Abbas to U.S.: Go fly a kite!

The Independent echoed the common Western views of  Salam Fayyad’s resignation. The Palestinian prime minister’s exit had “thro[wn] into doubt the future of the Palestinian Authority and the peace process with Israel,” observed the liberal British newspaper.

Has Fayyad’s parting really caused  – or rather reflected – the crisis facing the Palestinian government and the futility of its peace overtures o Israel?

A former International Monetary Fund economist, Fayyad had never got involved in the Palestinian movement or become a member of Fatah, the ruling faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 2007 Mahmoud Abbas, the P.A. president, brought him into his administration at the behest of Washington, which has kept his government afloat with considerable financial assistance.  With American support behind him, Fayyad had been throwing his weight around, occasionally in disregard to Abbas’s agenda or wishes. Abbas and the  Fatah old guard had been tolerating his hubris to keep Western aid flowing in and hoping for U.S. support in their quest for statehood.

Things have since changed dramatically.  The peace process, which was meant to create a Palestinian state, is practically dead. President Obama apparently drove the last nail into its coffin during his recent visit to Israel. He abandoned his demand of Israel to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and all but identified with Israel’s positions in its disputes with the Palestinians. Nobody thinks much of Secretary of State John Kerry’s noise about reviving the peace process.

The P.A. was created tin 1994, following up on the Oslo Accords, to establish a Palestinian state through peaceful negotiations with the Israelis. Its utter failure to make progress toward statehood or stop the proliferation of Jewish settlements in  the West Bank has made it almost irrelevant to the Palestinian cause.

On top of it, the P.A. faces a serious financial crisis, about which America and the West have been indifferent. Unemployment in the West Bank has risen to 25 percent and real GDP growth is projected to fall from 11 percent to 5 percent. The simmering feuds between Abbas and Fayyad burst out last month when the prime minister forced Nabil Qassis, an Abbas protege, to quit his finance minister post. An infuriated Abbas overruled Fayyad’s decision, precipitating the premier’s resignation.  I’m told that Kerry and European diplomats were shocked by the Palestinian president’s defiance of their pressure to keep Fayyad aboard his government.

Abbas knew, of course, that America and the West could retaliate by cutting off economic aid, which could cause the collapse of the PA.

Why, then, did he do it?

Palestinian sources had been telling me for some time that Abbas and some other PA leaders were increasingly feeling the sting of accusations that they had been hanging on to power as American “puppets” who had outlived their usefulness for Palestinians.  The PA lost its legal legitimacy three years ago when its term of office as an elected government expired.  The Abbas government has thrice put off presidential and parliamentary elections since they were first scheduled July 17, 2010. The P.A. had disagreements with the Islamist Hamas movement over the electoral process, but it also fears losing the vote to Hamas, which soundly defeated Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Hamas’s popularity among the Palestinians has grown dramatically since last year’s Gaza war, in which it faced down the Israeli military behemoth. The Fatah can’t expect to regain its preeminence as a Palestinian independence movement without making tangible progress toward Palestinian statehood. Only American pressure on Israel, unlikely as it seems, can yield such progress.

By defying Washington’s pressure to keep its man on as prime minister, Abbas is in effect telling  telling America: “Here I stand, I can do no other,” a la Martin Luther.

◆ Mustafa Malik, an international affairs commentator in Washington, hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.

Chuck Hagel: Oil did spark Iraq war

AS CHUCK HAGEL is about to be nominated for the defense secretary post,  neocons and the Israel lobby have got their knives out. These henchmen of the Israeli right-wing masterminded the disastrous Iraq war. Most of us knew the war’s twofold goals: To take out Saddam Hussein because he was Israel’s fiercest and strongest Arab enemy; and to secure Iraq’s oil reserve – the fourth-largest in the world – for the West.

Most American politicians and media outlets, scared of the Israel lobby, kept their mouths shut about it.  Among those who spoke out about the motives behind the Iraq invasion was then Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

Now The Lobby sees Hagel’s nomination hearing its payback time. Kristol and other right-wingers  have waged a vicious and baseless propaganda war to derail his nomination. The issue on which they’re raising hell the most is Hagel’s remark that the United States was “fighting for oil” in Iraq.  The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, a vacuous but high-profile neocon, blasted the former Nebraska senator’s remark as “vulgar and disgusting” and predicted that it “could be the straw that breaks the back of Hagel’s chances” to become the next U.S. defense secretary.

It turns out that it wasn’t just Bush administration critics who cited oil, along with Israel, as the main cause of the I2003 Iraq invasion, heavyweights within the Bush administration and its other supporters were saying it aloud, too. In a letter to Kristol, Michael Moore has reminded him of some of their comments:

“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, writes in his memoir.

“Of course we should go to war for oil. It’s like saying, you’re going to war just for oxygen, just for food. We need oil. That’s a good reason to go to war,”  Ann Coulter, right-wing columnist.

“Of course it’s about oil, it’s very much about oil, and we can’t really deny that,”  Gen. John Abizaid, former  CENTCOM commander.

Here’s a link to Moore’s letter:

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/my-friendly-offer-bill-kristol

 

 

Back to old Palestine?

Political columnist Pat Buchanan once described Capitol Hill as the third “Israeli-occupied territory” after the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Those days the White House frequently resisted Israeli pressure to support its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, while Congress routinely supported the Israeli stance.

Thursday, the Obama administration voted against the U.N. resolution that recognized the two Palestinian territories as a “state,” which has yet to become a full member of the world body. The U.S. vote was a high watermark in the current and last administrations’ support of  Israeli colonial policies. Meanwhile, Israel has pulled out of Gaza.  Buchanan could now argue that the White House has replaced Gaza as the third Israeli-occupied territory!

Israel has retaliated against the U.N. recognition of the Palestinian state by announcing the revival of a 3,000-home Jewish settlement project in a territory adjacent to Jerusalem, known as E1.  The project would cut through the West Bank, making the creation of a viable state impossible,. Hence it had been suspended in 2009 under intense international pressure.

So  what could come of the 138-9 U.N. vote recognizing the Palestinian state? Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president,  had told cheering General Assembly delegates that their  landmark resolution would “save the two-state solution and  salvage peace,” which he vowed to pursue through “negotiations” with the Israelis.

I wish I am wrong, but I see his vow to achieve negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians a pipe dream.  It’s  19 years since the Oslo Peace Accords launched the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. During those on-again, off-again talks, successive Israeli governments — both right-wing and centrist — have made abundantly clear that their maximum concessions would fall far short of Palestinians’ minimum demands.  Those demands include the creation of a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem and return of thousands of Palestinian refugees to their homes and lands in Israel from where they were expelled by Jews in 1948.

The Oslo Accords created the Palestinian Authority and assigned it the task of freezing the Palestinian struggle that could threaten Israel’s security.  While the PA kept a lid on anti-Israeli protests and violence in the West Bank, Israel went on gobbling up  large swaths of the Palestinian lands through the creation of new Jewish settlements. Together with the E1 project, these settlements are meant to be “facts on the ground” that would leave no room for a workable Palestinian state.

On the Palestinian and Arab side, swirling democracy movements have created another set of facts on the ground, which  has further diminished the prospect of a “two-state solution,” meaning the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.  Democracy has cost Israel the two biggest pillars of its regional security system: Egypt and Turkey. For decades pro-Western secularist regimes in both these states maintained extensive security and commercial ties with Israel, defying their citizens’ overwhelming support for Palestinians and their nationalist cause. In both countries now, democratically elected Muslim governments are strongly opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and suppression of Palestinians. During the recent Gaza conflict, the intervention of the Egyptian and Turkish governments, along with those of Tunisia and Qatar, prevented Israel from launching a land invasion of Gaza, which would have defeated Gaza’s Islamist Hamas regime.

So what lies ahead for the Palestinians and Israelis?  The Gaza war has shown that Palestinian missiles can now rain on just about all parts of Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Imagine Israel’s national nightmare when Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Hezbollah will be able to equip those missiles with GPS and target them to Israel’s population centers and vital economic and industrial facilities. More significantly, while Israel’s  E1  project is putting the last stitch on the coffin of the two-state solution, the old Palestine — comprising Israel, the West Bank and Gaza — is becoming a de facto bi-national state with a Palestinian majority. In such a state Jews can rule only by disenfranchising the majority Palestinians. Would the 21st century, especially the resurgent Arab Muslim world, live with apartheid in the Holy Land? If not,  will most Jews reconcile with living under Palestinian domination?

Mustafa Malik, an international affairs columnist in Washington, hosts the blog site ‘Islam and the West.’

Obama, Romney clueless about Islam

That was a shocker. On Monday, Mitt Romney launched a blistering, if empty,  assault on President Obama’s allegedly “passive”  policy toward Muslim extremists and terrorists. The Republican presidential nominee accused the president of not being able to tackle “violent extremists,” some of whom stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Obama “passive” about extremists and terrorists? Actually,  the president’s highly charged campaign against violent and many non-violent Muslim militants has been applauded more by jingoist Republicans than progressive Democrats. As I will argue, his — and Republicans’ — single-minded focus on extremists has left broad modernizing and  democratizing Islamist movements in their blind spot.

Obama has eaten his 2008 campaign pledge and kept Gitmo open. He has continued the Bush-era Patriot Act, military tribunals, indefinite detentions and extraordinary renditions. And he has intensified and vastly expanded the drone war, killing hundreds of innocent children, women and men, while targeting terror suspects.

In reality, Muslim extremism has been declining steadily, which so far has eluded U.S. politicians and media. The Arab Spring is a glaring example.  In the Middle East and North Africa, mainstream Islamists and other groups waged their democratic struggles peacefully. There were few anti-American slogans or burning of the American flag, even though America had long been supporting most of the repressive autocratic regimes they were tying to overthrow. Whatever violence has occurred between Arab protesters and their autocratic regimes was triggered by violent government crackdowns. Anti-American violence is being committed, as in the Benghazi case, mostly by fringe groups such as Al Qaeda, which have long been at odds with the U.S. Middle East policy.

The Islamist mainstreams’  transition to democracy has been facilitated by their growing popularity among the public, enabling them to pursue their agenda through the electoral process.  During reporting trips in the Middle East and South Asia in the early 1970s, I found most Islamists espousing armed jihad against their secular autocratic regimes and foreign hegemons. Among them Matiur Rahman Nizami, the current head of the Bangladesh Jamaat-i-Islami party. In 1971 he and his Islamist party plunged into an armed struggle against the Bangladesh independence movement, fearing the secular nationalists would secularize Bangladeshi society and outlaw Islamist politics there.

Four years ago I dropped in to see Nizami, then the industries minister of a democratically elected Bangladeshi government, at his office in Dhaka, the country’s capital. I couldn’t believe my ears when he asserted that “democracy is the only way to serve Islam and Bangladesh.” His party had come to power (along with a secular party) through a peaceful democratic election.  I have heard similar comments from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pakistan’s Jamaat-i-Islami ideologue Khurshid Ahmed and other Islamist or Islam-oriented leaders and activists.

The spread of Islamism through modern democracy has turned the old Western theory of modernization and secularization on its head.  That theory said education, economic development and public participation in politics would, according to modernization theorist Daniel Lerner, lead to the “secular evolution of a participant society.”  He added that “Islam is helpless” to resist the secularist tide. On the contrary, today’s modernizing Muslim societies are using the democratic process to Islamize.

Egypt’s dictatorships had persecuted the Muslim Brotherhood and banned it from politics for decades. Democracy has catapulted that Islamist organization to power, alongside a vibrant modernization process. Since 1980, Egypt’s national literacy rate has doubled to 71 percent. Especially encouraging is the literacy rate among young women aged 15-24, which is 82%, as UNICEF data show.

Democracy, too, has replaced Tunisia’s secular autocracy with the Islamist Ennahda  party government. During the last three decades Tunisia’s literacy rate also has nearly doubled to 77 percent, with that of women 15-24 an enviable 96%.

As impressive is the pace of democratization and modernization in Turkey, which has replaced a military-dominated secularist regime with the democratic government of the Islam-oriented Justice and Development Party. Turkey’s literacy rate has jumped from 65% in 1980 to 94% this year, including 97% among women in the 15-24 age group.

Westerners who are rightly concerned about the backwardness of Muslim women mostly overlook today’s progressive and liberating trends. Large numbers of the young, educated Muslim women practice their faith and support Islamist movements.

Education and new winds of freedom have inspired Muslims with a deepening sense of self-worth and empowerment. They had been languishing under domestic autocratic suppression and foreign colonial subjugation for centuries.  The awareness of self-worth has heightened their fervor and pride for their own religious and cultural heritage, which translate into pro-Islamist votes in the polling booths.

The United States should appreciate Islamism’s role in Muslim empowerment and the democratization of Muslim societies. It  should broaden its mutually productive relations with Islamist governments. That would help neutralize Islamism’s extremist fringe, which has been feeding on the West’s hostility or disengagement with Islamist movements for freedom, dignity and democracy.

  • Mustafa Malik is an international affairs commentator in Washington. He host the blog, Islam and the West: http://islam-and-west.com

 

 

 

Bibi Obama’s moral test

By Mustafa Malik

The other day Robert Malley said at a Capitol Hill seminar that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was “more likely” now than ever before. Malley is a widely respected Middle East expert with the International Crisis Group, and he gave two reasons for his concern.

One, he said Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want to be remembered as the Israeli prime minister under whose watch Iran might have acquired nuclear weapons capability. Secondly, President Obama, running for reelection, wouldn’t oppose his bombing Iran. Listening to Malley, I remembered Ken Adelman, who had served as President Reagan’s arms control director.  In a 2002 op-ed in the Washington Post, Adelman predicted that occupation of Iraq would be a “cakewalk.” An armed conflict with Iran would indeed make the Iraq disaster look like a cakewalk.

Because Israel isn’t expected to attack Iran without American approval or acquiescence, Iran will almost certainly unleash its Shahab, Zelzal and IRSL missiles against both Israeli and American targets.  That could be the beginning of the end of U.S. hegemony in west Asia.

An Israeli or American bombing campaign would doubtless pulverize the infra-structure and economy of Iran, which already is under severe U.S.-sponsored sanctions. Iranians are enigmatically proud, however, of their 6,000-year-old civilization and glorious heritage. Despite their internal political divides, they can unite as an indomitable force against foreign aggression, as Iraqi invaders learned in the 1980s.

In Shia Islamic Iran, sacrifice and martyrdom are core social values. The Iranians can bounce back from Israeli-U.S. air assaults, as they did after their catastrophic war with Iraq. The Islamic Republic and myriad Muslim militant groups would strike hard and relentlessly at American forces and bases throughout the region.

Tehran would shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which flows the West’s oil lifeline. U.S. counter-attacks wouldn’t ensure the safety of oil tankers in the channel. The closing of the Strait would send oil prices soaring, sending shivers through the wobbly Western economies.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has planned its second naval exercises in the Persian Gulf to begin January 27. The drills are preparations for the Strait closing in case of war.  Iran and anti-American militant groups would persevere in such a war for as long as it takes. As seen in Iraq and Afghanistan – which are much weaker than Iran — Americans wouldn’t be able to hold out very long in such as conflict, especially when suffering war fatigue and a “deep recession.”  In the end, American bases, troops and economic interests wouldn’t be safe in that region.

A high-stakes U.S.-Israeli air campaign against Iran would be asinine, to begin with. All studies, including American and Israeli ones, have concluded that an air campaign against Tehran’s dispersed, and partly deep underground, nuclear program could only stall it for two or three years. It can’t stop the program.   By the way, the Iranian government rejects the Israeli-American accusation that it plans to develop nuclear bombs, insisting that its uranium enrichment program is meant to supply electricity. And the operations remain within the parameters of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Would the American president be willing to risk America’s vital interests in the Middle East by letting Bibi Netanyahu loose on Iran? Or would he risk alienating the pro-Israel vote in November by reining the Israeli leader in?

That would be an acid test of Obama’s backbone and moral fiber.

♦ Mustafa Malik, an international affairs columnist in Washington, hosts the blog Beyond Freedom.

Also on this topic:

  • “Israel is pushing U.S. toward Iran war, Russian official says,” Haaretz, January 12, 2012. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-is-pushing-u-s-toward-iran-war-russian-official-says-1.406963
  • “2012: The year that could bring U.S. strike on Iran,”  Haaretz, December 29, 2012. http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/the-arms-race/2012-the-year-that-could-bring-a-u-s-strike-of-iran-1.404390
  • “Whose war is it now?”,  Boston Globe, December 23, 2004. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/12/23/whose_war_is_it_now/

 

Taliban fight for freedom, justice

By Mustafa Malik

SYLHET,  Bangladesh — Aunt Salima Khatun, my mother’s sister, barged in to see me here in the Bangladeshi town of Sylhet.  I spend part of my Bangladesh vacations in Sylhet, known for its tea gardens, cane furniture and the shrine of the famed Muslim saint Hazrat Shah Jalal.

Behind Aunt Salima was her grandson, a college student, carrying a big bowl. It had several dozen homemade sweets, wrapped in banana leaves under plastic covering.  They were made of flour, meshed with the delicious juice of a local fruit known as “tal” and other ingredients, before being rolled into round cakes and cooked.

“When you were a little boy, you loved ‘tal sandesh’ (tal sweets),” said my aunt, 81. “See if you like them.”

As the conversation progressed, she asked if I could bring the student over to the United States for further education.  He had been “pulling out my hair,” meaning badgering her, to make me the request, she added.  I apologized for my inability to help him get a U.S. visa.

The young man was, however, a member of an Islamic student group, which campaigns against U.S. and Israeli occupation of Muslim lands.  Why was President Obama “so viciously opposed” to Palestinians’ U.N. membership? he asked.  He was elated, however, that Muslim guerrillas were “throwing out the [Western] invaders” from Iraq and Afghanistan. Would Americans “dare to occupy a Muslim country again?”

His admiration for anti-American guerrillas is widely shared by most Muslims in South Asia, as I have learned during trips through the region.  Noor  M.  Khan, a family friend in the northeast Indian town of Haflong, told me during a visit there last year that “our mujahedeen [Islamic guerrillas] are our only hope against American imperialism.”  The Afghan mujahedeen drove back Russian invaders from Afghanistan in the 1980s, he continued.  Now thanks to the Taliban, American occupation forces would be fleeing Afghanistan, “peeing in their pants.”

Many South Asian Muslims, as many Muslims elsewhere, usually get to like Americans with whom they come in contact.   Many try to migrate to the United States for a better life.  If young, some of aspire to have an American education, as my aunt’s grandson does. Yet the same Muslims would be denouncing Americans vehemently for America’s “war on Islam.”

It’s a déjà vu of the last decades (1910s-1940s) of British colonial rule in what was then “British India.”  Those days many Indians had British friends. Many were educated in British schools or British-style secular schools in India.  Yet some of them joined the struggle to liberate their country from British colonialism.  British-sponsored education had taught them Western concepts of liberty and freedom and inspired them into anti-colonial struggle.

Justice is Islam’s core principle.  Muslims, secular or religious,  innately resist foreign hegemony because they consider it fundamentally unjust. Today most of the leaders and many activists of Muslim movements against U.S. invasions and domination  zest for freedom among Muslims, firing them up against American hegemony.  In earlier times, onset of modernity  stoked their struggles for freedom against European colonialism..

Modernity, it seems, has become the West’s Frankenstein’s monster!

But many of South Asia’s anti-American Muslim guerrillas are educated in madrassahs, or Islamic schools. They’re inspired by their innate antipathy for foreign military presence — which they share with many secularist activists — and pride in Islamic civilization, which madrassahs have inculcated in them.  In October 2007 a madrassah-educated Taliban supporter in Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal agency town of Ghalanai (whose name I promised not to publish) said to me that Muslims had built “the glorious Spanish civilization and taught Europeans the sciences and philosophy for more than 700 years.”  How many years, he asked, could “American Crusaders” stick around in Afghanistan?

The Taliban and other Pakistani and Afghan militants with only a madrassah education are also fighting for freedom from foreign occupation and domination.  Most of them just don’t know that freedom is a core American value that Americans once fought wrest from British colonialists.

Muslims youths are struggling to snatch that American ideal from the jaws of the American hegemon, which they consider unjust.

● Mustafa Malik is the host of the blog site Beyond Freedom.

Muslim democracies confuse US

(Published in the Daily Star, Lebanon, September  14, 2011; Dawn, Pakistan, September 13, 2011)

By Mustafa Malik

POLASHPUR, Bangladesh – Since September 11, 2001, I visited my mother four other times here in the village of Polashpur in northeastern Bangladesh. She is 92 and lives in my ancestral home, surrounded by three fish ponds and shaded by sprawling mango and jackfruit trees. Bangladeshis are nearly 90% Muslim, and on each of those four trips, neighbors peppered me with critical questions about America. Could the United States hold on to its occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq? Why did Americans hate Islam? How badly were American Muslims being treated by them?

This time, though, their America-bashing has been less intense. One of them, alluding to Egyptian protesters’ attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, wanted to know if the United States could still help preserve the “Israeli domination” over Arabs. When would  U.S. troops would be leaving Afghanistan?  asked another.  Is the United States or China is “the stronger country now”? inquired yet another.

Some of these inquires and comments echoed sentiments I had recently encountered in the Middle East. On Aug. 21, Salim Kanoo, a schoolteacher in  Manama, Bahrain, said to me that the Arab democratic movements would eventually target “U.S. bases and troops” near that city and in other Persian Gulf countries. Could America handle Arab democracy, which might bring anti-American forces to power? he asked.

America’s impending retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq, serious economic downturn and the Arab Spring have convinced many Muslims that the Muslim world is wiggling out of American hegemony.  I can see, too, that war fatigue has set in much of America. Asked recently why Britain and France, rather than the United States, were leading the war effort in Libya, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said, “The fact is, we cannot afford more wars.”

The lesson of Vietnam, dismissed by neoconservative and other hawks, has begun to sink in among Americans. Vietnam’s main lesson, former defense secretary Robert McNamara said in 1995, was that “we failed to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting highly motivated people’s movements.”

Contemporary Muslim “people’s movements” have been fueled mainly by modernization and the strengthened bond of the global Muslim community, the umma. Twenty-five years ago few people in Polashpur would have wanted to discuss foreign invasion of a far-away Muslim country.  The countryside village had then no electricity, no telephones, no newspaper readers, one college graduate and one or two radio sets.  Today my home and a host of others are electrified.  Just about every family has one or more mobile phones. College graduates and students abound. So do radio sets and news consumers, many of whom flock to the nearby Ratanganj bazaar to read newspapers.  Dozens of Polashpuris live and work in towns and cities in Bangladesh and abroad.

The heightened awareness of the world and of the spread of the ideas of the rights and democracy have plunged a number of Muslim societies into struggles for freedom – against domestic tyranny on the one hand  and  foreign occupation and hegemony on the other.  The Arab Spring belongs to the former category of struggle. The struggle against the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq belong to the other.

The Information Age has helped bring Muslims everywhere in wider and closer mutual interaction, bolstering their umma bond.  A Pew Research Center survey found last year that Muslims in most countries consider themselves Muslims first and citizens of their countries secondarily.  A research project I conducted in the late 1990s revealed that a key source of Muslims’ deepened affinity with  their global community is their disenchantment with post-colonial-era nation-states and state institutions.  Most of today’s Muslim states were carved out often capriciously by European colonial powers. These states are run through legal systems that are often alien to local social norms by badly corrupt and uncaring bureaucracies and governments. No wonder citizens of these states feel stronger pull of their faith and global community than of the corrupt institutions of their artificial states.

So when the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan or waged its anti-terror campaign killing, maiming and harassing Muslims, anti-American sentiments ratcheted up around the Muslim world, including in Polashpur, as I had observed during my earlier visits.

The impotence of the American military power – shown in the “war on terror” and in Iraq and Afghanistan —  has helped rejuvenate Muslim movements against U.S. and Israeli hegemony as much as domestic political repression. Muslim societies that are evolving from the two-pronged struggle  are likely to go through a period of turmoil, which accompanied the democratization process in almost every Western country.  Eventually, they are expected to settle down as stable democracies. Muslim democracies would, however, be underpinned by Islamic social and cultural values, as we see in Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan.   Egypt, Libya, Yemen and most of the other Muslim societies struggling to democratize are expected follow the same path. In fact the new Libyan leader, Abdul Jalil, has announced that “Shari’a [Islamic law] will be the mail source of law” in a democratic Libya.

Post-9/11 United States, where paranoia about “political Islam” has stalked large swaths of society and much of the foreign policy establishment, would be facing the challenge of  handling democracies with Islam spanning much of the public sphere.  But America has been a pragmatic society.  Americans appear to have begun to take stock of  the futility of their  campaign to defeat “terror” and stem the tide of Islamic politics. Eventually, they are likely to appreciate the need to do business with resurgent Islam. As I told the Bahraini schoolteacher, Americans will come around to adapting to Muslim democracies as they did to the Communist Soviet Union and China.

• Mustafa Malik is an international affairs columnist in Washington and host of the blog site Islam and the West: http://islam-and-west.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POLASHPUR, Bangladesh – After 9/11 I had visited my mother four other times here in the village of Polashpur in northeastern Bangladesh. She is 92 and lives in my ancestral home, surrounded by three fish ponds and shaded by sprawling mango and jackfruit trees. Bangladeshis are nearly 90% Muslim, and on each of those four trips, neighbors peppered me with critical questions about America. Could the United States hold on to its occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq? Why did Americans hate Islam? How badly were American Muslims being treated by them?

 

This time, though, their America-bashing has been less intense. One of them, alluding to Egyptian protesters’ attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, wanted to know if the United States could still help preserve the “Israeli domination” over Arabs. When would  U.S. troops would be leaving Afghanistan?  asked another.  Is the United States or China is “the stronger country now”? inquired yet another.

 

Some of these inquires and comments echoed sentiments I had recently encountered in the Middle East. On Aug. 21, Salim Kanoo, a schoolteacher in  Manama, Bahrain, said to me that the Arab democratic movements would eventually target “U.S. bases and troops” near that city and in other Persian Gulf countries. Could America handle Arab democracy, which might bring anti-American forces to power? he asked.

 

America’s impending retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq, serious economic downturn and the Arab Spring have convinced many Muslims that the Muslim world is wiggling out of American hegemony.  I can see, too, that war fatigue has set in much of America. Asked recently why Britain and France, rather than the United States, were leading the war effort in Libya, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said, “The fact is, we cannot afford more wars.”

 

The lesson of Vietnam, dismissed by neoconservative and other hawks, has begun to sink in among Americans. Vietnam’s main lesson, former defense secretary Robert McNamara said in 1995, was that “we failed to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine in confronting highly motivated people’s movements.”

 

Contemporary Muslim “people’s movements” have been fueled mainly by modernization and the strengthened bond of the global Muslim community, the umma. Twenty-five years ago few people in Polashpur would have wanted to discuss foreign invasion of a far-away Muslim country.  The countryside village had then no electricity, no telephones, no newspaper readers, one college graduate and one or two radio sets.  Today my home and a host of others are electrified.  Just about every family has one or more mobile phones. College graduates and students abound. So do radio sets and news consumers, many of whom flock to the nearby Ratanganj bazaar to read newspapers.  Dozens of Polashpuris live and work in towns and cities in Bangladesh and abroad.

 

The heightened awareness of the world and of the spread of the ideas of the rights and democracy have plunged a number of Muslim societies into struggles for freedom – against domestic tyranny on the one hand  and  foreign occupation and hegemony on the other.  The Arab Spring belongs to the former category of struggle. The struggle against the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq belong to the other.

 

The Information Age has helped bring Muslims everywhere in wider and closer mutual interaction, bolstering their umma bond.  A Pew Research Center survey found last year that Muslims in most countries consider themselves Muslims first and citizens of their countries secondarily.  A research project I conducted in the late 1990s revealed that a key source of Muslims’ deepened affinity with  their global community is their disenchantment with post-colonial-era nation-states and state institutions.  Most of today’s Muslim states were carved out often capriciously by European colonial powers. These states are run through legal systems that are often alien to local social norms by badly corrupt and uncaring bureaucracies and governments. No wonder citizens of these states feel stronger pull of their faith and global community than of the corrupt institutions of their artificial states.

 

So when the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan or waged its anti-terror campaign killing, maiming and harassing Muslims, anti-American sentiments ratcheted up around the Muslim world, including in Polashpur, as I had observed during my earlier visits.

 

The impotence of the American military power – shown in the “war on terror” and in Iraq and Afghanistan —  has helped rejuvenate Muslim movements against U.S. and Israeli hegemony as much as domestic political repression. Muslim societies that are evolving from the two-pronged struggle  are likely to go through a period of turmoil, which accompanied the democratization process in almost every Western country.  Eventually, they are expected to settle down as stable democracies. Muslim democracies would, however, be underpinned by Islamic social and cultural values, as we see in Turkey, Iraq and Pakistan.   Egypt, Libya, Yemen and most of the other Muslim societies struggling to democratize are expected follow the same path. In fact the new Libyan leader, Abdul Jalil, has announced that “Shari’a [Islamic law] will be the mail source of law” in a democratic Libya.

 

Post-9/11 United States, where paranoia about “political Islam” has stalked large swaths of society and much of the foreign policy establishment, would be facing the challenge of  handling democracies with Islam spanning much of the public sphere.  But America has been a pragmatic society.  Americans appear to have begun to take stock of  the futility of their  campaign to defeat “terror” and stem the tide of Islamic politics. Eventually, they are likely to appreciate the need to do business with resurgent Islam. As I told the Bahraini schoolteacher, Americans will come around to adapting to Muslim democracies as they did to the Communist Soviet Union and China.

 

• Mustafa Malik is an international affairs columnist in Washington.