The war being waged against Islamic activism in the Arab world and Africa has taken an ominous new turn last month as the Arab League’s ‘anti-terrorism’ pact goes into force and plans are put into place for the adoption of a similar treaty by the member-states of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). What is new and dangerous in all this is that the old rhetoric about ‘containing terrorism’ is being translated into concrete action through the creation of new regional institutions primarily aimed at stemming the growing tide of Islamic revivalism.
The Arab anti-terrorism pact slipped into effect on May 7 barely noticed by Arab and western observers. The so-called ‘Arab treaty for combatting terrorism’, whose primary objective is to protect ruling elites and their western protectors against Islamic activism, becomes binding on all Arab League states a month after its ratification by at least seven of the organisation’s members, which process was completed in early April.
The treaty - first agreed on April 22 of last year by Arab interior and justice ministers ‘to combat the threat of terrorism to the stability and interests of Arab States’ - has so far been ratified by eight countries. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria, Bahrain, Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia all deposited their instruments of ratification with the Arab League’s Cairo head office in April. The way is now open for the ministerial joint committee charged with implementing and interpreting the treaty to begin its nefarious activities. According to the security bureau of the Arab interior ministers’ office in Cairo, the honorary head of the joint committee, the Saudi interior minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, has already communicated his plans to convene a meeting of the committee in the near future.
The committee consists of 10 ministers - five of them Arab interior ministers, and the other five the council of Arab justice ministers. The ministers’ idea of what constitutes ‘terrorism’, and their anti-Islamic intent, are indicated by the paranoia prevalent in the countries sending them. The first five represent Jordan, Algeria, Syria, Egypt and Yemen, while the second five come from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Morocco.
The pact gives its signatories sweeping powers to ‘exchange suspects and intelligence information’ without any legal formalities. And the pact provides for the establishment of the diplomatic machinery to ensure immediate implementation. The security bureau of the council of Arab Interior Ministers insists that these startling and unprecedented powers are consistent with ‘Shar’iah principles and international laws’.
But many of the Arab League member-states are also members of the OAU and wish to see it adopt a similar treaty. Egypt, which dominates the Arab League (its permanent headquarters are in Cairo and its secretary-general is Egyptian) is an influential member of the OAU. So is Algeria, which is hosting the various OAU preliminary meetings charged with preparing a text for adoption by an African summit.
According to an Algerian newsagency report on May 14, African interior and justice ministers will meet in Algiers, the Algerian capital, on June 1 to discuss a draft prepared by a committee of African ‘experts’. The ministers will prepare a text for discussion and adoption by a 3-day summit of OAU heads of state in Algiers on July 12.
The OAU leaders will have no difficulty in adopting the text based on the Arab League treaty. Some are Christian and will be happy to be party to a conspiracy designed to combat Islam in their continent, and to receive Arab petro-dollars into the bargain. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Musseveni, and Eritrea’s Issias Aferwki, for instance, have already been engaged in fighting Islam in the Sudan; and others, such as the Libyan leader Mu’ammar Qaddafi and Egypt’s Husni Mubarak, though Muslim, are strongly committed to the Arab League and to the war against the global Islamic movement.
Most of them are in any case US proxies or, like Qaddafi, aspire to be so. They need no inducement to join the worldwide war on the Islamic movement. Some, like Mubarak, have publicly admonished the US for not acting on the intelligence information they have supplied on ‘terrorists’ they want to see repatriated or prosecuted on American territory.
There is little doubt that the sweeping powers conferred by the Arab League treaty and the OAU draft treaty will be exploited to combat Islamic movements worldwide and to prevent the growth of Islamic revivalism in Muslim countries. Even the so-called ‘moderate’ Muslims will not be immune. When, for instance, Abdullah bin Kiran, a Moroccan politician, won a seat in parliament in April, his victory was interpreted as a challenge to the democratic establishment, although there is no democracy in the kingdom.
Commentators could not fail to see an Islamic threat in Bin Karin’s victory - though conceding he is a ‘moderate’. The Economist, for example, said in a report on May 8 that although ‘he recognises parliament and offers a more amenable face of political Islam... he is an Islamist activist nonetheless,... and Islamists are succeeding in getting films they deem blasphemous banned’. It also noted that bin Karin’s victory came in Sale, where Shaikh Abd ‘al- Salam Yasin, leader of the Adl wal Ihsan Islamic movement, is held under house arrest since comparing King Hasan with the Shah of Iran.
Clearly, the war on Islamic movements and Islamic values opposed to western ‘principles’ is being institutionalised launched across the Arab world and Africa. The Islamic movements of these regions cannot afford to ignore this development.
Muslimedia: June 1-15, 1999