Passion Play

As'ad AbuKhalil (the "Angry Arab") shreds the lazy trope by which Western analysts "explain" the war in the Middle East: the "Shi'ite passion for martyrdom." Here, he takes The Nation to task:

Adam Shatz figured it out. It is all about Shi`ite "passion for martyrdom." So that is what it is all about. A passion for martyrdom. I was raised by a Shi`te father (and a Sunni mother): he never inculcated "a passion for martyrdom" in his children. If anything, nobody loved life and its pleasures more than my Shi`ite father. My father did not even know how to pray, and never entered a mosque in his life, but Shatz thinks that all Shi`ite are religious fanatics.

But surely As'ad is too angry on this point. After all, it's a radical, nearly incomprehensible concept we're dealing with here: the notion that Arabs – or indeed, any of the strange Others looming in the deserts and jungles "out there" – could be as complex and multifaceted and, dare we say it, as individual as real human beings. Everyone knows that anyone outside one's own circle of acquaintance, kinship or cultural outlook is simply a cog in a great, undifferentiated mass. This is the sacred tenet of all mainstream Western political analysis. Surely As'ad would not have us abandon this intellectual lodestar, which has produced so much abiding wisdom down through the years? (Photo at right:  Another Other child pays the price for his "passion for martyrdom.") ***