The role of American expatriates in the Muslim world

Yahya Asmar

Rabi' al-Thani 09, 1422 2001-07-01

Special Reports

by Yahya Asmar (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 9, Rabi' al-Thani, 1422)

All over the Muslim world, and in the Arab countries in particular, there now lives a class of Western expatriates, usually American, who live like an imperial elite and whose true role is often unclear. Yahya Asmar discusses the role of American expatriates in the Muslim world.

There has emerged, as part of the West’s neo-imperialism, a new class of nomads, a mobile elite of American expatriates who circulate in the Muslim world by way of prestigious positions in academia and business. Although many have lived outside the US for years, their allegiance is still to America, and they rarely adopt the languages, customs or cultures of their host countries. Indeed, part of their prestige lies in maintaining their narrow American identity in diaspora, since that is what they are paid for by the colonized local rulers and regimes who have attached their countries’ futures, by hook or crook, to developing regional American-style academic and financial sectors.

Despite sharing many attributes, collectively American expatriates appear as a motley crew. Jews, Christians, homosexuals, missionaries and spies — all can be found in prestigious positions in Muslim countries. In the Gulf countries which require declarations of religion on visa applications, and which generally still prohibit Israeli visa-stamps on entering passports, one can find Zionist Jews working in academia. They are able to gain entry by taking advantage of a vague definition of ‘Jew’ as limited to ‘religious identity.’ But most Jews are not religious, and one can find atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and others among them. In Kuwait, for example, Zionist Jews are routinely hired after putting ‘Unitarian’ as their religion on their visa applications, referring to the multidenominational quasi-religious organization known for interfaith intellectualizing.

In one Gulf university, students recently exposed a homosexual American Jew who had been teaching Muslim undergraduates. They discovered that he had written his Ph.D. dissertation at an American university on how to eradicate ‘homophobia’ and how to develop homosexual-friendly academic programs, and that he was still affiliated with a ‘homosexual rights’ organization in the US. He eventually resigned his position, blaming the ‘anti-Jewish’ environment at the university, but for every resignation there are dozens of new appointments. In another Gulf university, when an American faculty member complained to the university about ‘hostility’ after Arab students demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinians as the intifada heated up in the fall of 2000, administrators rebuked students and banned demonstrations. While a few American expatriates have have their eyes opened by their first time out of the US, realizing they have been swallowing Zionist lies and believing propaganda, most are vigorous supporters of Zionist colonization and it is ridiculous that they are allowed to hold administrative positions in Muslim countries.

Among the cadres gaining access to the Muslim world in the ranks of expatriates one also finds American missionaries. The various English language associations, such as TESOL, are filled with missionaries whose goals are twofold: to lure students away from the language of the Qur’an and to subtly weaken their Muslim faith. American missionaries since the days of Samuel Zwemmer, operating from Pakistan to Indonesia and throughout the Arab-African worlds, have realised that Muslims rarely abandon Islam, so they have focused instead on weakening Islam. Outright missionary activity is still forbidden in many Muslim countries, but these laws do not cover expatriates who are ostensibly in the country for other reasons. So American missionaries have begun to open front-businesses, especially in those Muslim countries that are lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses and resources. Missionaries are presently targeting Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei through Frontiers (www.frontiers.org), an American-based missionary organization that has come to light after several members were imprisoned for distributing missionary literature.

While Jews, homosexuals and missionaries are found throughout the expatriate ranks, the core group continue to be middle-class WASPs (‘White Anglo-Saxon Protestants’) who, first and foremost, are American patriots and who ascribe to the mainstream forms of either conservative or liberal American ideology. Many get their start with the Peace Corps, and take a liking to living outside the US, though they rarely take the crucial step of ‘going native.’ With many Peace Corps volunteers, the next step is the CIA, with many expatriates maintaining their ties to American spy organizations while they work in various public and private sector jobs. For example, when Beirut was purged of American spies in the late 1970s, after Iranian revolutionaries raided the American embassy in Tehran and discovered lists of American spies in the Muslim world, the ones that survived moved on to other positions as expatriates in academia and business. Such expatriates regularly contribute to American policy reports, such as the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report (www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/), which often reflect the piecemeal nature of expatriate-gathered ‘intelligence.’

American expatriates are usually belligerent about the supposed supremacy of American values, having little respect for or understanding of local cultures. They see themselves as being on a mission to ‘civilize’ savage and backward minions with the wonders of American civilization. But this is a fantasy that survives in diaspora more than at home, where America is sliding into anarchy as its political and economic systems are increasingly challenged. By way of ties to local embassies, expatriates can act as intermediaries between local institutions and American officialdom. For example, it is common for American embassies to send guest speakers to Muslim and Arab universities, where they are instructed to espouse and promote American positions on international and regional issues in expatriate-taught courses, and where both expatriate faculty and guest lecturers try to work to reconstruct America’s faltering public image in the Muslim world. Recently, the US State Department sponsored a lecture-tour of the Arab Muslim world featuring the leader of an American Muslim lobbying organization, who was pressed into service at several universities to celebrate the Muslim role in American electoral and party politics. In these and other ways expatriates are agents of America in the Muslim world.

American expatriates are treated like kings and queens in their Muslim host countries. Many are given tax-free salaries far larger than they could possibly make in the US, and also receive luxurious rent-free housing and other perks such as swimming pools, membership of country clubs, fitness centers, salons and saunas, and easy access to bars and nightclubs. Overall, American expatriates in the Muslim world are paid more money and prestige, and can enjoy a better lifestyle, than they could ever have in the US, where they would be little more than second-rate functionaries. Nevertheless, expatriates are not humbled by their good fortune; on the contrary, their new-found wealth and power often increase their belligerence, and they rarely take their jobs seriously or provide the expected services. It is common to find, for example, retirees biding their time while padding their retirement accounts, working alongside novices paying off heavy student loans. Other expatriates cannot hold jobs in the US and some are simply seeking adventure, while a few are even found to be on the run because of lawsuits, divorce litigation or tax evasion. But such people are nomadic and tend not stay more than a few years, or even months in some cases, and are simply using the opportunity to get rich quickly, despite all the comfortable and exclusive treatment by their host countries.

Dune-bashing and safari-trekking are popular pastimes for American expatriates, who play out their lone-cowboy and great-white-hunter fantasies at the expense of local flora and fauna. Another popular pastime is scouring old regional markets and archaeological sites for antiquities, which they greedily covet and brag about. This is such a common pastime, in fact, that local entrepreneurs have slyly devised ways to fool American expatriates out of their money by fabricating or doctoring junk into ‘antiquities’. But a considerable number of ‘national treasures’ manage to make their way into American collections and museums passing through the hands of expatriates. In one sense this can be seen as a way to compensate for the lack of history and tradition in their own country, so sometimes they ascribe an almost mystical and psychologically-attenuating power to collecting antiquities.

Dependence on American expatriates has left many public and private-sector enterprises vulnerable. For instance, Zionists have been working through their connections in American banks to manipulate and gain control of the currency in the Gulf countries, much as Jewish financiers like George Soros have managed in Asia with devastating results. If oil-wealth was deposited in local and regional banks, meddling would be more difficult, but the ruling elites in the wealthy Muslim countries obediently invest in Western banks and financial networks. In technical fields, OPEC oil industries were almost entirely run by expatriates and have only recently begun to employ local people in technical positions (only those, of course, who hold degrees from American universities). In some of the OPEC countries, reliance on expatriate labor is slowly being replaced by limited forms of nationalization. However, some governments are opening state industries up to foreign investors, who can now own businesses and hire American-trained nationals for middle-level technical positions. In all cases, whether in technical fields or even in other public sectors, such as health and education, American expatriates insist on things being done in the American way, even if it is not compatible with local cultures or aspirations. This dependence has social consequences as well, such as when regional governments accommodate expatriate demands by opening their borders to various American alcoholic and ‘entertainment’ establishments, along with prostitution, to create a ‘comfortable’ living atmosphere for expatriates, who prefer to spend their idle hours drinking and dancing the nights away.

Expatriates provide foreign markets abroad for American banks and consumer products, and even as Arab and Muslim youth are boycotting various American junk-foods and consumer products, expatriates support and promote American products with their local salaries. At the same time, they invest their wages almost entirely in American banks or in the US stock market. In the higher-end sectors, such as computers and defense contracting, expatriates work as regional intermediaries between the relevant American industries and local governments. Oil wealth, for instance, still represents a major subsidy for the American military industries, while Gulf regimes have given exclusive contracts to American information-sector industries, especially the telecommunications and computer corporations, who in turn hire upper-level managers from the ranks of American expatriates.

Entry into the elite ranks of American expatriates is often arranged through networks of existing expatriates, and is made easier by Muslim governments that still insist on hiring American expatriates as consultants in most business and academic sectors, who in turn often rely on the existing expatriate cadres to recruit new members. For this reason, the expatriates in many Muslim countries are dominated by regional networks of favoritism and nepotism, all of whom support the illusion of American technical, academic and economic expertise and who are given the power to hire and fire as they please. But these networks have suffered setbacks in recent months, because of the intifada in Palestine. Many Americans are now turning down expatriate jobs, despite the lucrative conditions, citing safety and security as their major concerns. Regional networks have in some cases become desperate to fill positions, even resorting to hiring unqualified people just to fill posts with Americans. As the intifada continues to erode America’s carefully fostered image in the Muslim world, and as American political and economic systems continue their downturn, and as the increasing incompetence within the expatriate-dependent sectors becomes inescapable, regional rulers may eventually join their own people in acting upon the realization that reliance on American expatriates is a liability and not in their own best interests.

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