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An Unfiltered Report on Current Thought in the Muslim World

[The following article was received by FTW on November 18, 2002 from a Malaysian diplomatic source with whom we have had contact in recent years. It is a compelling and direct look at the thought processes and viewpoints originating from the highest levels of Islamic thought as well as from within those nations who have economic and political interests that may not always mesh perfectly with the price of gasoline for a consumer in Topeka, Kansas. It is extremely important that Americans and the Western World have direct access to this thinking, unfiltered by the spin doctors of the American corporate press, which is so heavily dependent upon and serving of U.S. military and economic imperatives.

The author is the Director General of the respected Malaysian think tank, the Institute for Strategic and International Studies. - MCR]

[reprinted with permission]


Comment: Need to speak out as one voice

Mohamed Jawher Hassan

New York, Bali, Moscow. Jenin, Ramallah, Jerusalem. Chechnya, Xinjiang, Aceh. As one surveys the landscape of terrorism, both state and non-state induced, one is reminded of the timeless words of Haile Selassie, that "throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph". And soon another evil may be added to the list: an attack on Iraq.

Indeed, history is littered with many sins of omission, as many as the crimes of commission. But as we wait with bated breath for what seems to many as an inevitable attack on Iraq, I am reminded most of all of the sins of omission. Of the Arab streets that are so silent, when it is they who should be leading the demonstrations, not the good people in Europe and Asia and the United States. Of the Arab and Muslim leaders whose voices and actions should be more united, forceful and persistent, but instead are divided, compromised and fitful. And of the many movements and eminent individuals everywhere who fight for peace and justice, who should join hands across the globe in one powerful statement against the evil of unrestrained military might gone mad, but instead remain silent, or speak but with disjointed and isolated voices. There are omissions aplenty elsewhere too. Omissions by the imam and religious teachers who corrupt a gentle, humane and enlightened faith by preaching naught but intolerance, hatred and mindless rejection of all that is progressive. They bring even more tragedy to the Muslim ummah than to its alleged enemies. Omissions by Muslim leaders who cannot summon the wisdom, courage and strength to cleanse the madrasah and religious schools where these obscenities and deviant teachings are peddled, every day, every night. Omissions by leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are unable to lead their people out of poverty, disease and despair, the seed-beds of alienation and terrorism. Regimes, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, that do not provide basic freedoms to their people, till the people can take no more and rebel. States and super-states that have not been able to balance the larger integrity of the state with aspirations for a share in governance by its constituent parts, leading to pressures for secession and autonomy, and brutal oppression in turn by the state.

A global system that is too fragile and too easily manipulated by the powerful to prevent or punish terrorist states that seize, occupy and annex neighbouring lands, driving out their people and destroying their homes, depriving them of all hope and forcing them to become human bombs because they have no weapons and see no realistic recourse to reclaim what is rightly theirs. An anti-terrorist campaign that will not address root causes, and that breeds even more terrorism because it refuses to acknowledge, much less rectify, unjust policies. A campaign that feeds the ranks of the terrorists because in its rage it strikes out blindly, stigmatising whole civilisations and not hesitating to indiscriminately destroy both the guilty few and innocent many alike. A campaign that by its irresponsibility and irrationality exposes even innocent states and innocent peoples to terrorist attacks. A global system that by omission as well as commission enables the powerful to dictate an agenda for global peace that is steeped in hypocrisy and double standards. A system that advocates disarmament, but only for the weak, not for the strong.

The strong continue to arm themselves ever more, citing justifications that are denied for the weak, enabling the strong to become even stronger and compelling the weak to become even weaker. As a result today there is only one hyperpower, one that is furiously expanding its hegemonic capacity even more. It thinks this will provide it security against those it willfully alienates and antagonises. But there is no protection against terrorism until root causes are addressed. Terrorists will seek your soft underbelly, and you are vulnerable at a thousand little points at home and abroad. This same system of hypocrisy and double standards has now approved a resolution that finds Iraq guilty of material breach of UN resolutions, demands that the country disarm, or face the consequences, namely war. This system conveniently ignores Israel, which has been in material breach of many more UN resolutions for a period four times as long. Iraq is suspected of having weapons of mass destruction, Israel is a confirmed owner and producer of weapons of mass destruction. Israel has these weapons aplenty, and it has used them to terrorise Palestinians daily for the past at least 40 years. The United States fears that Iraq may develop nuclear weapons. Israel already possesses them, and there is not even the mildest of censure from its ally or that ally's friends.

North Korea says it already has a nuclear arms programme, and this raises the question: why not also attack North Korea, which presents a more urgent threat than Iraq? The United States blandly explains that the North Korean situation can be handled by other means, not war. And the world swallows this hypocrisy. The world thus stands guilty again of the sin of omission. As the threat of war on Iraq draws closer, the global community - governments, international institutions and people - can do a few things, so that they will not again be accused of the sin of omission. They can do six things in particular.

First, countries and institutions that are friends as well as foes of Iraq can separately and together exhort the country to disarm and comply fully with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Iraq should find it easier to comply this time around. The present inspection team is truly multinational and is not heavily compromised with American presence as was the previous team. Iraq must provide no pretext for attack, for pretext is exactly what Washington and London are waiting for. These nations and institutions must also assure Iraq that once the inspection team is satisfied they will work to ensure that all sanctions against Iraq are lifted. The Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement, so guilty of so many sins of omission in the past, have a rare opportunity to redeem their credibility in this regard. They cannot disappoint again. The second is a task for the people of the world, not for states or international organisations. The people can continue to agitate against war. Florence was an impressive event. Half a million people marching against war is unparalleled in history. But there must be more. Across the continents and the seas, people of all creeds and nationalities, women and men, young and old, must join hands and say no to war. They must say it together, in one powerful global voice, and they must say it more than once, until those hard of hearing in Washington and London do hear, and relent.

An attack on Iraq, however speedily executed, runs the risk of destabilising an entire region and alienating an entire world. It will kill, maim and displace thousands of innocent people in the country. It will inflame Muslim anger everywhere, turning moderates into radicals, and transforming radicals into terrorists. Currently pliant Arab states will face increasing hostility from their own people at home. The "war" against terror will begin to unravel. Economies, many of them already hard put to invigorate growth, will face further challenges. And the threat of further terrorism will rise. Third, if war does break out as many expect it will, the global community must ensure that it is conducted in the full gaze of the world, for only by so doing can the excesses of the powerful be checked. There will be an attempt to limit access by the media. We must fight it. Iraq must encourage full media presence, be it from the BBC, the CNN, Al Jazeera or others.

Collateral damage, as it is so cynically and coldly worded, must be exposed whenever and wherever it occurs, for the people of Iraq are not responsible for any of the guilt of the leaders they did not elect. Iraqis have suffered enough.

Fourth, the global community - states, institutions and people alike - must ensure that those implementing UN resolutions abide strictly by their mandate, and not exceed it. Saddam is a very bad and cruel man. The people of Iraq deserve a better leader. But regime change is not what the UN Resolution mandates. Indeed, the Security Council debate has expressly rejected regime change. There are voices in the US administration that are also reportedly of the view that Resolution 1441 does not require the Security Council to pass a new resolution permitting members to launch an attack if Iraq violates the present resolution. The global community must reject this outrageous interpretation.

The resolution clearly calls upon the Security Council to convene immediately upon receipt of a report of Iraq's failure to comply, to consider the situation and the need for full compliance. If there is an automatic trigger there would be no need for deliberation on "the need for full compliance". And even if a new resolution were not required, what gives a member state of the UN, in this case the United States, the authority to attack? Fifth, if Iraq is attacked and it is defeated - and there can be no other outcome - the global community must ensure that the victors do not plunder its rich resources. The cynics allege that this is the true intent of the current initiative against Iraq. There are reports that oil deals are already being worked out.

There are other disturbing reports as well. That Washington plans to have US military forces directly govern Iraq for at least three to four months before it is replaced by an international civilian administration supported by US troops. And that US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld wants the transitional administration to be headed by an American who will directly report to him. The global community must not allow such obscenities to come to pass. All action in Iraq is under the final legal authority of the United Nations, not of any state. Any force set up to enforce Iraqi compliance, whether a UN force or an international force approved by the UN, acts on behalf of the UN and the international community. Any interim military administration is a UN administration, not a US administration.

Any international civilian administration is a UN administration reporting to the UN Secretary General, not to some Defence Secretary of a member state. How Iraqi resources are to be administered and exploited in the interim will be decided by these UN and UN-mandated authorities in Iraq, not by any member state. Sixth and finally, the global community must challenge the powers-that-be in the UN Security Council to take similar measures to enforce implementation of UN resolutions upon the terrorist state of Israel. The primary target for challenge should be the United States, for it holds virtually all the cards on Israel. If the United States fails to co-operate and opposes the initiative it must be condemned for what it is: a state sponsor of state terrorism.

 - The writer is director-general of ISIS Malaysia. The views he expresses are entirely his own and not the institute's

İNew Straits Times (M) Berhad

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