Algerian hostage crisis details are coming out from In Amenas. One possibly two of the terrorists were Canadians for instance.
Or that killed hostages originated from France, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Romania, the UK & the USA. I wonder if they will sue Canada? Wait, hold that thought.
The hostage takers themselves according to the reports were from Algeria, Canada, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania , Niger and Tunisia having crossed over the Mail-Algeria border.
So that we have many nationalities in both groups have we not? Trademark of a globalized world. Mali calls; France moves; Africa approves; the UN nods ( again ); the West on average approves and lends a helping hand; China shows very diplomatic grace in its comments; Algeria gets the backlash … and the silence from the Arab world is almost total.
And thus one can safely move away from the use of national concepts strictu sensu and look at the big picture. The principle involved here is that of Islam the Conquering religion against Islam the member of the family of Nations. It is the difficult balance between the two, understanding fully that in any camp or vision or version there are many sub-divisions to be found, that is at play here in very subtle ways. Let’s mention some that we can free ourselves of the simplistic vision of Islam as a monolithic entity.
As we have mentioned before, Islam is indeed divided, since soon after the prophet Muhamed’s death with Kharidji, Chiite and Sunni that each possess their own schools of Islamic law ( Fiqh ). Sunni has 4 main divisions and Chiite even more. In fact, if one remembers the recent wars which relate to countries with Muslim populations, one finds that here the Chiite were a majority and there it was the Sunni. And even that says little as through history, Chiites have been both nice and harsh rulers of their brothers in Allah and so were Sunni elsewhere and “elsewhen”. In fact, the movements in the Faith of Islam have never ceased and it generates enough theological works to justify being considered alive and kicking which in turn may help explain the noises that surround it at least as well as its warring inception. And a quick comparison to the Christian faith serves to tone down opinions of superiority heard in the Western medias since many ultra-protestant or Born-again Christians in the US routinely consider and call “Roman Catholic” ones : – “not Christians”.*
What may be even more important is to understand that Islam just as Christianity grew/suffered in the throes of geo-political situations according to where and when. The Islam that conquered India is not the immediate one of the Rashudin and the one that survives in India today is yet different from it. The same can be said of Black Islam from Africa to the US. It may help to remind our readers that the Chivalry code of Europe lead to the elevation of women as an ideal so far removed from reality that it brought along a dichotomy of views that probably kept women away from equality for a long time and is also the basis of the Crusades where conversion by the Sword was as Western a trait as it was Muslim. In a nutshell, Islam is not a block at which you can inclusively wave your virtual fist.
I will for instance suppose here that my readers differentiate between America, France and Switzerland! In 2001, Bush’s America wanted to attack Iraq for no good reason; France flatly refused and Switzerland deplored. Let us then compare “Islamic nations”? The prophet Mohamed himself sees his movement covering just about what we call the Arabian peninsula which today includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates,Oman and Yemen(s). In a historical perspective, those are the original Islamic States. Because it contains both Mecca and Medina but also since it has a stable Kingdom form, regaining its place around 1745 and the 1820s and definitively since the 1902-1938 period, Saudi Arabia is the quintessential Nation of Islam, the shining beacon. Still, others as Qatar and Wahhabism ( one origin of arabic in phonetics) are another concept even if it is also represented in Saudi Arabia as evidenced by O. Bin Laden.
Then, Islam expanded along the southern Mediterranean coasts in Northern Egypt to Tripoli, Libya. Up to include Cyprus and some of south-eastern Turkey ( then the Byzantine Empire ) to the land of the Magyars half way up the Caspian sea’s coastline thus including the whole Near- East. And to the East all through present-day Iran ( ex-Persia ) to the very outskirts of Kabul in modern Afghanistan. And a while later, it was in Gujarat, the Indian region, encompassing most of Pakistan or the whole Middle-East as it reached Spain in the West. All of these countries are thus to some extent at least also Muslim nations. Of course things then changed. First, the original of what France is now attempting in Mali happened : Charles Martel stopped the progression of Abd al-Rahman ibn Abd Allah at Poitiers and repelled the invaders out of France. Second, the berbers in Maghreb rose to free the Kharidji movement they favor from mainstream Islam. Those countries have their own historic paths from then on.
Since those early times, it should be noted that although individual rulers or systems have produced gains in “Islamic” territories, the main effort of what could be termed Islamic development was an intellectual quest as much as a military one. Arab/muslim thinkers as Abd al-Rahman ibn Al-Soufi have been on top until the Quattrocento and Europe’s rise out of the Middle/Dark Ages.
In modern days, the expansion of Islam has been accomplished by spreading the Faith itself. It may not please all westerners to hear the following but this religion must have some redeeming values yet since it is embraced all over the planet by conversions. And yes, Islam as I said is alive, complex and not at all immobile in its thinking so that if for instance, a certain condescending way of acting about people in the world by the Western civilization has in and of itself made it more attractive to some, it is by virtue of it living very much the present and quite identical to the transformations produced in earlier times thus negating any attempt at finding it disconnected from social or national life.
Let us now compare two “muslim countries” to make the point clear : Pakistan and Qatar. In Pakistan, we have an old Islamic nation ( if not as quite much as Qatari land ) that is actually recent! How?
Well, in 712, conquering Islam as we mentioned above had reached India. The northern part of what we now see of it on a map, in the Himalayas was kept by Hindu Kings. Then, Turco-Afghan Sultanates of which the best known was the Delhi Sultanate, spread through what is present-day Northern India. The Moghul Empire of one of Tamerlan’s descendants then took over and was the object of a reconquest by the Maratha Samrajya or confederacy. This attempt drowned in the sea of history before reaching its goal as India was absorbed temporarily by the British Empire. Then, in 1947, Great-Britain gave India its independence by way of a document called the Indian Independence Act. In a dubious attempt to reconcile the present to the past, this sectioned the Indian sub-continent. The north of India which was a big part of the Muslim Dehli Sultanate’s history remained Hindi while Pakistan was born in Occidental and Oriental versions, the latter later becoming Bangladesh. Pakistan which was coined to mean Punjab Afghanistan Kashmir and Baluchistan was thus deprived of the territorial integrity its past accounted for. Nothing surprising there as it also refers to how Western Civilization’s interests shaped Saudi Arabia and Mali and Algeria and ……etc. So that it may again be the West’s own fault that these awkward divisions end up more or less working now?
The “new and improved” Pakistan “2.0″ has since been trying to glue its own pieces back together. On the outside towards India, around Kashmir or on its previous inside as is the case in Afghanistan.
Pakistan in 1947 is incredibly poor and thanks to the presence of rather angry and somewhat revenge oriented Indians will literally have to spend an enormous amount of what little money it has on establishing a very consequent military to defend itself up to acquiring nuclear dissuasion. That money cannot be simultaneously spent on schooling or roads and sewers, can it? The influence of the Arabian peninsula monarchies it allows is too great according to some but there again, those countries were willing to provide for the task and are after all as the historic schematization showed, related to the region covered by Pakistan since the beginning of Islam, even though that interest may also carry hidden agendas. In return, Pakistani Air Force now participates in joint training with these gulf nations as in the UAE’s ATLC courses held at Al-Dhafra with the presence of the USA, the UK & France which helps maintain coherent relations to the West that would otherwise most likely be impossible if only on account of the Indian antagonism.
Pakistan also tries very hard to combat islamist terrorism. So hard in fact that Afghanistan was a problem for them before it ever was one for Occidentals. While the Soviets danced the deadly tango with their neighbour, Pakistanis had to juggle with the influx-efflux of rebels. Streams that cross a very mountainous border that simply does not relate to the terrain but just lines on paper and have as little meaning to local populations, tribes, clans and the like as those in Israel do to the Palestinians. And the ability to combat was developed but is as western troops found out not that easy to implement either. In addition, the level of military information ( Intelligence ) needed for the job is almost tenfold that you would take for granted in a more traditional and cohesive national structure. All that in 65 years!
And as if that was not enough, it is often accused of not doing enough in the war against terrorism, when in fact, it risks internal dissents and conflicts in doing so and is only rewarded for its efforts by a given Western power considering quasi-total freedom of action over its territory apparently regardless of civilian victims and perceptions thus engendered.
And yet, Pakistan holds steadfast, is a major contributor to the UN’s Casques Bleus/Blue Helmets Peacekeeping Forces.
In light of which, here stands Qatar. Interestingly enough, the millenary village-harbor of Qatar did not attain preeminence around 620 when meeting Muhamed and Islam but in the 1780 to 1916 period after being conquered by the Khalifa family from Bahrain before becoming an oil rich State and subsequent independence in 1971. In the 40 years since, the refined rulers have set up many endeavours that show a different position than that we just painted in Pakistan. With many less hardships, Qatar uses its riches in very modern ways. It may have come to the attention of my readers that the emirs are buying lots of palaces and other luxury hotels in the West, sports teams as the famed Paris-Saint-Germain football club. Qatar balances pros and cons as Pakistan although not the same ones. In favor of the absolute Monarchy are its development and research orientations, the incredible work of the Emir’s 2nd wife, Sheika Mozah in promotion of higher education and in general, the liberalization accorded by Emir Hamad himself since 1995. Qatar also has one of the world’s highest GDP or revenue per inhabitants. It founded Al-Jazeera. It does practice Sharia law in measured fashion. But lacks in consideration of its immigrant workforce producing slight whiffs of racism if not slavery. Then again, it also is home to Wahhabism. Which is part of Al-Qaeda’s inspiration.
And it condemned the French move as if to raise more doubts?
Of course, the two news taken in stride make sense since, had I invested millions of petro-dinars in AQMI & cohorts, I’d be pissed too if it was getting blown to smithereens by those nifty Rafales and charming RIMAs and Légionnaires and yet …
… and yet, I understand them all. I get the terrorists who have a call from a given extreme part/understanding of their Faith for Djihad, fighting and armed rebellions. They have but that courage and martyrdom to give, poor fellows. They are still wrong in my view and that of Western Civilization and the United Nations as not respectful of the right to liberty of others.
I understand the Emirs and their deep pockets, that have to balance between their comfort owed to the West’s need of petrol ( which is theirs too as Qatar is one of the most CO2 emitting places on Earth ) on the one hand and pure unadulterated belief that Islam should rule all men on the other. With the dual acts stemming from that source that A-The fight has to stay hidden since B-That the invest in post-petroleum economy requires a minimum of decency.
I’d even go as far as saying that it is better to have that fight on terror going on than for the alternative generalized clash of civilizations to occur. Because in today’s geo-political context, Islam would conquer nothing and most likely be seriously damaged. The balance of power in military means makes that a certainty.
Not only would I not personally stand for that happening but it also comes in contradiction to the complex picture that I previously painted of this great religion. All of Islam is not terrorist by far. As a matter of fact, some of its incarnations are quite democratic. For if we read a lot in the news about how some muftis or ayatollahs or imams try to use mosqs in Western countries as preaching grounds to convince lost youths to turn to Jihad, we forget it seems that in those same lands, from California to Paris, live millions of Muslims, that go to work every day along side their Christian or Jewish countrymen and women, that pay their taxes, that serve their nation proudly. Their Islam, the religion of peace allows that without problems.
I reported in here about that : http://dlofr.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/one-rosenberg-two-rosenbergs-and-then-two-mohameds/
Some of those French soldiers in Mali are muslims too, you know? Maybe the very one behind that mask. It won’t stop them from doing their job as it won’t stop France or any other to defend their rights as citizens. And it is most likely on them that tomorrow, from the thousands of little pro-democratic muslims raised in our school systems that Islam the religion will rise ( again ) out of Islam the brutal scarecrow.
Maybe the djihadis are right that there is a war on Islam from the West; an ideological one!
For the greater good of us all, I trust. And with so many less victims! May the world be replete with neighbors discussing theology softly.**
Good luck, fingers crossed my brothers and sisters and despite the surroundings and subject, peace out, Tay.
* If you think the argument inconsequential, do remember that differences in terminology that end up negating equal status to the other then allow moral justification to fight them.
** And sorry for the Atheists? For whom I guess it would then be virtually hell?