Violence in Middle East

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi
Expert on Indian Subcontinent

For a long time now, the political developments in the Arab world have been derailed from the state of pursuing political demands through democratic means to be replaced with violence as the main choice for meeting those demands. The violence now in vogue in many Arab countries is reminiscent of tribal and ethnic prejudices with which the Arabs have been familiar throughout their history. The main problem with the Arab world is not simply going back to tribal prejudices, but the problem is that this situation has engulfed all the Arab and Islamic countries to varying degrees. The important question here is why Middle Eastern Arabs, in particular, and Muslims, in general, are looking to the past as a means of getting out of their current problems and why the future prospect holds no promises for them while the present situation is also considered intolerable. It would be more realistic to say that the Arab world, in particular, and the Islamic world, in general, is facing problems in their effort to adapt to and assimilate the requisites of the modern world. A return to their glorious past is, in fact, their reaction to the modern world which they find to be incompatible with their faith. Some Muslims also consider the modern processes as part of the mechanism used by the hegemonic powers to establish their control over the entire Islamic world.

Therefore, when they consider everything that they find difficult to adapt to as part of a Western plot, the only way ahead of the Muslims is to go back to their past; an effort which is usually laced with some sort of ideological justification in order to make it seem more legitimate. There are certain realities that further bolster this mentality among Muslim people. For instance, there is no doubt about the reality that the Western world spares no effort to exploit other countries. The modern world with its advanced technology has provided hegemonic and colonialistic powers with more diverse and more effective means of exploiting other countries. Since this global power current is backed by a justifying ideology, the Islamic world has decided to confront that current through what can be best described as a reaction to the liberal democratic ideology of the West. In its effort to do so, the Muslim world, which has experienced frequent bouts of disillusionment with the ideologies which were imported from the East or the West, has turned to Islam as the sole ideology which resists against the West’s thirst for power. Arabs have tested all kinds of common ideologies in the world, especially during the past century, and have failed in all those experiences. The Arab nationalism was proven to be as inefficient as the Arab Socialism. As a result of following such ideologies, the Arab world has been increasingly lagging behind the modern civilization. At any rate, there are serious doubts that a retrospective approach will be able on its own to solve the current problems with which the Arab world is grappling.

In reality, the process of retrospection in the Arab world has come to the fore in two radical and moderate forms. Both these approaches are based on a certain sort of Salafism which emanates from the ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah whose teachings form the bedrock of this ideology. Radical Salafism, which is represented by Al-Qaeda organization and its many affiliates, as well as moderate Salafism, which is represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated parties, both look to the past. The main difference between the two currents is in methods and conduct. One of them goes for brute force and tries to embellish its actions under the guise of Jihad as the main axis of its activities. The other current is more inclined toward a certain form of reformism and believes that even through the existing political mechanism they can take steps to give an Islamic quality to power structure in the Arab states. The developments that have so far taken place in Egypt and what is going on in Syria clearly depict an ideological faceoff between these two different interpretations of Islamization of the power structure. Although the power structure which existed in Egypt under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood is different from the power structure in Syria under the rule of the Baath Party, when it comes to ideological encounters, there is not much difference between radical and reformist Islamist forces.

In the meantime, to any extent that ruling powers and conservative forces show resistance in the face of peaceful developments, the more they will pave the way for further radicalization of the Islamist forces and more growth of Al-Qaeda ideas. As a result, the moderate front, which has been represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, will have to backtrack. The moderate forces may even have to give in to the superiority of the radical thought of Al-Qaeda, though with reluctance. Otherwise they will risk losing their social basis altogether. Egypt and Syria are the most objective examples of such a development within the Islamist front. In Egypt, the overthrow of the country’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi, through a coup d’état staged by the country’s military has pushed the usually peaceful Muslim Brotherhood toward violent confrontation with the army that is backing the coup. Such violent approach was not seriously supported by the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood before the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi. This is exactly the same course of events that had been predicted by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda. He had advised the members of Al-Qaeda to get ready for the day when the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood will hit a brick wall in all Arab countries. That prediction has already come true in Egypt and Syria. As a result, the moderate figures are now in a position where they have to choose between two existing options: either to become passive and stop their activities and kiss the power goodbye, or to adopt the Al-Qaeda way of thinking and become a follower of that organization. Both options are accompanied with serious risks, but these are options which have been forced upon them by the ruling powers and against which there is no third option to be chosen.

Despite the above facts, nobody has any doubt that the recourse by Arabs to military solutions and holding up the ideas of Al-Qaeda will not lead to a solution for the existing problems, but will only stir civil war inside the Arab countries. Such thinking is actually able to destroy the existing power structures, or at least, to prevent them from becoming fully established. However, since a certain kind of ethnic prejudice based on ideological grounds is inherent to this way of thinking, it is not able to come up with a suitable substitute once the ruling power is brought down. The inevitable result of such state of affairs will be nothing but more chaos, breaking down of power structure, and emergence of local sources of incoherent power which will be at odds with one another. The final outcome is a civil war which will not only be protracted, but will have an ethnic, religious and sectarian quality. What the Arab world is currently witnessing from Syria to Somalia is a kind of chaos in power structure which is devoid of planning and foresightedness. As a result, it has led to terrible waste of political, economic, and cultural capacities as well as the main assets of these countries and will most probably maintain its capacity for “destroying everything and building nothing,” for many long years to come.

In view of these realities, one may daresay that the ongoing unrest in the Arab world has not only failed to provide these countries with a solution to their problems and attune the Arab world with the contemporary modern world, but has also stripped them of the small amount of capacities that existed in these countries. It makes no difference what role is played by every involved party, including the ruling forces, moderate Islamist groups and radical Islamist forces, in the destruction of these countries. It is clear that none of these parties is ready to own up to its role in destruction of their countries and every one of them blames other parties for everything. However, what difference does it make to people who have lost their lives or have been forced to live in makeshift camps under humiliating conditions that which party is playing a more prominent part in the destruction of their country and nation? At present, blind and unrestrained violence is raging through the Arab world. Even those few countries which are delusional enough to think that they will remain immune to such destructive changes will sooner or later find themselves eye to eye with bitter realities and will probably experience different forms of violence. The best way to prevent further damage to and destruction of all the national assets of the Arab countries is timely and correct understanding of all the existing realities. It would be in favor of all parties, even the incumbent rulers of these countries, to concede to peaceful changes in power structure because if developments take a violent turn, all parties will be losers with the incumbent rulers being the first party to lose everything. Arabs will get nowhere through violence, both in its state-sponsored or non-state forms. Neither in politics, nor in economic or even cultural affairs, would violence be able to offer a solution to the existing problems. A peaceful and reform-minded solution sought through the ballot boxes will be the best way out of the current situation of escalating violence that is plaguing the Arab world right now. A mentality which believes that any form of reconciliation with other parties will pave the way for the promotion of infidelity, will not be able to offer solutions for the existing problems with which the Arab masses are grappling.

Key Words: Violence, Middle East, Arab world, Muslims, Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Mollazehi

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*Photo Credit: Startribune

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