Sunday, October 26, 2003

Richard Just on Mahathir & "root causes"

An intelligent piece from the American Prospect on-line website (Tapped), October 16, 2003. It ends by pointing our something important that should be obvious, but often seems to get missed:
All this comes on the heels of an announcement that a team of liberal Israelis, led by one-time Prospect contributor Yossi Beilin, has negotiated an unofficial framework for peace with a team of Palestinians. You could say the plan is a step forward -- I want it to be a step forward -- but it won't be much of a step unless the majority of Israelis look favorably on it. So the operative question is this: Will Israelis rush to back a peace plan at a time when a pretty nutty anti-Semite can still get a standing ovation from a conference of Islamic nations for calling on them to continue their struggle against Jews? Those who truly want peace should ask themselves why Israelis feel so insecure in the world that they keep eschewing the Beilins of their political system in favor of tough guys like Sharon. I suggest they consider Mahathir's speech, and the reaction it received, as Exhibit A.

The whole thing is well worth reading. (And for the complete text of Mahathir's speech, see here or here.)

Jeff Weintraub
American Prospect Online (Tapped)
October 16, 2003

THE MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER: CLASSY GUY. At this point, it can hardly count as noteworthy when Mahathir Mohamad, the long-time ruler of Malaysia, opens his mouth and something anti-Semitic comes out. The prime minister has been peddling anti-Semitism for a long time -- most famously when he tried to pin the 1997 Asian economic meltdown on Jews -- and today he's at it again, telling delegates from 57 nations at the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit that "Jews rule the world by proxy."

That phrase will grab headlines briefly, and every sane person -- left, right, center -- will condemn it as bigotry, which it is. The problem is that the rest of the speech -- in which Mahathir condemned suicide bombings and called on the Muslim world to stop blaming outsiders for its problems -- will be understood by many in the West as moderate, or even courageous. But the truth is that these parts of the speech were perhaps even more chilling than the out-and-out anti-Semitic sections, because they sounded suspiciously like a blueprint for targeting Jews by other, more subtle means. "We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also," Mahathir said of Jews. He also encouraged Palestinians to negotiate, noting that the Prophet Muhammad did -- and "in the end, he triumphed." Plus, he implored Muslims to devote themselves to technology, which sounded like a call for education reform in the Muslim world, and qualified as that . . . well, sort of -- if you count an exhortation to would-be Muslim scientists that "we need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defense" as a call to reform.

Why is this so disturbing? Because most people understand the statement "Jews rule the world by proxy" as anti-Semitism, but many will miss the fact that Mahathir denounced suicide bombings, while pointedly not denouncing -- and indeed, amplifying -- hatred of Jews. To give an example: Here's how one reporter, covering the speech for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described it:

Yes, it's nothing new for him to attack Jews and Europeans and pinpoint them for the blame for many of the ails of the Muslim world. But at the same time, his rhetoric was going the other way, and to a large extent he was saying that the Muslim world are the architects of their own problems.

And much of what he said in the rest of the speech was a rallying call, trying to get Muslims to stop blaming other people and to start confronting their own economic and social problems in order to develop and get themselves out of the poverty trap.

I suspect this reporter's analysis will be shared by news outlets in much of the western world. What they'll ignore was that Mahathir was only calling on those who hate Jews to reform their tactics, not their goals. To borrow a phrase that Palestinian partisans are fond of using, Mahathir wasn't addressing the "root causes" of the Muslim world's conflict with Israel.

And what are those root causes? Obviously, they're many and they're complex and no one can quite agree on what they are and if we could things would be a lot easier. But no one -- especially those of us who supported Oslo and still hope for peace -- should deny that one of the very central, ongoing root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the enduring, and, I would argue, in many ways justified, Israeli fear that even if the Palestinians someday go back to the bargaining table, they will be negotiating not for a two-state solution but rather for the destruction of Israel by other means. When career anti-Semites like Mahathir give speeches in which they basically come out and say that Muslims need to go on fighting Jews, only through the more brainy, less gruesome tactics of non-violence and negotiation, they lend a lot of credence to the long-held Israeli suspicion that Muslim countries are not seeking peace in good faith. What other conclusion can Israelis possibly draw from a speech that implores Muslims to give up suicide bombings but notes that "1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews," calls on Muslims to achieve a "final victory" in the struggle against Jews, is delivered by the ruler of a country that could have no possible legitimate beef with Israel, is awarded a standing ovation by representatives from 57 Muslim nations, and is praised by the foreign minister of Egypt, which is ostensibly at peace with Israel?

All this comes on the heels of an announcement that a team of liberal Israelis, led by one-time Prospect contributor Yossi Beilin, has negotiated an unofficial framework for peace with a team of Palestinians. You could say the plan is a step forward -- I want it to be a step forward -- but it won't be much of a step unless the majority of Israelis look favorably on it. So the operative question is this: Will Israelis rush to back a peace plan at a time when a pretty nutty anti-Semite can still get a standing ovation from a conference of Islamic nations for calling on them to continue their struggle against Jews? Those who truly want peace should ask themselves why Israelis feel so insecure in the world that they keep eschewing the Beilins of their political system in favor of tough guys like Sharon. I suggest they consider Mahathir's speech, and the reaction it received, as Exhibit A.

--Richard Just

Posted at 05:07 PM

Monday, October 13, 2003

Mahathir Mohamad - "Jews rule the world by proxy"

The 2003 meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a world-wide organization of 57 Muslim states, took place in Malaysia. The long-time Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad opened the conference with a speech in which he asserted, among other things, that "today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." To help put this analysis in historical context, he added that the Jews "invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others." (I think we can feel proud of three out of four of those inventions, which isn't a bad average.) "We are up against a people who think. [....] We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also."

This kind of stuff is, of course, lifted directly from the classic discourse of late-19th and early 20th-century political anti-semitism (Mahathir also distributes copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a best-seller in the Muslim world). The main difference is that, back in Hitler's youth, the Jews were accused of having invented both capitalism and communism (along with the other disruptive phenomena of modernity). Mahathir left out capitalism here, since he's actually rather fond of it. On the other hand, like a lot of other people, he does hold us responsible for many of the ills of "globalization," and anti-globalization rhetoric is often the latest version of populist anti-capitalism. (For instance, at the time of the East Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, Mahathir suggested that it was a plot spearheaded by Jewish financiers like Soros.)

Mahathir's speech drew some critical reactions in the west, and it was condemned by some public officials in the US and Europe (though a strongly critical EU draft statement was vetoed by France). On the other hand, at the conference itself Mahathir's speech received an enthusiastic standing ovation. And in the weeks that followed it became all too clear that Mahathir, his supporters, and his apologists were genuinely puzzled about why anyone--other than Jews--would get upset about these remarks. (The criticisms simply helped to prove the point that Jews "have now gained control of the most powerful countries" and run the world.) And I'm afraid that some people I know, living here in the US, also had some trouble understanding what was so objectionable about Mahathir's speech. That's really the most scary aspect of this affair. For millions of people around the world, this kind of poisonous anti-semitic drivel is just common sense.

The full text of Prime Minister Mahathir's speech is given below. (Also reproduced, with some commentary by Ami Isseroff, HERE).

--Jeff Weintraub

The Star (Malaysia)
October 16, 2003
Dr Mahathir opens 10th OIC Summit

Update from The Star News Desk

PUTRAJAYA: Muslims worldwide have been urged to draw on their strength of 1.3 billion people to unite and correct their defences against the enemies of Islam.
Opening the 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference at the Putrajaya Convention Centre on Thursday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said:
“We must build our strength in every field, not just armed might.
“Our countries must be stable and well-administered, economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technology advanced.
“This will take time but it can be done and it will be time well spent.”
Dr Mahathir, who is chairing the session, said it was time Muslims paused to think and decide on a plan and strategy that would bring them victory.
Citing the over 50 years of fighting over Palestine which had not achieved anything, he said Muslims needed to make a strategic retreat and calmly assess their situation.

Speech by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the opening of the 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference on Oct 16, 2003

ALHAMDULILLAH, All Praise be to Allah, by whose Grace and Blessings we, the leaders of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) countries are gathered here today to confer and hopefully to plot a course for the future of Islam and the Muslim ummah worldwide.

On behalf of the Government and the people of many races and religions of Malaysia, may I extend a warm welcome to all and everyone to this 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative capital.

It is indeed a great honour for Malaysia to host this Session and to assume the chairmanship of the OIC. I thank the members for their confidence in Malaysia’s chairmanship.

May I also take this opportunity to pay a special tribute to the State of Qatar, in particular His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa AI-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, for his outstanding stewardship of our organisation over the past three years.

As host, Malaysia is gratified at the high level of participation from member countries. This clearly demonstrates our continued and abiding faith in, and commitment to our organisation and our collective wish and determination to strengthen our role for the dignity and benefit of the ummah.

I would also like to welcome the leaders and representatives of the many countries who wish to become observers at this meeting because of their substantial Muslim population. Whether they are Muslims or not, their presence at this meeting will help towards greater understanding of Islam and the Muslims, thus helping to disprove the perception of Islam as a religion of backwardness and terror.

The whole world is looking at us. Certainly 1.3 billion Muslims, one-sixth of the world’s population are placing their hopes in us, in this meeting, even though they may be cynical about our will and capacity to even decide to restore the honour of Islam and the Muslims, much less to free their brothers and sisters from the oppression and humiliation from which they suffer today.

I will not enumerate the instances of our humiliation and oppression, nor will I once again condemn our detractors and oppressors. It would be an exercise in futility because they are not going to change their attitudes just because we condemn them. If we are to recover our dignity and that of Islam, our religion, it is we who must decide, it is we who must act.

To begin with, the governments of all the Muslim countries can close ranks and have a common stand if not on all issues, at least on some major ones, such as on Palestine. We are all Muslims. We are all oppressed. We are all being humiliated. But we who have been raised by Allah above our fellow Muslims to rule our countries have never really tried to act in concert in order to exhibit at our level the brotherhood and unity that Islam enjoins upon us.

But not only are our governments divided, the Muslim ummah is also divided, and divided again and again. Over the last 1,400 years the interpreters of Islam, the learned ones, the ulamas have interpreted and reinterpreted the single Islamic religion brought by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W, so differently that now we have a thousand religions which are often so much at odds with one another that we often fight and kill each other.

From being a single ummah we have allowed ourselves to be divided into numerous sects, mazhabs and tarikats, each more concerned with claiming to be the true Islam than our oneness as the Islamic ummah. We fail to notice that our detractors and enemies do not care whether we are true Muslims or not. To them we are all Muslims, followers of a religion and a Prophet whom they declare promotes terrorism, and we are all their sworn enemies. They will attack and kill us, invade our lands, bring down our governments whether we are Sunnis or Syiahs, Alawait or Druse or whatever. And we aid and abet them by attacking and weakening each other, and sometimes by doing their bidding, acting as their proxies to attack fellow Muslims. We try to bring down our governments through violence, succeeding to weaken and impoverish our countries.

We ignore entirely and we continue to ignore the Islamic injunction to unite and to be brothers to each other, we the governments of the Islamic countries and the ummah.

But this is not all that we ignore about the teachings of Islam. We are enjoined to Read, Iqraq, i.e. to acquire knowledge. The early Muslims took this to mean translating and studying the works of the Greeks and other scholars before Islam. And these Muslim scholars added to the body of knowledge through their own studies.

The early Muslims produced great mathematicians and scientists, scholars, physicians and astronomers etc. and they excelled in all the fields of knowledge of their times, besides studying and practising their own religion of Islam. As a result the Muslims were able to develop and extract wealth from their lands and through their world trade, able to strengthen their defences, protect their people and give them the Islamic way of life, Addin, as prescribed by Islam. At the time the Europeans of the Middle Ages were still superstitious and backward, the enlightened Muslims had already built a great Muslim civilisation, respected and powerful, more than able to compete with the rest of the world and able to protect the ummah from foreign aggression. The Europeans had to kneel at the feet of Muslim scholars in order to access their own scholastic heritage.

The Muslims were lead by great leaders like Abdul Rahman III, AI-Mansur, Salah El Din AI Ayubi and others who took to the battlefields at the head of their forces to protect Muslim land and the ummah.

But halfway through the building of the great Islamic civilisation came new interpreters of Islam who taught that acquisition of knowledge by Muslims meant only the study of Islamic theology. The study of science, medicine etc. was discouraged.

Intellectually the Muslims began to regress. With intellectual regression the great Muslim civilisation began to falter and wither. But for the emergence of the Ottoman warriors, Muslim civilisation would have disappeared with the fall of Granada in 1492.

The early successes of the Ottomans were not accompanied by an intellectual renaissance. Instead they became more and more preoccupied with minor issues such as whether tight trousers and peak caps were Islamic, whether printing machines should be allowed or electricity used to light mosques. The Industrial Revolution was totally missed by the Muslims. And the regression continued until the British and French instigated rebellion against Turkish rule brought about the downfall of the Ottomans, the last Muslim world power and replaced it with European colonies and not independent states as promised. It was only after World War II that these colonies became independent.

Apart from the new nation-states we also accepted the western democratic system. This also divided us because of the political parties and groups that we form, some of which claim Islam for themselves, reject the Islam of other parties and refuse to accept the results of the practice of democracy if they fail to gain power for themselves. They resort to violence, thus destabilising and weakening Muslim countries.

With all these developments over the centuries the ummah and the Muslim civilisation became so weak that at one time there was not a single Muslim country which was not colonised or hegemonised by the Europeans. But regaining independence did not help to strengthen the Muslims. Their states were weak and badly administered, constantly in a state of turmoil. The Europeans could do what they liked with Muslim territories. It is not surprising that they should excise Muslim land to create the state of Israel to solve their Jewish problem. Divided, the Muslims could do nothing effective to stop the Balfour and Zionist transgression.

Some would have us believe that, despite all these, our life is better than that of our detractors. Some believe that poverty is Islamic, sufferings and being oppressed are Islamic. This world is not for us. Ours are the joys of heaven in the afterlife. All that we have to do is to perform certain rituals, wear certain garments and put up a certain appearance. Our weakness, our backwardness and our inability to help our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed are part of the Will of Allah, the sufferings that we must endure before enjoying heaven in the hereafter. We must accept this fate that befalls us. We need not do anything. We can do nothing against the Will of Allah.

But is it true that it is the Will of Allah and that we can and should do nothing? Allah has said in Surah Ar-Ra’d verse 11 that He will not change the fate of a community until the community has tried to change its fate itself.

The early Muslims were as oppressed as we are presently. But after their sincere and determined efforts to help themselves in accordance with the teachings of Islam, Allah had helped them to defeat their enemies and to create a great and powerful Muslim civilisation. But what effort have we made especially with the resources that He has endowed us with.

We are now 1.3 billion strong. We have the biggest oil reserve in the world. We have great wealth. We are not as ignorant as the Jahilliah who embraced Islam. We are familiar with the workings of the world’s economy and finances. We control 50 out of the 180 countries in the world. Our votes can make or break international organisations. Yet we seem more helpless than the small number of Jahilliah converts who accepted the Prophet as their leader. Why? Is it because of Allah’s will or is it because we have interpreted our religion wrongly, or failed to abide by the correct teachings of our religion, or done the wrong things?

We are enjoined by our religion to prepare for the defence of the ummah. Unfortunately we stress not defence but the weapons of the time of the Prophet. Those weapons and horses cannot help to defend us any more. We need guns and rockets, bombs and warplanes, tanks and warships for our defence. But because we discouraged the learning of science and mathematics etc as giving no merit for the akhirat, today we have no capacity to produce our own weapons for our defence. We have to buy our weapons from our detractors and enemies. This is what comes from the superficial interpretation of the Quran, stressing not the substance of the Prophet’s sunnah and the Quran’s injunctions but rather the form, the manner and the means used in the 1st Century of the Hijrah. And it is the same with the other teachings of Islam. We are more concerned with the forms rather than the substance of the words of Allah and adhering only to the literal interpretation of the traditions of the Prophet.

We may want to recreate the first century of the Hijrah, the way of life in those times, in order to practise what we think to be the true Islamic way of life. But we will not be allowed to do so. Our detractors and enemies will take advantage of the resulting backwardness and weakness in order to dominate us. Islam is not just for the 7th Century A.D. Islam is for all times. And times have changed. Whether we like it or not we have to change, not by changing our religion but by applying its teachings in the context of a world that is radically different from that of the first century of the Hijrah. Islam is not wrong but the interpretations by our scholars, who are not prophets even though they may be very learned, can be wrong. We have a need to go back to the fundamental teachings of Islam to find out whether we are indeed believing in and practising the Islam that the Prophet preached. It cannot be that we are all practising the correct and true Islam when our beliefs are so different from one another.

Today we, the whole Muslim ummah are treated with contempt and dishonour. Our religion is denigrated. Our holy places desecrated. Our countries are occupied. Our people starved and killed.

None of our countries are truly independent. We are under pressure to conform to our oppressors’ wishes about how we should behave, how we should govern our lands, how we should think even.

Today if they want to raid our country, kill our people, destroy our villages and towns, there is nothing substantial that we can do. Is it Islam which has caused all these? Or is it that we have failed to do our duty according to our religion?

Our only reaction is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly. And so we find some of our people reacting irrationally. They launch their own attacks, killing just about anybody including fellow Muslims to vent their anger and frustration. Their governments can do nothing to stop them. The enemy retaliates and puts more pressure on the governments. And the governments have no choice but to give in, to accept the directions of the enemy, literally to give up their independence of action.

With this their people and the ummah become angrier and turn against their own governments. Every attempt at a peaceful solution is sabotaged by more indiscriminate attacks calculated to anger the enemy and prevent any peaceful settlement. But the attacks solve nothing. The Muslims simply get more oppressed.

There is a feeling of hopelessness among the Muslim countries and their people. They feel that they can do nothing right. They believe that things can only get worse. The Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews. They will forever be poor, backward and weak. Some believe, as I have said, this is the Will of Allah, that the proper state of the Muslims is to be poor and oppressed in this world.

But is it true that we should do and can do nothing for ourselves? Is it true that 1.3 billion people can exert no power to save themselves from the humiliation and oppression inflicted upon them by a much smaller enemy? Can they only lash back blindly in anger? Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?

It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategise and then to counter-attack. As Muslims we must seek guidance from the Al-Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Surely the 23 years’ struggle of the Prophet can provide us with some guidance as to what we can and should do.

We know he and his early followers were oppressed by the Qhuraish. Did he launch retaliatory strikes? No. He was prepared to make strategic retreats. He sent his early followers to a Christian country and he himself later migrated to Madinah. There he gathered followers, built up his defence capability and ensured the security of his people. At Hudaibiyah he was prepared to accept an unfair treaty, against the wishes of his companions and followers. During the peace that followed he consolidated his strength and eventually he was able to enter Mecca and claim it for Islam. Even then he did not seek revenge. And the peoples of Mecca accepted Islam and many became his most powerful supporters, defending the Muslims against all their enemies.

That briefly is the story of the struggle of the Prophet. We talk so much about following the sunnah of the Prophet. We quote the instances and the traditions profusely. But we actually ignore all of them.
If we use the faculty to think that Allah has given us then we should know that we are acting irrationally. We fight without any objective, without any goal other than to hurt the enemy because they hurt us. Naively we expect them to surrender. We sacrifice lives unnecessarily, achieving nothing other than to attract more massive retaliation and humiliation.

It is surely time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

We may not be able to do that. We may not be able to unite all the 1.3 billion Muslims. We may not be able to get all the Muslim Governments to act in concert. But even if we can get a third of the ummah and a third of the Muslim states to act together, we can already do something. Remember that the Prophet did not have many followers when he went to Madinah. But he united the Ansars and the Muhajirins and eventually he became strong enough to defend Islam.

Apart from the partial unity that we need, we must take stock of our assets. I have already mentioned our numbers and our oil wealth. In today’s world we wield a lot of political, economic and financial clout, enough to make up for our weakness in military terms.

We also know that not all non-Muslims are against us. Some are well disposed towards us. Some even see our enemies as their enemies. Even among the Jews there are many who do not approve of what the Israelis are doing.

We must not antagonise everyone. We must win their hearts and minds. We must win them to our side not by begging for help from them but by the honourable way that we struggle to help ourselves. We must not strengthen the enemy by pushing everyone into their camps through irresponsible and unIslamic acts.. Remember Salah El Din and the way he fought against the so-called Crusaders, King Richard of England in particular. Remember the considerateness of the Prophet to the enemies of Islam. We must do the same. It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge.

We must build up our strength in every field, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well administered, must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient. Innallahamaasabirin. Obviously there is virtue in being patient.

But the defence of the ummah, the counter-attack, need not start only after we have put our houses in order. Even today we have sufficient assets to deploy against our detractors. It remains for us to identify them and to work out how to make use of them to stop the carnage caused by the enemy. This is entirely possible if we stop to think, to plan, to strategise and to take the first few critical steps. Even these few steps can yield positive results.

We know that the Jahilliah Arabs were given to feuding, to killing each other simply because they were from different tribes. The Prophet preached the brotherhood of Islam to them and they were able to overcome their hatred for each other, become united and helped towards the establishment of the great Muslim civilisation. Can we say that what the Jahilliah (the ignorant) could do we, the modern Muslims cannot do? If not all at least some of us can do. If not the renaissance of our great civilisation, at least ensuring the security of the ummah.

To do the things that are suggested will not even require all of us to give up our differences with each other. We need only to call a truce so we can act together in tackling only certain problems of common interests, the Palestine problem for example.

In any struggle, in any war, nothing is more important than concerted and coordinated action. A degree of discipline is all that is needed. The Prophet lost in Jabal Uhud because his forces broke rank. We know that, yet we are unwilling to discipline ourselves and to give up our irregular and uncoordinated actions. We need to be brave but not foolhardy. We need to think not just of our reward in the afterlife but also of the worldly results of our mission.

The Quran tells us that when the enemy sues for peace we must react positively. True the treaty offered is not favourable to us. But we can negotiate. The Prophet did, at Hudaibiyah. And in the end he triumphed.

I am aware that all these ideas will not be popular. Those who are angry would want to reject it out of hand. They would even want to silence anyone who makes or supports this line of action. They would want to send more young men and women to make the supreme sacrifice. But where will all these lead to? Certainly not victory. Over the past 50 years of fighting in Palestine we have not achieved any result. We have in fact worsened our situation.

The enemy will probably welcome these proposals and we will conclude that the promoters are working for the enemy. But think. We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.

Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think.

They are already beginning to make mistakes. And they will make more mistakes. There may be windows of opportunity for us now and in the future. We must seize these opportunities.

But to do so we must get our acts right. Rhetoric is good. It helps us to expose the wrongs perpetrated against us, perhaps win us some sympathy and support. It may strengthen our spirit, our will and resolve, to face the enemy.

We can and we should pray to Allah S.W.T. for in the end it is He who will determine whether we succeed or fail. We need His blessings and His help in our endeavours,

But it is how we act and what we do which will determine whether He would help us and give us victory or not. He has already said so in the Quran. Again Surah Ar-Ra’d verse 11.

As I said at the beginning, the whole world is looking at us, the whole Muslim ummah is placing their hopes in this conference of the leaders of Islamic nations. They expect us not just to vent our frustrations and anger, through words and gestures, not just to pray for Allah’s blessings. They expect us to do something, to act. We cannot say we cannot do anything, we the leaders of the Muslim nations. We cannot say we cannot unite even when faced with the destruction of our religion and the ummah.

We know we can. There are many things that we can do. There are many resources that we have at our disposal. What is needed is merely the will to do it, As Muslims, we must be grateful for the guidance of our religion, we must do what needs to be done, willingly and with determination. Allah has not raised us, the leaders, above the others so we may enjoy power for ourselves only. The power we wield is for our people, for the ummah, for Islam. We must have the will to make use of this power judiciously, prudently, concertedly. Insyaallah we will triumph in the end.

I pray to Allah that this 10th Conference of the OIC in Putrajaya, Malaysia, will give a new and positive direction to us, will be blessed with success by Him, Almighty Allah, Arahman, Arahirn.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Edward Said & Fouad Ajami (Michael Young)

A thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection, on the occasion of Edward Said's death, by the Lebanese journalist and political analyst Michael Young (who comes, like Said, from an Arab Christian background).

--Jeff Weintraub

Daily Star (Lebanon)
October 2, 2003
Edward Said and Fouad Ajami: Exile and the empire
by Michael Young

Michael Young is opinion editor of The Daily Star

The death of Edward Said, like that of any influential figure, unleashed a flurry of activity. Much was made in particular of the author's approach to the concept of exile, so that, paraphrasing the title of Said's memoir, he felt out of place in a wilderness of parallel worlds: the United States, the Middle East and Europe.

This was never the kindest of columns to Said, largely because he never seemed to put together what he had exuberantly taken apart. However, in Said's defense, being the product of privileged Middle Eastern cosmopolitanism can be an enthralling, but also a cruel destiny. The admixture of cultures and sensibilities is never easy to manage, let alone rationalize. That is why as one tries to better understand Said, it is difficult not to also mention his enduring nemesis: Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami.

There was much of the Greek tragedy in the inevitability, but also the consummate symmetry of the Said-Ajami rivalry. On the one side was the left-leaning Palestinian, on the other the increasingly conservative Lebanese Shiite. Where Said regarded Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon as a dark time for the Palestinian national movement, Ajami saw it as a defining moment for Shiite affirmation, since it allowed the community to rid itself of the Palestinians, but also to challenge the Maronite-Sunni axis that had until then largely managed power relations in Lebanon.

You could take the contrast further and argue that the antagonism was a foreseeable by-product of the two men's contending attitudes toward Arab nationalism. Maybe Said, as a Palestinian Christian, was always more likely to sympathize with a secular ideology that affirmed the independence of a broad Arab nation. Maybe Ajami, the Shiite, was necessarily predisposed to regarding Arab nationalism as little more than a contraption to secure Sunni domination.

More interesting than the two men's overt political differences, however, was how their relationship came to be fed by startlingly different approaches to America and its power. That's because the rivalry between Said and Ajami was, deep down, a conflict over how to integrate into the United States.

It was inevitable that Said would come to view the US with an increasingly critical eye. He, simply, saw the foul destiny of the Palestinians as a consequence of US support for Israel. More fundamentally, by the late 1970s Said had developed a worldview that left little room for gray zones, since he had come to regard the West-East relationship as one between dominator and dominated. In developing this dichotomy, Said was too moved by moral outrage to ever truly reconcile his disapproval of the most powerful dominator, the United States, with a recognition that it could also, in some way, represent transcendent benevolence.

Ajami well understood Said's dilemma, for he sharply rejected its logic. As he perhaps saw it, Said was alienating himself from his environment, and the reason for this was his inability to keep a foot in one world. By being multifaceted, Said had become merely contradictory. Ajami, in contrast, hailed from the desolate world of southern Lebanon, where one didn't look backward when departing, and where single-mindedness and the obliteration of nostalgia was an emigrant's only true weapon.

By his own admission, Said succumbed to the dangers of partial integration, since he never quite felt at home anywhere. As his more devoted disciples today lament, his tragedy was that he died before the Palestinians could achieve statehood. Yet how very odd to hear such a phrase, which collapses two distinct worlds ­ the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the Occupied Territories ­ into a single, essentially Palestinian narrative, while leaving entirely unsaid what Said represented for America.

Ajami had no such difficulties. To his credit ­ since hardness is a virtue ­ he has insisted that he is exclusively American and only "originally" Arab. In so doing, he implies that embracing America means saying "yes." Said, in turn, believed it meant saying "no."

This impossible dialogue has led to two great gaps in both Said's and Ajami's works. Said always displayed a prickly unwillingness to delve into the American psyche, perhaps fearing it would erode his indignation with the US. Ajami, in turn, has increasingly banished the Palestinians from his writings, so that they have become the elephant in his living room ­ increasingly obvious for remaining unmentioned.

So, which of the two men better integrated into America? Said always played the outsider, but only in America could his paradoxes have been so well honed, his opposites so well exploited. Ajami, in contrast, decisively cut the umbilical cord with the old country, and in recent years has moved steadily toward the center of political power. Yet his not looking backward means always having to stare ahead. Few play that game well. The temptation to catch a glimpse of one's past can be unyielding.

As they grappled with America, and with each other, Said and Ajami surely came to understand that, aside from their political differences, they were two sides of the same immigrant experience. Neither found the magical formula of America because it was there staring at them, and it said that no single formula exists. Ajami and Said may not have liked each other, but the death of one American cannot have been met with indifference by the other, because the success of one was partly that of the other.