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     10 Years of Islamic Politics in a Fast Changing World


Below is the editorial by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher in issue 28 (Spring/Summer 1999) on the topic of:

10 Years of Islamic Politics in a Fast Changing World

When the Islamic Party of Britain was first announced in the autumn of 1989, it was the result of idealism on behalf of its founding members who, whilst not under the illusion that they could single-handedly change the whole world, nonetheless believed they could have a decisive impact upon the political discussion within the British Isles. We knew all along that we were going to walk a tight rope between raising the political awareness of British Muslims whilst trying to compel the non-Muslim majority to take Muslims and Islamic alternatives seriously. The first by-election in Bradford we participated in taught us that we expected too much too soon. It was encouraging to have received some votes from entirely non-Muslim areas, but disheartening to have been let down so badly by the Muslim majority whose leaders had told them to support Labour blindly, thus electing the first ever Mormon to Westminster. Many Muslims have since been disappointed with the Labour party, whilst others still try to get crumbs from under the master's table, but the challenge we posed to the political establishment in those days cannot be repeated again.

Within that decade, the political scene has changed forever. Political debate has given way to slick advertisement campaigns, and electoral success is no longer dependent on issues or even personalities. The mass media's capability to brainwash large masses of people in short spans of time has proven itself beyond belief. Although we led many Muslim organisations out of the world of cultural bickering into facing the realities of everyday life in Britain, we have descended from a sudden challenge to the UK establishment to being a mere dissenting voice.

The Islamic Party of Britain was founded shortly after the furore over Salman Rushdie's book "Satanic Verses". Muslims at the time thought the insult to Islam outrageous, yet did not know how to respond adequately. Our own response, our party leader's book "Satanic Voices", pointing at the powers behind the scenes who stood to benefit from the affair, never enjoyed the same "freedom of speech" as the controversial novel. But nothing prepared the Muslims of the West for the all-out attack by their host countries against their Iraqi brethren during the Gulf War. This war was fought partly to "kick the Vietnam war syndrome", and partly to replace the waning communist empire with a new enemy. As Dan Hallock puts it aptly in his new anti-war book "Bloody Hell", published by The Plough Publishing House: 

"On the surface, it seemed to be about oil and the urgent need to stop a brutal dictator. But there was more: a kind of panic had set in at the collapse of the Soviet Union and the abrupt end of the Cold War. No one denied that the last serious threat to American national security had been removed, but the military budget was still enormous, and the defense industry seriously bloated. To begin to dismantle it all would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs… Bush's war worked. The punishing air strikes against Iraq brought about an immediate surge in Bush's popularity, and the defense industry was satisfied. A cheering crowd of executives at the opening of the Fifth Annual Defense Contracting Workshop chorused, 'Thank you, Saddam Hussein!'"

The gulf war was reported by a well-managed media as a highly sanitised war, more akin to a computer game. Officially there were no civilian casualties, and the smart bombs always hit their targets. We have since, in the air strikes on Kosovo learnt that those bombs aren't all that smart, and it is hardly believable that they were any better back then. But the problem of Vietnam was, that the truth about the war was reported before the war was over, and an opposition to the war developed. Modern warfare takes care of that. Information will only filter through well after the event and whilst public attention is already grapped by another show. Dan Hallock's book contains vivid recollections of the reality of war from both sides of the battle line, covering the major wars of our age from the First World War onwards. About the gulf war we read from the mouth of an allied soldier: 

"It was like a boxing match in which you blindfold your opponent first and then tie his hands behind his back and then turn out the lights." 

A veteran of the Iraqi army who took part in an uprising against his country's leadership says: 

"But then, when we made the uprising, the Americans let the government crush us. We were between two powers. The Americans said, 'We support you', and nothing happened. All they did was support the government for no reason. They said they were enemies, but they looked very friendly in that time. They allowed our government to use helicopters, against the United Nations law, to crush the uprising. They said, 'Now only helicopters can fly inside Iraq.' They played games on the people…", and he ponders with bitterness: "I think the United States doesn't agree with Saddam Hussein, but they want to keep him in power because if the situation changed in Iraq, they would lose their influence… Iraq lost everything after the war. Saddam Hussein signed a blank check to give them everything they wanted, so why would they want to replace him? … Who lost his money, the Iraqi people or Saddam Hussein? Who lost his food? People or Saddam Hussein? Saddam gets food from Italy and Britain, the best furniture, the best things in the world. His wife is the richest woman in the world. They didn't lose anything." 

The book "Bloody Hell" does not dodge the issues, and the author is to be commended for giving a voice to the conscience of humanity. Simon Weston writes in the foreword: 

"And it's the civilians who become the real innocent casualties of war. But the people who actually wage war are so far behind the lines that they don't even get a smell of cordite, let alone hear the shells explode… The only winners are the financial houses, the arms industry, and the politicians who've used the system and current affairs to aid and abet their desire for power", 

and the author puts it thus: 

"War was good business, but it was bloody, too, and the full extent of its bloodiness had to be kept from the public view if economies were to continue to thrive." 

At the end of the book a soldier concludes that:

"war is not the beginning of evil in our society; it's the result of evil", and Wendell Berry is quotes as saying that the Gulf war "was said to be 'about peace'. So have they all been said to be… But peace is not the result of war, any more than love is the result of hate or generosity the result of greed."

The book is impressive, because it is honest, something rare in this new world order where ministers no longer resign because of scandals. Right at the beginning it sets the scene: 

"A true war story is never moral… There is no virtue… You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you." 

A combatant in the Argentine war is truly embarrassed when he admits:

"My own hypocrisy disturbs me, for I know that as long as the majority of us continue to act out the plays that have been written for us by the politicians, their priests and the men of this world who control the money, then we shall never be able to put an end to the horrors of war." 

There are other, similar voices: 

"How can it be that a nation has a hundreds of billions of dollars to spend destroying human beings, and yet not nearly enough to heal them, and what values were we defending in Europe, Asia, and the Gulf if we have money to send children to war, but none to heal men?"

"One-fifth of those killed in World War I were civilians; in World War II, this figure rose to one-half. In the wars of the past few decades, it has been ninety percent. The modern economic sanction is perhaps even more cruel; it is a form of warfare in which one hundred percent of the casualties are civilian", says Hallock. 

His book is a sobering read. So what are we to make of the helping hand America stretched out to assist the Kosovans? This conflict is too new to be included in Hallock's collection, but one of the contributors offers an answer nonetheless: 

"I knew that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population and yet consumes anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of its resources. And to live like that you have to steal resources from around the world. We are imperialistic because we insist on living at a certain level of consumption, a level that is impossible to support unless we steal, collectively." 

Kosovo is rich in minerals. It has been suggested that the war was more about America taking back from Russia what had been given to Russia in the settlement after World War II. This might explain why Russia was so keen, in the aftermath of the war, to be playing an active part in the policing of the "peace", and why America insisted that Russian troops should not be given their own territory. Then the Balkan war established America's perceived right to act unilaterally without UN approval in policing the world, and it appeased many Muslims estranged by the carnage of the Gulf War. Finally, it was an excuse of dumping outdated weapon stock, so that its replacement at public expense can be justified. Rearmament is in full swing in preparation of the next war. Meanwhile contractors from the rich countries of the world have descended upon Kosovo like the flies or the crows upon a carcass to divide the spoils and tender for rebuilding opportunities.

With such large-scale corruption, there is little room for idealism. People have learnt to accept new realities in silence. Protests are isolated and rare due to an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. It is refreshing, therefore, to encounter voices who are not afraid to speak out, even though they will not effect a dramatic change over night. There are still those, who have not been numbed by the constant propaganda, and as long as those voices are out there, as long as the truth is still spoken, it might reach someone willing to listen. This is enough reason for us to continue.

Author: Sahib Mustaqim Bleher
Date Published: Spring 1999

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