The political situation is Pakistan so precarious that few people, including the country’s president, general (retired) Pervez Musharraf, can say with certainty that the parliamentary elections scheduled for February 18 will indeed be held on time. Even if they are, there is little prospect of change unless Musharraf resigns and allows genuine civilian rule. There are widespread allegations of bogus voters’ lists, illegal use of government machinery and vehicles to support candidates allied to Musharraf, and of course of voter intimidation.
When Palestinians in Ghazzah broke down the fence dividing the city of Rafah into Egyptian and Ghazzan sections, and crossed into Egypt to obtain vital supplies that they have been starved of by Israel’s blockade of Ghazzah, it was a clear demonstration of both their plight and their determination to survive, despite the hardships and suffering. Perhaps most significant of all was a point noted by many journalists and other observers: that despite their situation in Ghazzah, few Palestinians were trying to remain in Egypt.
The US midterm elections in November 2006, in which the Democrats took control of the House of Congress for the first time in twelve years, was perhaps the moment when most commentators in the US realised that the country had turned decisively against Bush and the neo-cons. As analysts dissected the implications of the results, Bush took himself off for a tour of friendly countries in south-east Asia, to generate pictures of himself appearing powerful and statesmanlike and counter the bad political news at home.
Muslims today find themselves facing a curious paradox. While some Muslims are involved in intense struggles to throw off the yoke of foreign domination and oppression - in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance -others in these very societies and elsewhere are busy facilitating the re-colonization of the Muslim world.
At a time when the entire world of Islam is 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.
This month, Muslims all over the world should be celebrating the 29th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, alongside other informed and conscientious people concerned for the oppressed and downtrodden of the world. But the harsh reality is that only a tiny fraction of these people will be commemorating the rise of Imam Khomeini and the success of the Iranian people in toppling the “king of kings”, the last Pahlavi shah of Iran. Nearly three decades ago, the Islamic Revolution that took place in Iran resonated among virtually all Muslims and many other of the world’s oppressed peoples.
Perhaps the only confusion that emerged in the aftermath of Suharto’s death on January 27 was the conflicting reports about how many names he had: whether he had one name, like most Javanese, or two, prefixed by ‘Muhammad’. The rest of the details about his life are clear.
The adage ‘no news is good news’ is not always true for Muslims in southern Thailand. Reports from the south seldom make it to the mainstream news agenda, conveying the impression that the conflict is dying down. Yet in less than four years about 3,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and tens of thousands wounded.
While George W. Bush made his imperialistic tour of the Middle East last month, French president Nicholas Sarkozy (pic) was also in the Persian Gulf. Among other things, he agreed a $4 billion deal to build nuclear power stations there and to establish a military base in Abu Dhabi, just across the Gulf from Islamic Iran. The deal secures lucrative contracts for French nuclear companies, and the base is France's first military presence in the region.
George W. Bush’s tour of the Middle East last month was reminiscent of old-style imperialism, when emperors would occasionally tour their vassal states to assert their overlordship and remind their local underlings of their place. George W. Bush concluded his Middle East tour last month by telling Syria, Iran and their allies to “end their interference” in Lebanese politics. This came just a few days after the US president sent “a clear message to the Syrians – that you will continue to be isolated, you will continue to be viewed as a nation that is thwarting the will of the Lebanese people.”
The transitional federal government (TFG) of Somalia, which was put in power in December 2006 after the removal of the ruling Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) by the Ethiopian army – began to disintegrate last October, finally crumbling soon after its 72-year-old leader, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, fell ill in December and was taken to Britain for medical treatment. Now the new government, a remnant of the TFG, whose name it continues to use, is also backed by the US, Ethiopia and their allies, including those in the region such as Kenya.
Until the US started recruiting Sunni tribal forces to use against resistance forces in Iraq last year, it was widely thought that Sunni opinion in Iraq was firmly against the occupation and in support of the resistance. In fact the situation is far more complex. KHALIL FADL reports.
This month Muslims around the world will mark the 29th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, which shook the world and has dominated international affairs ever since. ZAFAR BANGASH, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, discusses its success.
Malcolm X, who was assassinated in New York on February 21, 1965, was a unique figure in the history of Islam in America, and a leader who has inspired generations of Muslim everywhere, particularly those living in non-Muslim countries. FAHAD ANSARI considers his legacy.
Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq by Eric Davis. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2005. Pp: 385. Pbk: $27.50.