The killings of Palestinians continues unabated, as Palestinian Muslims continued the al-Aqsa intifada in defiance of Israeli attempts to suppress it through brute force. Even as the Palestinians faced some of the worst days of the intifada, however, representatives of Yassir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority began meetings with Israeli and American representatives in Washington to bring the Palestinian ‘peace process’ — also known as the Palestinian sell out — back on track. It was a stark reminder of the reality that Muslims’ leaders are often our worst enemies.
The point was emphasised by the reports of further massacres in Algeria. Since the military coup in January 1992 that prevented the Islamic Solidarity Front (FIS) from taking power after its overwhelming electoral victory the previous month, over 100,000 Algerians have died. According to the authorities, they have been killed by Islamic activists. The idea that mujahideen might, under any circumstances, find reasons for the sort of brutality against innocent Muslim people that has become commonplace in Algeria’s recent history makes no sense whatsoever, and there is ample direct evidence, and even more circumstantial evidence, pointing to the Algerian state as the real perpetrators of the crimes.
The Algerian regime might well be one of the most ruthless regimes in the Muslim world when it comes to dealing with its own people, but it is has many rivals for the title. While some naive Muslims have looked to Arab states for support for the Palestinians in their struggle against the zionists, the regimes of kind Abdullah II in Jordan and king Muhammad V in Morocco are only two of several that have been more concerned with preventing their people from turning anti-zionist protests into anti-government ones. Far from condemning Arafat for his repression of Hamas and other Islamic activists, Arab states are doing precisely the same thing in their own countries. Both regimes have cracked down hard on Islamic activists protesting against the zionists, for fear that the public mobilization might turn against themselves. Another way of avoiding this would be to take a firm stance in support of the Palestinian intifada, but this appears not to have occurred to them. Instead, the pressure from the Arab states has been not on the zionists, but on Arafat, to return to the negotiating table and reach a settlement, even though such a settlement can only be to the zionists’ advantage.
In numerous Muslim countries, Islamic movements are being viciously suppressed, often far more viciously than the Islamic movements in Palestine. It is hard to imagine which has the greatest impact on a Muslim community: the sorts of hardship being suffered by the Palestinians, or the more subtle but perhaps more even painful hardships imposed on Muslim women in Turkey for trying to fulfil their Islamic duty to cover themselves and conduct themselves with modesty and reserve. Similar secular policies are being pursued by the government in Tunisia. In Uzbekistan, scores of Muslims who wish to practice, or to live according to their faith in public and social matters, are in jails, and Islamic institutions are subject to regular crackdowns and closure. The examples are legion.
Islamic movements confronting the forces of kufr on the front-line against Western civilizational imperialism (and its allies and agents) have a high profile, be they in Palestine, Kashmir, India, east Turkestan, Chechnya, Sudan, Nigeria, or the Balkans. But the battle of Islamic movements in the Muslim countries, fighting against agents of kufr planted deep into our societies, and imposed on us as rulers and leaders, is arguably far harder and even more important. Until Islamic movements overthrow these rulers, and create Islamic states in the heartlands of the Muslim world, the struggles in Palestine, Kashmir and other such places will not be won.
The struggles of these Islamic movements take many forms: political, military, intellectual, social and cultural. Often they are harder to see for Muslims elsewhere, particularly in the West, than the movements of the frontiers, and information about them is harder to come by and to understand. Supporting them, in the heart and in material terms, is often harder. But while we support wholeheartedly the struggle in Palestine, we must remember also, at this time more than any other, that there are other movements requiring our support and assistance all over the Muslim world, not only in our prayers, but by our actions.