View from Pakistan: The ummah is at war with itself

Pakistan was created on a religious premise. But, in the days of the Suez Crisis of 1956, Pakistan's position was ambiguous.

The ummah is at war with itself. What other way is there to describe the brutal bloodletting by Muslims of Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Turkey and, of course, Pakistan. To be fair, the ummah has not mattered for a long time to the governments or peoples of Muslim lands. State-to-state relations among Muslim countries have depended upon self-interest, domestic politics and the whims of rulers.

Pakistan was created on a religious premise. But, in the days of the Suez Crisis of 1956, Pakistan’s position was ambiguous. It refused to side with Gamal Abdel Nasser after he nationalised the Suez Canal and threw out the British. On the other hand, India was active in the Non-Aligned Movement, fully pro-Arab, and loud in support of liberating Palestine. To show gratitude, King Saud bin Abdul Aziz paid a state visit to India and declared that Indian Muslims were being treated well. There was outrage across Pakistan. Newspapers exploded in anger when Jawaharlal Nehru, on his return visit to Riyadh, was greeted by the king and with street banners in Riyadh bearing the slogan rasul-ul-salam (messenger of peace).

Today, Pakistan has disputes with both its Muslim neighbours, Afghanistan and Iran. Iran occasionally lobs artillery shells over to Pakistan, as does Afghanistan. Pakistan has reciprocated with its artillery, while PAF jets brought down an Iranian drone last month. Ironically, Pakistan has excellent relations with one of its neighbours — China, a communist state that has banned the beard and burqa.

The Muslim monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both Wahhabi, are practically at war with each other now. Tiny Qatar, say the Saudis, is acting too big for its boots. Qatar has dismissed the Saudi-UAE demand to close down Al Jazeera. In response, all Qataris and their families have been expelled from Saudi Arabia. Last year, Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian award was conferred upon Narendra Modi by King Salman.

Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen shows the emptiness of the ummah notion. Directed against one of the world’s poorest Muslim countries, it has so far killed 7,600 and wounded 42,000 Muslims. Ending Israeli occupation of Palestine was once the ummah’s grandest cause. But now, Saudi Arabia is fast nearing rapprochement with Israel. Both countries see Iran as the greater enemy. After the failed Arab Spring, Sisi’s Egypt and the Gulf’s monarchies fear Iran as an insurrectionary power and prefer to work with Israel. Palestine is unmentioned.

Where does this leave the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)? Based in Saudi Arabia, it has 57 members. The OIC has had nothing to say about wars that have consumed Syria, Iraq, Libya or Yemen. Nor is it relevant to any other conflict between Muslim states. It has yet to give a single cent to desperate refugees. Pakistan bought into the OIC fantasy early on. But the euphoria of the 1974 Lahore meeting organised by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has gone with the wind. What is left is the magnificent building on Constitution Avenue in Islamabad that serves as the headquarters of Comstech, the scientific body of the OIC. It is time to give the OIC a burial.

If Muslim states have paid no attention to the ummah, non-state actors have paid even less. The Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban are like two wings of the same bird. One kills Afghan Muslims, the other kills Pakistani Muslims. There is a way for Muslim states and peoples to move forward. This will require creating strong democratic institutions based on equal rights for all citizens, encouraging the participation of women in public life, and respecting equally all Muslim sects as well as other religions, providing space and freedom to individuals and education for all based on science and reason.

By arrangement with Dawn

( Source : Columnist )
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