The Muslim rulers’ pre-occupation with the ‘enemy within’ - in most cases a euphemism for Islamic resistance - has made them a natural ally of the ‘enemy without’ and consequently, a strategic threat to the security of the Muslim world. It has become a familiar practice for Muslim rulers to condemn ‘terrorism’ and for Muslim regional bodies to hold regular sessions to consider ways of curbing it while kufr conspiracies are rarely addressed.
In several Arab countries, the enemy within cannot be a member of the ruling dynasty, as the ‘royal families’ of Oman and Qatar are painfully aware of. Oman’s present Sultan, Qaboos, seized power from his father, Sultan Said, in July 1970. More recently, the current Qatari amir, Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa, overthrew his father in 1995. Seven Qataris were put on trial recently, accused of attempting to re-install the former amir with the alleged help of the United Arab Emirates.
But in most cases, the internal adversary is the Islamic Movement, code-named irhab, the Arabic term for terrorism. Even the plainly legitimate Palestinian resistance to Zionist occupation does not escape being classified as terrorism - as Egyptian president Husni Mubarak’s infamous warning to Israel in November showed.
Mubarak, who has made the condemnation of irhab a personal vocation, warned on November 18 that unless Israeli troops withdrew from Hebron as agreed under the Oslo accords, the entire region would be engulfed in ‘uncontrollable terrorism’ - revealing his concern for the safety of his regime than for Palestinian interests.
‘My principal fear is not war but terrorism,’ he said. ‘That is our fear, uncontrollable fear. It would hit not only Israel but all neighbouring countries. Moderate Arab leaders who are working for peace will have enormous difficulty continuing down that road unless the other side responds to the desire for peace.’
The Egyptian leader unwittingly revealed that no Arab government would to go to war with Israel over Palestine but that Islamic Movements would, taking the fight to Arab regimes that refuse to face the US-Zionist axis.
Mubarak, however, has no monopoly over the war against the Islamic Movements. As he was issuing his November warning, two Arab organizations were preparing to hold separate conferences on the threat to terrorism. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) interior ministers gathered in Doha, the Qatari capital, on November 14, while two days later, the Arab League justice ministers assembled in Cairo to hammer out an agreed definition of irhab.
The Saudi interior minister, Nayef, as if not to be outdone by Egyptian leaders, told the Doha gathering that irhab was indeed an ‘international phenomenon’ and was not confined to the Middle East. He stressed the importance of fighting an evil ‘rejected by our religion and ethics,’ calling for concerted action by the entire security agencies of the GCC. The justice ministers arrived, as expected, at an agreed definition of irhab which excludes State terrorism, letting Israel, and indeed their own regimes, off the hook.
Successive Israeli governments routinely assassinate Palestinian leaders, demolish Palestinian homes, destroy crops belonging to Palestinian farmers and practice torture on a wide scale. Even Israel’s supreme court validates the use of torture by Israeli security and intelligence agents to extract ‘confessions’ from Palestinian activists.
The Arab justice ministers defined irhab as ‘every unlawful act committed by an individual or a group using force or violence or threats with the object of spreading fear among people or of hurting them and endangering their lives and property or inflicting damage on the environment or public or private property, or occupying or seizing such property or of exposing a public resource to danger.’
Armed with this definition, the Arab League interior ministers gathered in Tunis in early January to adopt an agreed text on stepping up the fight against ‘Islamic fundamentalist movements in the Arab world,’ as an AFP report put it. The accord, approved on January 5, seeks to ‘tighten security controls to prevent terrorist elements crossing borders between Arab States.’
While the Arab ministers were huddled together in Tunis in their morbid obsession with the threat of the ‘enemy within,’ the deadly external enemies of the Arab world were staging military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean. The US and Israeli navies, joined by that of Turkey, were in the midst of Reliant Mermaid - a manouevre clearly aimed at any real or potential opponent to Israeli or US hegemony in the region.
The ‘thinking’ behind the obsession was clearly set out in the statement of the Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Mousa, to the Tehran summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in December. Urging the meeting to face the threats posed to the Ummah ‘from the inside,’ he energetically argued that the ‘threat directed against the Muslim world and Islamic civilization from without is by far less serious than the threat from within.’ The OIC should give top priority to combating this evil with unremitting resolve,’ he said.
Muslim dictators are right in indentifying the global Islamic Movement as their deadliest enemy because it sees them as agents of the enemies of Islam who must be removed before a real emancipation of the Muslim world can be achieved. But they are wrong if they believe that ganging together against the movement can bring them real victory. The reverse is in fact true.
Muslimedia: February 1-15, 1998