Archive for August, 2006

Third World War in the offing? Many US media outl…

Third World War in the offing?

Many US media outlets including guests on CNN and Wall Street Journal op-ed writers have opined that the world is on the brink of being engaged in a quasi third World War, the argument being that terrorists are targeting all states and nations, hence the brewing of a global war. Giving examples of terrorist acts in Spain, UK, USA, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, France, Turkey, Africa and Middle East they emphasize, indirectly, that Islamic extremist elements are on one side and the rest of the world is the other group. If we accept this, then this is a war of civilization- a concept presented in Samuel Huntington’s book ‘War of civilization’. For the sake of discussion, let’s accept these arguments and believe that the world is in a state of a Third World War. Now, let us analyze how this war is fought and what will be its implications.

The USA considered the act of 911 as a strike at its values of capitalism and democracy. Declaring itself as the aggrieved party, the USA being the world’s sole super power with unmatched economic and military strength, could not resist waging a war against an invisible enemy termed as Islamic terrorists. Ssince these terrorists did not belong to one country and were rather scattered in many different countries, this led the way for USA’s aggressive stance against Muslim populations at large. America’s war on terror has expanded from Afghanistan to Iraq to Lebanon, causing extensive destruction to attacked countries, claiming many lives and hungering for more. And worst of all, the crisis in these countries has deepened and the conflict has become more fierce.

In this new volatile situation, the West, a largely Christian society, is in armed conflict not with a particular state but with extremist Muslim organizations like the Hezbullah, Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. Since these organizations have no sovereignty but are operating hidden among the masses of different nations, various methods are employed by the West to crush them. First, there is the approach of military operations against states that are considered sympathetic to extremist elements, including, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran. Second, there is the tactic of pressurizing Islamic states, like Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to weed out extremist elements from among its population, and be awarded economic incentives and lifting of sanctions. Third is the racial profiling of Muslim immigrants in western societies through special registration, deportations and monitoring of religious places. Countries enforcing such actions include, Britain, US and France.

In last five years, if we consider 911 to be the starting date of this war, the results are more troublesome than comforting. There has been a tremendous loss of civilian lives which is diplomatically often termed as collateral damage. The states cooperating with the West in cleaning up their societies of extremist elements are increasingly in danger of being upturned by the masses that are getting sympathetic to these religious organizations. The Western media’s labeling of all terrorists as Muslims is fueling resentment for the West. Racial profiling is fostering radical sentiments among second and third generations of Muslim youth. We have seen this in recent riots in Paris and terrorists acts in Britain. The US has so far prevented this to happen because of its successful integration of Muslim immigrants in its society. But these integration efforts got a jolt when special registration was announced for Muslim immigrants and the Patriotic Act was introduced which has allowed authorities, besides other things, to detain terror suspects for longer terms without court orders.

Usually a war ends when both parties are exhausted after incurring heavy loss of life and resources. We have seen this happen in two World Wars, the US invasion of Vietnam, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and all other conflicts. This new war will be no different.
Sadly, the United Nations, which is bifurcated in two worlds, will not be able to play any role here and will be as ineffective as it has been to solve other conflicts. Five permanent members who have their vested interests in all major conflicts in the world today control the main body of the UN, the Security Council. Recently there has been much talk of adding more permanent members to the Security Council but, unbelievably, the potential candidates do not include even a single Muslim country despite the fact that Muslims form almost 25% of the world population. This injustice will result in continued ineffectiveness of the UN. For the world to achieve lasting peace it is important that Muslim world get fair representation on this major world body. Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia- any one of these countries can capably represent the Muslim world.

Instead of resorting to armed intervention and racial profiling, West should engage with the Muslim world through its main organization, the Organization of Islamic Conference to reform the troubling societies and states in the Muslim world. Without this dialogue, peace will be uncertain and continued global conflict. All is still not lost if we make genuine efforts to attain peace and accept that each culture has to evolve their own system of governance based on their values developed over centuries.

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Nationalism vs. Pan-Islamism As the war goes on i…

Nationalism vs. Pan-Islamism

As the war goes on in Lebanon, the Muslim world is slowly getting united against the aggression of Israel. The latter justifies its actions as a response to the acts of Hezbollah who killed Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two. This conflict has also fueled the ongoing discussions of whether Islam accepts nationalism or prophase to ignore culture to form one global Ummah. It is a question discussed through ages by various Muslim scholars. Throughout Muslim history, rulers to impose their will on neighboring Muslim countries to form an Islamic Empire have used this concept of one Ummah. But after each episode of centralization the culture won over and divided the Islamic world into many nation states.

As Western influence raised in the 17th century the process of colonization of these smaller and weaker Muslim states started. Once subjugated to a foreign influence it started a debate among the Muslim masses to find the cause of their failure. This resulted in a two-pronged theorization. One group blamed the corruption of their rulers and departure from the orthodox practices of Islam. To correct the situation this group aspired to re-establish the rule of Shariat as it was in the times of the first four caliphs. They emphasized to get rid of amendments made to the Shariah law during last centuries. The other group emphasized maintaining their nationalist ideal and relegated religion to be a subject of individual persuasion.

During the struggle for independence, the latter group won out and spearheaded the independence movements in different parts of the Muslim world; whether it was Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Indian sub-continent demanding a separate Muslim state after the departure of ruling British or struggle of various African and Middle Eastern countries. By the mid 20th century, independence was achieved by these nation states but centuries of foreign rule had deprived the masses of necessary skills to control their own destiny. It was like a caged bird with clipped wings suddenly allowed getting out and flying. The result was devastating. Most of the countries were not able to create stable political, social and economic institutions that could lead the masses towards a better life. Since the West still needed access to the natural resources of these countries they maintained their influence through proxy ruling elite class.

Inefficient governments produced disenfranchised masses that increasingly looked towards the religious organizations to provide some relief and direction. This resulted in the creation of largely religio-social organizations, which later took on an increasingly political role. Organizations like Jamat-i-Islami in Pakistan and Muslim Brotherhood in many African states refused to accept the validity of nation state and emphasized that Islam is a way of life without boundaries. Iranian Islamic revolution of 1978 and Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 provided a potent breeding ground of these philosophies.

The Afghan struggle against a superpower became a struggle of Islam against an un-islamic power. Volunteers from all over the world participated in this war. The US, with its own agenda in mind, provided the necessary training and equipment to this Islamic militia. Russia, weak internally, eventually succumbed to this volunteer force and was forced out of Afghanistan after almost a decade. US who could have played a positive role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan after the departure of Russians suddenly lost interest and left this Islamic militia to its own design.

When the Afghan war volunteers returned to their home countries they became the members of their local religious organizations who started an increasingly armed conflict with their Western influenced rulers. Besides that extremely radical elements needed another enemy to fight and the West provided a potent target considering their inability to contain Israel, Russia, Serbia and India to exploit their Muslim populations. These religiously motivate organizations also formed a way of coordinating their efforts based on the concept of one Ummah fighting their Western exploiters.

Quran on the other hand accepts the validity of separate cultures living in harmony under one system. According to Qoran Surah 49 verse 13;

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).”

For the Muslim world, the solution lies in creating institutions that respects the validity of each unique culture but share same values offered by their religion Islam. To achieve this objective, EU provides a good working example, which has members from diverse cultures and tradition but still finds a common ground to achieve social, economic and political unity. The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) should be reconstituted to be more influential in helping its member states in introducing reforms in political and economic spheres. OIC should also be accepted as the arbiter of representing Muslim opinion in the resolution of conflicts where Muslims are affected whether it is the issue of Middle East or right of self-determination of Kashmiri people or negotiating a cease-fire between Lebanon and Israel.

The first step in achieving this objective is to amend the charter of OIC so that it can formulate a constitution acceptable to all member states. Instead of appointing a Secretary General elected by Foreign Ministers Conference, a President should be elected based on votes awarded to each member state either based on their populations or economics. OIC should also create a foreign relations secretariat to represent the Muslim world in world summits and organizations instead of participating as an observer in the current structure.

West cannot fight a civilization by attacking their value structure. Muslims cannot gain a respectable position in the world unless they unite under one organization to fight for their grievances. Strengthening OIC is a way to counter religious fundamentalist organizations with their own political agenda. If we don’t act on it now we will be heading towards a larger conflict with an unfathomable loss of life and property.

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War & Peace It seems that the precarious balance …

War & Peace

It seems that the precarious balance between Israel and its neighbors is once again broken. The western media blame Hezbullah for breaking the peace by ambushing the Israeli soldiers; killing some and kidnapping two. Israel retaliated with full force by bombarding Beirut for last 16 days and entering the Lebanese territory with the objective to strike at the strength of Hezbullah. First of all, the skirmishes between Israeli militia and Muslim organizations have been going on forever without any real break. Israel has repeatedly bombarded Palestinian and Hezbullah positions during the last 10-15 years killing many activists as well as civilians. Secondly, since Muslim resistance organizations are no match for the military strength of Israel, they have had to resolve to gorilla tactics to retaliate to Israel’s occupation of their territory and to get the release of their prisoners held in Israeli jails. The figure speak for itself: there are, so far, 400 Lebanese killed while only 50 Israelis lost their lives. Israel has so far sent 2000 air sorties to destroy the already weak Lebanese infrastructure.

US diplomatic response to this conflict has been controversial. It is the first time US has refused to push Israel for a quick ceasefire. US officials have, in fact, encouraged Israeli advancement into Lebanese territory. It serves two purposes for US policy. First, it takes the attention away from Iraq and provides a source to uplift the public support for the administration. Secondly, it helps US use Israel as a front line state to fight out Muslim activist organizations in the Middle East. The US has also been quick to blame Syria and Iran for supporting Hezbollah and making them part of the conflict. This conflict also helps the administration in gaining public support during the upcoming congressional elections by strengthening their case for fight against terrorism.

The international response has been mixed. Russia, France and Germany have condemned Israel’s aggression by subjecting civil organizations to fight a political organization with militaristic views. United Nations Secretary, General Kofi Anan, has also criticized the bombing of Beirut and destruction of UN observation post.

Muslim countries in their official response are divided as always. Countries with significant US influence like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have made Hezbollah responsible for this conflict. But most surprisingly, Muslim institutions like Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and Arab League have not been able to become part of the negotiations to attain cease-fire. So far there has been no emergency meeting of heads of Muslim states to form a united front to address the crisis in Middle East. OIC has only conducted an ambassadorial level meeting which issued a weakly worded communiqué to ask Israel to cease hostilities and initiation of humanitarian ad for the civilians affected by the conflict. Mostly, Western countries have called a meeting in Rome without adequate Muslim representation to address the situation. OIC and Arab League should have been rightfully made part of these negotiations. The result of that conference, naturally, was a failure.

Another dynamic in play here is that Muslim masses have lost trust in their governments to represent their interest in domestic and international affairs. They consider their governments to be non-representative, exploitative and agents of the West. Western media has continually questioned the validity, ethics and moral values of the Muslim faith labeling almost all terrorists as Islamic terrorists. This has further alienated the masses that consider the radical organizations as guardians of their faith against western aggression. Militia organizations like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah understand this dynamic very well and use it to their advantage to gain finances, recruits and geographical protection. Since there is no Muslim country strong enough to stand up to the military might of US and Israel, Muslims largely feel that gorilla fight is their only option to respond to the armed aggression. They have seen this scenario succeed in Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Lebanon where Hezbollah has stood up to the sophisticated armory of Israel.

A peace cannot be attained unless all of us agree that we have a serious crisis at hand, which can quickly convert to a global war. It is unrealistic to negotiate peace without involving Muslim institutions like OIC and Arab League. The strategy by the West to try to divide the Muslim world into Shiite and Sunni lines can quickly turn dangerous. This attempt might work at the government level but masses understand this play and are united as one Ummah. Each passing day in the Israel-Lebanese war is creating deeper support for Lebanese among the Muslim populations. This could ultimately result in upheavals in countries with authoritarian rulers considered proxies of the west and introduction of more radical governments. This will result in more conflicts throughout the region.

Wars do not solve any conflicts. They are only used to vent anger and frustrations building up for decades. In the end, peace is always attainted sitting around a table reaching a compromise that is equitable and fair. Israel’s efforts to build walls and buffer zones are unrealistic unless its neighbors see her as a friend and partner.

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