1. Khatami's Dilemma (Jan.03, 2003)
2. The All-American World Order (Jan. 17, 2003)
3. Sanctioning the Spilling of Blood (Jan. 31, 2003)
4. Signs of our Times (Feb. 14, 2003)
5. Sorry, Mr President (Februray 21, 2003)
6. UN-Gate (March 7, 2003)
7. A Requiem for Rachel (March 21, 2003)
8. The fate of empire builders (April 04, 2003)
9. A state gone mad (April 18, 2003)
10. Lahore: the eternally haunting city (May 02, 2003)
11. Quantum Reflections (May 23, 2003)
12. Understanding the roadmap (June 06, 2003)
13. The General's barter (June 20, 2003)
14. Remember Laeeq Babree (July 4, 2003)
15. The Real Issues (July 18, 2003)
16. The technology gap (August 01, 2003)
17. The Sleeping Ummah (August 22, 2003)
18. Reality check (september 5, 2003)
19. Road Map to Recolonization (September 19, 2003)
20. Instruments of Inquisition (October 4, 2003)
21. O I See (October 24, 2003)
22. A Lament for Urdu (November 7, 2003)
23. Collaborators Wanted (November 21, 2003)
24. Hate Factories (December 05, 2003)
25. A Record of Infamy (December 19, 2003)
Friday January 03, 2003-- Shawwal 29, 1423 A.H.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
"My Lord, give me the capability to tolerate an opposing point of view. My Lord, keep make me wise and aware, so that I may not judge someone or an idea until I have understood completely," thus prayed Dr Ali Shariati, who is, for many, the ideological father of the Iranian revolution and who was martyred in London on June 19, 1977 by the ubiquitous SAVAK, just three weeks after his escape from Iran. I invoke this poignant prayer, uttered by a man who had spent his life in the cause of Iranian people and the Revolution, to explore the position of the fifth President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Khatami (b 1943) on the question of dialogue between civilisations, the topic of his address delivered at the National Library of Pakistan, Islamabad on December 24, 2002.
What Mr Khatami said was nothing new; he has expressed more or less the same views on a number of occasions and with such consistency that one is sure to say that these views are not the product of any political expediency. What was new in the National Library address, however, was the inclusion of Mohammad Iqbal as the point of departure for his views. Mr Khatami not only used Iqbal to express his views, he also attributed many of his own ideas to Iqbal. This raises certain fundamental issues.
"Iqbal's bright and sophisticated mind explicitly distinguishes between two problems when analysing and criticising the development of Islamic thought in the past five hundred years," he said. According to him, Iqbal distinguishes between the uncritical and ignorant view of Western culture and the view that recognises the scientific and rational aspects of Western culture and civilisation. "Iqbal's approach was, thus, not in any way tantamount to negating or totally rejecting and ultimately becoming hostile to the culture and civilisation of the West," he stated.
"The Western culture," Mr Khatami further said, "is the conveyer of the spiritual, artistic and philosophical creations. We therefore, cannot and must not deprive ourselves of it, simply because of our dislike of the oppressive political and economic measures taken by the Westerners against the non-Western world, a fact which the fair and judicious political and economic thinkers and politicians of the West candidly confirm. Nor, of course, we can reject or discard our own cultural and spiritual heritage in the name of facilitating our scientific and cultural development." This, in a nutshell is the foundation of the "Khatami philosophy": We must separate the good and the bad of the Western civilisation, take the good and leave the bad. This is, indeed, a remarkable construction which conceives a civilisation like a cake which can be sliced according to one's wishes, taking the desired piece and leaving the rest.
Mr Khatami is not alone, nor the first one to take this position in reference to the Western civilisation. In fact, from Muhammad Ali Pasha of Egypt to the Young Turks of the pre-Kamal period and to our own Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, all Muslim reformers of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries have prescribed the same medicine for all the ills of Islamic polity. This prescription is especially recommended, in bold letters, when it comes to science and technology.
What is rather disturbing in Mr Khatami's most recent articulation of his position is the total inversion of Iqbal's message and philosophy. Iqbal's central message is that of integration of the inner self and his poetry is full of images of soaring eagles, flying above all dichotomies. But Mr Khatami's Iqbal is someone whose "tenderness of poetic spirit, profoundness of philosophical thought, and the enlightening warmth of religious doctrine have induced me to view the world through two separate pairs of eyes". Note the construction, "two separate pair of eyes" and examine it in reference to Iqbal's philosophy of integration!
Mr Khatami perceives the individual components of the Western civilisation, such as the arts and sciences, as exportable parts which can be imported without importing the central vertical axis from which these individual components emerge as branches from a tree. The fundamental flaw in this argument, which Mr Khatami and scores of other "Muslim Reformers" fail to see, is in their understanding of how civilisations give birth to their constituting components and the relationship between these individual components and to the whole.
In "The Spirit of Muslim Culture", the fifth lecture of The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Iqbal had argued that the Islamic civilisation came into existence on the basis of Revelation, a Revelation that was final and that completed the cycle of previous Divine Revelations. He argues that the central element of the Islamic Civilisation is a transcendent unity that is infinite. Iqbal had criticised the piecemeal approach to reality that was the hallmark of Greek thought and that would, later, become the foundation of Western civilization. "But the universe, as a collection of finite things, presents itself as a kind of island situated in pure vacuity to which time, regarded as a series of mutually exclusive movements, is nothing and does nothing. Such a vision of the universe leads the reflecting mind nowhere...The finite, as such, is an idol obstructing the movement of the mind...". He then quotes the Qur'aanic verse, "And Verily toward thy God is the (ultimate) limit" and points out that "the thought of Islam appears to have moved in a direction entirely different to the Greeks."
The second fundamental flaw of the Khatami doctrine is that it confuses the contemporary Western civilisation with that of its 16th and 17th century version as if time has stood still for the last four hundred years. The contemporary Western Civilisation has no place for Revelation. This is not to say that the West does not have religious people; quite the contrary, millions of human beings in Europe, UK and North America hold strong religious beliefs. But these beliefs are founded around the person of Jesus (may Allah's peace be upon him) and even when certain beliefs stem from the Bible, they arise out of a text which is construed on the basis of human experiences, not as a book revealed by God.
This fundamental difference between the Islamic civilisation and the contemporary Western civilisation cannot be overlooked in any formulation of the dialogue between civilisations. This does not mean that the two civilisations must clash. But for a dialogue to take place, the dialogue partners must recognise, honour and respect the fundamental belief systems of the other party. Mr Khatami and many so-called "modernist" Muslims bypass this tricky issue by appealing to an idealised version of the Western civilisation.
The dilemma faced by Mr Khatami, and a lot of so-called "modernist" Muslims is rooted in the contemporary social reality: While the Western civilisation has been marching from one peak of material wealth, military power and scientific and technological advances to another since the Scientific Revolution, the Islamic civilisation has produced nothing comparable. This leads them to believe that there must be something in the Western civilisation that can be appended to the Islamic civilisation so that it comes out of its static reek and start producing comparable marvels of science and technology.
But the flaw in this approach is, once again, the notion that science and technology produced in the West is something separate or separable from the rest of it. They take the grand civilisational process of appropriation of material from another civilisation as a simple act of appendage. They forget that in order for such a grand process to occur the appropriating civilisation has to first create a fermenting process, based on its own matrix, in which material from the other civilisation then flows, is transformed and is, finally, recast, in its own mould. This is what the Islamic intellectual tradition did to the Greek, Persian and Indian scientific and philosophical material that flew into its currents during the 8th to 10th centuries and this is what the Western civilisation did to the Islamic tradition that it appropriated and transformed during the 15th to 17th centuries.
This fundamental flaw in understanding the process then translates into practical approaches and gives birth to meaningless transfer of technology programmes which lead no where. This obscures their vision to the only proven route of renaissance of a civilisation that has existed since the beginning of history. This route demands the awakening of the inner force of the Islamic civilisation, independent of all borrowings from any other civilisation, beginning with the fermentation process that alone is capable of appropriating whatever knowledge it needs from whichever source it can find. Without this inner process, without this re-awakening of the Islam tradition of learning for which Iqbal yearned with all his heart, all dialogues are facile. What is most needed at this point, is a dialogue within the components of the Islamic civilisation and most of all, a self-reflection on approaches to revival. We have been stuck with this prescription propounded by Mr Khatami and numerous other reformers for the last 200 hundred years; it is time to leave behind this simplistic approach and seek deeper, more certain remedies.
Friday, Januray 17, 2003
Ziqa'ad 13 1423 A.H
The All-American World Order
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The new world order that came into existence in the wake of the Second World War is about to change. The new century can no longer carry the weight of the old. The old order was established when millions of people in Asia, Africa, South America and the Malay archipelago had risen from their slumber to drive out the overweening English, Dutch and French colonisers. Yearning to take control of their own destinies, these people demanded freedom. They were granted freedom but in the very process of giving, it was also taken back without their knowledge. Thus, the political map of the world was redrawn and the new map was quickly legitimised through a web of "international" institutions, the chief among them the United Nations. Thus, an organisation came into existence that was based on the law of inequality, brute power and that was designed to hold the desperate freedom movements.
The inequality was built into the UN Charter. All nations were not equal. Some were granted the veto power; the UN not only accepted the existing power structure that had come into existence after the World War II, it legitimised it. Instead of seeking equality, justice, honour and freedom for all segments of humanity, the UN "legitimated" a new world order based on the brute Law of Power. In the ensuing decades, the United Nations created numerous "international institutions" to expand its net over the entire globe. Thus, the only certain nation-states were permitted to develop modern instruments of "power": weapons, technologies and industries that provide a nation the muscles to exert force in the international arena. Thus, the right to develop nuclear weapons was annexed by a handful of countries in the name of world safety and peace. Although there exists no logical and moral basis for numerous monopolies established through the UN system, the new world order was proclaimed to be the most just and moral choice available to humanity.
The single most important country that dictated the new directions was a new player on the global scene: the United States of America. During the course of the next fifty years, this new power was to overshadow all previous colonisers and become the "sole superpower" through a most fascinating process that remains unparalleled in history.
This unique rise of America to its present position in world affairs is a fascinating phenomenon in world history. It is built on a relentless pursuit of clear goals, backed by powerful institutions and supported by a grand economic, political and social structure that is built on internally coherent and unifying principles. The single most important characteristic of these principles is an insatiable hunger for change.
The desire for change is such an integral part of the American makeup that if one were to describe the American civilization in only one word, it would be "Change". This central moving force of the American civilization projects itself in myriad forms: from the seasonal changes in the inventories of the marketplace to a vast and complex scientific research system that seeks to discover ever-new facets of the physical cosmos in order to replace the old. This same internal need for change, when projected on the social plane, translates into a polity in which everything is always on the move: from marriages to jobs to careers. The daily number of Americans on the move far exceeds any other nation. This also explains why America is home to the world's largest airlines.
It is this relentless inner force in the American psyche, this voracious desire, so integral to the "American Way", that generated the resources to build a new world order after the Second World War. But the same inner need for change has now outlived its own creation and demands the creation of yet another, far greater and far more American world order to suit the needs of the new "American Century".
This unquenchable desire for change, which is now demanding a re-drawing of the economic, political and cultural map of the world to suit its needs, has also become more fierce in the wake of 9/11. This is reflected in its lack of patience with all static orders, old regimes, institutions, individuals, ideologies, religions and ways of life that stand in its way.
At the most mundane level, this ruthless new face of America shows itself in the form of humiliation it heaps on visitors from certain countries who arrive at its borders only to discover that they are guilty of untold crimes unless they prove otherwise. At another level, this impatience has been enacted in tyrannical laws that border on apartheid. But these are merely the outward expressions of the wounded pride; the inner dynamics of the unappeasable need for change seek far greater changes not only at home, but globally.
Seen from their perspective, the American desire for "Change" is the most healthy, most dynamic and the most important aspect of human nature. After all, what could be more abhorrent than a static and unchanging order of things? And since success needs no further justification, America can rightly point out to its vast institutional infrastructure which has provided global leadership in science, technology and economic spheres.
But this self-righteous litany starts to shred into pieces when the American civilization is compared to the other civilizational orders that have existed for centuries and that continue to provide spiritual and moral solace to billions of people. And that is exactly where the new, impatient American zeal for change runs aground and becomes a threat to humanity, a harbinger of calamities and disasters that would be recorded in the darkest pages of human history.
It may not be possible for anyone to prevent the monstrous calamities that await the world in the making of a new "All-American World Order" but this does not mean that those concerned with the state of humanity should accept it as fait accompli; far from it. The minimum that is required from every man and woman who holds certain basic moral principles is to examine, elucidate and proclaim the repressive force of change that seeks to "Americanise" the rest of the world.
This is a moral imperative because at the root of the current tragedy faced by the entire human race is neither the oil nor the weapons of mass destruction hidden in any presidential palace but a moral dilemma that arises out of the very unjust world order that is being replaced with a far greater and far more reprehensive world order. It is this intolerant, myopic and self-centred vision of humanity that seeks to replace all other modes of existence that is to be resisted because in the very process of enacting itself as the only viable order, this new All-American world order would impose upon the rest of humanity a way of life that has its own destruction built into its genetic code: change.
Thus it is not only the moral and the spiritual heritage of humanity that is at stake, it is the very existence of human race on this planet that is being threatened with the dispatch of each new aircraft carrier and each new military unit to the war front. It is not merely the madman of Baghdad who would be replaced, the new World Order seeks to replace all "other" orders, all other modes of being.
In this struggle to resist the imposition of an All-American World Order, anyone who knows the lethal power of daisy-cutters and the immobilising effects of chilling euphemisms like collateral damage, must have faith in powers far greater than human. He or she must understand that the bells are indeed tolling, but keep asking: for whom?
Friday January 31, 2003-- Ziqa'ad 27 1423 A.H.
Sanctioning the spilling of blood
It should surprise no one that the Bush-Blair crusade against Iraq is about to launch its final round. It should also not surprise anyone that this deadly attack will be, somehow, sanctioned by the United Nations. After all, the United Nations is the brainchild of President Franklin D Roosevelt, who first used this phrase in his "Declaration by United Nations" issued on 1 January 1942. This declaration, let us recall, was a pledge not for peace but to continue fighting against the "Axis Powers".
Let history be our guide. Read the chilling order signed by President Truman to annihilate 200,000 human beings in Hiroshima-a city he calls "a military base"-and compare the present-day euphuisms such as "collateral damage" with those used during that horrible period: the Enola Gay plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, dubbed the 9,000 pound bomb, "Little Boy". Then look at the logbook of US Army Air Corps Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay plane (sold in New York on March 29, 2002 for $350,000): "I am certain the entire crew felt this experience was more than anyone human had ever thought possible. It just seems impossible to comprehend. Just how many did we kill?" And finally, have cast a glance at the statement issued by the White House sixteen hours after the atomic bomb was dropped.
This statement, issued by the President of the United States expressed no remorse or sorrow for killing thousands of innocent human beings-just triumph: "Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British 'Grand Slam' which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare... We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history -- and won."
Now compare the current Bush-Blair rhetoric against Truman's triumphant statement of August 6, 1945: "We are now prepared to obliterate more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the Japanese have above ground in any city. We shall destroy their docks, their factories, and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan's power...It was to spare the Japanese people from utter destruction that the ultimatum of July 26 was issued at Potsdam. Their leaders promptly rejected that ultimatum. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. Behind this air attack will follow sea and land forces in such numbers and power as they have not yet seen and with the fighting skill of which they are already well aware."
If this sounds like a deja vu, one should not forget other crimes committed by the United States since that terrible day of August 1945. Just three days later, it dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki-an action that is considered by the most historians a totally unnecessary act of aggression against an enemy already at its knees.
But what is most important for us today is the emergence of the new mechanism of unilateralism through the agency of the United Nations that has repeatedly sanctioned acts of terrorism by the United States in the post-World War II era at a scale never witnessed in human history. This product of infamy has not only presided over successive acts of violence against weaker nations, it has also been instrumental in passing and imposing selective resolutions when it suited the United States and its allies and forgetting about all resolutions when it did not suit them. Thus, it is not surprising that the resolutions pertaining to Kashmir and the Palestine could never be implemented while those which suit the needs of the US are approved and implemented with rapid speed.
That the attack on Iraq would be eventually actively or tacitly sanctioned by the United Nations is a forgone conclusion. The end-game now being pursued at the UN headquarters is merely a matter of debate on details. It is the product of minds who see no human element in their deadly plans; all they see is money, power, oil. Blinded by rage, hatred and ignorance, they have already planned a post-Saddam scenario. They are desperate to carry out their plans, in part, because they quickly need to recover the enormous amount of money that has been spent since September 2001 on their War on Terror; this vast apparatus of cruelty needs to be fed. Obviously, Afghanistan cannot provide any returns except for whatever can be harvested through its now flourishing poppy fields. Iraqi oil, on the other hand, is another story.
But no one should think that those who are bent on spilling the blood of thousands of human beings will stop after Iraq. This blood-thirst can never be quenched as the record of the last fifty years amply demonstrates. As soon as a new puppet regime is established in Iraq, the next targets would start emerging: Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia being highest on the list.
The most important question for those who see these designs clearly and in the light of history is: how can this aggression be stopped? What is to be done to effectively stop those who are bent upon killing thousands of innocent human beings? One thing should be clear: there is no help to be expected from the international mafia consisting of puppet regimes, the United Nations, the CNN and other North American media outlets because all of these are, in fact, a partner in this deadly game.
As for the recent call by Pakistan's so-called "religious parties" for an OIC meeting on the issue -- even the most elementary knowledge of the history of OIC should be enough to convince anyone that this puppet organisation can only serve those who are partners in this terrible crime against humanity. The leadership provided by these so-called religious parties of Pakistan during the American war against Afghanistan should have been enough evidence for their lack of competence in such matters. But the voters in Pakistan found nothing better and made the same lot a partner in the dirty facade that has put together a puppet regime in Islamabad. In any case, one should expect nothing from them.
In contrast, there are those who have already sent the first convoy of Western "human shield" volunteers from London to help prevent this criminal aggression. Organisers of this unique idea say they will take hundreds, possibly thousands, of anti-war activists to Iraq.
Other than the Divine help, the only hope one has to avert this disaster is precisely in such innovative actions. No one can fight the weapons of mass destruction in the arsenal of the United States. Only a massive support by a volunteer force consisting of citizens of all nations, most of all of those coming from the aggressor states, can help to stop the spilling of innocent blood.
What is needed is a grass-root action, organised on similar lines as the Human Shield initiative. But the recent worldwide demonstrations against the war have shown that Muslims are passively watching the destruction of their brethren in faith. This amounts to tacit approval of the coming attack. While streets of London, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo were full of anti-war demonstrations, Makkah, Madinah, Cairo and Lahore were immersed in their dreadful lethargy. This numb, inactive and silent response to an aggression that would annihilate thousands of human beings is not only deplorable, it amounts to being partners in sanctioning the spilling of blood.
That the United Nations will actively or tacitly approve the attack against Iraq should not surprise us because the UN owes its existence to the US-British policies. Established in 1945 in San Francisco, the UN provided a cover to those who had committed the most barbaric acts against humanity during the Second World War. Even a glance at the historical facts is enough to ascertain that the attack on Iraq comes from a country that has committed crimes against humanity at a scale no other country has ever reached.
February 14, 2003, Zil Hajj 13, 1424
Signs of Our Times
The reverential silence around the pilgrims was only broken by the chants, Allaho Akbar, Allaho Akbar until the Prophet began his farewell sermon with the praise of Allah. He was sitting on his camel and all around him, men, women and children stood in a sublime state, listening to the words of the Prophet which were being repeated by different men so that the whole crowd of more than 1,24000 could hear what was being said. It was a Friday, 1413 years ago. The place was the same where last Tuesday, more than two million men, women and children repeated the actions of the Prophet of Islam who himself performed the Hajj following the rites established since the time of Ibrahim—may Allah’s Mercy and Blessings be upon him.
This year the annual pilgrimage, that marks a high point in every Muslim life, took place amidst a menacing shadow that can only be compared with the clouds over Europe before World War II. Then it was a man named Hitler who had built his draconian dreams of a superpower and was about to launch his offensive against a powerless neighbor. Now, it is a cartel of men and women, intoxicated with the desire to dominate the whole world and impose their writ, floundering all customs of comity of nations.
Today, the world stands united against the US plans to attack Iraq, that is, all but the paid puppets of the Muslim world and a handful of Blairs who have aligned themselves with the Washington Cartel with the hopes of sharing the pie. The looming attack against Iraq is now only waiting for the story of incubator babies to arrive and they may arrive any minute. It will not be difficult for the CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to run such a story when the White House signals; they did exactly that for the Gulf War I. Then, this trump card, which starred the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States, had been used so successfully, that not only the Americans, but the whole world was engulfed in an outrage against the regimes whose soldiers had allegedly committed that barbaric crime of killing innocent babies in hospital incubators. By the time truth was disclosed, it was already irrelevant. The Gulf War had quickly achieved what was needed to be achieved and the outrage and the anger against the dishonesty and moral depravity of those who had concocted the story meant nothing.
But while we await for the arrival of the incubator babies, let us not forget that the present crisis is not merely about an attack against Iraq and its cruel and almost mad ruler; it is a much deeper crisis that stems from a much deeper root: the severance of the spiritual from the worldly, the disconnect between values, ethics, morality and the transcendent reality which alone can provide any real value to human existence.
In the absence of such a transcendent reality, all values, ethics and morals become relative, allowing the likes of Bush to parade the Satanic plans of the Washington Cartel in a religious language and the likes of Blair to pose as a crusader against evil. This relativism, that reigns supreme today, not only in the Western civilization which has gone through a deep severance from its spiritual roots, but also in many other parts of the world. The result is a world full of turmoil, suffering and constant clash.
Let us not forget that the terrible events of our times--conflicts, wars, deaths and destruction--are merely the outward signs of the callosity of the hearts that occurs when the hearts are severed from their nourishing springs and when the spiritual is removed from the temporal. Once this severance has been allowed, then anything is possible.
This severance is now the most fundamental dilemma of the human race. We have, on the one hand, a dominant and menacing power in the form of the Untied States of America and numerous smaller but equally evil regimes that control much of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Together, they form the real axis of evil that is responsible for the suffering of billions of human beings. Their mutual relationship is logical and deep, not accidental and superficial. Numerous parallels run through both arms of this axis: Just as the puppet, client-regimes of Africa, Asia and the Middle East do not represent the will of their people, the Washington Cartel does not represent the will of the people of the United States as the millions of “peace marchers” have amply demonstrated. Just as the client-regimes have to continuously deceive their people, the Washington Cartel has to do the same and it does it through a most insidious mechanism by manufacturing public opinion through a media that is controlled by a handful of allies of the Washington Cartel. And lately, the Washington Cartel has started to use other tactics: harassment, attacks on civil liberties and a total disregard for numerous internationally recognized laws, obligations and duties.
So far, the tiny segment of humanity living outside the sphere of this real axis of evil has watched the drama from outside, often in helplessness. The recent stand of France, Belgium and Germany against the US plans to attack Iraq are the first signs that it may not be possible for this tiny segment of humanity to remain a spectator to the suffering of the rest of the humanity. But a veto in the EU is merely a weak, albeit significant, beginning; it only addresses a pressing issue at hand.
The real need of the present times is much more than a stand against the Washington Cartel’s plans against one attack; the real need of the humanity is for an alternate vision, an alternate plan of action and an alternate leadership that can eloquently and successfully rally support for a new World Order that is not rooted in relativism. The only possible candidate for the emergence of such a leadership is Europe, a united Europe that can save us from the tyranny of the Washington Cartel and the puppet-client regimes.
One shudders with despair when the true dimensions of the present global crisis are understood. The continuous suffering of millions of human beings through AIDS, famine, hunger, disease and poverty, the terrible atrocities being committed against the Chechans and the Palestinians on a daily basis, and the violent disruption of spiritual dimension of all civilizations are but a few expressions of this crisis.
While millions of dollars are being spent to feed a global war machine designed to produce ever-more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, the daisy cutters and the smart bombs, a large segment of humanity drowns further and deeper into an abyss. While those who are obsessed with dominating the world, see nothing barbaric in their plans to bomb Iraq with the most lethal weapons, those “experts” who are brought on CNN and the other media outfits in this prelude to attack, keep talking as if the looming attack was merely a version of star wars and the Iraqi men, women and children mere caricatures of a Hollywood artist rather than real human beings with blood, bones and flesh, emotions, desires and hopes.
This terrible reduction of human beings to an abstract entity, this callous response to the daily suffering of fellow men and women, is in itself a sign of our times about which we have been forewarned not only by the Prophet of Islam who spoke on that Friday 1413 lunar years ago while sitting on his she-camel at the Mount of Mercy but also by Jesus, the Word of God, who reminded us that no man can serve two masters.
Friday February 21, 2003-- Zil Haj 19, 1423 A.H.
Sorry, Mr President
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
But for the millions of ungrateful people who filled the streets of world capitals on the day of Sabbath, when it was best for them to stay indoors and watch your sermon, I would not have written this letter so soon after thanking you for your Eid message to the citizens of your would-be kingdom (The News, December 6, 2002). The uncharitable crowd does not seem to see what you do so clearly with your visionary eyes, Mr President; please forgive them and know that in the end, they would all see the wisdom and courage that you personify and which now is being seen only by the blameless Blair.
The crowds seem to have all but spoiled the grand potpourri you and your faithful men have so carefully cooked for so long. And to be frank, Powell's pathetic performance at the UN did not help matters at this crucial junction when you needed something more than a grade twelve C minus performance. But take heart and rejoice that all is not lost yet.
Of course, no one seems to buy the arguments for unleashing the ever-so-itchy men with their lethal weapons against the man you have called "the true enemy of the Iraqi people". In one terrific day, all the fear you and your men have so carefully implanted in the hearts of people seems to have disappeared. All talk about the "outlaw groups and regimes", "cells and camps, plotting further destruction and building new bases", and of "terrorists finding a shortcut to their mad ambitions" seems to have evaporated.
How sad, Mr President, that at this crucial moment, when you are just five days away from raining blankets, supplies and those irresistible made-in-America peanut butter cookies, which made such a successful show in Afghanistan, for the people of Iraq, millions of people have lined up on the streets to say: "No". Of course, they do not understand what it means to receive these goods along with the freedom to wave the "Thank you America" placard. They have no experience of the ecstatic delight that comes with the fulfilment of a dream nourished for long in the secret chambers where you now sit alone with your inner circle. Tired and frustrated, held in check, but not defeated.
Let them call it a war for oil and the control of the Middle East, or a war for Israel. Be assured, my dear President, that it is indeed a war necessitated by necessity itself. And take courage from the fact that streets of Makkah and Madinah, which were still filled with the pilgrims on that fateful Saturday, remained quiet. And except for a pathetic crowd of 600 Egyptians, surrounded by 3,000 security men, every citizen of your pal's country understood this necessity. Likewise, your most faithful Mullas in Pakistan kept aloof from the rest of the world and, unlike their unruly fury during the Afghan war, their shameful stomachs did not require more American food at this decisive time. Rejoice Mr President, that streets of all the cities in the rest of that wasteland called the Muslim world also remained barren on that momentous Saturday: no one came out on the streets of Kuwait City, Bahrain, Dubai and numerous other capitals where your devoted Presidents, Prime Ministers and Kings await your next phone call in earnest.
Go ahead, Mr President, a new world of opportunities and a truly global empire is only at an arm's length. History awaits your phone call.
I am sure, as you have so rightly said, that your smart boys would soon work out the dollar figure for the Turkey's Generals and then it will be time to pick up the phone and make your calls. On that fine morning, the world would surely understand.
Then it would become clear to the whole world what you see so plainly. And those who would still have doubts would soon be overpowered by the rapidity of events and by the wonderful capabilities of your new weapons which no one has ever seen before. After all, who would be able to resist watching the brand new munition that spews tank-hunting bomblets with lethal speed and the electromagnetic-burst weapons that can roast the innards of computers. And when, within the first twenty-four hours, your boys would have smashed Iraq's military communications networks and your Air Force's "bunker busting"' bombs, designed to penetrate the concrete shelters, would have produced such awesome images that even the most zealous of "No War demonstrators" would say: ah! here is a lesson for them.
I am so heartened to read the address that you have prepared for the second day of war and you were generous to share with the boys in the inner circle. With your foresight, you have already taken the wind out of the most crucial criticism. And I am sure, no one will be able to hold back their applause when you announce to the whole world that in order to minimise the civilian casualties, you have ordered that the Air Force must use its brand new cruise missiles tipped with a high-powered electromagnetic-pulse emitter -- the E-Bomb -- which fries the electronics without killing the people.
By the time the world's attention is diverted to the Pentagon's new "Penetrating Bombs", aimed not at blowing up but incinerating, make their debut, you would be almost close to the end. The rest of the task can be completed by the precision-guided "agent defeat bombs" and the new laser weapons, designed to blind opponents. And you can finish off with the spectacular arrival of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, with laser weapons waiting to see action since the 1991 Gulf War; that would, indeed, act like icing for the cake.
Let the world say what it says now, but it would see the wisdom behind the Iraq War once it begins to witness live, courtesy of CNN, the vast array of new bombs such as the Sensor Fuzed Weapon which can blow up vehicles across 30 acres by distributing numerous bomblets that float toward earth on parachutes.
Mr President, I wish to reassure you in your hour of need that when it will be all over before the weekend, a shocked world would just have to accept the fait accompli. And when Rumsfeld arrives in Baghdad to the welcome of cheering Iraqi children and is greeted by another Hamid Karzai, all eyes and ears would be set on the reconstruction plans. Then, even the most diehard skeptics would be won over. Soon, all would forget the devastated and pulverised ancient land, then you can start talking about the billion-dollar contracts for reconstruction. Just remember to repay poor Blair!
So, let no one deter you from the glory that is now only five days away. Let no one stop you from finishing what father Bush started; history awaits your arrival in the city where in 1258, your comrade in thought arrived from the steppes of Central Asia to bring to an end a civilisation that had given us Avicennas, Razis and Birunis. Let no one stop you from landing on the newly reconstructed runway of Baghdad to etch your name on the history of that city where your distant comrade in arms had built a minaret of human skulls. No, history does not repeat itself. You will not build a minaret of human skulls because your men leave no human skulls; their laser-guided weapons would efface all minarets.
Friday March 07, 2003-- Muharram 03, 1424 A.H.
The new Hijrah year has arrived so quietly that some newspapers in the Muslim world have not changed the date to 1424; this includes Arab News, the official newspaper of the custodians of Islam. More than a mere slip, it is a potent sign of our times. The cultural schizophrenia that marks the contemporary Muslim world can hardly be expressed more eloquently than this numerical indicator. But more than a sign of a great chasm, the new quiet arrival of the year 1424 is a reminder that while the Muslim world languishes in its deep slumber, a new script is unfolding elsewhere.
Just beyond the realm of this languishing siesta, there is so much sound and fury that one wonders how can a whole people be so callous about what is being done to them. The puzzle becomes even deeper when one realises that in this black and absurd tragedy, the script consists only of monologues, spoken by different actors but written by the same hand. From the pathetic utterances of those who are proposing a safe exit to the cowardly dictator in Baghdad to the equally wretched peace plan thought by sick minds rotting in their luxurious palaces, it is the same hand that inscribes this appalling play, act after act.
The latest twist in this cryptic script is a secret plan "leaked” to Times of London which states that "the UN is breaking a taboo, and arguably breaching its charter, by considering plans for Iraq's future governance while it deals daily with President Saddam Hussein's regime as a legitimate member”. This confidential and top secret plan, spread over 60 pages and ordered by Louise Frechette, the Canadian deputy of Kofi Annan, was drawn up at the UN's New York headquarters by a six-member pre-planning group. It envisages the UN stepping in about three months after a successful "conquest” of Iraq, and steering the country towards self-government, a la Afghanistan.
Seen in the light of recent developments, this "UN-Gate” leads us to believe that the script is being followed line by line. Over the last few months, what the United States has so successfully established is this: as long as the war is authorised by the UN, it will be a legitimate war. This has now become a common theme that is being repeated by all governments in the Muslim world as well as by many European states and Canada.
Repeated over and over, this common denominator has been made into an accepted axiom. This was the first step. With this sanction, the looming war is already a legitimate act as long as it has the UN stamp. Thus the killing of thousands, perhaps millions, of human beings would become "legitimate” as long as the UN has said so.
But what if the UN is privy to the plan right from the beginning? What if those who decided the fate of Iraq in their secret chambers wrote it into their script to first establish the credibility of the plan through a "B-Script” which would remain behind the front line until all had agreed that as long as the war is sanctioned by the UN, it will be acceptable? The secret document published by The Times on March 5, definitely points to a "B-Plan” in which the UN is as much a part as the UK and the US. The secret plan revealed by The Times calls for UN involvement in the post-Saddam Iraq in consideration of the interests of the United States and UK. It also says that the UN should avoid taking direct control of Iraqi oil, rather, it should establish a UN Assistance Mission in Iraq, to be known as Unami, to help to establish a new government.
This new government-in-waiting, about which President Bush has spoken more than once, is, in fact, already in place. Lieutenant-General Jay Garner, the retired US Army general who is in line to be the US governor of post-war Iraq, and who now heads the Pentagon office of reconstruction and humanitarian affairs established in January 2003, is assembling potential candidates for the various tiers of this "government-in-waiting”; these consist of Iraqi exiles, American advisers, and of course, some "international” consultants.
The US plan also calls for the launching of a major media blitz for the post-Saddam Iraq which would quickly erase all memory of the human cost of the war and divert the attention of the world to the new heads of Iraq's major ministries and public works agencies who would start uttering their lines as soon as the green signal is received.
The final act is not too far now. Already, it has become immaterial whether the first step is taken with a UN sanctioned war or without UN approval; what is important for the US is to quickly finish the first act and to move to the second phase where a senior UN official would become the UN special representative in post-war Iraq to provide an international cover to a fait accompli.
Jay Garner is already in contact with the UN officials for this "post-first-step” part of the script. According to the Times, General Garner told Ms Frechette that he wants to get out of the job "as quickly as possible” to be replaced by a respected international figure. He foresees Iraqi exiles in the transitional administration being replaced in one to six months. "Everyone can swallow up to three months of US government in Iraq,” one UN official said. The UN plan predicts that, despite the acrimonious divisions in the Security Council, it will inevitably be called on to play a role in post-war Iraq.
"The considered opinion of the pre-planning group is that, while public statements assert that the coalition forces will be responsible for military and civil administration in the immediate period following the conflict, the likelihood of a more substantial involvement of the UN in the transition (post-three month) phase cannot be discounted,” the document says. "As the extent of coalition force control becomes apparent, the Security Council and, indeed, members of the coalition forces may feel that UN involvement may be welcome in certain areas.”
The details revealed by the secret plan also tell us about the debates within the secret chambers where the plan was finalised. It tells of British reservations about a direct occupation of Iraq because of its colonial history. Instead, Britain insisted on "a full-blown UN administration along the lines of those in Kosovo and East Timor, and a UN agency to control Iraq's oil. But UN planners insisted on respecting Iraq's sovereignty and said that it could not run a country 33 times the size of East Timor,” the document says: "The group found that, although a UN-led transitional administration may seem more palatable than an administration by the occupying power, there are key drawbacks to a transitional administration: the UN does not have the capacity to take on the responsibility of administering Iraq.” Instead, the UN favours a political process like that in Afghanistan, where Mr Brahimi worked with US officials to organise the Bonn conference of prominent Afghans to set up an interim government.
This UN-Gate should not come as a surprise to anyone. After all, the United Nations has a history of sanctioning plans that suit the new Tsars of a brand new world order. This history of infamy includes, among others, the sanctioning of the state of Israel, which continues to brutalise a whole people in broad daylight while the UN does nothing about it. It also has a history of selectively implementing its own resolutions; thus its resolutions on Kashmir remain in cold storage. That the UN is an instrument of the new imperialism is now an established fact; a war sanctioned by UN would be just as illegitimate as one without its sanction.
Friday March 21, 2003-- Muharram 17, 1424 A.H.
A Requiem for Rachel
“Hi friends and family, and others, I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States…
The hand that wrote these words on February 7, 2003, is no more; Rachel Corrie was crushed to death on 16 March 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer driver in Rafah, occupied Gaza. The Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer that killed Rachel was made in America and it had arrived in Gaza through a $2.2 billion military aid package granted to Israel by the United States government.
On that final day of her life, 23-year old Rachel and her friends from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) had been in the area where houses were being demolished for more than two hours. They had clearly identified themselves as unarmed volunteers.
Rachel was sitting in the path of the bulldozer as it advanced towards her. When the bulldozer refused to stop or turn aside she climbed up onto the mound of dirt and rubble. She waved to the driver and yelled: Stop! Stop!
The driver saw her fluorescent jacket and defiant eyes, looking directly at him but he did not stop. With the next push of the blade of the bulldozer, the mound of rubble on which Rachel was standing, gave way and Rachel was pulled under the pile of dirt and stones. Greg Schnabel, who was standing close by, and other five ISM volunteers started to yell: Stop! Stop!
The driver looked at them but kept driving. He did not lift the bulldozer blade and within the next few seconds, Rachel was crushed to death. Then the driver backed off. Greg and other ISM volunteers rushed forward and pulled her out. An Israeli tank, accompanying the bulldozers, fired a smoke grenade but one of the volunteers had already taken several photographs. Someone called an ambulance which took Rachel to al-Najar hospital but Rachel had already crossed over to a land where no one could hurt her anymore. Not even the dreaded bulldozers which had been haunting her lately.
“Mama,” she had written to her mother in an email just 18 days before her death, “I really miss you. I have bad nightmares about tanks and bulldozers outside our house and you and me inside. Sometimes the adrenaline acts as an anesthetic for weeks and then in the evening or at night it just hits me again - a little bit of the reality of the situation. I am really scared for the people here. Yesterday, I watched a father lead his two tiny children, holding his hands, out into the sight of tanks and a sniper tower and bulldozers and Jeeps because he thought his house was going to be exploded. Jenny and I stayed in the house with several women and two small babies.”
“This is in the area where Sunday about 150 men were rounded up and contained outside the settlement with gunfire over their heads and around them, while tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses—the livelihoods for 300 people… I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs. Of these 600, many have moved, because the three checkpoints between here and Ashkelon (the closest city in Israel) make what used to be a 40-minute drive, now a 12-hour or impassible journey. The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600… I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world. There used to be a middle class here - recently.”
“If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours - do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed - just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would.”
“…no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality… Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint—a soldier with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I'm done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.”
“They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone-- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing--just existing--in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military--backed by the world’s only superpower--in it’s attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.
On February 28, Rachel wrote: “Thanks, Mom, for your response to my email. It really helps me to get word from you, and from other people who care about me. After I wrote to you I went incommunicado from the affinity group for about 10 hours which I spent with a family on the front line in Hi Salam… I sleep on the floor next to the youngest daughter, Iman, and we all shared blankets. I helped the son with his English homework a little, and we all watched Pet Semetery, which is a horrifying movie... Friday is the holiday, and when I woke up they were watching Gummy Bears dubbed into Arabic... this family has really wholeheartedly adopted me. Nidal's English gets better every day. He's the one who calls me, "My sister". He started teaching Grandmother how to say, "Hello. How are you?" in English.”
“You can always hear the tanks and bulldozers passing by, but all of these people are genuinely cheerful with each other, and with me. When I am with Palestinian friends I tend to be somewhat less horrified than when I am trying to act in a role of human rights observer, documenter, or direct-action resister. They are a good example of how to be in it for the long haul… I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity - laughter, generosity, family-time - against the incredible horror occurring in their lives and against the constant presence of death…I should at least mention that I am also discovering a degree of strength and of basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances - which I also haven’t seen before. I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.”
Farewell and peace Rachel, and may the flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
04, 2003-- Safar 01, 1424 A.H.
The fate of empire builders
First comes a massive aerial attack, destroying cities, killing men, women and children, uprooting trees and ancient sites. Cities shake. Houses are destroyed, leaving behind huge craters where innocent children were playing a few hours ago. Then comes a ground assault launched by an army equipped with high-tech weapons and supported by an air force that has no rival. But even before all of this, there is a media blitz of tyranny that promises shock and awe, threatens annihilation and demands surrender.
In the pre-war period, there is much talk of American might by experts and victory is considered fait accompli; it is just a matter of days. Then comes the actual invasion, bringing death and destruction. The invasion of Iraq fits so well in the overall plan, which has already been in operation for more than a decade that its particular timing and the reasons to justify it are of little relevance. But just as the invasion of Iraq was a sure thing, so is the fact that it is only the first step in the remaking of the world map. No one should think that it is the last country which will be attacked in this process of building a new empire.
The re-colonisation of the world by the United States of America is seen by the architects of this plan as a God-given mandate. Some see it as their religious duty because God, "who continues to bless America", wants them to share their blessings with the rest of the world. Almost a decade ago, Newt Gingrich, the ex-Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, had called it "America's right to world leadership"; his successors are more blunt. For them, the twenty-first century is the American century in which the whole world must submit to America.
Such ambitions are not new, and the military power of the United States of America is now self-evident. Hence, it is but natural for such a powerful state to do what America is doing: write its own laws for its behaviour and change them when it suits it.
Thus, when it did not suit its plan, it totally disregarded the flimsy hodgepodge of an organisation which the USA had itself helped to create in order to bring harmony to the world, and went ahead to use its shocking pile of new weapons. When its soldiers are captured, it calls for observance of Geneva Conventions and when it captures soldiers of another nation, it shows no respect for any convention; they become illegal combatants destined for a camp on a remote island where they continue to suffer the most degrading treatment. It calls for freedom of speech and press, but when variables change, it bombs al-Jazeera's offices and imprisons its journalists. It voices outrage at the destruction of Buddhist statues at Bamiyan and pulverizes the artefacts of early civilisation in the Fertile Crescent. And this list can extend to cite numerous other violations of civil norms and international laws. But that is merely repetitious.
That there is no moral or legal justification for this war is obvious. But it is also obvious that this war had to be waged. Why? The pundits have given us all kinds of reasons -- from oil to protecting Israel. Perhaps all of these have some validity and none of these is the only reason. There are, in fact, no reasons other than the self-serving internal logic of building of a new empire. Everything else is secondary and amounts to nothing but justification. The distinction between justification of an invasion and reasons for it must not be blurred.
The reasons are to be sought in the overall plan, in the greater vision of America as seen by those who control this unique state which has risen to achieve such a remarkable level of material wealth in merely 300 years that one would be hard pressed to find a comparable example. The combination of this material wealth and an awesome military power is of course intoxicating and those who have now taken effective control of the United States of America are thoroughly inebriated on this potent mixture. Their bellicose lexicon, their demeanour and their aggressive postures reflect this without doubt. They are not only oblivious to the history of tyranny, they are also insolent toward their own poorly educated and apolitical millions who have so far lived a life of material comfort and high consumption but who now face a world where no one respects them and where they are not safe beyond their own borders. This small group of individuals consists of men and women who are highly motivated, aggressive and, some would say, ruthless. But no matter how one defines them, there is little doubt that they have a very sharp and clear plan for the future of the whole world.
The coming together of this group is, in itself, an event of historical importance. The uniqueness of this event is the lack of any central charismatic personality that historically brought individuals of such diverse background and temperament to a single platform. From Genghis Khan to the Nazis, it has always been a dynamic and charismatic individual who brings desperate glory-seekers together. In the present case, there is no such person. Rather, it is a shared vision of the new America that has brought the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Douglas Feith together.
They emerged in the post-Reagan era from various think tanks and policy study institutes and have gathered around a certain vision for America in which Israel looms large. Most of these neo-colonists have ties with the Zionist state. They all are interventionists with a strong and aggressive language that advocates use of overwhelming force and pre-emptive strikes. There is also a strong tendency toward the use of religious language: "a struggle between good and evil", "the moment of truth" and the "day of reckoning".
After the humiliating fall of the Soviet Union, the only force standing against the ambitions of this group was what it calls "militant Islam". But they know, and so does the rest of the world, that this "militant Islam" is not something that can be located in a physical sense and wiped out. Therefore it had to invent physical targets. Afghanistan was most certainly not the gold mine this group needed to finance its ambitious plan but it served as a test ground and as a prelude to what was to come.
Iraq, with its oil resources and strategic location, was the ideal choice right from the beginning. Once Iraq is under control, Syria and Iran will be next. With Egypt and Jordan already under firm control through puppet regimes, this would effectively amount to an expansion of their domination right up to the centre of Arabia, where an increasingly submissive Saudi regime would continue to serve the interests of greater Israel for the foreseeable future.
Abstracted from real life and human suffering, this cruel plan is built upon an ambition that is not new in human history. Neither, however, is the terrible fate of such men and women, whose ambition and self-proclaimed glory make them blind to all that is human.
18, 2003--Safar 15, 1424 A.H.
A state gone mad
The day after Iraq was "liberated", the German embassy in Baghdad was trashed, the headquarters of Unicef was stormed by looters, and every government ministry in the city was ransacked while the liberators turned a blind eye, indeed expressed joy over "liberation" of this property. But none of this is likely to survive in history beyond a trivial mention. What is likely to survive through a perpetual recall in the mass psyche is a scene from the bridge at Daura.
On the second day of liberation, US soldiers had set up a check point at the bridge and hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children were queuing; they all wanted to leave Baghdad and find security in the surrounding villages. But there was huge jam at the bridge because at the check point, each man had to raise his shirt and lower his trousers to prove that he is not a suicide bomber. It is this image of a forty-year-old Iraqi man raising his shirt and lowering his pants in front of other men, women and children that has now been etched on the memory of every living soul of that fabulous city that is likely to stand in historical records as a testimony to the ultimate humiliation.
It is likely to find its place in history because beyond the borders of Iraq this and similar scenes of humiliation of pride and honour and dignity have now become the most powerful reality for more millions of human beings. Plunged into a state of pain and helplessness, millions of people around the world have seen young children with blown off limbs being brought to hospitals which lack even aspirin. No one can forget young Omar who was murdered in view of cameramen by an American marine; no one will be able to erase the memory of blood-soaked and dismembered bodies of his father, mother, sisters and brother. And as if these horrific crimes were not enough, the blood of 80 men, women, and children who lived in the village of Furat before they were rocketed to death by the US planes will cry out forever: murder most foul. And who would ever forget the footage of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush's thugs forced their families to kneel in the street?
Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing army and their media Mughals cannot change the truth that has been now etched on millions of pain-filled hearts. Their great crime in Iraq is now a matter of record, understood as such by the majority of humanity. It is now clear that for Bush and his war party, Afghanistan was a test case; Iraq the first real encounter requiring show of vehemence and power and Syria will be a roll over. Then the process would spread to the rest of the Middle East.
Those who have put together this plan to rule the world are not ignorant of history; they are shrewd men and women who understand what they are doing. It is an act of genocide at a scale never witnessed before; it is a crime against humanity that surpasses all other crimes.
The arrival of the US army in Baghdad amid the crack of gunfire is a historic event only matched by the arrival of General Allenby in Jerusalem in 1918. The difference in the manner of arrival of the two armies is indicative of the difference in the nature of two processes of aggression. While Allenby had walked into Jerusalem in "respect of Christ's birthplace", Americans arrived in Baghdad on their tanks and armoured personnel carriers, shooting in all directions. True, the waters of Furat (Euphrates) and Dajla (Tigris) have been coloured with blood before, but the craters left by 2000 lb bombs and the new scars on this ancient city are of a different magnitude of order. The pale green waters of these most ancient of rivers have now witnessed the arrival of a Western army in the heart of an Arab city with a plan that is far more sinister than any one could imagine.
The US Marines and special forces are there to stay until a proxy government can be established, "reconstruction" (read plunder) contracts have been signed and the Iraqi oil is flowing to enrich the coffers of the colonizers. But that is merely the tip of the iceberg.
The invasion of Iraq must not be seen as a result of non-compliance of any UN resolution. Even Hans Blix has finally admitted that "there is evidence that this war was planned well in advance" and that "he knew that there were people within the Bush administration who were sceptical and who were working on engineering regime change. By the start of March the hawks in both Washington and London were getting impatient," he said.
But who are these people? What is their plan? There is now enough evidence to establish, beyond any doubt, the presence of a small group of like-minded men and women who have emerged in Washington to take charge of the US policies. They are men and women with direct links and ties to Israel. This should not be read as mere conspiracy theory; there is incontrovertible evidence that the so-called War Party in Washington has been successful in putting into practice its plan conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and associates. That this plan has an "Israeli connection" is equally without doubt.
In Jews and American Politics, published in 1974, Stephen D. Isaacs wrote, "Richard Perle and Morris Amitay command a tiny army of Semitophiles on Capitol Hill and direct Jewish power in behalf of Jewish interests." In 1983, The New York Times reported that Perle had taken substantial payments from an Israeli weapons manufacturer. In 1996, Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser wrote "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," for Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which they urged Netanyahu to adopt a new aggressive strategy. "Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq-an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right-as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions." Their plan, which urged Israel to re-establish "the principle of preemption," has now become official policy of the United States.
The plan to invade Iraq was already clearly mentioned by US Undersecretary of State John Bolton in February when the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz reported Bolton had told the Israeli officials that "he has no doubt America will attack Iraq and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards". This small group of radical Zionists have now taken charge of US policies. Their planning has matured and become focused since their emergence in the post-Reagan years. In 1992, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post had called a leaked document from Paul Wolfowitz's office a "classified blueprint intended to help set the nation's direction for the next century"; that document written by Wolfowitz and associates has now become American policy through the 33-page National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by President Bush on Sept 21, 2002. "We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defence by acting preemptively," Bush had warned.
The question now is not if the United States will attack Syria, rather, the question is when will this crime be committed. The most logical answer to this question is before adrenaline runs out and soldiers now in Iraq become homesick. The new era of regime changes America has launched is a process envisioned on a grand scale but this Pax Americana the neo-cons have wrought has also made the United States the most hated country in the world. For some Americans, this is the most disturbing thought but they are helpless citizens of a state gone mad.
Friday May 02,
2003--Safar 29, 1424 A.H.
Lahore: the eternally haunting city
Lahore does not haunt me as it used to; I do not incessantly layout elaborate plans for it anymore, nor do I allow myself to be carried away by a nostalgic return to the city of my youth. Years of absence from this beloved city, a gradual shift in my own interests and concerns and a wilful abandonment of literature have blunted the desire to recreate this fabulous city through any artistic expression. But as I write these lines in Lahore, its heartbeat draws me into an irresistible symphony.
I had come to Lahore to attend the International Iqbal Conference (April 21-24) which attracted more than forty Iqbal scholars from all over the world. The Conference was inaugurated by our very dear General who arrived 65 minutes late and left us with a new understanding of Iqbal, albeit one in which the sheer mention of mard-e momin is blasphemy. Neither the soaring eagle of Iqbal's poetic imagery, nor his passionate reconstruction of a vision of life, which demands awakening and reorientation of the personal and collective self towards the lofty heights of Qur'aanic ideal, were the subject matter of his speech.
His realism only drew our attention towards the mundane, the ephemeral and the grimy state of the country and the Muslim world. This is indeed, a pragmatism bordering on hypocrisy and a wilful distortion of Iqbal's most abiding concerns. Taking the present situation of the ummah as his point of departure, he could only lament, as everyone else does: there is no unity among the believers, we are weak and cannot take on the enemy. But he, along with all the others who lament, failed to take the next step, an attempt to understand why we are in this predicament. And of course, he is, along with all those who have usurped power, part of the problem. After all, the immoral and illegal dispensation that he has wrought through a military coup has only added to the already murky waters of a state envisioned by Iqbal. And during the last three and half years, his self-appointed role has lost all moral authority, if there was any to start with.
But let no General take away the blissful joy of reconnection with this glorious city of so many faces. During the last few days, I have walked through the streets of Old Lahore, miles and miles of winding streets which still pulsate with a life steeped in another era, another time. It is this ancient Lahore which deserves to be celebrated in this column. The return to the city of my birth coincided with the annual urs of Ali Usman Hujveri, who arrived in this city a millennium ago, following the directions of his spiritual master. His shrine/mosque complex, where I offered the Friday prayer, was filled with thousands of men, women and children. Once inside the now greatly extended shrine/mosque complex, one leaves behind the world and enters a different reality. The khateeb reminded us that for more than 1000 years, this place has been providing free food to all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This, in itself, is a remarkable tradition.
But it was after the prayers that the most enchanting scenes were observed. Here was a group of men, reciting the traditional salutation to the Prophet (PBUH), there, in a corner by the pillar, a single devotee was immersed in zikr. Spread throughout the courtyard, groups of men, women and children had created so many little worlds of their own. I stood by a circle which had formed voluntarily and was being directed by a master in a zikr session. Men, and a group of women behind them, were glorifying their Creator through a centuries old method of remembrance. Allah, Allah, their chants grew into a rhythmic pattern, several men started to enter the inner reality of things and soon everything else was washed away for them; only the face of their Lord existed for them in that intense moment of concentration that lifted their hearts from the mundane levels of existence. I thought of Baghdad and of Junaid Baghdadi, who is reverentially mentioned in Hujveri's wonderful book, Kashf al-Mahjub. I thought of Imam Abu Hanifa whose shrine has now achieved a new significance. And of Hallaj whose ashes were scattered in the river where American checkposts now ask Iraqi men to lower their pants and raise their shirts to prove that they are not suicide bombers. I thought of the desecration of a tradition, a tradition that has always sought to live in remembrance of the Creator, by men and women who hold no respect for the Everlasting and whose arrogance, brute power and tragic deprivation has led them to a land where posterity will remember them along with Halaku and Changiz.
As I walked through the narrow, winding streets of the Old City, I recalled a walk through similar streets in Isfahan, where traditional artisans were crafting their beautiful artefacts, just like the goldsmiths, the embroiderers, and the block makers were busy in their daily routines in this beloved city. This spiritual link of Lahore to Baghdad, Isfahan and so many other Islamic cities remains as strong as ever; no occupation army can take away these ties.
But along with this ancient Lahore, there are so many others, cities within cities. I walked on the lower Mall and found my old school in more or less the same exterior form as it was forty years ago. Nostalgia took me to my grade 5 classroom where once Mrs Farasat used to teach us things they do not teach anymore. Then there was the memory of the first mass movement in Pakistan led by ZA Bhutto. I recalled his address to the lawyers in the small open space of the courts and the subsequent movement which would lead to the downfall of Ayub Khan. Then there was the Nasir Bagh, then called Gol Bagh, where Ayub Khan's henchmen had flooded the ground and let electrical current run through the water while Bhutto was addressing the crowds.
There are still some buildings on Old Campus which look as they did fifty years ago, but many others have changed; even the General Post Office has a new face. The tea-house, where I expected to find Zahid Dar, was empty; no one has time to sit for hours and discuss everything under the sun. Lahore's literary scene is no more what it used to be. With so many of its writers and poets dead or gone, there is hardly a semblance of a culture rooted in literature.
Instead, there is the rat race. The rush. The loss of Lahore's ancient relaxed ways and the intrusion of an alien culture is visible everywhere. Plastic things literally attack one's senses as one walks through Anarkali bazaar. There is so much plastic in the city that it seems to be drowned in it. Then there are the food joints. Lahorees' most favourite pastime is, of course, eating, and the latest rage is the food streets. Along with the Big Mac and so many other Western food outlets, there are the desi karahi gosht and the like. The most dramatic change, however, is the timeframe in which Lahore operates. Once it used to be city of early risers; now people sleep at 2 am and food streets are crowded well past midnight.
Lahore may have lost some of its traditional styles but its people remain distinctively Lahorees. Their frankness, direct and personal approach to everything is apparent in all their dealings. The onslaught of westernisation may be taking its toll, but Patras Bukhari would still say, Lahore Lahore hai.
May 23, 2003
On May 14, 1998, when the first "Quantum Note" appeared on these pages, Pakistan was being misruled by Nawaz Sharif and his hand-picked associates. By the time the second column appeared, nuclear tests by India and Pakistan had forced open a new era in South Asia. Writing a month later (June 19, 1998) "Autocrat in the Making", reflected on the recent moves by Nawaz Sharif aimed at gaining a total control and absolute power and warned of the dangers inherent in this pursuit. Within a short span of time, the man with the overwhelming majority in Parliament was sitting behind the bars and a military General had installed himself as the Chief Executive of the country, as if the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was a California software company.
Five years after the publication of first "Quantum Note", we are living in a different world. This new era is being shaped by the emergence of a global conflict in which individual states are fast losing their sovereignty. This is, in fact, a new and more dangerous form of colonialism that is being imposed on the poor, weak and helpless states from the Sudan to Indonesia. The same fate is in store for oil-rich countries whose ruling elite has become thoroughly dependent on the United States for its survival.
In this new era, the nature of war, peace and politics has changed. And so have the rules of building the empire. As a helpless international community silently watches the unmaking of the world as we know it, the United States of America is writing a new chapter of world history through its policy of global intervention at an unprecedented scale.
A new world order is, indeed, in the making. This brand new, made-in-America political and economic order comes as a full package. It brings with it a perpetual state of dependence, a loss of cultural and moral fabric of the traditional societies and a submission to the whims of those who wish to build a new empire at a scale never realized before by any empire. Partly aided by technological advances, this new global conflict has pitched the United States of America against a small number of committed individuals who govern no state and who have no army per se, but who have nonetheless emerged as a global threat to the relentless pursuit of power and influence by the most powerful state in the world.
This small group of individuals consists of Muslims who belong to no particular country. In Europe, the opposition to this process of empire building has not yet taken any definite shape although a large part of population is deeply troubled by it. China, Japan and Russia are likewise still not in any direct and open conflict with the new empire builders. Hence the process of imposing a new world order has become a war between the United States of America and those Muslims who see it as a direct threat to their way of life.
There is no precedent in human history of such a conflict, therefore, it is impossible to seek help from history to understand the parameters of this new conflict. What is clear, however, is the presence of an overwhelming military force on the one side and overwhelmingly powerful faith on the other. Against the devastating power of B-52 bombers and daisy cutters, one has individuals who fear nothing, not even death. This strange conflict, with its imbalance of power and resources, is a war without end, a conflict without dimensions. It grows and expands in all spheres-from cultural to philosophical and from military targets to civil institutions.
In this new conflict, there are no rules of war and peace. One cannot even comprehend the whole scenario of this new global conflict; only surreal images are there to help us get a glimpse of how the human race is writing its own death sentence. One of these images is to be found in the four pictures showing "illegal combatants" being chained to their seats in the process of transportation to the U.S. military's confinement facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This revealing image of one aspect of the new conflict also reminds us of one of the most sinister inventions of human history which has degraded living human beings to the status of animals, kept in cages under the open sky. Another glimpse of the new reality is a report about the metal containers, kept deep inside the forbidden zone at the US-occupied Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where prisoners are tortured with sophisticated methods. Then there is a letter from Moazzam Beg, the 35-year-old British prisoner of war, to his wife waiting for him in Birmingham. Written from inside this cluster of metal shipping containers, the letter tells of "hunger and being kept awake by bright lights", giving us a rare inside view of the new era.
Then, there are the charred remains of so-called "suicide bombers" and innocent individuals who happen to be at the spot at the time of attack. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore, neither the market places, nor the residential complexes, nor the hospitals and schools.
In this new surreal global theatre, information has flooded minds and numbed senses. When Jamie Doran showed his film, Massacre at Mazar, in the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin, there were immediate calls for an international commission to be set up to investigate charges made in the documentary. Andrew McEntee, a leading international human rights lawyer, who had viewed the film footage and read full transcripts, believes there is prima facie evidence of serious war crimes having been committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan. "The Americans did whatever they wanted," McEntee said, "war crimes have been committed not just under international law but, also, under the laws of the United States itself."
But nothing happened in reality, the movie just became one more piece of information, one more image. This, in spite of the fact that much of the footage shown in Doran's 20-minute documentary was taken secretly, and although witnesses were said to be living in fear of reprisal from within Afghanistan itself they had agreed to appear at any future international war crimes tribunal to give evidence, it was claimed.
One witness in the film claimed he had seen an American soldier break an Afghan prisoner's neck and pour acid on others. "The Americans did whatever they wanted. We had no power to stop them," he said. Sometimes prisoners who were beaten up and taken outside had "disappeared", he said. In other sequences witnesses, claimed they had been forced to drive into the desert with hundreds of Taliban prisoners. The living were then summarily shot while 30 to 40 American soldiers purportedly stood by. The prisoners had been taken there on the orders of the local American commander, according to the documentary.
But the information flood has gates, at least in the United States. There is a virtual censorship in place. News passes through filters. It is processed through an intricate system and only selected items make it to the major outlets. For instance, the story about the Massacre at Mazar received virtually no coverage in US newspapers or on network or cable television.
The same filters have now made Iraq off-screen. This has been done to create an illusion that the world has accepted the illegal and immoral occupation of a state by another state merely because the invading army has succeeded by sheer power of its own lawlessness. In this immoral acceptance of the occupation of Iraq by the US forces, there is the death sentence to the international law as it was known until now. It seems that a new international law has come into existence which accepts that the ultimate arbitrator in world affairs is brute force. This acceptance of the new law by the international community has rendered all previous laws, conventions and accepted norms obsolete. The peoples of the United Nations who were once party to a convention that resolved "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest", and who had "resolved to combine [their] efforts to accomplish these aims" are not even ashamed of their overt or covert support to the new law that has come into existence over the wreckage of the first article of the Charter of the so-called United Nations.
It is as if the protest marches of millions of people around the world have exhausted all resources available to a helpless global populace to check the rise of a new pharaoh. As if, the moral force of humanity has caved in from within to make room for this post-war silence that reigns supreme in all parts of the world.
The News International
Friday June 06, 2003-- Rabi-us-Sani 05, 1424 A.H.
Understanding the roadmap
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
As we scroll through the pages of the new roadmap, which is quickly taking the whole world through a whirlwind of disasters, heaped one upon another, we find a pattern, a methodology and a scheme; it is not all madness. The pages of this roadmap have a border laced with horrific images of projectiles indiscriminately ripping apart basic infra-structures, water and electricity supply systems, governing institutions and hospitals. Leaving behind thousands of men, women and children with fractured bones, un-exploded bombs, and a society pushed back to the stage of struggling for basic survival. Behind the pools of blood and scattered remains of what were once human bodies, lies the dream of building a new American empire, a dream that emerges from the dark subterranean recesses of human caprice. This roadmap has been unfurling its pages, one after another, with astonishing speed. Seizing the opportunities as they arise and creating them when they do not, the architects of this new roadmap have now found a standardized way of achieving their goals. Their strategy has worked well so far. Afghanistan was a test-case, Iraq a refined version. There are several basic components of this roadmap to world dominance: astonishing speed, overwhelming force, and construction of a vast and multi-faceted war front that would bewilder the enemy as well as critics at home by its sheer diversity.
In its crude form, it is bombing them back to the stone-age, in its more refined versions, it is collateral damage, but in all cases, the end result is the same: a society left in a state of paralysis through destruction of its infra-structures. Once this has been achieved, it is carte blanche on which the victorious armies can draw the new configuration. With a demented fury and lawlessness never before witnessed in history, the new roadmap unfurls a grotesque vision of future fermented in sick minds and finally put into the infamous 1992 Defense Planning Guidance report (DPG) written for Dick Cheney, the then US Secretary of Defence. Supervised by Paul Wolfowitz, then Under Secretary of Defence for Policy (and now the Deputy Defence Secretary), the DPG envisioned a world where the United States would turn its unipolar position into a unipolar era. The first objective of this agenda was to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate general global power.
This plan is being implemented with full speed. But one must not be deceived by this sudden acceleration in the unfurling of the roadmap, for the roadmap to dominance has long been in place. Already, the military activism of President Bill Clinton -- from invading Haiti to keeping peace in Bosnia, missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan, and bombing Yugoslavia - had paved the way for the subsequent steps and Bush senior had carved the physical space from which to launch an attack on Iraq. What has changed since then is the cold-blooded, determinant will of people who now control the United States of America to impose this roadmap. This new will to quickly implement the roadmap is reflective in the April 30, 2003 State Department press release, "Roadmap to Solution of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", which emphasize that this time the "roadmap" is for a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The State Department called the roadmap a "performance-based and goal-driven roadmap, with clear phases, timelines, target dates, and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian, and institution-building fields, under the auspices of the Quartet [the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia]. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005, as presented in President Bush's speech of 24 June, and welcomed by the EU, Russia and the UN in the 16 July and 17 September Quartet Ministerial statements."
Here, thus, is the new recipe for control: it is a plan to establish two states in Palestine, both ruled by proxy rulers, one by right-wing Sharonites, the other by a "new Palestinian leadership" bought and empowered by American money. Built into the process of this new roadmap is the establishment of institutions that would be used to control the region with the help of locals bought for the purpose. Thus, the plan calls for the consolidation of "all Palestinian security organizations into three services reporting to an empowered Interior Minister. This restructured/retrained Palestinian security force will then work with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in security cooperation and other undertakings in implementation of the Tenet work plan, including regular senior-level meetings, with the participation of U.S. security officials.
This way, it would be the Palestinians who would be killing Palestinians, just like the plans which have been initiated to establish new Afghan and Iraqi armies, which would be used to kill Afghans and Iraqis. This new plan is, indeed, comprehensive for it calls for the rapid drafting of a constitution for Palestinian statehood, establishment of ministries and other institutions with the money provided for the purpose. But the roadmap gives Israel the control of all settlements established until March 2001-this is the key to the new order. It is built upon the ruins of Oslo Accord but it now legitimises the illegal settlement outposts erected up until March 2001. This, then, is the reason for yet another "new" roadmap. The so-called roadmap document shows a complete absence of any territorial dimension. It demands from the Palestinians that they establish a government that will be defined by the US as democratic, to form three security forces which will be defined by Israel as reliable, and to crush "terror". Once these demands are fulfilled, the third phase is to begin, at which the occupation will miraculously end. But the document doesn't put any demands on Israel at this third phase. Everyone knows that there is no way to end the occupation and the conflict without the Israeli army leaving the territories and the dismantlement of settlements. But these basic concepts are not even hinted at in the document, which only mentions freezing the settlements and dismantling new outposts.
But the Palestinian issue is only one element of the vast plan that is being implemented by the Bush administration through an organized deceit. One cannot understand the full extent of this new evil without putting the various elements of this plan together and without looking into the motives of those who are now ruthlessly granting contracts worth millions of dollars to their cronies while fresh blood lies on the ground in Iraq. It would be wrong to assume that all Americans support this new savagery but it would equally be wrong to fall into the self-comforting thought that the American populace has any means left to stop this worldwide aggression. No doubt there are lonely voices in the United States who are making a desperate effort to stop the onslaught but these are ineffective voices. Truth has its own forces and cannot be suppressed for long but, as Senator Robert Byrd said in the US Senate on May 21, 2003, "the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter."
In the case of Iraq, we are already being told that whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction is now immaterial. Robert Byrd, the lonely voice in a body dominated by empire builders could only protest: "Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises." A statement that can change nothing, neither the continuous killing of Iraqis, nor the granting of contracts.
It is true that ultimately truth will prevail. That it is impossible to subjugate another nation but the damage has been done and will continue until the occupation armies depart. And they will only depart when the oppressed, the conquered, the occupied would stand up to regain their freedom and dignity. Only then, words of Robert Byrd would have any real meaning: "And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the powers that be will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall."
Friday June 20, 2003-- Rabi-us-Sani
19, 1424 A.H.
The General's barter
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
It was never a promising case but now General Pervez Musharraf has definitely entered the autumn of his self-proclaimed rule. Like all such self-appointed rulers, he is still providing justifications for his take over and will continue to do so until the end of his rule with increasing self-delusion. His latest outrage is a tell-tale sign of a deluded mind incapable of any reasonable approach to the grave realities of our times. His latest statements also give a rare insight into the psychological makeup of a defeated general who has surrendered before any shots have been fired. Fortunately, in spite of everything, Pakistanis have not yet lost their intuitive sense of judgment because, no matter what the General says, the joke around town is that the Taliban withstood weeks of intense bombardment whereas our General could not withstand that infamous phone call from Bush. But jokes aside, let us remain on the side of a serious and intelligible analysis of the man who has now proclaimed that "he will be going to Washington to tell the US government to do more to reward Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror".
What is outrageous about the General is not only his defeatist attitude toward the American military might, but also the absurdity of his self-righteousness and abandonment of logic and reasoning. His oft-repeated justification for imposing himself on Pakistan has been that by October 12, 1999 a single person had usurped all the powers. But has he not been doing exactly that and without a grain of legitimacy? One feels utterly helpless to argue with a mind that construes his own mission in such grand contradictions as the statement: "Whether anyone likes it or not I will stay in uniform till the strengthening of democratic institutions."
Or look at his statement: "The opposition should care about the interests of the country than making the LFO an issue." Is LFO not one of the most important issues faced by the country at this time? What can be more serious than a state without a constitution, a polity without a legitimate rule, a country being run by LFO!
It is as clear as daylight under a blazing sun that the General has no legitimacy whatsoever, that he has imposed himself on Pakistan, just like numerous other generals who have won their own countries, time and again. No amount of self-justification would make this rule legitimate. Since that fateful day of October 1999 when he became CEO of a country yearning to find its rightful place in world polity, the General has been attempting to legitimate his misrule without success and no matter how many LFO's are inserted into the constitution, it will never become a legitimate rule because it lacks the support of that fundamental and inalienable principle of legitimacy: consent of citizens.
Pakistani generals have intervened in the process of governance time and again, but what is outrageous about this latest episode is the contempt shown by the General toward all other segments of society, including the politicians, the intelligentsia, religious leadership and the administrative institutions. Ayub Khan had the personal dignity to stay out of such murky waters, Yahya Khan was too occupied with his women and drinking to indulge in any self-righteousness and General Zia had the cunning to hide his contempt under the veil of humility, but we are now dealing with a man who has publicly ridiculed all.
It is true that the path taken by MMA to "Islamise" the NWFP is absurd, illogical and lacks any sense of deeper reflection on Islam, but to ridicule it because of the fear that Pakistan will be portrayed as an intolerant, terrorist and extremist state, is equally absurd. Two wrongs do not make a right. The claim of the General that he is "proceeding to the US, the UK, France and Germany, where I shall try to present the true picture of Islam" is equally fraught with the same self-glorification which mars all his other endeavours. After all, how can a military general who has defiled the most fundamental principles of state and civil society be a representative of Islam to a foreign polity?
What is of utmost significance here is that the General stands in opposition to the whole thrust of historical developments as far as the emergence of an Islamic polity is concerned. Instead of being in the vanguard of the struggle of more than one billion Muslims to relieve themselves of the lingering yoke of colonialism, General Musharraf and his likes are standing in opposition to this tide of history which is bound to succeed whether or not they join it. Bereft of any faith-based historical consciousness and awed by the military might of the United States, these generals who have usurped power in the Muslim lands have joined the ranks of those who wish to impose a secularised Islam on the Muslim world. These pawns in the hands of an imposing army are working to undermine the Islamic polity from within.
In this respect General Musharraf belongs to that group of potentates who have been brought to power or who are kept in power by those who wish to establish the new American empire on the blood and flesh of more than one billion Muslims who remain committed to a different weltanschauung, built upon a faith that seeks to establish a social order based on a vision of reality rooted in the transcendent. This vision of Islam encompasses a social and political dimension, just as it contains metaphysical and intellectual aspects; there is no way of separating various aspects of the Islamic faith without creating an inner rupture with the faith.
But for Musharraf, like so many other non-representatives of Islam, there is no nexus between the socio-political order of a society and the beliefs of those who constitute that polity. This severance, produced by a secularisation of faith, is operative in their own lives and they wish to impose it on the rest of the society.
This is the most fundamental aspect of General Musharraf's misguided approach to Islam. He conceives it just as George Bush does, that is an Islam devoid of any social dimension, an Islam whose adherents would limit their faith to the personal acts of worship. Consequently, the so-called progressive Islam of his making would create a polity in which Muslims have no concept of Ummah, a community of believers that seeks to fulfil its social, political and economic obligations toward the Creator by acting just as the noble Prophet of Islam advised it to act: like a wall, whose individual bricks support each other, or like a body whose one part feels the pain of the other part when it aches.
But the General has no room in his Islam to accept the Prophet of Islam as his role model; he does not want to grow a beard, he said. His Islam is in no need of the Prophetic model of state and society; it is an Islam that has been fashioned in the White House.
That the General stands opposed to the tide of history as well as to the aspirations of people of Pakistan should be evident to all those who can see the developments in the unfolding of history. He will, indeed, be rewarded by those whose enmity to Islam and Muslims is no secret. But despite the presence of the likes of General Musharraf, Islam and its vision of a social polity are flourishing. The fact that this re-assertion of an Islamic vision of life at the personal and social levels is prone to making mistakes and excesses is also true. But the subject of these mistakes and problems is internal to the Islamic polity. As for the General and his likes who have chosen to stand against this historical process, there is surely a reward and benefit coming from Washington, but they have indeed bartered their selves for a small price.
Friday July 04, 2003-- Jamaadi-ul-Awwal 03, 1423 A.H.
Remembering Laeeq Babree
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
His voice failing, he talked of the past as if it were fading out of his memory, slowly reconnecting events of the past three years during which I had not seen him. Then, ever more slowly, he briefly regained that lucidity of mind which must have been simply astonishing before his life started to shatter. This was on the last day of April 2003, one month and twenty-six days before his death. I was visiting Islamabad and had called him to see if I could see him. But he was too sick and the next day he had an appointment at the hospital.
Even when we first met in the winter of 1990, I only saw the remnants of his inner clarity, vision of another kind and intense spiritual concentration because, by then, he had already been devastated by a serious of misfortunes. Yet, then his health was not bad and he still had the desire, energy and resolution to write.
It was at a time when I had just returned to Pakistan after thirteen years and was experiencing disappointments from those writers and poets who had been my literary companions in the late 1970s. There was hardly anyone left whose integrity could be trusted. The rush of cheap journalism, pursuit of money and the harsh realities of the decade that saw the rise and fall of General Zia ul-Haq had taken its toll; a whole generation of Pakistani writers, poets and intellectuals had been dislocated from their rightful place in society. Some had died; others had left the country but the most painful was the experience of meeting those who had simply lost hope and desire to write. This was not just a disenchantment with poetry and literature at a personal level; it was a collective disillusionment borne out of the terrible state of society which had become disinterested in anything that was not related to material gains.
Laeeq Babree, a poet in the true sense of the word, was now living in a society which was deprived of its spiritual and cultural moorings and where poetry and literature had lost their rightful place. His very existence revolved around the pursuit of intangibles, thus he felt totally out of place.
Our first meeting on that winter evening of 1990 left a deep impression on me. I not only shared his spiritual pain, I also saw, more clearly than before, the extent of loss. Born on September 28, 1931, he was twenty years older than our generation but he had entered the world of literature late and unexpectedly. In the early 1970s, the literary world knew of him remotely; he was shy and recluse. Yet those who knew him, knew that his talent was of a unique kind. During his student life, he had lived in a Lahore that pulsated with creative energy and he had kept the company of the finest minds and intellects of his times. At the Government College, where he was studying, he was known for his sensitive approach to poetry and things that really matter in life. But then he left Lahore, only to rediscover it, and himself, at a much more profound level.
"I discovered myself through Panjabi poetry and of all places in Paris," I remember the words he softly spoke on that winter night in his drawing room. "There is something uniquely simple, direct and immediate in our Panjabi poetry." And then Bulleh Shah's profound words started to fill the evening in his effortless voice: "On the ripening corn, the birds descended, some were netted, some the falcons ended; some turned back, some were turned on spits. Who can escape what the Lord has writ?"
"In Paris, I sat with Louis Massignon, learned many things from Professor Hamidullah, who gave me a copy of his French translation of the Qur'an," he said and got up to show me the autographed copy. He studied with such renowned scholars as Ren Etiembre and Seorges Dumzil, completed his Ph.D. and returned to Pakistan with memories that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
"It was in Paris, while I was walking by the river Siene," he said passionately, "that verses came to my lips like water flows out of a fountain. It was a strange experience that opened up a huge spiritual world inside me."
He was to leave behind two short but highly original collections of Panjabi poetry, "Ghoggo Ghorey" (mute horses) and "Khingar" (stones that hurt). He also translated Faiz and other poets from Pakistani languages into French. His Urdu translations of Baudelaire and Rimbaud, numerous articles on art and literature and, in the latter period of his life, articles on Sufism, have opened numerous new vistas.
After a brief teaching interlude at Government College Lahore, Dr. Babree joined the National Institute of Modern Languages (now the University of Modern Languages) as head of the Department of French and later became chairman of the institute. This was his first real encounter with the muck that was fast encroaching upon institutions in Pakistan. In our later meetings, he would narrate episodes which had left deep scars on his psyche. He refused to bend rules, he placed checks on corrupt officials and instituted reforms at the Institute that would stand in the way of those who had made corruption a way of life. After the Martial Law imposed by General Ziaul Haq, he resisted military intervention at his Institute. But finally, in 1980s, he left the country and went to Saudi Arabia where he taught at the Umm al-Qura University of Makkah.
This stay in the proximity of the Ka`bah was to deeply influence him, but it was also in that sanctified city that he experienced the harshest inner experiences of his life. "It always reminded me of the Prophet," he would say, "how he must have suffered at the hands of Quraysh in that city. You need a heart of steel to live in Makkah."
After that first meeting, I was to meet him occasionally during the next six years. He was then translating a French work on Allah's most Beautiful Names. But it was in August 1996 that our relationship became truly rooted. This new phase started unexpectedly. One day in August 1996, shortly after I resigned from COMSTECH, he called me and said, "I knew you would not last; there are wolves out there. I knew you would not last." His voice was almost ecstatic with joy as if his own reading of society and institutions had been verified. But there was also something deeply pure, simple and truthful in his utterances that came to me as if he had been an external monitor of my own travails.
From that point until I left Pakistan in 1999, we met frequently, mostly in his house in F-8 but sometimes we would walk to our house which was not far from his. It was during these meetings, that I became aware of his spiritual journey. His was a unique path. It was in Paris that he had discovered new dimensions of Islam. His father had lived in Makkah for several years and, in his childhood, he used to meet people of great spiritual virtues who came to visit his father in their house in Lahore. But it was in the recitation of the Qur'aan that he found the greatest joy of his life in those days in Paris. "I would begin my day by reciting the Book out loud and sometimes my landlady would stand outside the apartment to listen to my recitation. At times I saw birds in the courtyard listening to the recitation. Tears would come to my eyes as I recited," he once told me in his effortless and natural manner. Then he recited the magnificent last verses of Suratul Hashr: He is Allah, there is no deity other than Him, the Knower of the unseen and the visible, the Infinitely Beneficent, the Most Merciful; He is Allah, there is no deity other than Him, the Sovereign, the most Holy, Peace, the Keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the Superb, Glorified be Allah from all that they ascribe to Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Shaper out of naught, the Fashioner, His are the most Beautiful Names, All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise." And he wept. Evening descended. We sat silently in the final glow of the last light of the day. May you rest in peace, friend and companion, in the sanctified abode, in everlasting joy.
Friday July 18, 2003-- Jamaadi-ul-Awwal 17, 1423 A.H.
The real issues
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The writer is a freelance columnist
This column would have been consumed by Viceroy Paul Bremer and his hand-picked "Governing Council" of Iraq that has started to establish a long-term mechanism of oppression that would make Saddam's torturous rule a pale shadow, except for the resolve to point out a painful reality of our times. This reality is the presence of "reactive journalism" that provides an excellent means for venting frustration but does little to educate, guide or inform. We are continuously reacting to events, readers are continuously reacting to what they read, and no one looks at the real causes which produce these events.
There is a roller coaster ride of events, produced by a great war machine that has now spread over the entire globe. One day, we are reacting to the situation in Afghanistan, then the locale shifts to occupied Iraq, and the third day we are forced to write about the illegal rule of our own General. But all of these topics are "given" to us, so to speak, by those who benefit from diverting attention from real issues. To be sure, the unlawful tempering of the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is an issue, and so is the uniform of the self-appointed president of this republic, but these are not the real issues because behind one general and his uniform, stands a whole battalion and removing one uniform would change nothing.
Thus, the General's uniform can only a real and substantial issue when it is examined at the level of mechanism through which these generals are being produced. As soon as one examines it from this perspective, one is awe-struck by the incisive and deeply entrenched institutional mechanisms that have been established to produce these generals. And this is not unique to Pakistan. These mechanisms are present throughout the Muslim world and they have been fine-tuned to suit the local conditions in different countries. But their goal is the same: total control over the emergence of the ruling elite. Ultimately, these mechanisms are there to achieve an economic and cultural subjugation that would lead more than one billion Muslims to live, think, and act like those who are obsessed by building a new empire. These deeply entrenched mechanisms have been established, not only to control oil-as some commentators keep harping-but to achieve a total control of the destiny of people in all spheres of life. The final goal is none other than establishment of a polity that would live by the faith of others. Deeply embedded, institutionalised and supported by multi-million dollar budgets, these mechanisms of control are used to effectively eliminate any alternate leadership. Thus, behind the apparently chaotic and disruptive rise of Musharrafs, Hosni Mubaraks and numerous other charlatans, there is a method; they do not just appear from nowhere; they are products of a well-planned system.
There are certain remarkable features of these control mechanisms that become evident with a closer look. In Pakistan, these control mechanisms are operative through several routes, ranging from exchange programs of various types to "training" courses for the personnel of the armed forces. Military coups, the mushrooming of Western-style educational institutions, the emergence of a new generation of Pakistanis who cannot write a single page of Urdu and whose lifestyle, tastes and cultural orientation has nothing to do with Islam or the centuries-old cultural patterns of their land, are merely off-shoots of these institutionalised mechanisms of control. The average middle-class family, which has devoted all its resources to send its children to the morally bankrupt and academically facile schools which slavishly teach a curriculum devoid of values and real content, does not understand this mechanism of control; it is merely trying to stay above water in a society that has lost its foundations. The real tragedy is not the aping attitude of the populace, but the fact that no one is studying, exploring and explaining to the general masses that they are being emotionally, intellectually and morally enslaved.
Those who have betrayed their own people are not only the members of the "governing council" of Iraq, which could only meet behind a gantlet of US-controlled bunkers and armoured vehicles, but also the intelligentsia, the religious leadership, the educators, the media. Their betrayal may not be intentional but, through their lack of understanding of the mechanisms of control and through their appalling failure to provide an intelligible and effective response, they have contributed to the establishment of these mechanisms that now firmly control social, cultural and economic forces operative throughout the Muslim world.
This general failure of the leadership in the Muslim world is the most important reality of our times. It covers all fields-from education to social role-models. And this failure is not limited to the Maulanas, who have entered the political arena to partake of the benefits of a sham democracy, but also extends to the scholars of Islam who have been shut up in their ivory towers of academic research while Bernard Lewises of this world go from city to city, propagating their ill-informed and skewed expertise on Islam, advocating the imperial agenda and creating an environment receptive to the imperial designs.
One wonders, why there is not even a minimum level of sustained effort to study, explore, analyse and guide the drift and direction of Muslim societies. Why is there no institutional mechanism for the study of Western civilization, culture and its oppressive war on Islam and Muslims? Compare the number of books being published on Islam and Muslims in the West with our own output of solid, scholarly and in-depth study of the West and one is left with the nagging feeling that there must be something deeply wrong with us. Either all those respectable names in these Islamic institutions are asleep or they have simply accepted defeat, without a fight.
Add to this, those who have bartered their souls for crumbs from the King's table. They go around the world, with their Sheik al-Azhar titles displayed ponderously and occupy centre-stage on CNN, as representatives of Islam. There is no one who challenges these employees whose pay checks are actually issued by their puppet regime, the second largest recipient of US-aid after Israel. Where are the non-paid Islamic scholars who have the courage to stand up and tell the world about this betrayal?
The situation has become so grim that it is even difficult to set the terms of discourse which are not the product of the faith of other men. Consider any real issue and it is more than likely that the discourse would run aground even before questions can be formulated. From the issue of status of women to that of science and technology and from the questions related to economics to culture, much of what is being said in the Muslim world at various levels of expression is already couched in terms that are foreign to Islam. These terms of discourse are the product of Western academic institutions which have been studying Islam and producing "scholars of Islam" for at least three centuries. Then they infiltrate into think-tanks, institutes that formulate policies and finally turn into real action plans that end up in bombing a country back to stone-age or in the emergence of men in uniform who act as proxies for their masters in Washington DC. Those who understand this mechanism can clearly see the nexus between this "academic discourse" and the actions of the Canadian and US soldiers who removed the blood-stained clothes of martyrs in a cave in Afghanistan and danced and drank around the corpses. This intense hatred is not merely an egoistic dance of the victorious, it is a produce of indoctrination that is steeped deeply in the Western psyche - an indoctrination that has hundreds of routes and mini-mechanisms for its propagation.
One wonders if there are any institutions, scholars, thinkers, and intellectuals in the Muslim world who understand this dilemma and who are willing to start the long journey of understanding the real issues and challenges faced by the Muslim world today. Is there anyone who can even formulate these questions, let alone answer them?
August 01, 2003, Jamadi al-Thani 02, 1424
The technology gap
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The B-52 bomber has become the symbol of the new technological superiority of the American military might. Flying at high subsonic speed, 50,000 feet above earth, beyond the range of any anti-aircraft gun, B-52 can carry 31,500 kilograms of lethal weapons-bombs, mines, air-launched cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship and Have Nap missiles. The programme that resulted in the B-52 began in 1946. By 1998, the cost of a plane had reached 53.4 million dollars. Today, it is the most important component of the American imperialism; it allows the US military to wipe out an entire region within hours. Surpassing all other long-range aircrafts, B-52 bombers are expected to remain in service into the year 2045, almost a century after its development began.
Used in the first Gulf War, then in Afghanistan and most recently in Iraq, these planes have not only killed thousands of civilians, they have also defeated the minds of a whole generation of army officers in the Muslim world who point helplessly to the devastating power of these planes and express their utter inability to design any war strategy against such airpower.
True, no one can withstand the piercing cry of the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow), as the crew often calls it. When the plane takes off with a crew of six, everyone knows that it will most likely return after several hours, with the same six members of its crew, leaving behind unrecognisable bodies and huge craters.
But this deadly airpower is merely the tip of the iceberg; the bigger issue is the technology gap between the United States of America and the rest of the world. When viewed in the perspective of contemporary politics, conflicts and fault-lines, it is clear that this technological superiority of the US military is not going to be used against Europe, Russia, China or Japan; it has been and will be used against Muslims only; even Korea, in spite of all the rhetoric that has crossed airwaves, is not a target.
In general, the question faced by the Muslim world, under siege and under a policy of reconfiguration through overt and covert actions of the United States, is simply this: What can be done to close this technology gap which has become most apparent in the recent attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq but which is a far more serious issue than the power of the B-52 bombers.
In its essence, the issue goes back to the emergence of the Scientific Revolution in Europe and the subsequent colonisation of the Muslim world. Among the most important contributing factors, which helped the European powers to colonise the Muslim world, was their technology which provided superior arms as well as helped in the accumulation of wealth through a process of industrialisation that was to change the entire spectrum of the individual and collective lives of humanity.
This empowerment of the West through a scientific revolution that was quickly used to develop technologies which, in turn, allowed it to reach out and exploit the natural resources belonging to other people at an unprecedented scale, did not remain unnoticed by the Muslim leaders of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They did realise their shortcomings and tried to "catch up" but the dice was loaded against them and it has remained so ever since.
As a result of this realisation, the most popular slogan of the reformers of the last two centuries has been the development of science and technology. But this is merely a slogan, devoid of producing any results because, in real terms, no one has been able to produce a blueprint of a viable practical plan that would bridge the gap between predominantly non-technological societies and the West. True, there have been numerous attempts, ranging from programmes of technology transfer to sending young scientists to the West. But all of these attempts have failed because these are simply inadequate attempts to catch up with an ever-expanding, highly funded, and institutionalised enterprise that is producing new discoveries at an astonishing speed.
Thus, those respectable men of our establishment who claim that they would produce wonders if only the state would pump a few hundred million dollars into the science budget, are merely making fools of themselves or are fooling with their nation. They either lack any real understanding of the vast scientific and technological enterprise that has come into existence in the West over the last three centuries or are hard core criminals who are using their clout to fill their pockets. Anyone who knows even the most basic facts about the connections between Western science (and technology) and its military and industry, would know that this gigantic system -- that keeps producing new products on a daily basis -- is simply unbeatable by any other nation. The institutional basis of this vast enterprise, located at the universities and research laboratories, the never-ending supply of fresh men and women dedicated to their professions, the mutually beneficial financial rewards for all involved, the elaborate and network that carries products of research from the laboratories to the market and numerous other components that make up this enterprise are the products of an organically grown system; by merely importing an instrument or technique, no nation can hope to bridge the technology gap.
It is true that specific application of certain technologies, clandestinely obtained from a Western laboratory, can produce enriched uranium which can be used to make an atomic bomb but this relatively minor achievement has nothing to do with the process that would close the technology gap.
In purely military terms, given this unbridgeable gap between the West and the rest, what are the options for those who hope to resist their Americanisation? What can be done by any nation that does not want to surrender its life-style, culture, beliefs and aspirations to the advancing McDonald culture?
Apparently, there is no hope for anyone to be able to withstand carpet bombing by B-52 bombers. This powerlessness of fighting such lethal military might has given birth to scores of defeated generals and intellectuals who argue that, in the final analysis, it is better to be an ally of the Americans because the alternative is nothing but being bombed back to the stone age. While this may be true on purely military grounds, there are still other factors and possibilities which need to be considered before a total and unconditional surrender.
The first possibility is related to the evolution of a science infrastructure which bypasses an entire phase of scientific and technological development by focusing on the next generation of technologies which might produce an answer to B-52 bombers. A simple (and thus inadequate) example is that of technologies related to telephone systems. Any country now entering the communication age would be better off if it developed satellite communication systems rather than laying cables for a country-wide telephone system. Such a country would not have to go through the phase of wire-based telephones before establishing satellite systems.
The second point to consider is the fact that everything in the arsenal of the US military is based on computerised sub-systems. These systems are highly dependent on the stability of electromagnetic fields. Thus, there are possibilities for a group of creative scientists and technologists to develop next generation defence systems that use the yet unexplored possibilities of producing high energy magnetic fields that would simply disrupt and stall the huge arsenal of the United States and thus make it unpredictable and hence unusable. There are already reports about research on the so-called e-bombs which produce high energy magnetic fields which interfere with the computer systems. There is no reason why a small and dedicated group of Muslim scientists cannot produce such devices. Thus, even though the technology gap cannot be bridged, it might be possible to booby-trap it.
In addition to a systematic plan to raise the next generation of scientists through an institutional system, there is a need to establish institutes where a small number of creative individuals, who are not defeated by the awe and shock of the American military might, can pool their creative energies to produce meta-level theories and practical ways to resist and eventually overcome this unrestrained, immoral and aggressive American military might which is playing havoc with the international norms and civic laws humanity has evolved over centuries.
August 22, 2003, 23 Jamadi II, 1424
The sleeping Ummah
A quick glance at the new books on Islam published in the West during the last year is an eye opener for those who have eyes. Hundreds of titles, ranging from the academic to popular, covering all disciplines and subjects, have been published. Mostly written by non-Muslims, these books attempt to understand, distort, explain, construct and deconstruct Islamic tradition in myriad ways. If nothing else, this rigorous intellectual activity proves that the long history of Western scholarship on Islam has entered a new phase.
A counter glance at the books published in the Muslim world about the Western civilization leaves one with the discomforting and deadening silence. This imbalance can be explained away by appealing to the huge resource gap between the two, but that would be a mere cover up; the terrible reality unmistakably points toward a sleeping Ummah. With hundreds of universities, colleges, institutes, even Islamic universities, one would expect a rigorous output of scholarship from all corners of the Muslim world. One would expect that in these trying times, those honourable men and women who have been entrusted with intellectual capacities by their Creator would be fully awake, watching the flow of history, looking at the way wind is blowing and providing leadership, guidance, analyses and directions.
But there is nothing; only a deadly sleep. As if the buildings that host these institutions are tombs. As if men and women who go to these institutions every day are sleep walking. As if they are ghosts of a bygone era. Compare the scholarly output of an average professor of an American university with that of a Pakistani or Egyptian or Turkish university, and one is astounded at the disparities. In the case of physical sciences, one can justify this situation by the lack of necessary equipment and materials for scientific research, but in all other cases, there is simply no excuse.
Muslim understanding of the West is one of the most neglected areas of scholarship. This neglect has left the field open to a deceptive construction, fostered by popular media and propagated by a powerful global enterprise. This effort is going to receive a major boost through the new budget, approved by the US Congress on July 16, 2003, which has allocated 1.3 billion dollars for international broadcasting. Directed at winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim youth, this money will be used to establish a new Middle East Radio and Television Network.
In this construction of worldview, the Western civilization is depicted as the most advanced, powerful, glaringly progressive and enviable civilization. From sciences to arts and from lifestyles to literature, this depiction manufactures a false reality which is then made concrete through visual images as well as through print media. In contrast, this same mechanism produces a view of the Islamic civilization in which everything is in a state of rot.
These views of the contemporary world have been so incisively etched and propagated that millions of young Muslims around the world have become deeply infatuated with the West. There are many ways to confirm this. The so-called visa-lottery programme of the United States of America was one such measure. The lengthening queues in front of foreign embassies, the huge influx of Western goods and numerous other indicators all reflect this infatuation with the West which is a product of glamorisation of the West through false constructions in a vacuous field left open by Muslim scholars.
A by-product of this same trend is the spiritual and cultural uprooting of those who have not left their lands for the West but whose lifestyles have transformed to such an extent that they have become enslaved by the West. Still another product of the same uncontested claims of Western supremacy is the political, military and intellectual leadership of the contemporary Muslim world, a leadership who has surrendered to the shock and awe. This includes the generals who possess no valour, intellectuals who see nothing worthwhile outside the West and even religious leaders who attempt to justify their slavish submission to strategy.
When viewed objectively, one cannot avoid the conclusion that the fundamental problem lies within the Muslim world. For almost four centuries now, the Muslim world has been at the receiving end - from knowledge to products and from ideas to consumer goods, it has been receiver, rather than a generator. More often than not, this deadly enslavement is attributed to low level of scientific and technological expertise, ignoring all other realms, as if one can abstract the scientific tradition from the rest of the society. The rot, in fact, is much deeper, much more sweeping in scale and dimensions.
What is wrong is not merely the lack of laboratories and libraries, but an intellectual deadness, an aberration of the worst kind that has left our scholars and thinkers in a state of enslaved laziness. This laziness, this drowsy and accursed stagnation becomes apparent as soon as one enters the corridors of Muslim institutions. Instead of alert, aware and active minds, one finds sleepy lassitude. There is no research agenda, there are no driving forces here, merely stupor reigns supreme.
But there has been enough lament on this state. The question now is what would it take to stir the dead soul? What would it take to have a goal-oriented research, aimed at dealing with pressing issues at hand? What would it take for our respected scholars to really stand up and be the true heirs of the tradition which has groomed them?
One fails to understand why an institute of an Islamic university would not establish a research programme that would yield insightful studies about the state of Ummah. Why do they not reflect on the flow of history? Why do they not come up with penetrating analyses of the events of the last three centuries which have created this great imbalance in the world?
There are numerous obvious areas of study yearning to be undertaken: studies on the impact of colonization, analyses of what went wrong, reflections on what is to be done, historical, economical, military and sociological studies discovering and analyzing Islam’s encounter with modernity and the failures of the Islamic polity to deal with the challenges it faces. Then, there is the most important task of renewal and rejuvenation of the Islamic tradition of learning.
Today, out of more than one billion Muslims, a very large percentage has no access to that vast corpus of scholarship that is truly reflective of the great tradition they have inherited. These millions of Muslims have been cut off from their heritage because they do not know the language of this scholarship. There are literally thousands of manuscripts available for translations, annotations and reproductions. There are millions of texts that need to be brought to the attention of the new generations of Muslims. But those who have the capacity to do begin this enormous task are sleeping.
No doubt, attempts have been made in the past to translate and reproduce great books of Islamic civilization. There are still some lone and dedicated scholars who are burning midnight oil in the service of scholarship but this cry is for the sleeping institutions where respectable persons sit on high chairs in command of human and material resources. What are they doing? Where are the products of sustained, long-term planned research? True, many of these institutions may not be as resourceful as the universities in the West, but this vast undertaking does not merely depend on material resources; it requires a spirit fired by dedication and goal and once that spirit is there, resources generally come. It is this deadness of spirit that is to be cast away.
Friday September 05, 2005-- Rajab 07, 1424 A.H.
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
Within the last two years, the self-proclaimed lone superpower of the world has attacked two countries. In the first, a militia defending the most ravaged country in the world with the most primitive weapons was routed. The second was a country whose economy and defences had been systematically shattered over the last decade due to sanctions. The super-army, equipped with the most advanced weapons available in the world, arrived in Baghdad after inflicting tremendous amount of suffering to the people of Iraq. This modern-day version of Halaku-style army used cruise missiles, depleted uranium ammunition, and cluster bombs to kill, maim and decapitate men, women and children. This army now finds itself pitched against "loyalists of the old regime". These same loyalists, who supposedly formed an army that was "a ragtag army of demoralised men", now attack this super army on a daily basis.
Amidst rising resistance against the occupying army in Iraq, the President of the superpower now finds himself in the awkward position of yelling at those whom he called "revisionist historians". His latest outburst happened on September 2, 2003 when he said to students at a community college in a Washington suburb: "I know there’s a lot of revisionist history going on. But he is no longer a threat to the free world." It was the second day on the run that President Bush had to defend his rationale for invading Iraq. His rationale, however, is losing force and money.
One of the most amazing features of this superpower-dominated world is the extreme disparity between the invaders and the invaded, between the aggressor and the oppressed. Just the difference between the economies of Afghanistan and the United States is mind-boggling. The scale of war-spending by Afghanistan and Iraq on the one hand, and the United States of America on the other, differ by several orders of magnitude. According to the latest figures released by the Pentagon, the US military campaign in Iraq has cost the Pentagon about $48 billion so far, a number expected to rise by $10 billion by the end of September.
Dov Zakheim, the Defence Department’s comptroller, recently said in an Associated Press interview that this cost includes the combat phase, which started on March 20, post-war stabilisation efforts and $30 billion in pre-war expenses such as moving troops to the region and building facilities there. The cost of the invasion is now around $4 billion a month.
In April, the US Congress had approved an extra $62.6 billion for the Pentagon, which already had a budget of $364 billion for the current fiscal year. The new money was for the invasion of Iraq and the so-called global war on terror. Zakheim said he expects all but $4 billion of that will be needed this fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2003. This cost doesn’t include replacement of damaged equipment and replenishing munitions and other material consumed in the war. Those expenses amount to a further $23 billion, for the total $58 billion expected by year’s end; none of these figures include what has been spent on several thousand American civilians working since the end of the war as part of the occupation authority.
Seen from the vantage point of an Afghan farmer tilling his land with animal driven ploughs in rugged mountains, these are astronomical numbers. But for the American leaders this cost, which will add to a federal deficit projected to top $300 billion this year, is a small price for an assumed safety that their country has presumably won.
In the words of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, "Our nation is safer, the brotherhood of freedom is larger, and the world has seen that with clear goals and moral purpose, free men can beat back the tide of terror. And at $79 billion, I’d say it was a bargain."
Note the self-assumed righteousness and arrogance. Note, also, a total blindness to ground realities. The invasion of Iraq was an act of outright aggression for which no justification can be found. Even former Vice President Al Gore admitted that he is deeply troubled by the direction his country has taken. Speaking at New York University on August 6, 2003, he said, "The direction in which our nation is being led is deeply troubling to me — not only in Iraq but also here at home on economic policy, social policy and environmental policy. Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country and that some important American values are being placed at risk. And they want to set it right."
Al Gore listed six "false impressions" used by the administration to invade Iraq: (1) Saddam Hussein’s supposed involvement in 9/11; (2) Saddam’s alleged links with Osama Bin Laden and support for al-Qaeda; (3) Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction which he was supposedly going to pass on to some terrorists; (4) Saddam was said to be on the verge of building nuclear bombs and giving them to the terrorists; (5) The assumption that the US GI’s would be welcomed with open arms by cheering Iraqis who would help them quickly establish public safety, free markets and Representative Democracy; and (6) the assumption that even though the rest of the world was mostly opposed to the war, they would quickly fall in line after we won and then contribute lots of money and soldiers to help out, so there wouldn’t be that much risk that US taxpayers would get stuck with a huge bill. Al Gore said "of course, everybody knows that every single one of these impressions was just dead wrong."
But most of America is not listening to Al Gore. Most of Americans are too busy with their little hamburgers and pay checks and spending to imagine the new realities of a world gone mad. And though the support for Bush had taken a plunge, he is still considered a winner in the next election. This callous attitude toward the suffering of millions of other human beings around the
world is in stark contrast to the reactions that emerged in the general public after 9/11. This shows, one more time, that as for as the Americans are concerned, the suffering of other human beings does not mean the same, as if the rest of the humanity is of a lesser order.
Of course, there are individual Americans who would feel intensely about the rest of the world but in general, there is no public outrage. No one is picketing, no one is out there on the streets, asking what are we doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public opinion is still solidly behind a manufactured consent.
But in this murky world of ours, there is one thing that is certain and history provides ample testimony to it. No matter how well-equipped an occupying army is, it cannot control a country whose people rise against it. The tide of time is against the occupiers and in the end, they will have to leave. The real task for the people of Iraq is to maintain enough cohesion and integration to deal with the post-liberation challenges and not fall into an internal chaos of the type witnessed in the post-Soviet Afghanistan.
September 19, 2003, Rajab 21, 1424
Roadmap to recolonization
So early in the twenty-first century, a pattern has been established to recolonise the entire Muslim world. This pattern consists of a two-pronged approach. One strand of this approach is to install regimes which do the bidding of the colonisers and the second is to transform Muslim societies from within. A glance at the contemporary Muslim world is enough to reveal this new ruthless pattern. In this post September 11 world, no apologies are required, there are no international laws that now stand as safeguards and there are no counter forces that can check this new wave of colonisation.
This new phase of colonisation differs from the previous era in that it has been conceived as a process that is accomplished through using the natives against their own people at a scale which differs from the nineteenth century colonisation by several orders of magnitude. Instead of Lord Curzon and the East India Company, we now have our very own generals, politicians and religious leaders who are taking us into the hands of those who wish to "civilise" us. In this new phase of colonisation, what is being colonised is not so much the land but the economies, cultures, lifestyles and belief systems.
Most of the Muslim world has already passed through the first phase. With rulers appointed, installed and supported by US money, these countries are being rapidly transformed. The new broadcasting channel being established through a 1.3 billion US Congress-sanctioned budget will further intensify this effort in the Arab world where most rulers are directly appointed and supported by the US. Egypt, the second highest recipient of US international aid after Israel, is a long time ally. Jordan is no different. Kuwait is under virtual occupation because two thirds of that country is out of bounds for Kuwaitis. Qatar, Oman, and the Gulf States have been thoroughly integrated into economy of the United States and the next generation of rulers of these states has grown up in an Americanised milieu.
Iraq was a wildcard; hence the invasion. The case of Iran is different and so the current flow of events is rapidly moving toward a state of confrontation with the aim of bringing it into the fold. Indeed, it is now an open question whether the White House intends to have yet another adventure before elections next year or whether that crusade would be postponed for a grand resumption of world conquest in emperor Bush’s second term on the throne.
Encircled on all sides by US military bases, Iran faces this challenge of invasion at a time when the United States has already made considerable progress in establishing footholds in the society. In the overall scheme of things, an invasion of Iran is not all together a far-fetched idea but a very real possibility because in the entire Muslim world, Iran is the only country where a representative government has been functioning since 1979 and where a deeply embedded revolution has succeeded in the name of Islam. Whatever the shortcomings of that revolution may have been — and no revolution is without such shortcomings — it was a monumental achievement of the people of Iran and twenty-four years later, many in Washington still hope to reverse this tide of history.
Iran is also important because through the active involvement of its intelligentsia and leaders with Islam at the political level, it poses a threat that no other Muslim country does in quite the same way. The 1979 Revolution was a watershed in the political history of Muslims. Both in theory as well as in practice, it was and has remained a successful reassertion of Islamic thought in the contemporary world. Its architect was a man of no mean stature and whatever the failures of other leaders of the Iranian Revolution might be, Imam Khomeini’s life and works would always remain an important source of inspiration for generations to come. Thus to undermine that society from within remains a high priority for the builders of the new empire.
Of course, the greatest question for Muslim intellectuals is: what is to be done against this tide of conquest and recolonisation. There are various aspects of this question. First there is the struggle at the frontline. The most important first step in the process of recolonisation is the installation of a government that can be used to setup the extensive infrastructure of recolonisation. Since the first step of recolonisation has already become a reality for most of the Muslim world, the time for invoking moral grounds for its reversal has also passed. Those who used to point out the double standards of the West have been silenced by the sheer weight of events. Recall when General Pervez Musharaff staged his coup, there was an outcry in the West. Canada, the European Union, and the UK had all expressed such loud outrage that it seemed that this is no more acceptable to their conscience. But that outrage was merely a diplomatic gesture which gave false hopes to the moralists and disguised their tacit approval for a short while.
Realism teaches us to examine and evaluate the ground realities as they exist. In the wake of the success of the first step, the battle lines have to be drawn elsewhere. And it is at this redrawn frontier where Muslim intellectuals and thinkers need to play a role which is, in fact, a duty imposed on them by their fidelity to their religion and its tradition. In this second phase of recolonisation, the so-called battle for hearts and minds is the main struggle. What the colonisers hope to do is to inculcate in the next generation a worldview that would enslave it in an insidious manner through the adoption of the lifestyle of the colonisers. The Gulf States are already ahead of the rest of the Muslim world in this submission to the colonisers. From that entire region, traditional values, customs, lifestyle and cultural norms are vanishing with an astonishing rapidity.
What is required of Muslim intelligentsia is to first understand this battle for hearts and minds which is being waged in myriad forms and then to spread that understanding in a manner that is lucid and appealing to those who may come under the sway of colonisers’ project. The recognition of the process of recolonisation, its various phases and establishment of defence lines is no longer a leisurely activity that can be postponed; it has become the most urgent task.
Given the global onslaught, this task is so urgent that any further delay would sweep away whatever is left of the traditional lifestyle in Muslim lands. The Americanisation that is apace in education, popular culture, fashions, and other aspects of communal life, is invariably bound with moral and spiritual values that run against the basic beliefs of Islam, but these moral values cannot be defended in any abstract manner. These norms of a society are the result of worldviews, beliefs and lifestyles and they change with the change in worldviews, beliefs and lifestyles. Thus, attempts to impose a certain morality by a moral police always fail and work against the intended purpose. What is of importance is a slow but consistent effort to inculcate Islamic worldview through multiple forms and means. One of the most important means to achieve this is education — an area that is in dire need of attention. It is, indeed, one of the greatest ironies of our times that one of the most successful routes to recolonisation in the Muslim world is through "education". One sees this avenue of uprooting the new generation operating all over the Muslim world. There are hardly any defences against this frontal attack. The moment which aimed at Islamisation of knowledge and which promised so much in the late 1970s has simply dissipated, leaving no feasible future avenues.
October 4, 2003
Instruments of Inquisition
Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal
There are many new instruments of Inquisition in this post 9/11 era. The horror stories that have surfaced so far trace these new instruments to that infamous camp on a remote Island off the cost of Cuba about which the world has now forgotten and where an unknown number of human beings is suffering daily. Then there are the US prisons which hold another undisclosed number, without trial or even without charges. In addition, there are numerous other prisons around the globe where the US sponsored agencies are torturing hundreds of human beings. The only difference between these new instruments of inquisition and the notorious Spanish Inquisition is that this time, the victims of inquisition are only Muslims.
But detentions, ad hoc arrests and mistreatment being meted out to these men is only the beginning of a long process that aims at subduing all forms of resistance against the US imperialism. These prisons have come into existence in the rush and flow of a greater and sweeping change that aims to create totalitarian states in the Muslim world (in the name of democracy, of course) that would be so hostile to Muslims that their survival would become impossible unless they chose to give up their religion, language and culture in a substantial way and just keep their outer trappings. If this sounds as a far fetched exaggeration, one has to remember that no one thought that the infamous Spanish Inquisition would go as far as it did.
These instruments have come into existence through a unique process in which the American agenda for the Muslim world is being realized, bit by bit. Chastened by the two World Wars, and the experience of colonizing and destroying other traditions for more than two centuries, Europe seems to have become sober and more sensitive to such grand follies. But it has become a tacit approver of the new imperialism of the United States which has no such corrective experience. The Vietnam experience, in spite of its repeated invocations, was not like the World Wars and there are no internal corrective forces within the American system that can make it a sober state, respectful of other traditions.
There was hope that media and the justice system could become a corrective force in the United States but there is very little hope left for that. In the aftermath of 9/11, US media has, in fact, an instrument of state through a near total monopoly by a few. As for the justice system, one has understand that this justice system is the most expensive system in the world and even if one had money to pay to this grand machinery, it is not going to deliver justice in matters where United States stands against the rest of the world. A recent court verdict, for instance, has allocated the 67 million dollars collected through auctioning Saddam Hussein’s property in the United States to the victims of 9/11 instead of giving that money to Iraqis. This may sound like insufficient evidence, but there are hundreds of men in the US jails who are being held without trial and the justice system has done nothing against these detentions.
And if this generalization seems too sweeping, one has to just count the number of Muslims who are killed on a daily basis in lands as far apart as Pakistan and Chechnya to understand the dimensions of this global war against Islam and Muslims. There is no international outcry against this daily slaughter. One is pained to recognize the eerie silence that prevails over this massive operation. Except for mute individual voices, no one is crying out to stop this massacre, often by the hands of states which are supposed to be protecting these individuals. No is calling for investigation of human rights violation in Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. No one is invoking that facile document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states: whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world, Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people, Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
Enough has been said in the world press about the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. But the strange thing is the process which has now begun to legitimize this illegal invasion. Everyone knows that this invasion was pre-planned and that it is against all internationally recognized laws and norms. But the UN is going to legitimize it and France opposes the new US resolution but it will not veto it! What does this “opposition” mean in real terms? Nothing but a lip service.
It is apparent that the United States will have to leave Iraq, but before leaving it secure contracts for Iraqi oil as well as for “rebuilding Iraq” and, most of all, it would establish a puppet regime. This is modus operandi, first used in Afghanistan, is becoming a routine now. Once the US has enacted a puppet government, then it will go behind the scene and govern by proxy.
Now the most important question for the world is: what is to be done to curtail this new messianic force that wishes to dominate the world? More specifically, it is the Muslim world that has to answer this challenge because it is a war against its most basic values. The aggressor not only wishes to physically occupy Muslim lands and exploit its natural resources, it also wishes to transform the entire spectrum of spiritual and cultural values of the Islamic civilization. This new challenge should not be considered a meager or unimportant challenge because it is a challenge by one of the most resourceful countries of the world, a challenge that has launched attacks at many fronts. It is threatening the very fabric of the Islamic civilization because in its essentials, the American way propagates an unchecked and self-centered concept of personal freedom that removes all Divinely sanctioned limits by allowing the lowest common denominator to rule the social and moral values of the society.
Those who can still not see this threat in its myriad forms should look into the basic statistics about single mothers, divorce, alcoholism and drug-related violence in the American society. They should do a reality check to find out what this American life-style is that the new empire builders wish to export to the rest of the world. What are the basic moral values that would come with this new American vision?
This new American vision aims at nothing short of obliteration of all other ways of life. But ironically, those who wish to impose this on the world, do not realize that if the rest of the world adopted the same life-style, it would simply become impossible for earth to sustain life. The American ecological footprint is three times larger than its population share compared to the rest of the world and the waste of human and natural resources, built into the American lifestyle, would create such global catastrophes that earth would become inhospitable to life.
But that is not the concern of those who have sent their troops to Baghdad and Kabul . They could not care less. What matters to them is the contracts which have been signed for the exploitation of Iraq’s vast oil resources, the check-posts and security apparatus that is making the life of ordinary citizens a daily struggle for survival and, of course, their ultimate goal of a permanent presence in the Muslim lands, with long-term strategies to transform and hollow out the Islamic civilization. For them, the ashes from Ground Zero will only bear fruit when they will simmer in Baghdad and rekindle fires that would consume lives of men, women and children who wish to live by their own faith, rather than by the faith of occupiers.
October 24, 2003
O I Ses
They came, they spoke the lines put into their mouths and they left. All of them, in their tailor-made suits and uniforms, speaking a babel of empty words, with sound and fury, meaning nothing. More worthless than the piece of paper on which they had been written by scribes in service, the words uttered at Putrajaya were recorded and simultaneously translated into four languages and they would go into the annals of history as testimony of shame and humiliation.
The rhetoric is, of course, not new; only some of those who gathered at this new dream capital of Dr. M were new to the game. But there were many who have made OIC a career, and they spoke with the black humour of the one who knows the joke inside out. Their most crisp refrain was: “O I See.” Anytime someone said something that needed a thoughtless response, they would say, “O I see.” And repeated ad nauseam, this phrase became the most apt symbol of a gathering that has become a laughing matter for the rest of the world, for everyone knows that these summits of the heads of states accomplish nothing but generate documents that gather dust on some old shelves, until they are dusted for the next summit to regurgitate the old material first written in the heydays of the oil-boom, military potentates and dreamy intellectuals who dreamt of building a new Ummah from the ashes of history but whose dreams fell into the game plan of hired crowns and uniforms.
In a wide-open field yearning for some meaningful input, it was men like M. A. Kazi and A. K. Brohi of Pakistan who first introduced numbers into speeches written in dusty old offices with the help of soon-to-be discarded typewriters. It was the clerks and section officers of Pakistan’s ministry of science and technology who provided numbers to their bosses who knew that numbers impress even the most unconvinced. So, they called for GDP figures of the entire Ummah which could not be computed because the Ummah has kept no records of its billions—and who would dare to keep records in an Ummah whose main trait is forgetfulness? But never mind the actual figures; one can always cook the soup with broth and stir in some fury by adding emphatic phrases (“the Muslim Ummah should” and the “Ummah must”) addressed to no one in particular and meaning nothing at all. And if it sounds too abstract, one can always pin the badge of ignominy upon a specific group like the scientists, whose entire yearly output can be put to shame when compared with the publications coming from a tiny European country.
So, the recipe was invented. Henceforth, speeches could be written on the fly, using this magic recipe: Add a few sentences like “The GDP of the entire Ummah is roughly $1.4 trillion, while that of Japan alone is 4.5 trillion.” Then stir in some refrains for dramatic effect: the Ummah is standing at a historic moment”, and lo and behold, the great game is on. First invented 37 years ago, this recipe has been working and the Ummah is still standing at the same historic moment as it was in 1969. Summit after summit, we are told that this is a moment we can either seize and take charge of our destiny or let others define our destiny. Indeed, we have been standing at a historical monument of regurgitated verbosity.
But times have changed since that old generation of tired old men and dreamy intellectuals ushered us into these meaningless refrains. New challenges have arisen and hence new themes must continuously be invented. The greatest of these themes is, of course, the new Islam that has been invented in the White House and that needs to be poured down the throat of 1.3 billion voiceless, unrepresented men, women and children who now comprise our Ummah. Thus, this year’s gathering at Putrajaya saw the unfurling of this new brand of Islam, an "Enlightened Moderate" Islam that “would bridge the gap between the Islam and the West”.
Among all the potentates who had gathered in Malaysia, it was left to our own usurper to elaborate this new vision of Islam that is based on a vague ideology of “Enlightened Moderation” rather than the twin sources that have so far remained the foundation of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah. But what does “Enlightened Moderation mean? And what does it mean to bridge the gap between Islam and the West? After all Islam is a religion, with a definite set of beliefs, one of the most important among which is the belief in the Hereafter, and the West is a geographical entity in which such a belief is no more the defining factor of political, economic and social life, though it remains a personal concept in many lives. So, how does one bridge the gap between a geographical entity and a faith?
But never mind details. No one is interested in such details. All one needs to win one’s bread and, for some, a glass of the forbidden drink is to use every single platform to reiterate the falsehood of this new brand of Islam that calls for rejection of “militancy” and that reduces Jihad, one of the key concepts of the Qur’an, to a fight against “poverty and illiteracy”. So, the general spoke his lines and earned his living.
That the proponents of this new brand of Islam have nothing to do with the teachings of the glorious Qur’an and the practices of the Noble prophet of Islam can be easily inferred from their lives, policies, ideas and, most of all, from their manifest alliance with those who are bent upon imposing their own worldview on the rest of the world through naked aggression, occupation and oppression. One should not need to look further than the laurels heaped on these kings, generals and self-appointed presidents who gathered in Malaysia by the likes of Rumsfeld and Armitage to attest to their unholy alliance. But for the skeptics, let it be pointed out that the OIC came into existence in the wake of Zionist aggression and the desecration of the first Qiblah of Islam, the noble sanctuary which Allah Himself has blessed, and for the last 37 years, it has done nothing to liberate that sanctified land from the ever-expanding Zionist state. Nothing, that is, in concrete terms.
It is also to be noted that in clear contradistinction to the propagators of this new brand of moderate Islam, there is no category of moderate Muslims in the Qur’an. The Qur’an only mentions three categories of people: the believers, the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Further, it says, “O you who believe, do not take the Kuffar as your allies in preference to the believers; do you want to place before God a manifest proof of your guilt?” (4:144). And if this were not enough of a proof for the hypocrisy of these propagators of a made-in-America Islam, then one should open the Noble Book of Allah and read what the revealer of Islam has said about the killing of Muslims by the Muslims and pay heed to what awaits them before they send their troops to Iraq.
If there was anything new and unique in this year’s OIC gathering, it was the appearance of the Russian President Vladimir Putin who was supposed to remain on the sidelines but who made his way into the main session to assure us that Islam and terrorism are not linked; of course, that was the only thing left for us because Putin is the ultimate authority on Islam. Never mind that in return, the so-called representatives of the Muslim world willingly forgot about the terrible plight of their Chechenyan brethren in faith who face atrocities at a genocidal scale, atrocities that cannot be ignored by even secular organizations such as the Human Rights Commission.
So, the wheel turns and they plot and Allah plots and indeed, Allah’s scheme is the best and in Him we trust.
November 7, 2003
A Lament for Urdu
There are only a few men and women of letters left among us who can remind us of what it was like to be part of a literary movement. A few months ago, I happened to visit one of them in his spartan office in Lahore; he was just as I had seen him several years ago. Of course, he was much older but his manners, relations with his staff and the kindness he always showed to me were unchanged. He has tirelessly edited one of the oldest Urdu literary journals, is the author of several collections of short stories and poems, but somehow he seemed to be totally irrelevant to Pakistan’s contemporary situation, as if he was a man from another era who was somehow continuing to exist in a transformed age. In any other society, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi would be an eagerly sought after national figure; in ours, he reminds one of an age no one wants to remember.
I wanted to buy some books of classical Urdu literature which the Majlis-e Taraqi-e Adab had published. Qasmi sahib quickly called a staff member who produced a list of publications. I marked the books on the list and while we remembered things past and drank tea, his staff prepared the bundle of books. Most of these books were published forty years ago. They had that intricate dustcover which had become the sign of quality typeset books of that time. But what amazed me was the fact that these editions of 1100 or 2100 books had not sold out in forty years!
Forty years is long time and these were not the books by any upstart writer; these were by the masters of Urdu language and literature: Hali, Sawda, Mir, Ghalib, Maulana Muhammad Hussain Azad, Amir Khusro, Zauq, and the list goes on. This meant that in forty years, neither the general public, nor the universities and other cultural institutions of the country have had the interest or resources or both to buy these well-produced books which represent some of the best examples of Urdu poetry, fiction and non-fiction. In addition, many have historical significance.
This is clearly a barometer for the state and direction of Pakistani culture. When one recalls that at one time during the struggle for Independence, there were bloody clashes over the issue of language and numerous people gave their lives for Urdu, one feels a strange sense of despair. What was the purpose of those sacrifices if Urdu was to become a dying language?
Urdu is intimately connected with the other languages of its family. For centuries, Arabic, Persian, Panjabi, Sindhi and other languages of the subcontinent provided the currents that ensured a continuous development of Urdu. But since Independence, Arabic and Persian have become foreign languages and as a result, Urdu has lost a major source of nourishment. The flow of new vocabulary, ideas, idioms, phrases, and concepts that keeps a language alive has become extremely restricted. No wonder, that today one can hardly name a handful of Urdu books dealing with any serious topic.
In the absence of a natural growth process, there appears a need to support such dying things as Urdu; hence the National Language Authority was created. In addition, a host of other national institutions are supposedly cultivating interest in Urdu language and literature. The meager resources provided to these institutions are, however, merely enough for their own survival and in any case, even with large budgets, these institutions cannot re-inject life into a language whose roots have been severed.
With half of its population unable to read and write, and more than 37 percent living under the national poverty line, no one expects Pakistan’s 150 million people to show great enthusiasm for books. But when one discoverst that out of this huge population, there are not even 2000 readers interested in classics of their language, one is left with nothing but a dark brooding thought: is this society going to survive?
But what can be done? The lack of interest in Urdu language and literature is an indication of a much deeper malaise. It reflects the state of Pakistani culture in which not only books are no one’s priority, even the national language is dying. There are hardly any Urdu literary journals. Those which do appear, are the products of individual efforts and circulate among a very small group. Pakistanis, it seems, are just not interested in creative expression anymore; they have been so thoroughly crushed by the struggle to survive that there is very little room left for any appreciation of the arts. This is also reflected in the emphasis successive governments have placed on the applied sciences; it is another matter that this stress has produced no results, because sciences cannot survive without languages and literature. Arts, sciences, creative writing, poetry, all are forms of expression in which individual human beings attempt to reconstruct life in a sublimate state. This helps to lighten the burden of living, creates a niche for ideals by which one can live and generates beauty. Beauty and lofty ideals stand behind earthy lives and constantly remind us of the endless possibilities inherent in the human spirit.
But all of these finer elements of existence seem to have been squeezed out of contemporary Pakistani culture. In the absence of these, there is a harshness that prevails in the society. There is a state of stark barrenness, as if all forms of creativity have become alien to the very air we breath in Pakistan.
But how can one rekindle interest in Urdu language and literature? Certainly not by establishing another institution, nor by decrees and least of all through a presidential ordinance. Like all cultures, Pakistani culture is a living entity, in dialectic and dynamic relationship with those elements that contribute to its making. Therefore, the first thing to rely on is the fact that like all living things, Pakistani culture is a dynamic process, in constant state of change. This dynamic process receives numerous local and foreign impacts, rejects and accepts ideas that flow through its matrix, creates and destroys forms of creative expression. In addition, all languages and creative forms in languages remain perpetually connected to the foremost concerns of the members of the society. Furthermore, literature and poetry require a conscious effort of cultivation.
Thus, in order to develop a love for Urdu literature, one has to develop a refinement of the human spirit to a state where it yearns for finer expressions. Universities, colleges, schools, academies and literary organizations can only help in the creation of an environment that nurtures such tastes; they cannot produce them. Poetry and literature come from a heart perpetually torn between an unattained ideal and the crushing weight of reality. All we have is the crushing weight of reality. What we need is a connection to the ideals that can rekindle hope, desire and beauty. Then literature and poetry will emerge. Then we will not have hundreds of copies of classics sitting on some old dusty shelves for decades, waiting to be read.
November 21, 2003
Of course there was no mention of Mir Jafar last week during the dinner held in the deep recesses of Buckingham Palace secured through the 16 million dollars security arrangements, but President Bush and the British Queen Elizabeth must have shared an emotional moment of self-gratification on the successful passing of the reigns of what used to be a Raaj over which sun did not set. In addition to this emotional bond, there are many other things in common between the custodians of the Buckingham Palace and the US Emperor in the making. The former had built their empire through a mechanism which, in the words of Maulana Muhammad Ali, was based on “the old maxim of divide and rule but, there is a division of labour here,” the Maulana had noted in 1919. “We [Indians] divide, you [British] rule.”
The parallels run deep. The British Raaj was built by using collaborators who were willing to sign on the dotted line. The new American Empire is being built through the same mechanism. On June 22, 1757, when Lord Clive left Calcutta, he had only 800 Europeans in his army but there were 2200 Indians who were willing to fight against their own brethren. In addition, there was the treacherous Mir Jafar with whom a deal had already been made. Thus the encounter at Palassey was remarkably uneventful; only 22 of Clive’s men died. Mir Jafar looked on from a distance, and appeared next day to reap the expensive fruits of his circumspect treachery. Six days later, Clive installed him on the masnad at Murshiabad and four days later, courageous and brave Siraj al-Dawla, captured by the new nawab’s son Miran, was executed. A new chapter was opened in the history of India. Now fast forward to 2003 and change the scene to Baghdad.
The US army arrived in Iraq following the intense bombing and the wave of shock and awe that devastated the ancient city. But apart from the initial resistance, there was hardly any fight. The US army literally walked into Baghdad and the much talked about Republican guards, the elite divisions and the hand picked brave men of Saddam Hussein all melted in thin air. Then there appeared a US-handpicked Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) and a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) headed by Lord-to-be Paul Bremer. Just what this IGC is and what is it that it is supposed to be doing is remarkably similar to what Mir Jafar was supposed to be doing: that is, to provide a cover for the plunder of occupied land. Thus, within the short period of three years, Clive became the richest man in India and when, upon his retirement from the Company’s service, he faced a Committee of the House of Commons which was set up to investigate corruption charges, he defended himself in words that have become classic utterance: “A great city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone; piled on either hand with gold and jewels! Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderation.”
It would not be surprising if Bremer is found uttering similar words in a few years because, as the head of CPA, he is overseeing a looting and a plunder which would make Clive a noble man in comparison. On September 21, the US unveiled its economic blueprint for Iraq during the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank in Dubai. This “free-market manifesto” devised by Washington was hailed by The Economist as a “capitalist dream” that fulfills the “wish list of international investors”, but this blueprint which called for the wholesale privatization of dozens of Iraqi state-owned corporations and the opening up of its domestic market to multinational corporations, was, in fact, a blueprint through which “Iraq was put up for sale,” as The Independent correctly asserted. It is now a well-known fact that long before the invasion, the State Department had already prepared a confidential document entitled “Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustainable Growth” which contained detailed instructions for the “liberalization” of virtually all sectors of the economy. Donald Rumsfeld had written a commentary in The Wall Street Journal on May 27 in which he promised to install a regime composed of people who “favor market systems” and who will “encourage moves to privatize state-owned enterprises.”
Thus, all that the occupation army needed was a council that would rubber stamp this blueprint and fight over mundane administrative tasks, while it carries out its nefarious designs. These collaborators were thus picked carefully and were made the heads of the 23 “Iraqi” ministries. The US projected them as the faces of liberation and succeeded in getting recognition for them as the Iraqi representatives to the world. The US even managed to have the UN Resolution 1511 passed; this Resolution says that the IGC “embodies the sovereignty of the State of Iraq.” A person no less than the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the international community to confer legitimacy on this body. These members of the IGC attended meetings of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and even the Arab League. In Madrid a few weeks ago, they accompanied Bremer in pleading with international donors for money and in selling Iraq’s reconstruction opportunities to multinational corporations.
While all of this was being done to gain currency for these collaborators according to the suggestions of the neoconservative think tanks and columnists like Thomas Friedman who suggested a strategy of having “more Americans out back and more Iraqis out front”, the United States was silently at work in reaping the harvest. By October, the Bush administration’s officials were being hounded on all sides by allegations of backroom deals and spending excesses; the plunder of Iraq had started in earnest. Even the IGC members could not remain silent and unexpectedly buttressed corruption allegations against the occupation authorities. They questioned the CPA’s inexplicable decision to issue a $20 million-contract for buying guns even as US troops were confiscating tens of thousands of weapons from the former regimes’ arsenal. In what was described as a “testy exchange” with Bremer, the council attacked the decision to spend $1.2 billion for training Iraqi police officers when such could be provided in Iraq at a significantly cheaper price or even for free if Germany and France's offer were accepted. “There is no transparency and something has to be done about it,” one Council member said, “there is mismanagement right and left, and I think we have to sit with Congress face to face to discuss this.”
This was too much criticism and hence IGC is soon going to be discarded. The US is now looking for a new group of collaborators. These new men and women will have a longer term and out of them, there will appear the future rulers of Iraq. Hail the new empire and its bid to enlist a fresh crop of collaborators! The new writing on the wall says: Collaborators Wanted.
December 05, 2003
Bernard Lewis is a clever man. Even as a young man wondering what to do with his life, he had the shrewdness to make the right decision: he chose to study Muslim history at a time when everyone else was rushing to join the frontline of West’s conflict with communism. Years later, he cherishes every step of his now long but controversial career as a historian of Islam. For some, he is the ultimate authority on Islam in the Western world. Now a retired professor, he is able to devote all his time to writing. These days, his books sell like hotcakes and feed into an elaborate system that merges academic research with journalism and popular books with writings for specialists. Since September 11, this vast system of the American academic world has turned into hate factories that work around the clock, seven days a week.
Last year, when Bernard Lewis published his now notorious book on Islam, What Went Wrong, he knew the market was now receptive for a frontal attack; hence in that book, he took off the façade of a historian he had been wearing for years. But his latest work, The Crisis of Islam, Holy War and Unholy Terror, published in the summer of 2003, has surpassed all his previous works by several orders of magnitude. In this book, he skillfully manipulates the reader’s subconscious to associate Islam with the most discredited, racist and violent philosophies, ideas and organizations.
His skill lies in laying various strands of ideas side by side, meshing diverse but potent words within his sentences and never making a direct linkage; this technique allows him to direct his readers attention in a subliminal manner and keeps him at a respectable distance from his subject matter, thereby attempting to retain the veil of objectivity that every historian loves.
For example, read the following sentences: “Imagine that the Ku Klux Klan or some similar group obtains total control of the state of Texas, of its oil and therefore its oil revenues, and having done so, uses this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom, peddling their peculiar brand of Christianity. This parallel is somewhat less dire than the reality, since most Christian countries have functioning public school systems of their own. In some Muslim countries this is not so, and the Wahhabi-sponsored schools and colleges represent for many young Muslims the only education available.” (p. 129) Note the subliminal associations drawn between oil-rich Muslim countries and the Ku Klux Klan; note also the closing remarks which make a sweeping statement about the state of education in some Muslim countries and how this is contrasted with the “functioning school systems in Christendom”.
Such techniques could have worked over half a century ago when Bernard Lewis first started to ply his cargo in works such as The Arabs in History (1950); The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961) and The Assassins (1967); now it is too late in the day to conceal his hatred for Islam and Muslims, cultivated over a long career, that has influenced numerous students who took courses from him or who did their doctoral research under his guidance.
The fact that his hatred for Islam and Muslims is the guiding force which has driven his “academic” career is all too obvious for perceptive readers of his works; what is not so clear to the untrained eye is the fact that his writings are not a stand alone phenomenon in the American academic world; they are part of a vast system of “scholarship”, which is sometimes directly funded by the CIA, the neo-conservative think tanks, or the Department of Defense. This “scholarship” aims to produce studies on Islam which influence the young minds entering the American university system as well as those who do advanced work.
This system works like a production line in factories; it produces layers and layers of multi-faceted hatred against Islam and Muslims that poisons young minds and creates a psychological barrier against Islam that few can ever transcend in their later lives. When combined with the coverage of Islam in North American media, this is a potent mixture that generates, moulds and controls public opinion about Islam and Muslims in North America. Since the American and Canadian media is controlled by a few media mughals whose own monetary and ideological interests lie in keeping a high level of hatred against Islam and Muslims, it is financially mutually beneficial for these hate machines to feed into each other’s factory lines.
In this vast system of hate factories, the factory of Bernard Lewis stands out because of its longevity and because of Lewis’ familiarity with Islam and Muslims. Thus, he is able to make sweeping and authoritative statements that no one in the media and very few in the academic world can challenge. However, it is not difficult to see through the façade. Consider, for example, his claim in The Crisis of Islam that “out of 57 members states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), only one, the Turkish Republic, has operated democratic institutions over a long period of time.” (p. 163) Anyone familiar with the role of Turkish army in the establishment of an order that is far from being democratic would understand that there is a hidden agenda behind such statements. This becomes evident when one reads in the next paragraph that “in two countries, Iraq and Iran, where the regimes are strongly anti-American, there are democratic oppositions capable of taking over and forming governments. We, in what we like to call the free world, could do much to help them, and have done little.” See, how easily the pretense of being a disinterested and objective historian falls off and how the “historian” turns into an ideologue!
As if his hatred was not enough, Lewis also suffers from an arrogance that he is unable to conceal. This arrogance is entrenched in his own estimation of the Western civilization being superior to the Islamic civilization. This arrogance is like an ever-present under-current in his writings. He also makes ample use of his division of humanity between “US” and “THEM”, a distinction that plays well in the hands of media and neoconservative think tanks which attempt to keep a high level of fear among the general public. This is done by depicting Muslims as the “other”, the one outside the domain of knowable, and hence always fearsome.
Bernard Lewis and his likes are also the mainstay of a multi-million dollar publishing industry that thrives on sensational books on Islam and Muslims. Though titles and authors change, this publishing enterprise uses certain images, ideas and issues as its stock and these recur ad nauseam in all such publications. They include democracy, rights of women and freedom of speech. Islam is always accused of failing in these areas. It is astonishing that these wise professors, who have presumably spent a lifetime in the process of learning, fail to learn even the most basic facts about Islam and the Muslim world. They fail to see that the cargo they ply in the name of scholarship is a major component in the making of contemporary conflict between Muslims and the West. These workers in hate factories are driven by ideologies as well as by economic gains, but they fail to see the terrible suffering their words inflict on a humanity torn asunder by conflicts, wars and oppression.
December 19, 2003
A Record of Infamy
We must thank those who violated the Geneva Convention yet again, providing us the glimpses of the unkempt, tired man who was once the most feared person in Iraq. Never mind the double standards; after all, who would still remember what Donald Rumsfeld had said about the articles of Geneva Convention regarding prisoners of war when videotaped pictures of captured American soldiers were shown on Iraqi television? Never mind the litany of self-righteousness that has invaded our ears since he was found in his pitiful hole with three quarter of a million dollars of stolen money that seem to demean him. Let us forget all of this and celebrate the fact that fate did not allow him the saving grace that could have washed away some of his ignobility; his end ensures that history will not remember Saddam Hussein as a hero.
This befitting end of an ambitious and cruel man who had joined the fledgling Iraqi Baath Party in 1957 to champion a socialist brand of pan-Arab nationalism is in keeping with the dictates of justice. No matter what happens to him now, he has lost the final chance to turn a new page in his remarkably opportunist career made possible through a series of plots and adventures, all of which remained without any goal higher than a self-centered ambition of glory.
Whether it was his involvement in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Brigadier Abdel Karim Qasim, who had overthrown the British-installed Iraqi monarchy in 1958, or his escape to Egypt after the plot against Brigadier Qasim failed, or his return to Iraq when the Baath party staged a coup in 1963, everything he did in his life served no purpose other than an insatiable hunger for power. And power did come to him when he was only 31, courtesy of a relative, General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, who had staged a coup; but it was never enough. So, he built up a ruthless security apparatus which gave him the feeling of an absolute ruler. But something was still missing.
in 1972, at the height of the Cold War, he attached Iraq to the Soviet Bloc by signing a 15-year treaty. Then came the big boom: the Iraqi Petroleum Company, which had been set up under British administration and was pumping cheap oil to the West, was nationalized just at the time when oil prices were soaring.
General Bakr wanted to share this bonanza with his countrymen, so he set up new industry, invested in education and healthcare and raised Iraq’s standard of living to become one of the highest in the Arab world. But this also provided Saddam an opportunity to appoint his relatives and allies in key positions in the new economic institutions so that in the end, the country was beholden to his whims. By 1978, he had tightened his grip on power; in that year, membership in any opposition party was made punishable by death. Then came his final move: in 1979, Saddam Hussein forced General Bakr to resign and assumed the presidency. But this did not satisfy his hunger for power, quiet the opposite. Within days of taking over the presidency, he ordered execution of dozens of supposed rivals and opponents. By the end of 1979, he was the undisputed ruler of a land which has seen a long series of powerful dictators.
Perhaps we will never know what went on behind the scenes during the early months of 1980 when the Americans were desperately looking for someone to curtail Iran where a popular revolution had forced them to flee, leaving behind a shameful record of espionage, a history of secret operations and -- most embarrassingly -- over 90 hostages, but we do know that it was none other than the ruthless dictator of Iraq who took the bait and hurled his country into a war that would last for eight long years, costing one million lives.
We will never know the price at which he sold himself, but we know that in 1982, the US removed Iraq from its list of nations supporting terrorism. His next payment came from Israel, Menachem Begin, the then Prime Minister, sent several F-16s to bomb the Osirak research reactor at Tuwaitha near Baghdad, reducing it to rubble in seconds. But like all puppets, Saddam took this disgrace in stride and continued his operations against Iran. If anything, he became even more inhumane.
We will never know who in the Pentagon first suggested that he be provided with chemical weapons, but we do know that he received these banned chemical weapons sometime in early 1983, the first use of blister agent mustard gas against the heroic defenders of Iran occurred around that time. As if this were not enough, in 1985 he was given nerve gas Tabun by his Western friends. This gas kills the inhaler within minutes. He used it immediately against young Iranian boys no more than 14, who were now rising wave after wave in order to defend the borders of Iran against a brutal enemy.
Once human blood became his diet, Saddam never stopped. When Kurds stirred against him in 1988, he used chemical weapons against them and on March 16, 1988, he ordered the bombing of Kurdish city of Halabja with mustard gas, Sarin and Tabun, leaving 3,200 to 5,000 civilians dead, with many survivors suffering long-term health problems. Saddam’s record of infamy also contains the use of chemical weapons during the “Anfal” offensive, a seven-month scorched-earth campaign in which an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Kurdish villagers were killed or disappeared, and hundreds of villages were razed. By then he was not only a blood thirsty-tyrant, he was also America’s trusted collaborator, so that when the UN security council finally condemned his use of chemical weapons in 1986, no one paid any attention; instead, he continue to receive chemical weapons from the US and other Western governments.
During the last six months, one hoped against hope that he might attempt to redeem himself by letting the world know how he fell into the hands of those who were planning a restructuring of the Arab world. These hopes became a distinct possibility when his two sons were killed. After all, to a father with Arab blood running in his veins, what else could be more devastating; in this case, however, it seems that the heart had been sealed long time ago.
So, let us not be deluded; the man whose arrest is being painted as a triumph was, in fact, rescued from the hole; whatever may happen to him now, his life will be much better than that disgraceful hole. And now we will never know anything about his fatal meeting with the US ambassador to Iraq after which he attacked Kuwait in August 1990. History will probably remember his pronouncements (“The mother of all battles is under way”), but only as a testimony to his infamy. And the blood of thousands, if not millions, of innocent human beings will continue to cry for justice until he will be raised again, with a clear Writ in his hand.
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