In this column it is sometimes necessary to raise issues that others are reluctant to discuss, and many reluctant to hear. It is our conviction that knowledge is superior to ignorance and always preferable to it, and that an informed public is better able to decide its future than one kept in ignorance.
Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction by Hans Blix. Pub: Bloomsbury, London, 2004. Pp: 285 pp. Pbk: £16.99 / $24.00. By Nasr Salem As the US seems to be sinking into more and more difficulties in Iraq, the question of how it became entangled in a latter-day Vietnam-like quagmire becomes more and more important, at least to the West. That the US and Britain couched their arguments to justify the invasion of Iraq in terms of the search for Iraq’s alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) makes the story of the UN’s inspections in Iraq an essential element of the history of the prelude to war.
Elections are supposed to be the cornerstone of democracy, a viewpoint that suggests that 2005 may well prove to be the year in which the US’s claims to be promoting democratization in the Middle East are vindicated. The year opened, on January 9, with elections for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, and the rest of the month has been dominated with talk of the elections due to be held in Iraq on January 30 (after Crescent goes to press). Later in the year, polls of various kinds are also due to take place in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Oman and Yemen. In Egypt, the most populous and influential Arab country, presidential and parliamentary polls are scheduled for September and October respectively.
At a time when his policies had been demonstrated to be disastrous for the vast majority of America’s people, and his main foreign policy adventures had proven to have been based on blatant falsehoods, George W. Bush’s re-election as president of the United States in November was a triumph of political manipulation; a fact, incidentally, recognised by many within the US itself. Although Bush’s supporters celebrated the fact that he had won a genuine mandate by attracting the majority of votes cast – unlike his gerrymandered election of 2000 – opponents pointed out that he had performed far worse in his second elections than any previous president to have served two terms. The fact that the US population is almost equally divided into his supporters and critics, and that many of those who oppose him are vehement in their dislike and contempt for him, encouraged some to hope that Bush might moderate the tone of his second term.
At a time when Muslims around the world are under intense attack from external enemies, most of them directly or indirectly associated with the United States of America, the sole superpower of the modern world, it is sometimes easy to forget the key objectives facing Islamic movements. Defending our lands and societies from outside attack is undoubtedly essential but our main objective must be the establishment of Islamic institutions and orders in our own societies, most importantly Islamic political orders. All across the world today, Muslim societies are dominated by political orders and state structures that exist not to serve and promote the interests and values of Muslim peoples, determined by their Islamic commitment, identity and political culture, but to serve the selfish interests of ruling elites and the foreign powers that support them.
The heavy American assault on Falluja in November ranks among the worst crimes ever committed against Muslims. ZAFAR BANGASH, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, answers two key questions that it raises.
After the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini began the practice of addressing an annual message to the Ummah as they athered for the Hajj. IMAM SAYYID ALI KHAMENEI has maintained the tradition since becoming Rahbar. Here we publish his message to the hujjaj issued as Iranian hujjaj prepared to leave for the Haramain.
Officials of the new Palestinian administration under Mahmood Abbas, elected president in flawed elections on January 9, claimed success on January 24, when Hamas, Palestine’s main Islamic movement and leading militant resistance group, reiterated its willingness to suspend military operations provided Israel do the same.
It is perhaps ironic that a part of the heart of the Muslim world that has been under western occupation for over half-a-century should have some of the most vibrant politics in the modernMiddle East. For the west, the presidential elections in the area of Palestinian autonomy was proof of their commitment to bringing democratization to the Muslim world.
Since 1967 Israel has been occupying the Golan Heights, which are a Syrian territory wrenched away in a war that has not formally ended; Syria has good legal, moral and political reasons to try to recover its land.
The world rediscovered a largely forgotten word as the new year rolled in: tsunami. The tragedy wrought on the countries of the Indian Ocean brought out both the best and worst in human beings. Ordinary individuals all over the world opened their hearts to help the victims of this tragedy; governments first downplayed it, then discovered it as an opportunity for self-promotion.
No sooner had the tsunami struck more than ten countries in southern Asia than the numbers games began. First it was the giant news media who rushed to report the latest death toll – the bigger the death toll reported, the fresher the news was. Another numbers game is the aid promised by governments to help the victims.
In a region that is crying out for political change, two key countries are beginning 2005 with elections. Palestinians elected a new president on January 9, while Iraqis are due to elect a National Assembly on January 30 (after Crescent goes to press).
The agreement signed between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on January 9 has been hailed as a “historic peace deal” that ends a long-drawn-out and ruinous war between the “Muslim north” and the “Christian”-animist south.
The top posts of some of the world’s most prominent international agencies have fallen vacant and must be filled soon. Three of the agencies that need new or reappointed heads are the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Turkish government has recently announced a programme for retraining schoolchildren, teachers and even imams to “promote modern and peaceful interpretations of Islam”, and to rebrand old European enemies such as Greece and Russia as friends.