the blame for that. However, daesh is not an amalgamation of the west. Terrorism is not imaginary; it kills people everywhere and Arab and western countries should work together as much as possible towards dynamic solutions. Shirking responsibility on both sides will simply perpetuate the problem.”
Furthermore, the United States shares a large piece of the blame for the emergence of Daesh; without the Iraqi invasion, the dismantling of the Baath party, and the power vacuum that ensued, it could be argued that Daesh would have never existed. However, it is also true that islamist inspired terrorism has its roots in the Arab world; one example is Osama Bin Laden’s home state being Saudi Arabia.
At any rate, a health debate unfolded between me and my father. After the iftar, we traversed the “creek” (really a proper river/inlet) via a small boat taxi and visited the goal and spice souks. As we strode along the narrow alleys, we discussed the implications of what the Imam had said.
The next two days were to be defined by one thing: golf. My little brother, my father and I played on Wednesday, and my father and I played again on Thursday for his birthday. On Friday morning, I was on my way to Thailand, where I am writing from now.
Upon arrival in Bangkok, I realized I had made my first major travelling mistake; I had booked my connecting flight to Phuket at the other airport in Bangkok. I scrambled to buy a new ticket, and was on my way to Phuket with only an hour lost. My gracious host picked me up from the airport at about 12:00am local time, took me to my accomodations, and I woke up this morning in beautiful Thailand!