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Sergio Romano, Con gli occhi dell’Islam [Through the Eyes of Islam. Half a Century of History in a Middle Eastern Perspective]

Sergio Romano, Con gli occhi dell’Islam. Mezzo secolo di storia in una prospettiva mediorientale [Through the Eyes of Islam. Half a Century of History in a Middle Eastern Perspective], Longanesi, Milan 2007

It seems likely that Islam will continue to play a central and dominant role in shaping the issues (and above all the conflicts) that both within and beyond define that vast area that might be called the “Greater Middle East.”


The author is conscious of this but as a true historian he does not accept the prevailing view that reduces the current tensions to the latest and inevitable manifestation of a clash between a seemingly fanatical and violent Muslim world and a Western world genetically predisposed towards pluralism and tolerance.


If we take a broader temporal perspective the whole picture changesno need to go back to the Crusades or the Age of Muhammad, 50 years are enough. For it makes it possible to see and understand how and why others see and perceive the same things differently from what to us seems self-evident and incontrovertible. It is not a matter of accepting any relativistic arguments, nor is it a question of admitting any brutality by pinning the blame on a bygone colonialism, on US new-colonialism or on any usual suspects like alleged Jewish-Masonic conspiracies. Romano does not fall for such intellectual cop-outs, which are both morally and professionally foreign to him, even if one were to admit that they could be tolerated in anyone who was truly intellectually honest.


His conscience and dedication to scientific research prevent him from not talking about what has painfully marked the recent history of this part of the world, something which has set the stage for the regression that has affected first and foremost its inhabitants before the rest of the world.


If this were the case we would be accepting the not so edifying conclusion that because of their ethnicity, langue or religion a whole class of people are predestined to have indecent governments, lack basic human and social rights, and be bound to slaughter each other on the basis of group (tribal, racial, confessional, etc.) identity just because they were born on the “wrong” side of the Mediterranean.


Used coherently, Reason can be profitably used to analyse all the factors that are involved. Regardless of where and when, even the bitterest conflicts would thus appear to be what they are, namely the poisoned outcome of a perverse muddle “in which ethnic-religious motivations intermingle with powerful outside interests, ambitious local leaders, unscrupulous businessmen bent on criminal strategies to profit from war by selling weapons, smuggling and drug trafficking.”


Such considerations do not apply to Lebanon and its devastating civil war alone, but mutatis mutandis involve the whole underlying context with its related crises which range from the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran and Afghanistan to Iraq, Egypt, Syria . . . .


Once again looking at things from someone else’s point of view does not mean exonerating them or anyone else from blame because of some desire to excuse them and lay the fault in any one problem on a series of related causes. For, if this were the case, we would end up missing the trees for the forest and fail to see the flaws and errors of the single players. The opposite is actually true to the extent that only a cold and impartial look at all the elements involved can show (at least those who actually cares) how to avoid the pitfalls (or ploys) of the situation, ultimately finding a way out that will inevitably call upon everyone to give up something in favour of a solution that cannot be based on one side prevailing over the other but must instead be rooted in a reasonable compromise that takes into consideration everyone’s aspirations.