What if an entire civilization developed an inferiority complex? What ramifications would that have on the rest of the world? How would such paranoia play itself out in the interaction of civilizations?
An Arabic op-ed titled “The Broder Dilemma and Inferiority Complex,” written by Muslim intellectual Khaled Montaser late last year portrays the Muslim world as suffering from just such an inferiority complex. Because it is immensely frank and exposes an important phenomenon, I have translated it below.
We Muslims have an inferiority complex and are terribly sensitive to the world, feeling that our Islamic religion needs constant, practically daily, confirmation by way of Europeans and Americans converting to Islam. What rapturous joy takes us when a European or American announces [their conversion to] Islam—proof that we are in a constant state of fear, alarm, and chronic anticipation for Western validation or American confirmation that our religion is “okay.” We are hostages of this anticipation, as if our victory hinges on it—forgetting that true victory is for us to create or to accomplish something, such as those [civilizations] that these converts to our faith abandon.
And we pound our drums and blow our horns [in triumph] and drag the convert to our backwardness, so that he may stand with us at the back of the world’s line of laziness, [in the Muslim world] wherein no new scientific inventions have appeared in the last 500 years. Sometimes those who convert relocate to our countries—only to get on a small boat and escape on the high seas back to their own countries.
The dilemma which we Muslims imbibed from one end of the earth to the other—by way of our sons, our intellectuals, our youth, our elders, our men and our women—regards the German writer Henryk Broder. We celebrated him through our media and Internet sites, saying that he had converted to Islam, because he said “I have been saved from misguidance and have come to know the truth, returning to my natural state [fitriti, i.e., Islam].” Our writers and intellectuals portrayed Broder’s statement as a slap to Germany’s face, since he was one of the most critical opponents of Islam, but now he had announced his repentance.
Then the truth was immediately revealed and the embarrassing predicament which we imbibed of our own free will: for Broder is not to blame; he merely wrote a sarcastic article—but we are a people incapable of comprehending sarcasm, since it requires a bit of thinking and intellectualizing. And we read with great speed and a hopeful eye, not an eye for truth or reality. Some of us are struck with blindness when we read things that go against our hopes.
We actually imagined that the man was speaking truthfully and sincerely! Thus we drank from the bitter cup of failure and shame, products of our chronic ignorance and contemptuous feelings of inferiority and detestability.
[Translator’s note: despite the fact that it is now common knowledge that Broder never converted, many popular Arabic/Muslim websites—including Al-Islam Al-Youm (Islam Today) Al-Sharuk News, Al-Moheet—continue to gloat under headlines like “Famous German embraces Islam after his long struggle against it.”]
How come the Buddhists don’t hold the festivities we do for those who convert to their religion? And some of these converts are much more famous than Broder. Did you know that Richard Gere, Steven Seagal, Harrison Ford—among Hollywood’s most famous actors—converted to Buddhism? What did the Buddhist countries of Asia do regarding these celebrities? What did the Buddhists in China and Japan do?
Did they dance and sing praise and march out in the streets, or did they accept these people’s entrance into Buddhism as a mere matter of free conviction? When Tiger Woods, the most famous golf player and richest athlete in the world, discussed his acceptance of Buddhism, did China grant him citizenship, or did Japan pour its wealth on him? No, being self-confident, they treated him with equality, not servility.
It is sufficient for the Buddhists that these celebrities purchase their nations’ electronic goods—without any beggary or enticements.