`Extremism` and Islam: The Forgotten Letters
By Felicity Arbuthnot – London
The Palestine Chronicle
July 24, 2012
President George W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House after three planes commandeered by unknown hijackers slammed into the Pentagon and New York`s World Trade Center September 11, 2001.
`We are the indispensable nation.`-- US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, NBC, 19th February 1998.
On 21st September 2001, George W. Bush addressed Congress and the nation. He stated: “Americans are asking `Why do they hate us?` “He gave the nation the answer: “They hate us for our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech ...” By “they” of course, he meant the vast, great ancient Muslim diaspora, where ever they were.
Thus, just ten days after the collapse of the World Trade Centre, dismissed were the messages of sympathy from around the world, from leaders of countries, threatened by the US, from those who had been victims of the US. It was a historic opportunity to respond in kind, to truly build bridges and to make that America`s homage and memorial to the dead - of eighty countries - as he reminded that day.
What marked the messages was compassion and humanity. Three, however, in the light of recent and current events are particularly notable.
Libya`s Colonel Quaddafi- accused of aiding terrorism by the US and in international isolation, in his communication, also urged Muslim aid groups to offer all assistance:
“... regardless of political considerations or differences between America and the peoples of the world. Irrespective of (conflicts) with America it is a human duty to show sympathy with the American people, and be with them at (the time of) these horrifying ... events which are bound to awaken human conscience”, he wrote. [i]
That was three years before Tony Blair`s visit to Libya (25th March 2004) and his Judas kiss. The BBC`s Andrew Marr called that meeting: “... an absolutely pivotal moment in the history of the region, possibly even in the history of the war against terrorism.” [ii] Quaddafi agreed to dismantle Libya`s weapons, trade with the West. Shell gained a $550 million deal the same week,
“Trust on both sides will take time to establish,” Blair said at the time. Tragedy for Libya, arguably is that Colonal Quaddafi was not more judicious with his.
Syria`s President Al Assad sent condolences to the White House, calling for: “... world cooperation to eradicate all kinds of terrorism.”
President Mohammad Khatami of Iran - which had been and still is stringently embargoed by the US since 1979 and ever increasingly threatened - wrote of his: “ ...deep regret and sympathy with the victims”, urging: “It is an international duty to try to undermine terrorism.”
Iraq`s President Saddam Hussein stood alone, as a leader not personally sending his nation`s sympathies, but Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz did, transmitting condolences via former US Attorney General Ramzy Clark. (After the invasion, of course, Aziz was arrested by the Americans and subsequently sentenced to death. He remains under death threat, in jail since 2003.)
However, on October 18th 2001, Iraq`s President responded to an American citizen, software engineer, Christopher Love, who, apparently referring to the US Administration already pointing the finger at Iraq for the tragedy it had nothing to do with, had emailed Saddam Hussein. [iii]
Love wrote that he was an ordinary American with a daughter of seventeen and a son of thirteen and that: “I, and the majority of people here in (the US) only want to live together with all the nations in the world.”
Saddam Hussein`s response began:
“Dear brother in the family of mankind, I read your email message of October 2nd carefully and I have well pondered over your emotions regarding the victims of the two towers.
“All I can say in presenting my condolences to you (is) `God has created us, and to him we return. May God give you long life`”, the traditional Muslim consolation in bereavement.
A lengthy response included: “I don`t think that your Administration deserves the condolences of Iraqis, except if it presents its condolences to the Iraqi people for the 1,500,000 Iraqis it (has) killed, and apologizes to them ...” (resultant from the strangulating US-driven embargo which denied even cancer medicines, Ventolin inhalers and paediatric syringes.)
Referring to the nine years of US/UK bombings which had not alone killed uncounted numbers, but routinely targeted precious, scarce harvests and livestock, he wrote:
“Do you know, brother Christopher, that your Administration, in its war against the people of Iraq, has been burning not only the cereals in silos, but even the harvest by throwing flares in order to make Iraqi people starve?
“Iraq has been harmed severely by the fanaticism of others, including America ... “
Outlining some of the massive complexities [iv] of the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, he wrote of George W. Bush, that a war had been waged: “against Iraq, in a way that had nothing to do with the issue of Kuwait.
“(Bush`s) objective was to destroy all Iraq, and to deprive its people of the (nation) built, over several decades, and not merely getting the Iraqi armed forces out of Kuwait ... he and his Administration, are still doing so under different pretexts and justifications. “
The letter concluded: “Wishing that you will have the opportunity to see the facts as they are, and not as your administration present them.” It ended:
“Yours truly,Saddam Hussein.”
Less than two years later his country was invaded and “destroyed” under entirely false “pretexts and justifications.”
After the London train networks and bus bombing on 7th July 2005, leaders from across the world, again regardless of their differences with London`s aggressive backing of US assaults and threats, also sent sincere condolences, including Syria`s President Bashar Al Assad, in a personal message to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Syria was, of course, daily, quietly absorbing thousands of now destitute, bereaved, distraught, sick, maimed and traumatized Iraqis resultant from Blair`s offices misinformation (“dodgy dossiers”) to the US Administration.
What marked all the messages in both disasters was the lack of triumphalism. If there were subliminal undertones they were with tact and care and the doors were clearly open, on both occasions, for fresh starts. Response with reciprocal door unlocking was trenchantly absent, door destruction ruled.
The contrast in reaction`s to the tragedy of others by Washington and London`s politicians, the sneering, crowing, gleeful, jubilance at murder, mayhem, heartbreak and barbarity shames all who believed those countries stood for decency, legality and values of benefit to human kind.
When Saddam Hussein`s two sons and nephew just in to his teens were murdered, shredded by US firepower and surely near vaporized by the ten missiles dropped on their dwelling in Mosul [[v] George W. Bush sneered: “their deaths show that the former Iraqi regime will not be coming back” - and the rule of law also died.
When Saddam Hussein was arrested in December 2003 by US occupiers, “Viceroy” Paul Bremer crowed to the gathered media and military: “Ladies and gentlemen, we got `im.” The country`s President was then shown on television having a medical examination. Medical privacy and human rights breathed their last gasp. Moreover, whether a supporter of Saddam Hussein or an opponent, he represented an ancient and fiercely proud nation, US behavior humiliated all. Arguably the blue touch paper to serious and sustained resistance to the occupation was lit that day.
That he was barbarically lynched, under America`s stewardship of the country, by black-masked, and hooded men and at the time of the great Muslim feast of Eid al Adha is probably expressed best by Abdel-Bari Atwan, Editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper:
“The timing of this execution is an affront to all Arabs and Muslims. It is an act of scorn against a great religion by the United States and the Iraqi government.
“Arab public opinion wonders who deserves to be tried and executed: Saddam Hussein who preserved the unity of Iraq, its Arab and Islamic identity and the coexistence of its different communities ... or those who engulfed the country into this bloody civil war.”
More recently, the sickening spectacle of Obama and his Administration`s gleeful jubilance at an illegal incursion into and assault on ally Pakistan and the lawless extra-judicial assassination of Osama bin Laden on 1st May 2011 can only have been seen as a further “affront.”
The Nobel Peace Laureate crowed on the day of the death of one: “who`s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.” Ironically a glance towards Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria shows “thousands of innocent men, women and children “ murdered at his behest or backing.
Of course another vexing elephant or ten in the room is apart from lynch mob rule, if the numerous and consistent reports of bin Laden`s death years before are true, who was the sacrificial soul? Since we are told the body was chucked to the sharks, bin Laden or not, the identity will never be verified. How convenient.
Just five months later (October 20th) Libya`s Leader Colonel Quaddafi, was horrifically mutilated and murdered at the hands of insurgents whose leaders Hillary Clinton had met and declared every support for in March and September 2011, meetings in Paris. Far from being taken aback at illegality of enormity and utter bestiality, she laughed on global television a and boasted: “We came, we saw, he died.”
Now Syria and President Assad are in the crosshairs with even a former US Senate Foreign Policy Analyst, James Jatras, stating that Washington has violated the UN Charter by arming insurgents in Syria. [vi]
“Arming an insurgency in a recognized State is already an act of war and let`s be clear, the United States has acknowledged that we give “non-lethal” aid” - arguably the promised mega financial aid to the insurgents - “and we wink at the notion that some of our allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, are giving lethal aid to ... these terrorists”, he stated, adding: “This is already a violation of the UN charter in every standard of international law.”
On Wednesday (18th July), Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, his deputy Assef Shawkat and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani were killed in a bombing that hit the headquarters of the Syrian National Security Bureau. Two days later General Hisham Ikhtiyar, Head of Syrian National Security also died of his wounds.
Jatras noted: “There is a great deal of glee here in Washington”, following the Damascus attack:
“It is stunning the extent to which the American establishment is essentially cheering on this kind of terrorism, killing government officials with this kind of terrorist bombing that has all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda type jihad terror operation”, he concluded.
“We`re looking at the controlled demolition of the Assad regime”, trumpeted Andrew J. Tabler, a “Syria expert” at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy shortly before. Sovereignty and rule of law are becoming a distant memory.
After the Aurora, Colorado cinema shootings, President Obama said: “We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.” And “Our time here is limited and it is precious.” And: “Ultimately, it`s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.”
He said: “Now, even as we learn how this happened and who`s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this. Such violence, such evil, is senseless. It`s beyond reason ... we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another ...”
“The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved. They were mothers and fathers; they were husbands and wives; sisters and brothers; sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.”
His statement mirrors all America`s victims, all those facing decimation, as did the twenty seven people killed by US drones in Pakistan recently over three days, alone, 2nd - 4th June.
“I will hug my children closer tonight”, he told Americans from Fortress White House. America has left uncounted parents with no children to hug - not enough left of them to even bury.
In the seconds this was ended, a news feed showed six un-named human beings killed by US drones in Pakistan. “Why do they hate us?”
The US-UK alliance has lost its mind.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger`s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Bias against Islam is deeply rooted in Western minds: journalist
Mehr News Agency
July 23, 2012
TEHRAN, July 23 (MNA) -- After many years of a negative portrayal, bias Against Islam and Muslims is deeply rooted in Western minds and it will be very difficult to eliminate it, Spanish journalist Yusuf Fernandez says. the Tehran Times Fernandez, who is the secretary of the Muslim Federation of Spain and an editor of Al Manar Spanish website, made the remarks last week in an interview with . He stated that the neo-fascism and far-right bigotry are increasing throughout Europe as much as fascism and Nazism did in the 1930s and this is one of the reasons why Islamophobia is now rapidly spreading in Europe and has become a major concern for the Muslim minorities in the European countries. Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: Muslims are subject to prejudice and discrimination in the Western societies, even though they have always contributed to the progress and growth of these societies. As a spokesman of an Islamic organization in a European country, what are your views regarding the rise of Islamophobia in the U.S. and Europe? And how is it possible to confront and eliminate it?
A: The Islamophobia is a real problem in the Western societies, not only for Muslims but for the whole society because it is a hatred phenomenon, which is harmful for all people. Today, many politicians attack Islam and Muslims just to gain votes and in some countries girls are banned to wear headscarves at high schools or work places. Opening a mosque is also becoming more and more difficult in some countries. Muslims need to work seriously against Islamophobia through media work and in courts although sometimes it is difficult because many Muslim communities lack the resources to do so. In order to fight against Islamophobia, Muslims should look for allies, especially human right organizations, which are supporting Muslim victims with information campaigns and legal procedures.
Q: What`s your assessment of the Western media`s portrayal of the Muslims? Is it possible to present a realistic image of Islam and the Muslims to the Western citizens and acquaint them with the hidden realities of Islam?
A: Generally speaking, the image of Muslims in Western media is very negative and poor. When Western journalists speak about any issue, they are supposed to know the issue they are writing about. But this rule is broken when they write about Islam. They can then make claims that have nothing to do with the reality of Islam and Muslims. Muslims are presented as fanatics, terrorists or backwards people. Muslim women are presented as ignorant or submissive. These so-called “experts” ignore that Islam gave many rights to the women much before the Western societies did.
I think that the Muslims should invest in media and try to give a correct vision of Islam and Muslims through meetings and conferences but I think that the results of this work will not be immediate. After many years of a negative portrayal, some bias and stereotypes are deeply rooted in Western minds and it will be very difficult to eliminate them. The media work must also be very professional and have high quality. Sometimes, you find Muslim magazines with poor design and even mistakes and this is counterproductive because instead of fighting against the stereotypes, it strengthens them.
Q: Many attempts have been made to create differences between the followers of different Islamic sects. What do you think is the motive behind this propaganda?
A: Today, we can see a bid to create a deep sectarian conflict within the Muslim world. Most media speak about the clashes between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, Allawites and Sunnis in Syria and so on. This is clearly a strategy to weaken and control the Muslim world. The worst thing is that lots of Muslims, including renowned scholars, are falling into this trap. Many Arab media and personalities that supported the Tunisian or Egyptian revolutions are also backing Al Khalifa`s oppressive regime in Bahrain and blame Shias or Iran for the situation there. Don`t the Bahraini people deserve the same rights as Egyptians or Tunisians to be free? I think this strategy seeks to isolate Iran or the Lebanese resistance from Sunni Muslims and make Muslims forget that their enemy is not the adherents to other schools of the Muslim thought, but Western neo-colonialism, the Zionist regime and those governments in the Muslim world that favor the U.S. and Zionist interests. I want to add that the main engine of this strategy to divide the Muslim world is extremist Wahhabi groups, which are being sponsored by the Saudi regime to spread hatred against Shia Muslims. In this sense, the Saudi regime is doing the West`s dirty work.
Q: There are extremists in Europe who are staunchly opposed to multiculturalism in the continent and are not afraid of physically removing whoever they deem threatening their ideology for a consolidated Europe free of immigrants and Muslims. The most prominent example was Anders Breivik who massacred 77 people simply because they had voiced support for the people of Palestine in a demonstration. What was your reaction to the Norway 2011 attacks when you first heard about it? Is such an ideology spreading throughout Europe?
A: The neo-fascism and far-right bigotry is spreading throughout Europe as much as Fascism and Nazism did in the 1930s. There are several reasons explaining this phenomenon. Firstly, Europe is going through a very serious economic and social crisis. Instead of analyzing the causes of this crisis, these parties use demagogy to blame immigrants or minorities. It is easier than to blame the real culprits: an unfair economic system that is not working anymore and the heads of banks and corporations whose greed and ineptitude have led Europe to its worst crisis in many decades. Some people in Europe, who are suffering from this crisis, are receptive to this kind of messages and they become a “granary of votes” for the extremist parties. The second reason is Islamophobia. These parties are promoting anti-Muslim hatred in order to gain electoral support. Some circles in Europe are using the debate about the European identity to try to present Islam as a foreign religion and denigrate multiculturalism. However, these parties also have a limited appeal because many people in Europe still remember the awful consequences of the Nazi ideology. When these extremists see that their message is ignored then they can resort to violence as Breivik did in Norway. Actually, Breivik`s massacre served to remind people the threat of this far-right ideology and I think their action meant a severe blow to the adherents to this ideology.
Q: Does Zionism pose a serious threat to the whole Islamic world or is it simply an obstacle to the realization of Palestinian nation`s self-determination and statehood? Why don`t the Arab states in the Middle East take serious steps to tackle the issue of Palestine and put an end to the Israeli occupation and aggression? Why are the Arab leaders so nonchalant and indifferent?
A: Many people forget that the Israeli flag has two blue lines representing the Nile and Eufrates. The original Zionist goal was to control all the land between Iraq and Egypt. It is noteworthy to point out that Zionism was a colonialist project. However, the colonization of Palestine started at a time when the Western colonialism was in decline, so due to this fact and the Arab and Palestinian resistance, Zionists were not able to control the Middle East as they wanted. Now, Israel has a serious problem that they will not able to solve: the Palestinian population both in whole Palestine and in the 1967-occupied territories is growing faster than the Jewish population. Therefore, it will become increasingly difficult for Israel to keep the control over these territories. Although pro-Israeli lobbies in the U.S. and other Western countries control a large part of the political elites and media, they cannot hide the apartheid system that the Zionist regime has developed in the occupied territories and Israel will probably become more isolated in the world. Most Arab regimes have not been interested in Palestine before and now. Their support for the Palestinian cause is merely rhetorical. This has led to many Arabs to think that their governments should focus on developing their own countries because they are too weak to tackle the issue of Palestine nowadays. However, I think that both things are compatible. Arab countries can focus on their own challenges but at the same time they can offer their support for Palestinians and the best way to do so is let the Western countries supporting Israel know that they will pay a high political and economic price if they stick to this policy.
Q: What`s your analysis of the role of Iran in unifying the Islamic nations? It seems that Iran is the only Muslim country which has not dissociated from the Islamic values and has always been after solidifying and strengthening the bonds between Muslim countries. What`s your take on that?
A: Iran can help unify the Muslim world. There is no doubt about that. Iran can develop its ties with the countries where pro-Western dictatorships have been recently overthrown. At the same time, Iran needs to look for means to overcome the anti-Shia and anti-Iran propaganda campaign that Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. are carrying out in order to undermine Iran`s links with the Muslim world.
Q: What will the future of Israeli-Palestinian conflict look like? Will Israel move toward annihilation and self-destruction or will it succeed in surviving as a political entity? Will the international community come to the help of Palestinian people or it will get away with their suffering with complicity and connivance?
A: I think that the so-called peace process is dead now. Israel, however, is in an increasingly bad situation. As I said before, the demography is playing against Israel. Palestinians have more children than Israelis and this is an important factor. Israelis have three choices. The first is unlikely: to let the Palestinians create a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, this would reduce the amount of land that they control and the demographic problem would still exist because in the 1948-occupied territories, a 20 percent of the population is Arab. The second choice is the status quo: a permanent occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. However, this is becoming more and more unsustainable due to international rejection and condemnation. The third choice is to annex the West Bank and East Jerusalem but, apart from the international rejection to such a measure, Israel would become a bi-national state where Palestinians would become a majority soon. Probably, they would like the third solution but creating some isolated Bantustans, formally autonomous or independent, to concentrate the Palestinian population within them but Palestinians would never accept that. I think that Palestinians do not expect the support of the international community because they know that the latter is greatly influenced by the United States where a large part of the political class is under the control of the pro-Israeli lobby. Palestinians receive support from many organizations and people from all over the world but I think the success of their cause will be a result of their own fight.
Q: And finally, what`s your prediction for the prospect of Iran`s position in the region? Will the United States and its allies, spearheaded by Israel, finally bring Iran to its knees with their sanctions and media propaganda or Iran can affirm its role as a regional superpower in the Middle East regardless of the political and economic pressures of the West?
A: I think that Iran will have to suffer economic problems because of the Israel-sponsored sanctions. Some will be more painful. Others will be less. However, Iran has some advantages. Firstly, Iran has huge oil and gas resources and the world needs more energy. Therefore, any energy embargo is doomed to failure. Secondly, Iran has a prominent strategic position. Thirdly, Russia and China will not reduce their economic relations with Iran because they know that they are the following ones in Washington`s list. In fact, the sanctions against Iran and the cover war against Syria also seek to weaken Russia and China`s role in the Middle East. China needs resources-rich countries on which it can rely and which will not cut off their supplies to China if the U.S. ask them to do so. Iran is one of the few ones so Beijing should be interested in supporting Iran and its economy. Moreover, Iranian people love their country and its independence. They are used to sanctions and know to circumvent them. At the same time, Iran should expand its political and cultural presence in the world in order to counteract hostile actions and propaganda. However, Iran should avoid taking a rigid position in the nuclear issue. It should coordinate its position with China and Russia and work with them to reach an agreement, which would bring important benefits for everyone, including Iran itself. This agreement would also help Iran obtain more easily a widely-recognized status of regional superpower. -
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