Understanding the cultural differences that exist between Western and Middle Eastern countries was the subject of Hoover fellow Dinesh D'Souza's talk "America through Muslim Eyes" at a breakfast briefing hosted by the Hoover Institution on September 29. His purpose, D'Souza said, was to "illustrate in some way the great difficulty we all have in trying to burrow into a society, to try to look at it from the inside."
Before turning to the serious aspects of cultural differences, D'Souza, a native of Bombay, India, told an anecdote about dating during his days as an exchange student in high school. He confused one young woman he had asked out with another, he said, and to his dismay realized that he was guilty of a very common third world fallacy—that "all white people look alike."
D'Souza began his analysis of cultural differences by saying that "the situation in the war against terrorism has become increasingly incomprehensible." What are the motivations of terrorists, he asked. D'Souza questioned the use of the phrase "war against terrorism," which presumes we are at war with all terrorists around the world but which is not true. He pointed out that America is at war with a particular form of Islamic radicalism or Islamic fundamentalism. He explained, however, that the words fundamentalism and liberal do not apply in describing Muslims. By definition all Muslims are fundamentalist, D'Souza said. To be Muslim, he went on to say, is to believe that the Koran is the unadulterated, unchanged word of God delivered in Arabic by the archangel Gabriel to the prophet Mohammed. If you don't believe this, he said, then you are not Muslim.
"The Muslim world as we look at it in a political sense is not divided as we think," D'Souza said, pointing out that terrorism seems to come out of all the major strains of Islam, with the exception of the mystical Sufi tradition. In trying to understand the motivations of terrorists or radical Muslims, he noted that what they do have in common is that they have had direct exposure to and reacted against Western civilization.
D'Souza, the Robert and Karen Rishwain Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, has been called one of the "top young public-policy makers in the country" by Investor's Business Daily. His recent works include What's So Great about America (Regnery, 2002), The Virtue of Prosperity: Finding Values in an Age of Techno Affluence (Free Press, 2000), and Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader (1997).