The Global Muslim Unity Week held in Laudium, Pretoria was used by some as a platform for the inevitable tragicomic hate Israel and hate the west propaganda. However, some clouds at least, have a silver lining. The conference inspired this keen and pithy analysis of Islam, and of the place of current Iranian ambitions and machinations in Islam, by Hussein Solomon at the Center for International Political Studies at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Solomon tears apart the pan-Islamist pretentions and dictates of the Iranian ambassador, Ghanezadeh:
Ghanezadeh implies that any Muslim who questions Iranian policy has “fallen into this evil trap” and is “conspiring to down-grade” its “achievements”. In the process all critical debate is stifled. Muslims are expected to stand together and present a united front against the enemy – in this case the United States. The great Muslim scholar Abdelwahab Meddebx has the following to say about this kind of reasoning, “Thus they invent an imaginary conspiracy attributed to the Other, in the role of the enemy. The faults of the group and the deviances of individuals are attributable to the evil doing and malevolent foreigner. Is there any better way of removing responsibility from the individual after having discharged him of guilt? The misfortune that plagues the Muslim has the West as its origin … and Israel, whose success is irritating: The counterpoint is in fact his own failure, which he cannot acknowledge.”
Professor Solomon reminds us that there are many clear voices for reason in the Muslim world. We need to make sure that they are heard, and to extend the hand of peace to all those seeking peace.
In the Name of Islami
By Hussein Solomonii
At the recent Global Muslim Unity Week held in Laudium, Pretoria, the Iranian Ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Mr Ghanezadeh, stated that the enemies of Islam do not tire of plotting and conspiring to divide Muslims. To substantiate this point, he gave the example of the United States that, according to him, is attempting to discredit Iran for its achievements in empowering its people with nuclear energyiii.The good ambassador went on to say, “It is unfortunate that some Muslims have fallen into this evil trap and have become involved in conspiring to down-grade the achievements of a fellow Muslim country. They should know that these attempts by some people to divide the Ummah are acts of Kufr and disbelief.”iv
These statements by the Ambassador have, unfortunately, a long pedigree in Islamic history – where Islam is cynically manipulated to provide cover for various narrow national objectives that benefit the elite few at the expense of the many. Following the Mongol invasions of Muslim lands between 1220 and 1500, all four of the Mongol empires established converted to Islam as a means to gain legitimacy amongst the subjugated people. However, this was a sham conversion as Karen Armstrong points out; whatever their outward trappings, their main ideology remained Mongolism, which “… glorified the imperial and military might of the Mongols and dreamed of world conquest.”v Timur Lenk (1336-1405) also justified his brutal wars of conquest by seeing himself as the scourge of Allah sent to punish the enemies of Islam.vi The sultans of the Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, established an absolute monarchy on the Byzantine model, which is anathema to Islam. Under the rule of Suleiman al Qanuni (1520-66) the shariah received an exalted status, but served the interests of empire. Meanwhile the Islamic clergy or ulama became part of the ruling elite as they served as intermediaries between the native population and the Turkish governor.vii
Perhaps the most cynical use of Islam comes from the merger of the conservative purist doctrine of Islam, Wahhabism, and the ambitions of the Saudi family. Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of the Wahhabi movement, began preaching his doctrine in the desert of Najd in the Arabian Peninsula in the early eighteenth century. There he met Muhammed Ibn Sa’ud who was the leader of a gang of murderous thieves who preyed on pilgrims and travellers in the desert of Najd.viii A pact was then sealed between these two venerable leaders, where Ibn Sa’ud was declared political leader or Emir and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab became the religious authority or Sheikh. Abdul Hadi Palazzi has the following to say on this pact: “And what is impressive is that for the first time in the history of Islam, a Sheikh issued a religious decree, a fatwa, whereby all non-Wahhabi Muslims were openly declared apostates and idol worshippers. The new doctrine stated that only a very limited, strict group comprises the true Muslims, while all the rest of the Muslims are, to use their terminology, the people of apostasy. This gave Ibn Sa’ud the cloak of religious legitimacy he needed to persecute innocent people. His gang was no longer a mob of travelling thugs and his victims were no longer innocent people. Now Ibn Sa’ud’s goons were “fighters for jihad,” authorized to murder “unbelievers”. For the first time in history, jihad was proclaimed against Muslims…”ix
It is in this same manner that Ambassador Ghanezadeh will accuse those who question Iran’s nuclear programme as being amongst the disbelievers. The simplicity of the logic of this argument is amazing. Iran is a Muslim country. Ghanezadeh implies that any Muslim who questions Iranian policy has “fallen into this evil trap” and is “conspiring to down-grade” its “achievements”. In the process all critical debate is stifled. Muslims are expected to stand together and present a united front against the enemy – in this case the United States. The great Muslim scholar Abdelwahab Meddebx has the following to say about this kind of reasoning, “Thus they invent an imaginary conspiracy attributed to the Other, in the role of the enemy. The faults of the group and the deviances of individuals are attributable to the evil doing and malevolent foreigner. Is there any better way of removing responsibility from the individual after having discharged him of guilt? The misfortune that plagues the Muslim has the West as its origin … and Israel, whose success is irritating: The counterpoint is in fact his own failure, which he cannot acknowledge.”
The logic of this argument is further undermined when one examines Tehran’s foreign policy and the fact that it is quite willing to collaborate with the very same countries it labels as enemies. During the Iran-Iraq war, which started in September 1980, Israel supplied Iran with at least US $500 million worth of arms per annum for the duration of this eight-year war. Moreover, in July 1985, US President Reagan authorised Israel to sell TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran and, in January 1986, approved direct US arms sales to the Khomeini government.xi More recently, Tehran assisted the United States in organising the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan – a long-term Iranian ally –to overthrow the Taliban. Once the Taliban were ousted, Iran assisted Washington to form the interim government in Kabul.xii
In the final instance, I am a Muslim proud of his faith – a faith that does not sanction blind allegiance and that does not stifle self-criticism.
i The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS).ii
Professor Hussein Solomon lectures in the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria where he is also Director of the Centre for International Political Studies (CiPS).iii
Yusuf Mustapha, Global Muslim Unity talks held in Laudium
, Laudium Sun
. End May 2006, p. 31.ivIbid.
, p. 31.v
Karen Armstrong (2000). Islam: A Short History
. The Modern Library. New York, pp. 96-97. vivi. Ibid
., pp. 106-107.viiIbid.
, pp. 132-133.viii
Abdul Hadi Palazzi (2001). Orthodox Islamic Perceptions of Jihad and Matyrdom
in Countering Suicide Terrorism: An International Conference
. The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Centre. Herzliya, Israel, p. 71ixIbid.
, p. 71. x
Abdelwahab Meddeb (2003). Islam and its Discontents
. William Heinemann. London, p. 111.xi.
Nicholas Hagger (2004). The Syndicate: The Story of the Coming World Government
. O Books. United Kingdom, p. 126.xii
Thomas Friedman (2003). Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World Before and After September 11
. Penguin Books. London, p. 192.
Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS)
University of Pretoria
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