Dictators, power and the blame for Muslim strife

Why do we Muslims always complain about the foreign policy of the U.S. and Britain? I understand that we may be upset about the loss of civilian lives, but both governments have now recognised the futility of their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Historically, nations have intervened to protect their geo-strategic and commercial interests.

Why don’t we Muslims ever complain about the foreign policies of Saudi Arabia and Iran? Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are using their immense oil wealth to wage a proxy war. Their attempts to change the realities on the ground are evident in the Yemen and the Levant.

This meddling has given licence to brutality and culminated in the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The displacement of sections of the population has created resentment and brought to the surface latent sectarian prejudice. This isn’t a religious war, as they would have us believe; it’s a murderous endeavour to seize political power.

Europe retired most of its monarchies because they were an impediment to the advancement of its peoples. We Muslims, however, embrace our monarchs and dictators as though they were our salvation.

Our rulers have always claimed to represent the Prophet or his progeny; we’ve never had representative governments. This concentration of power has resulted in nepotism and sycophancy and has suffocated the individual’s aspiration to achieve through merit. We refuse to take responsibility for our own problems and choose to hide behind ludicrous conspiracies.

Unfortunately, we Muslims are plagued with all kinds of divisions, owing to our own ignorance. In the Iran-Iraq war Arabs fought Persians. After the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan, Persian and Pashtu-speaking Pathans fought each other for control of the opium trade. In Darfur, Arabs from Sudan unashamedly killed Africans for control of that region’s oil. It’s expedient for both sides to blame ‘the West’ or ‘Zionists’, but, in fact, the leadership is exploiting ethnic and sectarian tensions to perpetuate its hold on power.

This sectarian hatred of one another is indoctrinated from childhood. The Shi’ites accuse the Sunnis of denying the Prophet’s cousin the position of the first caliph. The Sunnis accuse the Shi’ites of committing blasphemy by disparaging the first three caliphs. The leadership on both sides is apathetic to this bickering, but is astute enough to hide its incompetence and corruption in the cloak of divisiveness.

Our rulers don’t come from another planet and even if supplanted by other countries they are a product of our society. Their depravity should force us Muslims to contemplate what it is we believe and value that creates such individuals and enables them to abuse a position of trust and power.

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SyRaq

Do we in the West understand what is transpiring/who is conspiring in Syria/Iraq (SyRaq)?

The ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt manifests itself as a popular uprising and after several months of protests in Tahrir Square a military dictator – Hosni Mubarak, in power for 30 years is emphatically deposed. In the democratic process that follows the Muslim Brotherhood candidate – Mohamed Morsi, is elected President of Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood – a Sunni movement that is supported by the Qatari’s but opposed by the Saudi’s; having a substantial footprint in the political landscape of the region such that if there were democratic elections held in Jordan and Syria they would be the dominant party.
The military junta in Egypt then uses the ‘Deep State’ to create resentment amongst sections of civil society in order to position itself as the credible saviour of the democratic process. President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood government are portrayed as usurping power and as incapable of stemming rising prices and unemployment in the country.
A coup d’état overthrows the democratically elected Islamist government of President Morsi. This is followed by a widespread crackdown on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. Having jailed the Muslim Brotherhood leadership and shut down all non-compliant media, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al Sisi is elected President of Egypt by a ‘popular’ vote.

The ‘Arab Spring’ in Syria starts with an uprising in Homs and then spreads to the rest of the country. The Al Assad regime forcibly suppresses the uprising with assistance from Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The opposition Free Syrian Army and the Islamists are supported by the Saudi’s and Qatari’s. Salafi/Sunni fighters have been pouring in from Western nations and neighbouring Arab/Muslim countries to depose the Al Assad regime. Shiite fighters have been coming in primarily from Iraq to fight alongside the Al Assad regime.
I suspect that ISIL (ISI/ISIS) is a creation of Syrian intelligence; Sunni fighters from Syria/Iraq who had been encouraged to take up arms against US/UK forces during the invasion of Iraq. Iran and Syria did not then want the US/UK getting comfortable with their occupation of Iraq once they had deposed Saddam Husein and disbanded the Ba’athists. The Jabhat Al Nusra, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, was allowed into Syria in order to counterbalance ISIL and malign the credibility of the Free Syrian Army. The perception would be that the FSA was infiltrated by extremists and any help extended would undermine our security in the West. There have been several bouts of infighting within the ranks of the opposition and as a result they have fractured, with the Islamists breaking away from the Free Syrian Army.
The war having reached an impasse, Basher Al Assad is re-elected President of Syria by a ‘popular’ vote.

The aftermath of the US/UK invasion of Iraq is a democratic process that has reinforced the deep-seated sectarian divide and a body politic that is dominated by the Shiite majority. The Sunni tribes who have unresolved grievances with the Shiite Al Maliki government in Baghdad are giving succour to the Sunni ISIL forces. There is also some collusion with the Sunni officers given that the Iraqi army – trained and equipped by the US, has just melted away when confronted by the ISIL forces. The Iraqi national army, as a matter of fact, was set up by the Al Maliki government to crumble along sectarian/ethnic lines and to inevitably fail. It is the Iraqi Special Forces and the Shiite militia under the control of Al Maliki that underpin his hold on power in Baghdad.
Is it a coincidence that ISIL has gained a foothold in Iraq at a time when Iran is negotiating with the US/EU on its nuclear issue? The presence of ISIL in the Sunni dominated provinces will only radicalise the local population and may even lead to internal strife between the Islamists, the Ba’athist and the Sunni tribes. In fact, the presence of ISIL and the near certain radicalisation of the local Sunni population puts their Gulf Arab sponsors – Saudi’s and Qatari’s, at odds with the West and creates an alignment of interest for Iran and the West, something that Tehran and the Al Maliki government have been manoeuvring to achieve. The current matrix on the ground also enables the Al Maliki government in Baghdad to put pressure on the US for the immediate delivery of the most sophisticated weapons.

The West finds itself in a bind – in Egypt they recognise the election of Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al Sisi but in Syria they refuse to recognise the election of President Basher Al Assad. In Iraq they support the government of Al Maliki who by stealth have been sending Shia militia fighters and weaponry across the border to support the Al Assad regime. The West, however, opposes the Islamists in Iraq but indirectly supports them in Syria through the Free Syrian Army because they are supposedly fighting the Al Assad regime.
Should the US/UK carry out targeted strikes against ISIL, it would alienate large sections of the Sunni Muslim population in the Middle East and in the West. The West would then find itself embroiled in a sectarian war of its own making and a target for extremists at home and abroad.

ISRAEL ‘IS REAL’, ISRAEL ‘IS A REALITY’

The paradigm of autocratic governments providing stability in the Middle East has led to radicalisation. These governments have viciously suppressed any form of dissent; there’s been an acute lack of aspirational achievement. The resultant frustration has been craftily channelled by the radicals into a focused hatred of Israel. The Arab Spring has provided the much needed platform for debate and brought into its political fold the extremists. It’s imperative that this process be nurtured and directed toward the election of governments that are representative.

The Palestinian/Israeli peace process/conflict in its present context is a slow moving train wreck to nowhere. Having sidelined Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu/Lieberman and Hamas want to maintain the status quo. The rocket fire that Hamas directs at Israel is the gift that keeps giving for the Likud/Beytenu coalition. Likewise, the siege of Gaza by Israel gives Hamas legitimacy and creates a groundswell of support for it.

In a regional context Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shia’ Iran are using their immense oil wealth to wage a proxy war. Saudi Arabia and Iran are two sides of the same coin; police states masquerading as theocracies. Their surreptitious activities in neighbouring countries are an attempt to distort ground realities and incite violence. They create an environment of instability through subterfuge and the promotion of ethnic and sectarian strife. The monarchs and the mullahs are not accountable, so hasten to blame Israel for their own policy failings and mismanagement.

The State of Israel was created by UN Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 but came into existence on 15 May 1948. Neighbouring Arab States invaded the fledgling democracy the very next day in support of the Palestinian Arabs. In the 1948 War of Independence and in each of the subsequent Wars – 1967 Six Day War and 1973 Yom Kippur, Israel seized land from the Arabs. The bellicose and belligerent Arab States were repulsed notwithstanding their superior numbers and military hardware. These victories lend credence to the claims of the Israelis on the land that they captured and for legitimacy of the de facto borders for the State of Israel.

The resolution of the Arab/Israeli conflict must be part of a grand regional bargain overseen by the Middle East Quartet. Countries in the Middle East except Israel must destroy all chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Israel should be allowed to retain some limited measure of its nuclear deterrent albeit monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those members of The Organisation of Islamic Countries that have boycotted Israel must normalise all diplomatic and trade relations. Israelis/Palestinians must hold a referendum to decide whether they want a two-state solution or a one-state solution. The grand regional bargain must be predicated on the recognition by all Palestinian factions of the incontrovertible right of the State of Israel to exist.

A two-state solution could be achieved on an approximation of the 1967 borders with Jerusalem either as a divided capital or a UN administered ‘International City of Faith’. Provision will have to be made to link the West Bank to Gaza without compromising the security of Israel. A one-state solution will need to incorporate the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza into Israel proper. A system of voting will have to be devised such that no one ethnic group can dominate the government indefinitely. Irrespective of the voting dynamics, certain portfolios and ministries will have to be retained by ethnically Jewish people. The education system, its curriculum, will have to reflect the sensitivities of all ethnic groups. Those educational institutions whose curriculum is in Hebrew may teach Arabic as a second language. However, those whose curriculum is in Arabic will have to teach Hebrew as a second language. Policing can be a local matter but admission into the IDF and intelligence agencies will require scrutiny.

The Israeli state invests in its citizens and by virtue of a tacit social contract the citizens work diligently to build a prosperous Israel. This is evidenced by their commitment to excellence; in the face of great adversity the Israelis have made the desert bloom. In contrast, the despotic regimes in neighbouring Arab countries through their gratuitous corruption have impoverished their citizens. Here there is a concerted effort to dumb down the population through the proliferation of religious schools. Clerics laud the regimes achievements from the pulpit; thugs spread fear amongst their own people.

A chapter in Middle East politics

There is now a ceasefire of sorts in place between Hamas and Israel but what has actually been achieved by either antagonist. Israel has destroyed approx 1500 sites in Gaza but the residents of Sderot or Ashkelon contend Hamas will resume its rocket fire in a few months. The residents are sceptical because Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09 was supposed to have destroyed the ‘terror infrastructure’. Hamas has fired as many rockets into Israel, only this time they’ve managed to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield intercepted 90% of the projectiles that could’ve landed on built-up areas; it may just be that Iran was probing the defence system for weakness. Hamas has claimed victory having survived the ‘precision bombing’ onslaught and has emerged politically stronger in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Arab Spring has brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt; President Morsi attended the NAM meeting in Tehran where he called for reforms in Syria. In the Arab League conference held in Cairo, Morsi upped the ante when he called for a change of government – he then tempered this by stating that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt would meet to find a solution to the crisis in Syria. During the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, President Morsi put Hamas under pressure to accept a truce in order to prevent the calamity that would result from an escalation of the violence. His statesmanship has elevated the Muslim Brotherhood to a position of a credible alternative to unelected regimes in neighbouring Arab states i.e. Syria and Jordan.

Khaled Meshaal may have abandoned his long time base in Damascus but was all praise for Iran during a press conference in Cairo held after the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Other pro-Syrian factions like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP-GC) remain in Syria and who only recently met with Iran’s influential parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Khaled Meshaal’s move to Egypt – now under a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, perhaps presages a reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah which may lead to elections in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the interim, President Morsi may even succeed in getting Hamas to recognise the State of Israel along some approximation of the 1967 borders.

Israel enjoys good relations with King Abdullah II of Jordan but recent fuel price hikes have resulted in nationwide protests calling for change in the Kingdom. Budgetary constraints and the changing political landscape may force the King to reform on the lines of King Mohamed VI of Morocco. Islamist parties including the Muslim Brotherhood could dominate the newly elected parliament; the momentum for change could very easily undermine the monarchy. A resolution of the Syrian civil war is going to be far more problematic given the sectarian and ethnic divide of the country. A stalemate in the civil war will prolong Iran’s stranglehold on the Syrian political scene; a resolution of it could bring to the fore another Islamist and/or Muslim Brotherhood government.

Israel is an extremely stable country and has the military prowess that is the envy of its many bungling neighbours. However, the demographics of the Arab population and the changing political reality create facts on the ground that speak of another truth. When Israel recognizes as a matter of conscience that its security interests lie in affording dignity to the Palestinians in the occupied territories, will true peace in the Middle East come to fruition. Israel could then partner with the Palestinians who are predominantly secular, to protect their joint interests in the region. Palestinians in Jordan constitute more than half the population and are supportive of the current monarch King Abdullah II; his wife Queen Rania was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. A garnering of the secular forces in Jordan would drive a wedge in the Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood ambition to dominate the political arena in the region.

Land of Canaan

There are some verses that I have come across in the Quran that I believe give credence to the return of the ‘Children of Israel’ to the ‘Land of Canaan’:

‘And We bequeathed to the people deemed weak the eastern parts of the land and its western parts wherein We gave blessings; and fulfilled was the fair word of your Lord on the Children of Israel for what they bore with patience.’ (7:137)
‘And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel: “Dwell in the land; then when there will come the promise of the Hereafter, We shall bring you altogether as a multitude.’ (17:104)
‘And of the People of the Book none will there be but will believe in him [Jesus] before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness’ (4:159)

It is evident from these verses that the return of the ‘Children of Israel’ to the ‘Land of Canaan’ is a precondition to the onset of a chain of preordained events that will eventually culminate in the Day of Resurrection. Shouldn’t we Muslims be discussing the implication of these and other verses in the Quran, germane to a better understanding of what is transpiring in the Middle East.

Some Muslim scholars have said to me that because the ‘Children of Israel’ broke their many covenants with God; they were eventually expelled from the Holy Land:

‘And We decreed to the Children of Israel in the Book [Torah]: You shall make mischief in the land twice and shall become tyrants and extremely arrogant’ ‘When the first of the two promises came to pass, We send against you servants of Ours possessing severe prowess; penetrating into your habitations’ ‘Then in turn, We made you prevail over them and reinforced you with wealth and children’ ‘When the second promise came to pass, it was for them to humiliate you and enter the mosque; destroy all that you held in esteem’ ‘Maybe your Lord will have mercy on you but if you regress, We will revert’ (17:4-8)

It is my understanding that these invasions refer to the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 740 BCE and to the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 600 BCE. It is assumed that the ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israel were taken captive and transported to distant provinces of the Assyrian empire where they disappeared completely. The Babylonians, however, forcibly exiled their captives to Babylon; although Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, other parts of Judah continued to be inhabited by Israelites during the period of the exile. The invasion and occupation by pagan armies of the Holy Land was a transitory sanction by God on the Israelites for their disobedience and transgressions. In 540 BCE the conquest of Mesopotamia and the Middle East by the Persians paved the way for the return of the exiles to the province of Judah.

Let us remind ourselves that it was Moses who led the Israelites out of the clutches of Pharaoh and to the Promised Land:

‘O my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah bequeathed to you and turn not back’ (5:21)

God drowned Pharaoh and destroyed all that he and his people had built in order to alleviate any lingering anxieties that the Israelites may have harboured of a reversal of fortune. He even authorised the Israelites to destroy the heathen occupants of the Land of Canaan and claim what was rightfully theirs to inhabit and for posterity.

What gives further impetus to the notion that the Israelites have a legitimate claim to the Land of Canaan is that God instructed Abraham to move and resettle his second wife Hagar and their son Ishmael to the vale of bakkah:

‘Our Lord, I have settled some of my offspring in a vale without cultivation near Your Sacred House’ (14:37)

Abraham wasn’t asked to relocate Hagar and Ishmael to another part of the Land of Canaan but to resettle them in a distant land; a land of the Bedouin tribes. With the passage of time Ishmael became a nation; his descendants now claim the Arabian peninsular to be their ancestral home. Abraham’s first wife Sarah and their son Isaac continued to reside in the Land of Canaan; it is to this ancestral home that the descendants of Isaac have always returned from repeated exiles in order to reaffirm their covenants and to seek refuge as a nation.

It is time we Muslims studied the Noble Quran and reflected upon its teachings so as not to rely entirely on what our ‘Mullahs’ preach to us.

The Torah: ‘A light and guidance……’

The determinate characteristics that are imperative in designating any compilation of revelations from God as Al Kitab or The Book are stipulated in the Quran itself:

‘This is the Book, there is nothing dubious in it’ (2:2). ‘We have neglected nothing in the Book’ (6:38). ‘And it is He Who has sent down to you the Book, explained in detail’ (6:114). ‘If it was not from Allah they would have found in it many a contradiction’ (4:82). ‘None can change His words’ (18:27). ‘And surely, We will guard it’ (15:9).

However, it is not just the Quran but also the Torah that God refers to as Al Kitab or The Book:

‘Say [Muhammad]: Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought, a light and guidance to mankind’ (6:91). ‘And indeed, We gave Moses the Book’ (2:87).

Therefore, the aforestated determinate characteristics that are imperative must be applicable to the Torah as well.

The prejudice amongst Muslims is that the Torah has been ‘corrupted’, and in order to substantiate this notion they will direct you to the pertinent verses in the Quran:

‘They pervert the usage of the words; have forgotten a portion of that which they were reminded’ (5:13). ‘But they altered what had been said to them; those who had transgressed’ (7:162).

Undoubtedly, there were concerted attempts at interpolating the Torah just as there were attempts at interpolating the Quran:

‘They want to alter Allah’s Words’ (48:15).

Notwithstanding, these were all just futile attempts and no more; how do we know that this was the case as a matter of fact:

‘How can they make you [Muhammad] judge while there is with them the Torah wherein is the decree of Allah’ ‘Indeed, We sent down the Torah wherein is guidance and light. By it they gave judgement, the Prophets who surrendered [to Allah], for those who were Jews’ (5:43-44)

It would be absurd to believe that successive Prophets adjudicated over the affairs of their community (Banu Yisrael) using a ‘corrupted’ Torah.

In fact, at the time of the revelation of the Quran Prophet Muhammad was instructed as follows:

‘So if you are in doubt about what We have sent down to you then ask those who recite the Book of earlier time’ (10:94).

The Quran clearly indicates that Muslims and Banu Yisrael are of the ‘Religion of Abraham’, and makes it an article of faith for the Muslims that they believe in the Torah:

‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One’ (29:46)

All I ask of my fellow Muslims is to understand and appreciate the diversity in all of creation. This diversity is also reflected in our thought processes and is evidenced in all that we do. We must endeavour to lead by example and not by compulsion in all aspects of our lives. Who are we to reserve judgement on our fellow human beings; arrogate to ourselves that which the Quran does not sanction:

‘For each of you [Jews, Christians and Muslims] We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may test in what He has given you – so compete with one another in good deeds’ (5:48)

Facets of Radicalisation

I agree that there is radicalisation amongst some in the Muslim communities in the UK and overseas. However, there are many facets to the emergence of this radicalisation. The crux of the matter is the inability of Muslims to reconcile modernity with their interpretation of Islam and an acute absence of credible role models.

The schisms appeared in the Muslim ‘Ummah’ soon after the death of Prophet Muhammad as evidenced by the arguments between the ‘Companions’ and those from outside the Hejaz region of Arabia. Ever since the death of the last ‘Righteous Caliph’ – Ali Ibn Abi Taleb, Muslims have been plagued by non-representative governments using the enlightened example of Prophet Muhammad to hide their corruption.

Colonisation of Muslim lands further exacerbated their plight as the new paymasters imposed compliant regimes; autocratic governments that provided stability by virtue of the doctrine of brutal suppression. Nepotism and cronyism became the cornerstone of government policy for advancement; the nation’s wealth was systematically siphoned off to distant lands.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are two sides of the same coin; police states masquerading as theocracies. Wahabi Saudi Arabia and Shia’ Iran are using their immense oil wealth to wage a proxy war. Mullahs in Iran and Salafists in Saudi Arabia are attempting to channel the frustration of Muslim masses into a focused hatred of the West. The Mullahs consider the US presence in the Middle East as an existential threat and the Salafists consider US attempts to democratise the region as unislamic.

These self-appointed clerics are the hypocrites in our communities that espouse violence in the name of a faith that highly values peace and considers human life sacrosanct. The ‘Arab Spring’ may deny the Salafists emotional support but will not dent the stream of petro-dollars that come primarily from the Gulf Co-operation Council countries.

We Muslims in the UK must vigorously denounce the subterfuge activities of such obscurantist fringe groups that by default claim to represent our interests. These radicals may even label us ‘Kafir’ but let me say this: There is far more Islam in the institutions here in the UK than there is in most Muslim countries.