الخميس، 3 يونيو، 2010

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - COMMENT: Fear of mirrors — I –Dr Mohammad Taqi


The neo-con thirst for oil is so extreme that they are willing to undermine the sacrifices of the brave men and women from the forces fighting the Taliban and the jihadist menace worldwide

“But she had slipped on the old mask and I knew she was concealing the truth. What memories was she trying to suppress, and why?” — Fear of Mirrors, Tariq Ali.

While reader response to my article, ‘Two faces of fear’ (Daily Times, May 11, 2010), was overwhelming and extremely positive, a minority — on the extreme right, both in the west and Pakistan — apparently went into an epileptic seizure.

Some of these fringe elements have, for years, tried to slip on a mask to conceal their motives to suppress memories — the public’s memories, that is. Their own memories, of the role they have played and keep on playing in creating monsters, remain intact.

The inability to handle their hideous image as shown in the mirror of my column has apparently induced convulsions of rage. Being outed in a piece — widely read by their own admission — was not to their liking.

In their rant, ‘Pakistani Conspiratorialism,’ published in Rupert Murdoch and William Kristol’s neo-con flagship, the Weekly Standard, on May 17, 2010, Irfan al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz exhibit a lot of confabulation and frothing at the mouth, while cherry-picking information from my article to alternatively endorse and criticise it.

Both gentlemen claim to be of the moderate Sufi Islamic persuasion, and that might be true. But in their own article, they helped scratch their façade, revealing the ugliness of the neo-conservatism lurking underneath.

They loved the part where I had criticised most faith-based US Islamic organisations for serving as a front for the world of Wahabiism, but are indignant when I get to the root-cause analysis of this hydra choking American Islam, i.e. the US-Saudi alliance and the American protection of Riyadh and, indirectly, its policies, which include promotion of Wahabiism in the US. They write:

“But the western links to Riyadh and Islamabad are pragmatic and empirical, founded on energy economics in the Saudi case and military necessity in that of Pakistan. Wahabiism was the ideological foundation of the Saudi state before oil was found on Arabian territory and America began to pay attention to politics there. Jihadism emerged in today’s Pakistan when the territory was still part of British India and America played no role in the region. Historically, Pakistanis have unresolved grievances against their former colonial masters in London, and have only become anti-American as a deranging consequence of their dangerous situation.”

That simple, eh! But I would say, not so fast Mr Schwartz and Mr al-Alawi. Both of them have carved themselves a niche as cheerleaders of the anti-Saudi campaign in the west and the US, with the latter leading an annual protest outside the Saudi embassy in Washington DC and has claimed fame as the author of a purported anti-Wahabi work called Two Faces of Islam.

The US-Saudi sponsorship of worldwide jihadism is the subject of deep and thorough scholarship by reputed authors like Steve Coll, Ahmed Rashid and the late John Cooley. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on record as having acknowledged this lapse in US judgement.

Knowing full well that their deceitful message would be readily discarded by the mainstream US media or countered by hundreds of experts, the duo chose their ultra-rightwing weekly to sneak in the allegation that Pakistani-Americans are somehow paranoid about the unholy alliance between the neo-cons and their Wahabi partners.

The paragraph quoted above speaks for itself. The neo-con thirst for oil is so extreme that they are willing to undermine the sacrifices of the brave men and women from the forces fighting the Taliban and the jihadist menace worldwide. The sophistry used to justify the protection afforded to Riyadh flays naked Schwartz and al-Alawi’s anti-Wahabiist rhetoric and antics. They come across as nothing but Wahabi fellow travellers, and really clumsy ones at that.

We already knew that ‘moderate’ Islam cannot be produced in the test-tube of the ‘Centre of Islamic pluralism’ run by Schwartz, but now it is clear that this Murdochist is an outright apologist for the Saudi financing of worldwide Wahabiism on the pretext that we need their oil. Trading the brave American soldiers’ blood for Saudi oil is a deal that only Mr Schwartz can conceive.

The web of half-truths, deceit and confusion that these two authors have woven does not just stop with their apologetics for the continued neo-con support of the Wahabiist monarchy in Riyadh.

They go on to misrepresent the facts about the Senator Joseph Lieberman-sponsored Terrorist Expatriation Act, which the LA Times, in its editorial, ‘A Lieberman loser’ (May 10, 2010), dubbed as the “Terrorist Exploitation Act”.

Schwartz and al-Alawi are completely wrong in stating that, “Taqi predictably and absurdly compared such proposals with the mass relocation of ethnic Japanese during the Second World War. Nobody responsible has suggested that the citizenship of all Pakistani-born Americans, counting in the low hundreds of thousands, should be annulled, and fear-mongers like Mohammad Taqi, in spreading such nonsense, show exceptional foolishness.”

The LA Times wrote, and I quote, “Lieberman is candid about why he wants to deprive suspected US terrorists of their citizenship: to deny them due-process rights available to Americans...The Lieberman bill is unnecessary as well as unjust.”

The proposed legislation calls not for stripping convicted terrorists of their US citizenship but stripping that of the alleged terrorists. Simply put, anyone that the Lieberman’s coterie might not like could be put on the next boat to nowhere, without their day in court. The al-Alawi-Schwartz gloss-over of this glaring fact is not a mere oversight; it is an attempt to hoodwink the American public.

Schwartz and al-Alawi neither have the following nor the scruples to lead the change that is inevitable, i.e. first a cultural détente, and then an entente and rapprochement, between the Muslims — especially the émigré — and the West. Despite the fog of confusion that a vintage neo-con polemic creates, the Americans are able to see the fear of mirrors as displayed by al-Alawi and Schwartz. They and the politicians they support have messed up the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are out now to mess up the peace.

I maintain that mainstream American-Muslims — predominantly of South Asian descent — led by their forward-looking intelligentsia remain the best hope to rescue the mosque-centre pulpits around the US from fringe elements of all shades.

(To be continued)

Dr Mohammad Taqi teaches and practices medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks www.politact.com and Aryana Institute. He can be contacted at mazdaki@me.com

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