Sunday, October 21, 2007

The War Within Islam


Years ago, a U.S diplomat was quoted as saying, "We do not want a war with Islam but we want a war within Islam." It seemed at that time a maniacal pronouncement of a fanatic neocon whom one could conveniently make an exception for.

Today, I understand the matter-of-fact honesty of the maniac. And I acknowledge the truth about the world_ that it is perhaps the maniac who has the last word, after all. It is the maniac whose 'Word Goes,' as Bush Sr. had said so long ago. And it sends chills down my spine.

There is method in the madness. It happened piece by piece in a well-orchestrated sequence. Sadly, though, as we get sucked into the black hole, we forget to understand the method till it makes us pieces in the jigsaw, in the grip of an intelligent madness.

The Shia-Sunni divide threatens to gape wider everyday in Iraq as casualties on both sides mount. Lebanon, a year after the Hezbollah's stunning resistance to the Israeli attack, is at war with 'extremists' in its own ranks. Pakistan grows restive in its self-defeating ordeal of warring on its own frontlines. The Afghan regime pleads help to keep its homegrown group of 'extremists', the Taliban, at bay. A cracked up Palestine drifts further apart, its bloodlines severed. To many the spectacle of a Muslim world at war against itself proves a pathological predisposition of Muslims for conflict and violence, and that the 'problem' is with Islam. The deeper diggers wonder, in this madness of Muslim pitted against Muslim, who really is the enemy? Whose agenda, really?

The echoes of the prophecy of engineering a war within Islam are loud. But Muslims, ironically, have heads stuck firmly in the sand in their refusal to see the pattern, the unhidden hand. Neo-colonialism unveils its new façade, its latest tactic_ the war within. We play to the tune as we busy ourselves defining and tagging each other in labels tailor-made to create rifts keeping us apart, making those of our own, 'the other'. We have moderates, fanatics, fundamentalists, traditionalists, conservatives, liberals, extremists, Islamists, enlightened ones, moderates and secularists. Words invented to pit one against the 'other', to fragment, alienize. Words invented to give a name, a type, a brand, a separation and perpetuation to one's approach to Islam. Yet Islam bears no shades of grey. Truth stands clear, gleaming boldly. Its essence is Unity, Oneness_ not just as an aspect of belief in God but as a trait irradiated through all its facets.

The brand-names and labels are a phenomenon extrinsic and even odious to very fabric of Islam. It wreaks havoc on its essential unity of idea and geography as Muslims find themselves forced to choose an 'ism' for themselves to define their interpretation of Islam.

The many faces on T.V talk shows professing a 'moderate' affiliation to Islam reflect a total ignorance of the very nature of Islam as a holistic, comprehensive way of life and not a theory, a dogma, a means to procure a narrow agenda. It is not and cannot be broken up into an 'ism': "Enter into Islam completely," Says the Quran.

The 'isms' proliferate as the West plays its moves. "The war is between our values and theirs", said Bush. Musharraf echoed the idea in local context, "The fight is between the forces of extremism and the forces of moderation." It smells divisive, cutting across the body-politic, erecting thick walls and barriers. A war within Islam.

As Olmert and Blair take turns shaking hands with Abbas smiling into the camera triumphantly, Hamas-ruled Gaza struggles in the fetters of blockades, embargoes, sanctions, air-strikes and raids. "The terrorists must be isolated," the Fatah-Israel representatives announced. "We can have no links with those who support extremism," they righteously upheld. And so, the hordes of impoverished refugees in Gaza have their fates written down in alien hands.

Ask the man on the street. A Palestinian blogger writes, " Hamas has a lot of support among the Palestinian people. They're genuine, of the people and for the people. And Abbas has a gang of traitors and corrupt criminals with him who have no support among us. In fact, if any one's a terrorist, it's those many in Abbas's gang." Wasn't it democracy and freedom the West proudly believed in? Lo and behold, an American analyst defines his select brand of democracy and the punishment for choosing the 'wrong kind' of it: "This is the punishment for Palestinians for having chosen extremists as their representatives."

So far so good. Before the Palestinians can even begin asking for a state of their own, they have a fixing up of their incorrigibly divided state to undertake. A long, long haul. Self-determination, freedom, independence, peace and all that jazz can wait… While behind the camera-smiles and handshakes, Israel opportunely busies itself building up its arsenal with dollars and weapons flowing in from its greatest ally.

In Pakistan the Lal Masjid crackdown has, among other things, helped sharpen and deepen the cracks. The enlightened moderates smoked out the bearded, capped, veiled, Quran-carrying innocents and justified the 'moral crusade' as a noble mission of the liberal-moderate forces against the 'extremists.' The label did it all. Many felt shy of sympathizing with the butchered inmates for fear of the detested 'extremist' or 'pro-extremist' tag. Those who wear the label proud, however, seethe in resentment_ raw, wounded, restive, desperate… In a hadith of the Prophet (S), one of the signs of the Day of Judgement is that 'the killer would not know why he kills, nor would the victim know why he is killed.'

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, highly regarded by the public, has struggled for years to stem the tide of secularism imposed on the country through their formidable intellectual struggle and a peacefully conducted social movement. It suffers extra-judicial kidnappings, deportations, arrests and crackdowns. Moderates versus Extremist, again.

In Somalia, after decades of anarchy, the Islamic Courts Union moved in and won over the public by its scrupulous rule and its swift progress to return the country to stability and peace. Alleged to be 'supporting Al Qaeda', Ethiopian troops backed and financed by the U.S moved in . The Somali 'moderates' allied with the advancing army against the 'orthodox' Islamists of the Union of Islamic Courts fighters. The death toll and atrocities mounted sharply. The fighters and the fought, the falling corpses were largely Muslim.

Who made the labels? Who tagged them on? Who gives the definitions? Who thrives on the divisions? From Baghdad to Palestine to Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is the U.S-backed undemocratic regimes, the string puppets doing the dirty jobs for self-perpetuation. The puppeteers pronounce 'A War Within Islam', and sit back to watch the spectacle_ Muslim against Muslim, moderate versus extremist, liberal versus fundamentalist_ and congratulate themselves. Finally, they can take a back seat and let the Great Game go on. 'Muslims are pathologically conflict-prone, you know…'