Of course it’s a war on Islam
Bush and Blair call it a fight against terrorism, but many British Muslims see it as an assault on freedom.
Faisal Bodi – Guardian – Wednesday, October 17, 2001
It doesn’t seem so very long ago that another US president called Bush appeared before the American people to inform them that Operation Desert Storm had got under way. This was not a war against the Iraqi people, he assured them. It was a war to oust their despotic ruler from neighboring Kuwait and usher in a new world order.
Ten years on and more than 500,000 “excess” child deaths later (according to Unicef’s figures), Saddam Hussein is still in power in a country reduced from a bread basked to a begging bowl by his iron-fist rule and US-led sanctions. Palestinians have not seen their rights restored. And the Kashmiris are still fighting for independence.
With these gaping holes still festering, Bush junior has inflicted another wound on the bleeding body of the Muslim ummah, or nation, in the name of a war against international terrorism. Added to the list of injuries now comes Afghanistan, already weakened by two decades of internationally-assisted internecine warfare.
Of course, that’s not how Bush and Blair want the world to see their new double-act. Indeed the prime minister has gone on a charm offensive, turning itinerant imam in his quest to woo Muslim opinion. None of it washes except with the stooges who dutifully march down to Downing Street every time Mr Blair wants to suggest that since British Muslims are on side this cannot be a war against Islam. Since September 11 my imam has extended Friday prayers with a special supplication reserved for times of affliction, imploring God to annihilate Islam’s enemies, to “rock the ground underneath their feet”.
From Gaza to Jakarta the Muslim world is in uproar, nearing upheaval as it reacts to Pope Bush and Archbishop Blair’s crusade: in Iran (no friend of the Shia-hating Taliban), Malaysia, Indonesia, Palestine and Pakistan.
If they could vote with their feet in other countries – Egypt and Jordan have banned marches since the al-Aqsa intifada erupted a year ago – they would be marching to the nearest jihad recruitment office, just as they are in South Africa, where one organisation is raising 1,000 volunteers to fight the Americans.
For the rank and file believer, a drawn-out military offensive against terrorist groups and those that harbour them can only mean one thing: the extirpation of Islam as a political threat to the west’s exploitation of our countries. With the help of a handful of western states, the US-led coalition is attempting to deal once and for all with those who refuse to yield to the American world order.
Soon after September 11, it was reported that Britain and the US were drawing up a secret 10-year plan to combat the forces of “radical Islam”, a blueprint for a new cold war to be fought principally by means of espionage, subversion and economic sanctions, backed by periodic and, theoretically, limited military incursions.
This war is the first to carry the blessing of all the world’s major military powers: a grand global coalition against Islamic movements. Russia would like no better than a free hand crush the independence struggle in Chechnya and suppress similar movements on its southern flanks. To its east, China is brutally smothering its own insurgency in Xinjiang, home to more than 50m Muslims. India, another nuclear power, has some 700,000 troops quashing an insurrection in majority Muslim Kashmir.
Operation Enduring Freedom is in fact a war against liberty, a war against those Muslims who cling to the hope that, just like their counterparts in the west, they too will one day be able to determine and direct their own fate. Ever since independence, Muslim societies from Marakesh to Mindanao have had their aspirations for self-rule repressed by western-backed elites and dictators.
Take Algeria, where a ferocious war has been waged on Islamists (after elections they won in 1991 were annulled) with the active approval and connivance of the west.
In Turkey, the largest mainstream Islamic party has been banned twice; now in its third guise, its leader Tayyib Erdogan faces trial for comments he made years ago. Forgotten by the world, hundreds of Turkish Islamists are serving 100-year-plus sentences for defying the taboo on mixing faith and politics.
In the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, suddenly a valuable coalition partner, an authoritarian regime has executed scores of Islamist dissidents since a 1999 attempt on the life of its dictator, Islam Karimov. There is indeed a blight we can call extremism, a scourge within that Islamists can rightly be accused of neglecting, despite valiant efforts by scholars such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi. But there is also near-unanimous agreement that internal problems within the House of Islam will never been solved while its walls are ablaze.
What the Muslim world needs right now is a long period of calm and stability, not one based on security apparatuses and dictators but on the free expression of the collective will of its peoples. If the west is not prepared to help in that endeavor, it should at least cease being a hindrance. The worst thing it can do is to become our enemy.
Faisal Bodi is a writer on Muslim affairs and editor of ummahnews.com