“People don’t kill people because there are too many McDonald’s in their country,” Fareed Zakaria ’86 told a Battell Chapel audience of more than 100 Monday night.
Zakaria, managing editor of Newsweek International, spoke on the topic, “Why Do They Hate Us? America In A New World,” as part of the Democracy, Security and Justice lecture series organized by Yale following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Zakaria spoke of the growing resentment of the United States within the Arab world. He said that while many blame this resentment on globalization and the spread of American culture, it is actually a result of U.S. prosperity and of American association with secular dictatorships in the Middle East.
“Arab anger at the U.S. is real, but it’s also recent,” he said.
He identified this anger with the rise in political oppression in the Middle East since the 1970s, which he said resulted in a corresponding rise in Islamic fundamentalism.
“The entire Islamic world, it is fair to say, is less free politically and economically today than it was 30 years ago,” he said.
“[The Islamic world] has seen modernity, and it has not produced what it has in the western world,” Zakaria said, explaining that oil money has produced “a bizarre inequality of wealth” that has failed to create an economy where entrepreneurship and growth can take place.
Zakaria said 20 to 25 percent unemployment rates in countries like Egypt and an unusually high concentration of people under the age of 25 have led to the emergence of a large group of restless young men.
“Most societies have the greatest problems with young men,” he said, adding that these men, lacking political and economic opportunities, have little to do besides join the Islamic fundamentalist movement.
“Islam has become the only legal language of political opposition,” he said.
Zakaria noted that fundamentalist Islam, which he said encourages actions such as suicide bombings, is not representative of all of Islam, and appealed to American Muslims to denounce the attacks.
“In the house of Islam there are many mansions,” he said.
While commending the United States’ military and political strategy in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, Zakaria encouraged the United States to pursue a “cultural” strategy of exporting American institutions.
“You have human nature on your side,” he said, noting the numerous restrictions he said fundamentalist Islam makes on enjoying life.
“[Terrorists] probably right now are planning an attack against the United States,” Zakaria said, encouraging the United States to start “helping the Arab world to reform itself” immediately.
Diana Swett ’05 was enthusiastic about the lecture.
“His knowledge of the whole situation was impressive; it was a very informative lecture. Obviously no one has all the answers, and you can’t imagine them being fixed now, but he had good ideas,” Swett said.
Zakaria has written or edited two books on America’s role in the world — “American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World,” and “From Wealth To Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role.” From 1993 to 2000, he was managing editor of Foreign Affairs, a foreign policy publication. Before that, he taught at Harvard and was in charge of the Project on the Changing Security Environment and American National Interests. He got his doctorate at Harvard after attending Yale as an undergraduate.