It would appear that the Islamic Republic of Iran is fast becoming the place in the Middle East for hosting important conferences.  For instance, there was that “Arab Conference of Iraqi Neighbors” a while back, during which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad imparted these words of wisdom to the people in attendance:  “The basic problem in the Islamic world is the existence of the Zionist regime and the region must mobilize to remove this problem.”  Nothing like a bunch of friendly “Iraqi Neighbors” getting together at a conference on friendly Iranian soil to hash out a solution to such pressing problems.

Or how about that Holocaust conference they had a few months ago during which they sought to settle once and for all the “controversy” surrounding the supposed Jewish Holocaust by declaring that, hey, it never happened and the whole thing’s a crock.  It was all in the spirit of historical integrity, of course, and once again the amicable President Ahmadinejad pleased the attendees, and sent a message to people all around the world, by saying:  “Iran is your home and is the home of all freedom seekers of the world.  Here you can express your views and exchange opinions in a friendly, brotherly and free atmosphere.”

But for some odd reason all that neighborliness, friendliness and brotherly love isn’t making much of an impression around the globe and that fact led to the latest grand conference in “the home of all freedom seekers of the world.”  It was the “International Conference on Tourism of Islamic Countries,” during which they tackled the perplexing problem of why Islamic countries are only able to capture 13% of the world tourism market. 

Yep, it’s a real forehead-slapper, all right.  No, not that they’re only able to capture 13%, but that they’re able to capture 13%.  Given what we see on the news every day, that they could capture any statistically measurable percentage at all strains credulity to the utmost.

Nonetheless, they claim that there are actually four Islamic countries that are among the top 25 in the world in terms of tourism: Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.  Okay, Turkey is on the Mediterranean, borders on Europe and is the closest thing to a democracy (other than Israel) in the Middle East, so that’s not too surprising.  Egypt has the pyramids.  Malaysia has seaside resorts galore and is thousands of miles from the hotbed of the Middle East.

But Saudi Arabia?  Who would go there?  Hmm . . .  Wait a minute . . .  I’ve got it.  It’s the annual pilgrimage to Mecca when millions of Muslims engage in the Islamic equivalent of Woodstock.  But it’s a bit of a stretch to call that tourism.  In fact, that’s not tourism, that’s fanaticism — and fanaticism is part of the reason Islamic countries have a problem attracting tourism.

But dealing with the religious fanaticism that is behind so much of what’s wrong with Islamic countries, and is therefore responsible for the lack of eager tourists, was not really on the conference’s agenda.  According to one speaker, the lack of tourism had more to do with “Western-orchestrated propaganda about the situation in Islamic states.” 

You know, as if the West has to put together some clever and misleading propaganda to make those places look bad.  Here’s a typical tourism-related incident that occurred last month in Saudi Arabia.  A car load of French tourists were returning from a trip into the desert and were fired upon from a passing vehicle.  Four of them were killed.  When it comes to infidels, they don’t get much more innocuous than the French, but their presence on holy Islamic soil was still too much to bear for some of the rowdier local yokels.  According to travelindustryreview.com, “tourists have been subject to such attacks in Saudi Arabia in the past.”

Look, the Middle East has no shortage of beaches, sunny weather and stunning natural beauty.  The potential is there for an economic bonanza that would make oil money look like chicken feed.  But there’s just this one pesky and seemingly intractable problem: Islam!  That’s right, conference attendees.  Nobody who isn’t Islamic wants to go to an Islamic country on vacation, and for some very practical reasons: it’s practically illegal to have fun, you’re hated for being an infidel and your personal safety is a total crap shoot.

The average infidel tourist likes to go somewhere and lay on the beach with not much on, enjoy some frothy adult beverages with little umbrellas and other silly adornments, and just generally have a relaxing good time without having to worry about the possibility of random shootings, suicide bombings or being beheaded by some “Allahu Akbar!”-screaming jihadist who is offended by the presence of a nonbeliever on sacred Islamic soil. 

These things aren’t really that hard to figure out.  And it’s not “Western-orchestrated propaganda,” it’s reality.  The very fact that any of it could be blamed on Western-orchestrated propaganda is a blatant indication of the inhospitable mentality of that part of the world.

I think we can safely say that the “International Conference on Tourism of Islamic Countries” isn’t going to lead to any solutions to the stated problem since the only solution would be that the Islamic countries become un-Islamic.  When it comes to tourism, non-Muslims will likely be vacationing on Mars before they feel comfortable in the Middle East and other Islamic realms.

In other words, don’t expect to hear any infidels in the foreseeable future saying things like, “C’mon, kids!  We’re doing something different this year.  We’re going to an Islamic country on vacation!”  Unless . . .

Unless somebody drags Chevy Chase out of mothballs, spruces him up a little and puts him in one last “Vacation” movie, this time set in an Islamic country.  Just imagine the potential for goofy gags and hilarious scenarios.  For instance, the whole family could be kidnapped by a band of inept jihadists who then set them up for a mass beheading to be broadcast live on the Internet, when all of a sudden, right at the last minute, they are saved by . . . 

Well, I’ll leave the particulars up to the screenwriters.

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