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A Muslim Rhodes scholar in Oxford contemplates "Why Iraqis celebrated the fall of Baghdad?"

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, Ali Abbas is a Rhodes Scholar pursuing a Doctorate in Economics at Oxford University. In this column for the Lahore newspaper, The Daily Times, Ali
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 23 5:06 PM
      Friends,

      Ali Abbas is a Rhodes Scholar pursuing a Doctorate in Economics at Oxford
      University. In this column for the Lahore newspaper, The Daily Times, Ali
      Abbas angrily criticizes Muslim hypocrisy in dealing with the modern world.

      He writes, "Today we have two choices before us. We can continue to moan,
      indulge in hollow anti-infidel rhetoric and pray for a miracle that will
      wipe out the trio of Bush, Blair and Sharon. Or we can opt for introspection
      and self-reform...Merely waiting for Allah or the Mahdi will not get us
      anywhere."

      Ali Abbas can be reached at ali.abbas@...

      Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      ========================
      Why Iraqis celebrated the fall of Baghdad?

      By Ali Abbas
      The Daily Times, Lahore
      http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_23-4-2003_pg3_3

      Why must a white paper on Iraq or Afghanistan be presented in the House of
      Commons and not our own parliaments? Is all going so well for Muslims in
      Muslim countries that we can focus our energies exclusively on events in
      Kashmir, Palestine and Chechnya?

      It is clear that certain sections of the Muslim media were taken by surprise
      by scenes of Iraqis celebrating the fall of Baghdad; some channels tried to
      distort or underplay the scenes; others discarded them as “staged”. While
      these attempts at censoring facts or “willing suspension of disbelief” are
      likely to continue for some time, the underlying reality of the scenes will
      eventually have to be confronted. We will have to accept that a Muslim
      citizen can contemplate welcoming a “foreign infidel” army into his homeland
      and not be bothered by the collapse of his “native Muslim” regime.
      Digestible? Perhaps not but real. Indeed, this lack of “patriotism” is not
      limited to Iraqis alone, it extends to virtually every Muslims country in
      the world.

      Many Muslims were hoping that the Iraqis would assess the situation on its
      historical merit; i.e., by recognising Saddam as the lesser evil and
      rejecting the US-UK coalition. That they would “remember” that it was this
      very coalition which had patronised and armed Saddam during the 1980s; which
      had kept silent, conveniently, as he crushed the Shia rebellion in the
      South; and which had adopted a “never-mind” policy to his use of chemical
      weapons against Iran and his own Kurdish population.

      But was this expectation on our part that the Iraqis would demonstrate
      “perfect memory” justified, given that we are chronic amnesia patients
      ourselves? The Gulf War had the effect of wiping off our memories Saddam’s
      aggressions against Iran. The Iraq War made us forget his brutalities
      against his own people in the 1990s. Truth is the first casualty of war, but
      the first casualty of both the Gulf wars has been the memory of those who
      fell victim to Saddam’s oppression in the preceding decade.

      It is deeply ironic that for “21 non-stop days” every Muslim newspaper and
      television channel tried to give an “intelligent” history lesson to the
      Iraqi civilians, reminding them that the coalition was not to be trusted and
      responsible for their woes. And on the 21st day, the Iraqis themselves
      taught us a chilling history lesson: that Saddam was a monster, and this is
      what they chose to remember.

      Hats off to the Iraqis for raising the “no Saddam no Bush” slogan so quickly
      after the war. With every third family in Baghdad reporting a missing
      person, every second woman in Kerbala a widow, and every other Kurdish child
      holding on to the memory of an elder gassed by Saddam, it would not at all
      have been surprising if the Iraqis had chosen to accept Bush as the “lesser
      evil”. They did not: that shows their greatness.

      Yet our pride has been injured deeply by the defeat of a Muslim army, and
      cannot heal overnight. The ummah remains petrified, to date, by prospects of
      American and British control of Iraqi oil. What good has this oil in Iraqi
      and Arab hands done for Muslims over the last three decades, is of course, a
      question we shall never ask. Stashed (and now trapped) in US banks; booked
      as “losses” in European casinos; devoted to maintaining royal harems and
      palaces; and consigned to feeding armies that could terrorise their own
      people, the Middle East’s oil revenues were a golden opportunity gone
      totally a begging.

      There are those among us who say it is not oil or military defeat per se
      that is so painful. It is the overthrow of a Muslim regime and the
      occupation of a Muslim state by “infidels” that is difficult to swallow.
      This is, for all sums and purposes, a “war on Islam by infidels”. This view
      has been very popular with some of our newly launched television channels.
      But accepting it would be as naive as accepting the US’ branding of the war
      as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.

      The millions who demonstrated against this war in Europe, America and the
      Far East were non-Muslims — I was myself part of the massive anti-war
      protest held in London on February 15 and can testify to this. Also, the
      Pope has certainly not embraced Islam! Just because President Bush was dumb
      enough to use the word “crusade” in his post-9/11 speech does not mean we
      Muslims should adopt the phrase as well. Rather, we must try to understand
      the politico-economic motives of the war; the threat it poses to
      international institutions and to global order in general.

      This is what makes this war so wrong and dangerous and not the fact that
      Saddam or his nobles were great Muslims. Indeed, the number of statues of
      himself that he had put up all over Iraq testified to his Pharaohic desires.

      I do not dispute that the sight of coalition forces walking the streets of
      Kerbala and Najaf is discomforting. But I will ask why Muslim honour was not
      pricked when Saddam’s military itself drilled bullet holes into the Zareeh
      of Imam Husain (AS), killing thousands that had taken refuge there or when
      his air force bombed the shrine of Hazrat Abbas (AS). Anyone visiting these
      holy places can see the signs of Saddam’s wrath; they still exist and are
      difficult to digest! Yet, there was not even a whimper in the Muslim world
      when this happened. Why? What is the big fear in admitting to our own
      realities?

      Why must it always be the White House spokesman or the British Prime
      Minister who lay bare our naked truths before us? Why must a white paper on
      Iraq or Afghanistan be presented in the House of Commons and not our own
      parliaments? Is all going so well for Muslims in Muslim countries that we
      can focus our energies exclusively on events in Kashmir, Palestine and
      Chechnya?

      The origin of this brush-your-truth-under-the-carpet psyche goes back a long
      way, to the very early days of Islam, i.e. the end of the
      Khilafat-e-raashida. From about 30 AH onwards, malookiyat (monarchy) became
      the dominant political system in the Muslim world. Human rights,
      representation, freedom of expression and criticism were unwelcome guests in
      such setups. Debate was considered healthy if it happened in the areas of
      fiqh, mysticism and science, and forbidden if it hinted at the need for
      political or social reform. When Imam Husain (AS) resisted Yazid’s pressures
      to obtain baiyat, most of the “wise men” of his time adjured him to keep
      quiet. But the Imam knew that silence in such situations was tantamount to
      acquiescence, and the latter akin to poison that would slowly but surely
      devour the ummah from within. The great sacrifice that he offered was not
      for the reform of Christians, Hindus and Jews but for the Muslim ummah which
      had become morally bankrupt. More than anything else, this underscores the
      importance our religion assigns to reforming our own societies first (before
      looking to others).

      Today we have two choices before us. We can continue to moan, indulge in
      hollow anti-infidel rhetoric and pray for a miracle that will wipe out the
      trio of Bush, Blair and Sharon. Or we can opt for introspection and
      self-reform. The latter will require sincere attempts at uniting the Muslims
      masses, heavy investment in education and alliances with non-Muslim powers.
      Merely waiting for Allah or the Mahdi will not get us anywhere. As the Quran
      says: “There is nothing for man except what he strives for (53:40).”

      Muslim states must begin to value their own citizens before looking to
      non-Muslim regimes for respect. And I direct this message not to Muslim
      leaders but to the Muslim masses, who can and must win dignity and justice
      for themselves. For if they don’t, our destiny will remain sealed as per
      Hazrat Ali’s (AS) quote: “Nations can survive under kufr (infidelity) but
      not under zulm (injustice).”
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