Middle East bleeds from a million wounds
By : Syed Aijaz Zaka
What is the world coming to? It is as if the red tide of blood has engulfed the whole world. It is killings, bloodshed and chaos everywhere. And Muslims appear to be in the thick of action with what passes for Islamic world being the veritable center-stage of all the madness.
Look at the sheer brutality and savagery that was put on display in Iraq this week by the newly crowned champions of the faith, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
More than 1,700 Iraqi soldiers were apparently executed with their hands tied behind their back and the gory images of the massacre were duly published online. Heaps of human bodies are lying around in ignominy like slaughtered animals. Not since the shame of Srebrenica and Rwanda in the 1990s has one seen such scenes of casual cruelty.
And these are the men who could soon take over the whole of Iraq as one fabled Iraqi city after another falls like a house of cards to the rebels who were born as resistance against the US occupation of Iraq. With the bulk of US forces leaving Iraq, they had moved next door to Syria to fight the Baathists.
They returned to Iraq when they were reminded of their unfinished business back home by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who refuses to graduate from being a little-known provincial Shia politician to the leadership of a new, inclusive Iraq.
Ostensibly, it was the logistical and material support that Syria’s Assad has been receiving from Iran and Russia via Iraq that drew the rebels’ attention back to their original battlefield.
So if the chickens of Iraqi resistance have come home to roost and the country slides from chronic bad governance to total chaos, Al-Maliki has no one to blame but himself. He had a historic opportunity to unify a war-weary nation when he was elected prime minister. The Americans had packed their bags to depart Iraq, leaving behind their bewildering mess.
Like Nelson Mandela he could have offered a healing touch to his people by embracing every wounded soul and build a confident, forward looking nation at peace with itself. Instead Maliki chose to remains a prisoner of his narrow, sectarian politics and hopelessly limited worldview. The ISIL thrived on the alienation and political dispossession of the Sunnis who after centuries in power suddenly discovered that they were a minority.
As a result, the land that was once the pride of a great, glorious civilization today conjures up the terrifying visions straight out of Dante’s Inferno. Things are so bad that the Iraqis have now begun to recall the US occupation with some degree of fondness!
Of course, as one has argued ad nauseam, the culpability for this whole bloody, bewildering mess fracturing the Muslim world along sectarian lines and opening the door to hell chiefly and squarely lies with the West and its various lobbies and interest groups.
It is hardly a secret that colonial powers and Christian-Zionist supremacists have long plotted and dreamed of redrawing the map of the Middle East by breaking up major Muslim countries along sectarian, tribal and ethnic lines.
First it was the French-British plot by empire men Francois Georges-Picot and Mark Sykes in 1916 that dismembered the Ottoman Empire to draw the map of what is today’s Middle East. The Picot-Sykes map, marked with crude chinagraph-pencil in the second decade of the 20th Century shows the ambition — and folly — of the 100-year old British-French plan that helped create the modern-day Middle East with a Jewish state in the heart of Arab-Islamic world.
Apparently, that messing up of Middle East’s borders by the Europeans in the last century wasn’t enough. There have been repeated attempts since to refashion and reimagine the Middle East, according to the whims and fancies of the empire and its pampered, misbegotten child in the region.
In 2006, the US Army Lt. Col. (retd) Ralph Peters in his now infamous book, Blood Borders, made a ‘strong’ case for “remapping of the Middle East,” even coming up with a new map of the Muslim world to aid Western powers in their mission!
“While the Middle East has far more problems than dysfunctional borders alone — from cultural stagnation through scandalous inequality to deadly religious extremism — the greatest taboo in striving to understand the region’s comprehensive failure isn’t Islam but the awful-but-sacrosanct international boundaries worshipped by our own diplomats,” wrote Peters.
And it was widely believed that the ‘blueprint’ of the US Army veteran had the blessings of the born-again Christian US president and the bigots who advised him.
From the Arabian Peninsula to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Central Asian states, many powerful Muslim countries would be carved up in tiny, harmless Bantustans as part of this grand design. No one with a potential to question the writ of powers that be would be left standing.
Last year, veteran foreign-affairs analyst of the New York Times Robin Wright echoed Peters offering her own ‘vision’ for “remapping the Middle East to alleviate tensions.” The redrawn map, she mused, could be “a strategic game changer for just about everybody, potentially reconfiguring alliances, security challenges, trade and energy flows for much of the world, too.”
So if Iraq is on fire today and the whole region is falling apart, you know who deserves the credit. There is a method in the madness as the Islamic world burns from the coast of Africa to Central Asia. The Middle East’s borders have indeed been redrawn in blood and the Ummah bleeds from a million wounds, as the victors envisioned it. That said, the Muslim world cannot escape its responsibility in allowing things to come this far. It has done little to check this dangerous rift and thwart the imperial designs that are hardly a secret.
World powers, regional players, trans-border zealots, irresponsible scholars and international agencies — all have fanned and added fuel to the flames of sectarianism and extremism. As a result, today, it threatens to destroy everything in its path including those who sowed the seeds of strife.
The Sunni-Shia schism has been a reality of Islamic history. However, it has never threatened the Islamic unity and very foundations of the House of Islam as it does today. Unless saner elements on both sides — governments, political leadership, religious scholars and civil society — come together to stem the rot, we will soon have a catastrophe on our hands.
What is this Sunni-Shia business anyway? Who divided us into Sunnis and Shias? Islam certainty didn’t. We slaughter each other with impunity over a pointless academic debate that is as old as Islam and that too in the name of a faith that stands for peace, mercy and forgiveness. The followers of both sects love and revere Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his noble descendants. So what is the point of this conflict?
Islam came as a blessing to the whole of mankind. It does not condone the shedding of innocent blood, whatever their sect or faith. Standing before the Kaaba in Makkah, the Prophet had said: “O you sacred Kaaba, the blood of a human being is more sacred than you.”
If we can’t have mercy on our own, how can we possibly promise glad tidings to the rest of humanity? Belief in one God, one Book and the Last Messenger — is that not enough to unite us as a people?
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Gulf-based writer.