Let there be dialogue between West and Islam
Posted by Faheem Belharvi
The main person responsible for 9/11 tragedy, Osama Ben laden is dead. His outfit Al-Qaida is immensely debilitated. President G. W Bush announced in the aftermath of 9/11 that justice would done for the death of 3000 Americans killed on that bleak day.
Iraq’s Saddam Hussein an enemy of Israel and ruthless dictator is gone. Libyan ruler Mohammad Qaddafi died a very humiliating death at the hands his own people. Qaddafi too was on the hit list of the United States as well as Israel for his revolution, fomented to keep him and his progeny in the power saddle. Hosni Mubarak, a protégé of both United States and Israel was swept away by the torrent of public outrage against him.
The whole Middle East is in the throe of a change from absolutism to democratic orders. This momentous change is unbelievable and could not be imagined until few years back. But according to a Chinese proverb that “a single spark can start a prairie fire”, the self- immolation of one Tunisian vendor Mohamed Bouazizi became a dazzling harbinger to bring about an unprecedented phenomenal transformation in the tribal fiefdoms of the Middle East. If this sweeping change can be termed as miracle then certainly it is so.
Instead of clash and unremitting belligerency it is time to mount the imperative dialogue between West and Islam and for that matter between Christianity and Islam, as Christianity is synonymous with the western way of life.
Since World War II, enough bloodshed has taken place in various Islamic countries. In Iran-Iraq (1908-1988) war more than half a million people died from both the sides. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 during G.W bush presidency, to the present, over a million Iraqis have perished in war related operations and in continued violence, sectarian strife and insurgent attacks. Besides the invading coalition forces too suffered causalities. Iraq though is now a democracy but is utterly unstable as Shia Sunni cleavage is still taking its toll on daily basis. Since the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq in December 2011, the anarchy and sectarian violence have again gripped that country marred by the centuries-old antagonism between the Shias and the Sunnis.
Since the start of the Afghan war in October 2001 by United States and allies, countless people have so far lost their lives in the killing fields of Afghanistan. If someone argues that this is the part of the inevitable clash of civilizations then this argument is not worth a cent. How come that a civilization is being wiped off for the sake and survival of another civilization? These are not medieval ages when the victor could eliminate the vanquished population through the macabre parched earth massacres.
In Afghanistan, USA has been engaged along with the ISAF and NATO in chasing the al-Qaida operatives whose large number and top notches have been killed through drone attacks. But indiscreetly, America opened another front also against Taliban. It is a widely known fact that both these militant outfits were the front line fighters on behalf of America and west against the Soviet Union. But USA later disowned them. The Taliban pleaded for peaceful dialogue on Osama bin Laden but perhaps President George Bush contemptuously spurned that offer. He wanted to defeat them militarily. The Taliban could be goaded and used in similar situations around the world or to become surrogates of the United States in Afghanistan.
Factually Taliban had no role in the 9/11 incident. They also posed no threat to the Christian civilization. They could be harnessed and their militancy or religious zeal and barbarian impulse could be tempered down. In any case their presence as barbarian proponents of fanatic Islam could not hold water even within the normal Islamic creed. But treating them as enemy force, the United States barring initial short term victory, has not been able to subdue them to this day.
Now the rag-tag bands can hold the biggest armies through a war of attrition and because of their abettors and access to superior weapons. So there is no cogent point or compelling logic or even any useful purpose for the American troops to keep on guarding that God forsaken land. All that America ought to do in Afghanistan is to promote a genuine inclusive democracy ensuring sectarian harmony and division of power on merit basis. Or else there can be a secular order that rises above the sectarian schisms and ethnic considerations.
The United States and the western allies cannot wage a war upon the Islamic militants till such time that only the moderate Muslims are left behind. It is unthinkable that all the Muslims can be subdued, annihilated or converted to Christianity. It is manifest that the US and Western militarism and penchant for bellicosity is correspondingly propping up the militancy in the Muslim world. So the best, the only viable and legitimate way-out is to coexist with the Islamic bloc. In due course of time the Muslim societies will have to come out of the strait-jackets of obscurantism, conservatism and orthodoxy and imbibe plausible ingredients of the modern societies.
One of the most outstanding hallmarks of the modern societies is the representative governance and a belief that power belongs to the people. Already such enlightened Islam states are in existence in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Bangladesh and to great extent in Pakistan. With the emergence of such progressive and liberal democratic states, the clash of civilizations can be averted.
The fanatic Islamic factions would be marginalized. Possibly, they could also tone down their extremism and join the mainstream population as normal practicing Muslim faithful. But if the west continues to press them hard and treating them as pariahs, bandits and terrorists they would continue to proliferate and their defiance and antagonism to the west would keep intensifying.
It is high time to initiate a healing process of the Islamic polities that have been severely hurt by the inexorable onslaughts of the western military might for giving ascendancy to the western civilization. But primarily it is not a manifestation of clash of civilizations as enunciated by Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington. It is essentially to ensure unhindered availability of raw material including oil to the West for running their industries. The Middle Eastern cauldron has been boiling and this region has remained in perpetual tension because of the Palestinian dispute.
The denial of legitimate right of the beleaguered Palestinian to an independent state is central to the lack of peace and progress in the Middle East. The western countries and United States should convince their protégé Israel to implement the United Nations Resolution 181 for the creation of a Jewish state, along with an Arab state.So instead of rampaging the Middle East by perpetual warfare and fritter away their money and lose men, the United States and the Western Europe should focus on this most pressing issue and once it is resolved the specter of clash between the civilizations would look farcical and absolute myth.
Keeping in view all the embattled regions where United States and NATO forces are engaged in wars against the Islamic militants and radicals, one would draw the conclusion that it has remained merely a wild goose chase and has not produced any tangible results nor would it be capable of doing so in the future. Yet the silver lining is gradually appearing with the withdrawal the bulk of American troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq. But if behind these withdrawals there is a hidden agenda of attacking Iran then the world can look ahead for an unimaginable catastrophe whose collateral damage and fallout would be disastrous both for Iran and Israel.
Instead, the safest and the only sagacious course to is to initiate dialogue for integrating the civilizations into a bond of peace and mutual understanding and harmonizing them into a lasting fraternal relationship irrespective of their faith, ethnicity or region.
The first step towards that coveted direction should be a dialogue between Islam and the West for mutual coexistence. In this regard, the Arab spring is the right, legitimate and a desirable solution to deflate the religious radicalism and anti-American and anti-west sentiment in the Muslim world.
Let us rid this world of the incessant sufferings, the horrendous pogroms, the devastating wars and bloody conflicts that have kept the humanity divided since the dawn of human civilization. This is the threshold century to bring the humanity on one common platform and convert this planet into a veritable paradise. Humanity can jointly spring technological and scientific miracles to fathom this universe and also to find concrete solutions to diseases and economic woes of the inhabitants of the earth.
The modalities of convening an international conference for deliberating upon such a watershed dialogue can be worked out by mutual consultations between the United States plus West on one side and the leaders, scholars and theologians from the Islamic countries. If such a dialogue fructifies it would be a monumental breakthrough and giant step for the world peace that has remained elusive so far. As the world leader the United States should take lead in this historic mission.