The global Islamic movement, spreading all over the world, and the Islamic State in Iran, the leading edge of the movement, have one major problem in common: the sectarianism of the Muslims within them. And yet all these Muslims are blind to the sectarianism of Muslims in their own communities, those they regard as” our type of Muslims. Thus, “Sunni” Muslims are often oblivious to individuals and leaders in their own communities who cannot tolerate “Shi‘i” Muslims; and equally, “Shi‘i” Muslims are unconscious of individuals and leaders whose attitude to non-Shi‘is is deeply sectarian.
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: An Investigative Reporter Exposes the Truth about Globalization, Corporate Cons, and High-Finance Fraudsters by Greg Palast. Published by Constable Ltd., London, 2003. Pp: 400. Pbk: £7.99. By Iqbal Siddiqui This is an expanded edition of a book that was first published, to considerable acclaim, in 2002. Greg Palast, an American journalist who writes for British newspapers because he is seldom able to get his material into American publications, has produced an impassioned expose of many of the lies and myths that the West’s financial and political elites (which are closely linked) peddle in the name of democracy. In doing so, he is following the established tradition of Western dissident intellectuals and journalists such as Naom Chomsky, Howard Zinn, John Pilger and Michael Moore.
For those willing to see it, there is an undeniable irony in the fact that, at a time when the US and other Western countries claim to be championing democracy in the Muslim world, the only country in the Middle East with a genuinely open, participatory and vibrant political system is the Islamic State of Iran, the country that the US regards as its main enemy in the world. Equally notable is the fact that even as the West attacks Iran for being undemocratic, and represents itself as friend and ally of oppressed Iranians demanding democratic change in their country, senior figures in Iran respond by proclaiming that the Islamic State represents true democracy, and criticising elections in the US and the UK as proving that there is not real democracy in the Western countries that hypocritically claim to be the founders and leaders of universal democratic values.
Every time critics of the West point to oil as a major determining factor in shaping Western policies towards the rest of the world, Westerners scoff, dismissing such critics as paranoid conspiracy theorists. However, the reality is that oil is indeed a major, if often down-played, element of western strategic thinking, even if it is not necessarily “all about oil”, as critics often say.
The general elections in Britain on May 5 brought about more or less the result that most informed observers were expecting: the re-election of the Labour government led by prime minister Tony Blair, but with a much reduced majority in the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. For Muslim observers, the main points of interest were the revelations about the legal advice on which Britain went to war in Iraq, which was finally published by the government a week before the elections took place, in response to leaks of the advice published in the anti-war press; the performance of George Galloway, a former Labour Member of Parliament who had been expelled from the party because of his outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq (as well as a long record of dissident stands on other issues); and, a distant third, the fact that the number of Muslim in the Commons increased to four, all representing the Labour Party.
“We now live in a world in which the United States is the only superpower. We must recast our foreign policy to cope with this radically new situation.” Thus wrote Richard Nixon in his book Seize the Moment (1992). Nixon was surely neither the first nor the last American leader to dream of a unipolar world dominated by the US, but his book provides interesting insights into the making of post-1989 American policies on the premise that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US was the only superpower. The end of the Cold War, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, was also taken by US policy-makers as the beginning of a new phase in world history in which all other civilizations would adopt the three idols of Western civilization—democracy, freedom, and the free market economy—as their gods as well.
Such are the problems and crises facing Muslims in the world today that many Muslims become deeply pessimistic, even hopeless, about the future of the Ummah. In his talk at a Milad Conference in Pretoria last month, ZAFAR BANGASH, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, highlighted the centrality of optimism in the Seerah.
The compatibility or incompatibility of Western and Muslim societies are often debated. WAHEEDA VALLIANTE, a family counsellor and national vice-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, suggests an alternative to the “clash of civilizations” thesis.
Such is the US’s sense of uncertainty in Iraq that they have not even been sure how to respond to persistent rumours that Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-proclaimed “Leader of Al-Qa’ida inIraq” has been wounded in action and may even have died.
After nearly two months of armed confrontations with government troops, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people, the leaders of al-Shabab al-Mu’min (Faithful Youth) movement inYemen have expressed readiness to end their anti-government insurrection in return for a presidential pardon.
For some years president Husni Mubarak and the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (the Muslim Brotherhood) have somehow co-existed, Egypt’s largest opposition-group and world’s oldest Islamic organisation being widely described as “banned but tolerated.”
Few Muslim communities in a minority situation have given more support to fellow Muslims around the world than the small but dynamic Muslim community in South Africa. Whether it is victims of the tsunami or the endless wars to which Muslims are subjected in different parts of the world, the South African Muslims stand out for their compassion and generosity.
The rise and fall of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) seem to be tied to its arch-rival United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). Now that UMNO’s worst crisis is over with the end of the Anwar Ibrahim saga, all indications are that PAS is declining, with even party leaders becoming defensive when trying to answer accusations that the party has lost its direction.
A year after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was voted out of power in India, thousands of Muslims remain incarcerated under the terms of the country’s notorious anti-terrorist legislation. ZAWAHIR SIDDIQUE discusses the plight of Abdul Nasar Madani, an Islamic movement leader jailed since 1998.
For those familiar with the ruthless brutality of Uzbek president Islam Karimov, the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the eastern city of Andijan on May 13 was no surprise. With a gruesome track-record that includes methods of torture such as boiling prisoners and the removal of body parts, ordering troops to gun down demonstrators and fleeing civilians is something the Uzbek dictator could conceivably do with glee.
Ordinary Americans can be forgiven for failing to understand why people around the world hate their country and their government so much; successive governments in Washington and the media have kept them in the dark about the true nature of US policies that adversely affect the lives and welfare of billions of people everywhere.
The controlled elections in Kyrgyzstan on March 13, in which parties supporting president Askar Akayev routed opposition groups, turned out to be pivotal. Fearing that Akayev would extend his third term of office (due to expire late in the year) or transfer power to his two children (a son and daughter who were members of parliament), people organised street unrest that ended in his overthrow within a fortnight.
The assumption that it is the European Union’s transparent unwillingness to admit a Muslim country, rather than the reluctance of a Muslim people to join a Christian union, that is mainly responsible for the failure of membership-negotiations to make any progress is being steadily revised.