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Run like a coward

Have no doubt about the resolve of United States

September 9, 2002
The Iranian

Approaching the anniversary of September 11, the date reminiscent of the ignominious event seared into the collective memory of mankind, a period of introspection is sorely required of Islamic societies. It is intriguing whether the tragic event of September 11 will be known as the day that led to the reformation of the Islamic World or will it be the final straw at which the relationships between Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom finally decide to part ways.

The terrible loss of lives will be a lasting memory in the annals of human history; the attack was an assault on every thing "human" that we are proud off. In its cruelty, 11th September crossed the limits rarely ventured by even the worst of barbarians and vandals. To commit a heinous crime on this scale against innocent civilians in a world inundated with knowledge and global connectivity is beyond human comprehension as it defies all rationale, common sense and reason.

On the other side of the coin its "political" influence in contemporary history can be compared to divisiveness, cunning, mischief and the catalyst impact of 1914 assassination of the Austro-Hungarian successor to the throne. A member of a band of Serbian conspirators assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Bosnia.

Upon investigation of the crime by the Austro-Hungarian authorities it was revealed that the conspiracy against the life of the Archduke was prepared and abetted in Belgrade with the co-operation of Serbian officials. That single event was the catalyst for the First World War within Europe. The sequence of events from the assassination in Sarajevo was swift from 28 June 1914, when the Arch Duke was assassinated, to 1st August 1914 when Germany declared war on Russia.

Indeed it does not take too long to fire a tinderbox in tense situations and Osama bin Laden's attacks on civilian targets in the pre-eminent city of the largest and strongest nation on earth is like the veritable throwing of the gauntlet. On its first anniversary of this mass tragedy, the after effects are not a great world war but it is no exaggeration to see that the most intolerant Islamic state of Talebin lays in ruin within the first anniversary. The cradle of terror was destroyed in no time, the safe haven denied and the sanctuary uprooted.

It is heart-warming to see that the fringe elements all around the Islamic crescent of instability are on the run, the connection between seminaries and Wahabi Islam and the funding of intolerant ideological education is for the first time being choked. The enlightenment and renaissance that missed the Islamic societies en-masse is now being surely but forcefully introduced to the most hardened of the Jihadis from Kashmir to Chechnya. The shroud and garb of the "freedom fighter" has been torn, the terrorists with global agenda of coercion are being accurately scrutinised.

The world since 11th September has become a smaller place for these fringe elements. The blood money rewards for the ringleaders have made these leaders fear even their own shadows. If Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda represented a cancer within Islamic societies, 11th September is undoubtedly the day of reckoning when surgical removal of the tumour commenced and continues to treat the metastasis.

Anyone who has any doubt that this gauntlet would not be picked up was sadly mistaken. If Muslim societies continue to maintain their eerie silence and quiet tacit approval of the action by not condemning and stopping future acts of aggression, I see no reason why 11th September is not the beginning of a struggle that may have long-term ramifications for the Islamic societies at large. Fault lines within Islamic societies have crystallised post 11th September.

Definitely there is an overwhelming segment of the society whose sympathies lies with the terrorist who believe that they have evoked a new era of recognition of Islam as a counterpart to Western civilisation. Rather the effect is exactly the opposite. It has cast suspicions on the entire nation of Islam, and most of the Islamic countries have lost significance and political influence. The Palestinian cause in short run has suffered the most, the Palestinians leadership embracing terrorism, have almost become diplomatic pariahs and politically destitute. The collective political capital of all Islamic states has been reduced to naught in shortest term possible.

The uncertainty around the "assets" of Muslim nations is another pitfall; the sword of Damocles hanging over Saudi assets in USA is an issue that is a direct result of these non-sensical attacks. Libya is ready to pay a sum of 10billion US$ to escape the global sanctions levied on Libya post Lockerbie Pan Am flight 103. Libyans have learnt the lesson well after Lockerbie; punishment and retribution for a crime of terror is essential. Although it may seem that Libyan leader is a born again "pacifist" but not before the bombs were dropped on his own tent in the desert that were intended for him but killed his child in retaliation by Ronald Reagan.

Once the message was brought home the terror died, slowly but steadily. The dawning of reality post 11th September that how flimsy a monetary asset can be is the prevalent after effect of 11th September for the oil rich Middle East. Realization of assets as specks of cyber numbers that can be controlled and denied is now all to glimpse. "Assets" unlike gold of past at present are scattered as small specks of cyber numbers that no one but the Fed Reserve can freeze any amounts within seconds as evinced when $100 billion worth of Kuwaiti asserts were frozen within hours of the invasion by Iraq.

In the last ten years isolated nations like Iraq have realised that proven oil reserves mean nothing if the financial markets are closed on them. Since "oil" is a commodity that fetches mostly dollars, it is worthless if it stays under ground and even if pumped can be insignificant if sanctions cripple the mobility of money received. From Middle East oil wells to Rotterdam the dependence of the oil rich nations to act within set of acceptable norm and global rules of conduct cannot be more eloquently emphasised.

The 11th September brought the day of reckoning closer the realisation that oil and dollars, the life blood of most of the middle eastern societies, are so prone to sanctions has weakened the entire political class and structure of oil rich peninsula. These are single commodity countries and the resulting effect has been that the arrogance of oil and grandeur of wealth has notably taken a backseat. The world has woken up to new research priorities; it is in search of new global oil markets through the Caspian and new alliances that may bring the demise of the oil age closer.

As Zaki Yemani, the powerful Saudi Arabia Minister for oil and mineral resources in the 60's and in 70's, used to say: "The stone age did not finish for lack of stones. So the oil era will not be over for lack of oil?" The oil age is not about end of oil, it is about the aura of oil and control, and it is about "power, money and political control". The end of the oil age will be marked by the loss of traditional oil power.

September 11th events have set the ball rolling in that direction that may cripple the peninsula. Osama Bin Laden may have wished that revolutionary movements within political Islam may flourish after 9-11 but contrary to this, from Algeria to Turkey and Pakistan mullahs have been dealt a devastating blow. The political Islam embodied by its message of intolerance and lack of pluralism has lost the support of Governments all over the Islamic world. The Islamic world needs to know that the "street" wants freedom of expression and a loaf of bread. Osama's political Islam is long on sloganism and short of delivery. With the exception of some fringe geographical outposts, 9-11 has definitely seen the decline of the clout of extremist Islam personified by the terror of Al-Qaeda.

Islam and Muslims need to wake up from this Rip van winkle sleep. The enemy within needs to be found and maimed. The Middle East has more than its fair share of war criminals. Sabra and Chatila, in Lebanon, where Israel's local Phalangist militia finished off of their helpless victims for whom the name Ariel Sharon will forever be linked being one instance others more poignant moments where Muslim blood was spared no mercy by the Muslim tyrants that rule the Islamic world in the name of Islam are rarely highlighted. The nation of Islam is in self-delusion as it only continually seeks the crimes of others; it lets off the hook the criminals amongst its own nucleus.

Across the nation of Islam, no one raised their voice for their own Muslim brethren when Saddam and Assad gassed, bombed, and shelled their enemies -- a la Assad's "Hama Solution" in Syria, Saddam's gassing of Kurds in Iraq, Hussein's "Black September" in Jordan, etc. The dictators in the nation of Islam can freely deal with their own people without impunity. No calls for investigations have ever been made by the Organisation of Islamic nations. Just seven months before the massacre, Hama, a dusty old Syrian city made composing of Sunni Muslim inhabitants, had staged an insurrection against the regime of President Hafez Assad. Assad's brother Rifaat was in charge of this particular slaughter, his Defense Brigades hunting down the "terrorists" of the Muslim Brotherhood in the medieval tunnels deep beneath the city. Perhaps 6,000 men and women and children were butchered there -- three times the death toll of Sabra and Chatila although other statistics put the fatalities as high as 20,000.

Six years after Hama, the Anfal campaign authorised by Saddam (The name refers to a verse of the Koran authorising the plunder of infidels.) lasted from February to September 1988 town of Halabja. Thousands of inhabitants were killed instantaneously by chemicals whilst performing ordinary acts in the midst of everyday life. Babies still sucked their mothers' breasts. Children still held their parents' hands, frozen to the spot like a still from a motion picture. In the space of a few hours 5,000 people had died. The 3,200 who no longer had families were buried in a mass grave. Pictures of the massacre taken by Iranian war correspondents were relayed throughout the world. The Geneva Convention of 1925 bans the use of chemical weapons. Only Mussolini's Italy had ever defied the ban, in its war against Abyssinia. However no state had used chemical weapons against its own people. By July 1988, the Iraqi army razed Halabja to the ground, which the Kurds have always considered a major cultural centre.

Kurds belonged to a nation whose predecessor included the great Islamic military leader Saladin Ayubi. This is the same man whose identity was stolen by Saddam during the 1990 Gulf war, should any-one remember the pictures of Saddam in flowing Arab robes mounting a white Arabian Stallion. What a shame the man kills the descendents of Saladin who are Kurds but steals their greatest ancestors within two years to hijack Islam and its lofty ideals. Saddam, as a Baathist, epitomise "secularism" but uses Islam as tool of propaganda. No one ever gave any consideration about the killings or usurping of Islam on such a grand scale.

Why not to clean the act and collar the lot? Those responsible for these murderous assaults on Muslims within the nation of Islam should be brought to justice. Why is Rifaat allowed to live on in Spanish splendour? Why are the Iraqi generals responsible for the gassings do not face any indictment? The call to book Sharon and bring him to the dock should be associated with equal fervour to de-legitimise Saddam and other dictatorships.

Is it not politics of "diminishing return" at its best that after sending Palestinians youth to one-way mission of suicide bombing it was announced today by Arafat that he would ask a key meeting of the Palestinian parliament to outlaw suicide bombing and to reaffirm the Palestinian commitment to peace with Israel? It reminded me of shameful conduct of Imam Khomieni who had send 500,000 of the finest young blood of Iran to the battle fields around Basra for eight years with keys around their neck for opening the locks of doors of heaven and than entering a peace with tyrant like Saddam after 8 years of sending these kids as cannon fodder of war machine. Was "martyrdom" not only about lesser people? Is this not the time to wake and open our eyes?

The pragmatics should join hands to ask the right questions! "Martyrdom" was a publicity stunt and what about loss of life on both sides! Is contemporary politics is only about shedding innocent blood in the name of Islam and martyrdom. Lets collectively say no, his mutilation of Islamic thought and passion. Lets say no to the murderers! Appeasement would encourage them and challenges would make them run like cowards. These tyrants all over have spilt enough of innocent blood lets say no to them! That is the collective challenge.

The muted ambivalent nod in Saudi Arabia, notably in the province of Asir and other hotbeds of extremism, to the actions of 11th September should be dealt with an iron hand. If left unchecked, unbridled extremism can lead to dire repercussions such as loss of sovereignty over oil. If the richness from oil becomes a tool to create trouble within the global community, it can be argued that sources of those riches should be curtailed.

Bin Laden's billion-dollar empire extends to five continents (interestingly still flourishing-domestic Laden empire is never attacked as infidels by the extremists as they flirt with the west with deals and education of their kin) of the world but he wants most of the 1 billion Muslims to be limited to the dark alleys and pre historic conditions the model of which was his creation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan! The extremists of the Osama's breed are wealthy kids who like their ideology but love their luxuries too. Al Qaeda operatives, if faced with riches to rags threat, will first save their empire than their ideology.

Osama with his act of terror has jeopardized the future relationship of Islam with the intellectually and scientifically progressive West. Dissociate Islamic countries from western knowledge and sciences and one ends up with a "Afghanistan" like wasteland within two decades, let there be no doubt.

Africanisation ala sub-Saharan style of resource rich Islamic world is the comparable destination if extremism is allowed to grow! The "death of intellectual enquiry" is the largest lack of resource for any nation if needs to survive. Sub-Saharan Africa withers today not due to lack of resources but due to inability to harness them, ideology blinds people and removes constructive thought replacing it by "phobia of the world" and "grand conspiracy theories".

Afghanistan's are not made in heavens, these hellish environments are creation of our own demi-Gods like Osama and Omar, let their be no doubt about it! These criminals are creation of our ambivalence and our collective biggest sedition "silence". Lets have no qualms and false pride since if Western societies do not offer us progress and hope we should not take pride and satisfaction to send our kids to Harvard and Wharton! The entire ruling class of Saudi and upper echelons of Islamic world is US educated they are send to Harvard for what?

Why it should be that the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan should be condemned to study in medieval madaris whereas Saudis, the custodians of Islam, should have the best of the two education in Harvard and services of Islam in Mecca. What is good for them is good for everyone else too.

If anyone has any doubt on the resolve of global community to let "fringe elements" dictate the direction of global economy, they are sorely wrong. I have a petite cue of what I believe the free world symbolises in this war against terror "Oderint dum metuant": Let them hate me, provided that they fear me.

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By Iqbal Latif

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