The stereotype of the Muslim Societies in the West for a very long time has been that they were somehow different to the Peoples of the West. They were not open to the Ideas of Liberty & Justice, that the concepts of Democracy were an alien concept to these peoples. They either accepted the rule of One Strong Man or a Theocratic state as that of Iran.
These stereo-types have been proven to be wholly fallacious as the ‘strong men’ that the Western governments have unashamedly been propping up since pre-colonial rule in their interests are finally crumbling and falling. And now it is quite amusing to see Western Governments and Arab/Muslim Analysts being wrong-footed. When Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution succeeded they were caught completely by surprise; not too long before Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fell, the French Foreign Minister was holidaying in Tunisia at the hospitality of this ruthless dictator.
(Ah the good old days!)
Little Tunisia’s loss to the West however, was inconsequential because, it is small, possesses no oil nor is it geo-politically significant. How wrong they were! Tunisia after all is Old Carthage, and just like Hannibal took the Romans by surprise by climbing the Pyrenees so too the suicide of the courageous Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, literally ignited the flames of revolution that has come to fan the whole of the Middle East.
Mohammed’s story encapsulates all that is rotten within societies of this region. All these countries have a very young, educated demographic with high unemployment. Due to nepotism, over-indulgence and heavy-handedness by the few over the masses people are unable to live in dignity or peace.
This young man sold fruit and vegetables in Sidi Bouzid because he could not find a job. His produce was confiscated by the police because he did not possess the necessary permit. In an act of utter desperation he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight and was later to die from his burns.
This so incensed the populace that they finally lost their fear and rose and overthrew their despotic ruler.
This flame slowly spread to Egypt, Algeria, Yemen Libya and Bahrain. The fall of Egypt on 11 February 2011 was a truly momentous day because unlike Tunisia, Egypt is the most populace of the Arab nations and geo-politically extremely important to the West because of the peace treaty with Israel and as a counter-weight to Persian Iran.
I watched the events unfold with great apprehension because it seemed that the flames would be doused out in Egypt by Mubarak and for a moment it appeared as if the intransigent Mubarak would remain in power but mercifully they succeeded without a great loss of life which unfortunately will not be the case in Libya.
However, what was remarkable in the reporting of the events in the media was the constant reference to the specter of the possible rise of extremist Islam first in Tunisia the most secular of Arab nations and of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Media searched and searched for them to raise their heads to the parapet so that they could say, we told you so, if not secular dictatorship then a theocratic state is all that these Arabs/Muslims would choose.
But though they tried hard they eventually had to admit defeat and realize that the revolutions both in Tunisia and Egypt was lead by the whole spectrum of society young and old, who had been pushed and pushed till finally they could stomach it no more! These people’s demands were simple, food, employment and above all the right to: liberty, freedom of expression without fear of being imprisoned and tortured!
Muslims are not an alien species that somehow differ dramatically from the rest of the world. The concepts of Freedom and Liberty are not alien concepts to them. They too hunger for these but for far too long it has been denied to them, simply because it was not in the interests of the West to have strong stable governments in this extremely important energy rich part of the world. A strong and united Middle East, the West perceived and continues to perceive as a threat to its interests and intellectual, political and economic dominance.
By making friendships with tyrants and propping them up for so many decades they alienated the populace of these countries. Is it any wonder that some have become radicalized and fallen prey to the likes of al-Qaeda? For the many Muslims religion is an integral part of their lives but this does not mean they have a desire to be ruled by a Theocracy and to have Sharia Law. Even in Iran, the populace has no desire to be ruled by the Mullahs and that country too will fall to the will of its people soon.
The only reason the Iranian Revolution was hi-jacked by the theocracy in Iran was because the CIA was hell-bent on ensuring the revolution failed, this made the state extremely nervous and led to draconian measures of self-preservation. Had they allowed the Iranian Revolution to simply be, I am sure we would not have had the dictatorial Iran that exists today!
This is a historic opportunity for the West to actively support the democratic aspirations of all the people in this region who have for far too long been oppressed by dictators aided and abetted hypocritically by Western governments who for far too long have denied the rights and freedoms they hold so dear to the peoples of this region.
Muslims do not hate the ‘Christian’ West. The vast majority of Muslims that live in Western countries are not a Fifth Column for the likes of al-Qaeda for the philosophy of al-Qaeda is an anathema to mainstream Islam and is in no way representative to the true tenets of the religion of peace and love.
Given the choice Muslims will choose the same freedoms and liberties that the West holds so dear because they are Universal aspiration of all Humanity and not particular to the Western culture! The West conveniently forgets that it was the Ancient Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great who was the first to inscribe a charter of human rights some 2600 years ago. Also that Shura an Arabic word for "consultation" was the method by which pre-Islamic Arabian tribes selected leaders and made major decisions.
Shura is mentioned the Quran as a praiseworthy activity, and is a word often used in the name of parliaments in Muslim-majority countries. Consultation was at the heart of decision-making in pre-Islamic times and during the time of the Prophet.
It will do well for the West to remember the words of Confucius, who when asked by one of his disciples Tzu-Kung:
“Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?”
“Is not Reciprocity such a word?
What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
And before they go preaching to the rest of the world, to bear in mind that:
Human beings are members of a whole
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain
other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
the name of human you cannot retain
(Sa’di 13th century Persian poet)
Written Above UN Entrance Door
The West must learn to respect the Muslims as Equals and only then will it truly have stability and a lasting Friendship of substance! If not then Iran should be a lesson to all in the West of how things can turn for the worst if it continues to remain selfish
Causes Qasir Shah Supports
Wildlife Survival Sanctuary/ World Wildlife Fund/ National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children