Does the Western business drive trigger more terrorism?

“The West wants to take our money,” is a widespread conviction among many Arabs. Most Westerners who do business in the Arab world probably believe that their activities are undertaken on a mutually fair basis, in which the West often offers its products and expertise in exchange for Arab money. A large segment of Arab society, however, does not share this view, especially when they observe the decline of their countries’ wealth while they continue to live as developing nations.

I am struck by the lack of morality in the relationship between Arab and Western governments. The West, which abides by advanced moral values, tends not to extend them to its relationship with the Arab world. The outcome of being completely business-driven is that Arabs end up acquiring many products that their societies do not need (military equipment in particular), and receiving know-how and expertise that is never applied, leading them to blame their inadequacies on the West.

Many government business transactions are contracted to please Arab rulers at the expense of their societies. Western business people who are active in the Arab world justify their behavior with the phrase: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In other words, do not be concerned with corruption and lack of morality in the Middle East as long as business is good.

During Egypt’s 2011 revolution, British newspaper The Guardian reported that former President Hosni Mubarak’s family fortune could amount to $70 billion, deposited in Western banks. Hi six-decade-long career was spent serving in the military prior to being appointed vice president and eventually becoming president. He should therefore never have been allowed to open a foreign bank account in which to accumulate his wealth in the first place. Yet it was only when he was about to be ousted that the West released this information.

Cause and effect

Furthermore, terrorism in the Arab world did not emerge from a vacuum. There are fundamental pillars that trigger and motivate terrorists: the absence of democracy, the spread of violence in society, government deficiency (including corruption) and misperceptions of Islam. The combination of these factors contributes to the emergence of terrorists who realize that Western interference in the Arab world, and the West’s continued support of autocratic Arab leaders, compound the region’s deficiencies.

Unfortunately, the attacks that took place in Western countries have not opened minds and eyes to the core problem of terrorism. On the contrary, by offering strong support to authoritarian leaders to enable them to continue their repressive policies with the (false) aim of eradicating terrorism, the West’s reaction to the attacks has led to the neglect of the real cause of the terrorism that initially emerged in the Arab world.

I once told a Dutch acquaintance that The Netherlands appears to have a large number of handicapped citizens (often seen on the streets). My acquaintance replied that there are probably many more disabled people in Egypt; the difference is that in The Netherlands the disabled are integrated into society, whereas in Egypt they are physically and mentally marginalized.

Thinking about this story made me realize the scope and magnitude of our problems, concerning not only our handicapped citizens but our numerous other challenges. We need to work on integrating citizens who perceive violence to be a tool, by establishing a constructive dialogue with them and applying true democracy.

By promoting and sharing positive values, the West might experience a temporary reduction in the size of its business in the Arab world, but such a course of action will eventually bring Western countries peace. The expansion of security measures will not be of much help since the symptoms of terrorism will continue to exist and flourish.

As long as large numbers of potential terrorists who are ready to commit their lives to a false cause exist, the West will continue to be vulnerable. The sympathy expressed by world leaders in the wake of terrorist acts will not prevent further crimes. The only valid solution is to address the core of our terrorism problems.

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