Tag Archives: imperialism

Afghans Don’t Know Why Foreigners are Killing Them

This is interesting.

KABUL — Afghans in two crucial southern provinces are almost completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don’t know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year, a new report showed on Friday…

The report also finds that “55% of interviewees believe that the international community is in Afghanistan for its own benefit, to destroy or occupy the country, or to destroy Islam.”

There are no words.

Hat tip to Balloon Juice.

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Filed under Islamic relations, off-topic, Our glorious war on terror

Preliminary Book Report

“What’s all this nonsense about isolating [Egyptian president Gamal Abdel] Nasser or ‘neutralising’ him, as you call it? I want him destroyed, can’t you understand? I want him murdered…And I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt.” –Anthony Eden, UK Prime Minister 1955-57

I’m only about a third of the way through Devil’s Game; How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, but I didn’t want to wait too long and forget how I felt at reading this.

We have a tendency to think that Arabs have Islamic governments because they just want it that way, that they’re simple people who need their religious trappings, and we don’t have the slightest clue at the concerted efforts that our governments have made to subvert every nationalist and secular government that was successful in the Middle East.

Nasser was a towering figure in the Arab world and was known as the “leader of the Arabs.”

His funeral procession through Cairo, on 1 October, was attended by at least five million mourners.

All Arab heads of state attended. King Hussein of Jordan and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat cried openly while Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya reportedly fainted twice. Although no major Western dignitaries were present, Soviet premier Alexey Kosygin showed up. Almost immediately after the procession began, mourners had engulfed Nasser’s coffin shouting “There is no God but Allah, and Nasser is God’s beloved… Each of us is Nasser.”

The general Arab reaction was one of mourning, with thousands of people pouring onto the streets of major cities throughout the Arab world. Over a dozen people were killed in Beirut as a result of the chaos and in Jerusalem, roughly 75,000 Arabs marched through the Old City chanting “Nasser will never die.”

Seems like the kind of guy the US and UK would want to ally with, a powerful figure who could accomplish a lot of good.

Along with Muhammad Naguib, the first President, he led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of modernization, and socialist reform in Egypt together with a profound advancement of pan-Arab nationalism, including a short-lived union with Syria.

Modernization and social reform? We’re all about that. So why were we working so hard to bring him down, even assassinate him?

Under his leadership, Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal, and came to play a central role in anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World, and Africa.


I’ll have more on this book later. And you can buy it here.


Filed under arab, arabian, arabist, books

Recommended Read

This guest post over at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, by Sumbul Ali-Karamali, about foreigners blundering and assuming that people who have lived together for centuries should be at each other’s throats.

These are just excerpts of this excellent article:

A lazy way to dismiss conflicts as hopeless is to characterize (usually erroneously) the disputing parties as having been “at each other’s throats for centuries.” It happened in Bosnia when the Christian Serbs started expunging Bosnian Muslims from the area; it happened in Rwanda when the fighting between Hutus and Tutsis erupted; and it’s happening now with respect to the Israel-Palestine conflict. It’s also happening in Iraq. It is nearly impossible to listen to news about Iraq without hearing of “sectarian violence” and receiving the impression that the U.S. (the invader, remember?) is simply there as the intermediary between the Sunni and Shi’a, who have – of course – always been at each other’s throats.

I’ve gotten so tired of hearing people say, “Those people have been fighting for two thousand years,” that I won’t let that statement pass anymore without pointing out that Muslims fighting anyone for two thousand years would be quite the feat, since Islam has only existed for 1429 years.

And now National Geographic has aired a documentary, Inside the Koran,) which features depictions of the Shi’a as “sinners,” and promotes a fractured view of Islam. (It also contains all sorts of other problems, as it confuses culture with Islamic doctrine, doesn’t explain the context of the verses it quotes, characterizes the Qur’an as inconsistent and contradictory – as if the Qur’an is the only religious text that’s ever been interpreted differently by different people – and features no Qur’anic experts discussing the historical, intertextual, and linguistic features of the Qur’an that actually do render it consistent.) And it contains lots and lots of violence, because so many people erroneously think it is impossible to discuss Islam without explaining it in a violent context.

I find this constant conditioning, and in this particular case, the constant portrayal of Sunni and Shi’a Islam as adversarial, extremely damaging. It’s self-fulfilling, dehumanizing, and inaccurate.

Then there’s a good explanation of the minor differences between Sunni and Shi’a, and then

Therefore, practically speaking, Sunni and Shi’i Islam look very similar. Authority rests in the religious scholars. Sunni and Shi’a celebrate the same holidays, with a few exceptions, follow largely the same religious doctrine, and – here’s the important bit – recognize each other as valid.

The consensus of the great religious scholars today, as reflected in the Amman Message, is that both Sunnism and Shiism are valid branches of Islam, as are their schools of law (madhabs). The Sunni Sheikh al-Azhar signed off on this document, as did the Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Even the Wahhabi monarch, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, endorsed it. Although some theological extremists engage in the practice of “excommunicating” (takfir) other Muslims, they are now out of the mainstream of Islam.

Historically, though there was some tension and even persecution at times between the Sunni and Shi’a, it was seldom on the scale of the Catholic-Protestant conflict, either in duration or scope or brutality. Sunni and Shi’a attend the same mosques, intermarry, and identify themselves primarily as “Muslims.”

In fact, Sunni and Shi’a have been intermarrying for years in Iraq, and it is only in the post-U.S.-invasion years that the violence has caused hardships for those families.

Therefore, the characterization of Sunni and Shi’i Muslims as just waiting for opportunities to fling themselves at each other’s throats and even as requiring the U.S. to stand between them holding each of them at arm’s length while they paw the ground, is just not accurate. But more than that, it is self-fulfilling.

It reminds me of India: when the British went to India, they saw a divided country. They ignored the fact that Hindus and Muslims had been living for centuries in a multicultural state in, if not perfect harmony (and when has anyone had that?), a pluralistic equilibrium very different from the homogeneity of Victorian England. The British began to divide and conquer, pitting Muslims against Hindus and Hindus against Muslims. Soon, Muslims and Hindus began themselves to see India as a divided country. And in 1947, they became a divided country in a Partition fueled by fear. India and Pakistan have not yet recovered.

We are doing the same thing in Iraq as the British did in India. From the very beginning of the attack, we focused on the so-called animosity between Sunni and Shi’a. We have continued to reiterate this divisiveness in the news. We carelessly promulge prejudice in documentaries such as National Geographic’s, which not only give a general impression of divisiveness and violence, but which contain specific inaccuracies.

I may be agreeing with this so strongly because it exactly what I’ve been saying for five years now. (Not on this blog, the blog is too new).

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Filed under arab, arabian, arabist, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Our glorious war in Iraq