Friday, May 25, 2007

Way Forward: the only solution
Presented in the conclusion of 'A war on Islam?', 2002.
Abid Ullah Jan

A felicitous conversation between two characters of Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons” goes like this:

Sir Thomas More: The Law, Roper, the Law, I know what is legal not what is right. And I will stick to what’s legal…

William Roper: So now you’ll give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?

Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

More: And when the last law was down, and the devil turned on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, nor God’s – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

In real life, Thomas More would have been decidedly of the view that there was something called the law of nations, which was prior to and above the laws of England. Since September 11, 2001, no such awareness seeps through the thicket of ignorance in the West.

Ever since, media prosecution has proven Muslims guilty of terrorism and all justifications are being put forward in support of cutting down all international rights, laws and codes of ethics to eliminate 'the evil.' A war on every aspect of Islamic civilisation under the banner of 'war on terrorism' is considered a panacea to all the ills afflicting the United States. But, is it the only solution?

The post September 11 experience further forces us to ask: has the US occupation of Afghanistan reduced the chances of any attack on its interests? Would support of dictatorships in the Muslim world eliminate threats to US security? Would the US-backed drive for secularisation substantially reduce anti-Americanism in the Muslim world?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic 'NO.' The only solution to eliminating anti-Americanism and the subsequent anti-Westernism and associated violence for the establishment in Washington is to live and let the Muslims live with the same rights to liberty, independence, sovereignty and dignity as it wants to enjoy for itself.

This solution can never be materialised as long as the US does not feel concerned about the rights of Pakistanis, Egyptians, Algerians, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Kashmiris, Chechens, etc., as much as it is concerned about the rights of Muslims to throw off the burqa, shave off their beards and adopt any of the lifestyles from straight to bi-sexual, homosexual, transsexual and omnisexual. The Muslims’ collective rights as independent nations are as much important as individual human rights of their public.

The implementation of the aforementioned solution depends on overcoming the following basic hurdles of misconception on the part of the US and its Allies. These misconceptions can be discussed, debated and implemented in one go or in phases, but the idea to continue living with them will never help the US achieve the objectives that it expects to achieve through its 'war on terrorism.'

Misconception 1, Global apartheid will survive: The first misconception of the US and its Allies is that Muslim nations will ultimately learn to live with the pervasive inequality, unlimited double standards and domination. Calls from the Muslim world for equal rights, as enjoyed by other 'civilised' nations, are labelled as the voices of extremists and terrorists. The American 'war,' if it is indeed launched for peace and not domination, can only succeed if it is free of the hypocrisy, cynicism and partisan exploitation that surround it. Liberty and independence is as dear to the Palestinians and other Muslims around the world as they are to Americans. If other countries do not have the right to impose or overthrow governments in the US, UK, then neither do they have the right to overthrow populist governments in Muslim countries.
Twentieth century colonialism has led to international apartheid. However, quelling Muslims’ resistance to repression and domination is a short-term policy, because regardless of their economic, technological, organisational and military weakness; and political instability, Muslim nations will never surrender their rights to live as equal nations in the world.

Misconception 2, Authoritarianism is bliss: This misconception leads to yet another myth that US interests can be safeguarded forever through imposing, sponsoring and sustaining pro-US authoritarian regimes in Muslim countries and that is a lesser evil. Just a year ago, the US could not do 'business as usual' with dictator Musharraf, but suddenly all the principles went up in smoke and he is now the most beloved “President” of Pakistan. Considering authoritarian regimes as bastions of US interests is one of the main impediments to the US understanding the suffering of the Muslim masses. The unrepresentative governments like Hosnie Mubarak, Islam Karimov's and Pervez Musharraf will not remain a blessing for the US for too long. Once they start backfiring, the global apartheid will crumble just like the colonial empires of the 20th century.
3, Secularisation will dilute the Islamic threat: It is an extremely disappointing fact that the US and some opportunistic Muslim leaders have started presenting the establishment of an Islamic government as a threat to civilisation. Global efforts are underway to secularise all Muslim states, keeping Turkey as a role model before them. Such attempts ignore the fact that Islam is not an 'ism'; nor any degree of manipulation can make it so.
By dislodging the Taliban government in the most illegal and inhuman way, the US is trying to establish that all the propaganda against the Taliban regime was based on facts and that any government established in the name of Islam will be a copy of the Taliban government. To make secularism palatable, the war against the Taliban was underway since long. Long before the final showers of cluster bombs, the US was raining down dollars to buy out Muslim scholars and the close associates of Mullah Omar, for influencing major decisions.
All these efforts paved the way for demonising the Taliban as much as possible, and the idea of an Islamic state. The fact, however, remains that the task of diluting Islam in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc., is daunting and its consequences will be far worse than allowing Muslims to form and run governments of their own liking. For this to happen, the US has to get rid of its morbid dread of Islamic states. If allowed to flourish on an equal footing, such governments would be more sincere and friendly to the US than self-centred despots.

Misconception 4, The root causes can be ignored: The fourth hurdle to realising the only solution is the wrong assumption that the US will win the 'war on terrorism' without specifically addressing its root causes or defining the meaning of terrorism. Taking advantage of the ambiguity, politicians and governments worldwide have expanded the war against terrorism by re-designating their own enemies as terrorists and extremists.
This has been easy because Washington's definition is elastic and arbitrary, and it has cut down many laws that could hinder the smooth implementation of occupation and repression of Muslim states. Indian exploitation of the politico-religious conflict, Russian reinterpretation of its war on the Chechens, and Israeli attempts to consummate its occupation are but initial pinpricks compared to the impending horrible consequences of the US’s ambiguous war on terrorism.

The US needs to stop its disregard of the plight of the oppressed by labelling it as propaganda of the terrorists. Life is not so different under the direct occupation of Israel in Palestine and indirect US domination in Egypt or Pakistan. The marginalized masses are growing entirely insensitive to violence and the value of life. There must be some reason that they not only dance at the death of Americans but also when their own brothers and sons blow themselves up.

Misconception 5, Propaganda and lies will endure: The recent success of Western news channels to lie about almost every aspect of the Muslim world has emboldened American policy makers to believe that they will maintain their supremacy forever by concealing the facts from their public and to make them love and hate personalities, nations and different issues according to the strategic priorities of Western capitals. They ignore the fact that people on both sides of the artificial divide are seriously looking for change.

Misconception 6, The UN can be exploited indefinitely: For maintaining the status quo in the international apartheid, the US believes that it can enjoy forever the unchallenged, one-against-all position with its veto power; that it will continue to use the UN as an oppression-legitimising agency; and that its managers of genocide will indefinitely bow down to US pressure. Keeping the growing resentment against US policies in mind, one can safely predict that an upheaval in the Muslim world could soon trigger a rejection of the unjust and undemocratic UN mechanism.

For peace, the US has to make a war on injustices.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa has been a proponent of what is probably the best way to fully reconcile differences and expose injustices. In this age of global apartheid, we now need his "truth and reconciliation commissions" on an international level for exposing and acknowledging all the bad, dishonest and evil things, done by all sides, with the hope of getting justice, making restitution, and trying to prevent them from ever happening again. This is consistent with the statement, "the truth will set you free" and this is one of the ways towards the only solution.

The proposed international "truth and reconciliation" commissions need to be independent and without any power, with anyone, to veto the truth. There are too many good Muslims and good Americans, that would hate to see an escalation of war between people who should be best partners in peace, except for the acts of a few terrorists, dishonest leaders and broken promises on all sides.

Unfortunately, any future acts of terrorism against the people of the United States or the continued unequal treatment, occupation, repression and killing of Muslims around the world will not lead to greater understanding of the problem or justice for people who do have genuine grievances. The US cannot make the world a better place by cutting down all the laws while crusading against the devil in others. All of us need to honestly face the mirror, no matter how hard it may be and how long it may take.

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