Two sides of the cooperation "coin" in the War Against International Terrorism
Thursday, September 4, 2003
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
Over the past week, two statements by two political leaders- each on opposite sides of the Islamic World, geopolitically as well as geographically- so graphically illustrated the problems faced by the United States of America in its attempts to get more moderate Muslims to cooperate in the War Against International Terrorism through their shunning- where not also openly opposing- their more extreme co-religionists. This past Saturday (30 August), before a gathering of Muslim clergy, a statement was issued in the name of Sa'udi Arabia's King Fahd denouncing as "deviant and strange thinking" the goals of groups such as al-Qa'eda "which only serve the nation's enemies" and "open the door for accusations against Islam of violence and terrorism"; the Sa'udi ruler's statement went on to urge "delivering the correct message at mosques against excess in religion".
As if in direct response to King Fahd's "call", on Wednesday (3 September), Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz- a man admittedly not all that often in synch with many of the aims of his country's own government (a government that has- at least formally- pledged its cooperation with the United States in the War Against International Terrorrism)- referred to America as "the terrorist king, waging war". Speaking to heads of Muslim boarding schools in his country (boarding schools which have, like many similar schools operating under the aegis of the Sa'udis, been accused of preaching Islamic militancy and, thus, becoming breeding grounds for future Muslim terrorists), Haz asked "who is the terrorist, who is against human rights? The answer is the United States because they attacked Iraq."
What these widely divergent statements illustrate, in a nutshell, is the tremendous difficulty posed to the United States in its attempts to root out extremist militancy- and the terrorism it all too often engenders- within the Islamic World. The best answer to Haz's rhetorical "who is against human rights?" (besides the obvious one that the Saddam Hussein so recently toppled was not at all a paragon of human rights enforcement) is the Constitution of the United States itself, which legally protects a Freedom of Religion in which Haz himself surely does not believe. Problem is: neither does the Sa'udi government!
For the politicoreligious philosophy behind Islamic extremist groups such as al-Qa'eda is, in the main, simply the darker, more extreme, face of the Wahabism that itself is at the very foundation of Sa'udi governance. Wahabists (who call themselves Muwahidun- that is, "unitarians" [because the core of Wahabist belief is the essential oneness of God]: "Wahabism" is a Western term, derived from the name Abdal Wahab- the 18th Century founder of this puritanical, ultra-orthodox form of Islam)- as is the case with puritans, present or past, found in other religiocultural contexts- are, more or less, "back to the basics" types who pretty much reject all modern interpretations of holy scripture and any legal codes derived therefrom (though puritanism- in any form- is, in reality, itself just such a "modern interpretation", at least in the sense that someone living a significant period of time after the texts he/she might so strictly follow were actually written cannot at all avoid having been influenced, in no little amount, by the cultural milieu in which he/she has been brought up- a cultural milieu already quite different from that which created those texts in the first place- no matter how strenuous or strident the rejection of same; in essence, then, puritanism always ends up being something of an oxymoron- as much, if not more, achronistic as it is anachronistic: in the main, a "return" to that which, in many ways, never even was! The Puritans of the Colonial Period of American History, for example, claimed to be restoring the Christian Church of New Testament times in their governance of New England but, of course, through merely existing some 16 centuries after Jesus' Ministry, actually could do nothing of the kind). Freedom of Religion, as we in the West have come to understand it, is clearly anathema to such puritanical thinking!
Thus, the principal dilemma here: al-Qa'eda's major "beef" with the West in general and the United States of America in particular is the growing influence, in the Middle East, of a Western concept of Liberty which well allows for that which not only al-Qa'eda but also Sa'udi Wahabism does not at all support. Yet we here in the West must rely on the Wahabist Sa'udi Royal Family (to whom al-Qa'eda is just as much a threat) to do something in that country that will hopefully thwart the teaching of that which is well fueling the recruitment of new Muslim terrorists, that which is essentially extremist Wahabism! And just how is this being done? By having the government of Sa'udi Arabia "reform" (and- so one presumes, should such "reformation" fail- then, if necessary, shut down) those mosques in that country which are accused of preaching the hatred of the West in general and Christians, Jews and the United States in particular that we believe fuels even more terrorism!!
In other words, the working theory seems to be that cooperation in the War Against International Terrorism within the Islamic World is to best be achieved through cracking down on the very Freedom of Religion that is at the heart of the Libertarian Democracy we here in the West are currently promoting in, say, Iraq!!!
Somehow it all sounds so damn counterproductive.