Friday, July 27, 2007

The Muslims of the West, discontent and alienation

When the British authorities discovered that the plotters and terrorist masterminds behind the attempt to blow up British airports, early this month, were trained doctors, it was a shocking development in some respect, but it is also a wake up call for governments that terrorism evolves and spawns keeping pace with anti-terrorism measures. In light of those terrorists incidents in Britain you just never know who could be or would be terrorist thus turning terrorist’s profiles upside down.

The negative aspect of these events, on the Muslim community as a whole, is that it once again refocused the watchful gaze of security and intelligence services on Muslim communities in the west but it is impossible for security services to watch every person or have a way to know what people hide in their hearts and minds. Therefore governments ought to take a different approach in dealing with terrorism threats, something along the lines of “Sociology of terrorism”

In the case of Britain, one place to look at is the relations between the Muslim immigrant community with the larger British society which parallels to some extent the relations of the US Muslim community with the larger society and its media, political and social institutions.

The source of Muslim discontent in Britain or in the US, in my opinion, is “Alienation" which is a shade of racism, with that I mean that Arabs or Muslims in general tend to be demeaned in the public domain, by the media or Hollywood and sometimes by ill-conceived government policies. Muslims views are under represented in western societies despite their large numbers as in the case of France and other European countries.

To have a Muslim or an Arab name is a sure guarantee to make you a suspect sometimes blatantly and sometimes in a subtle way depends on the location and circumstance.
Alienation impedes upward mobility and the progress of the community, it could also lead to gradual radicalization of individuals of whom terrorist organizations and their recruiters might find a fertile ground to recruit in their ranks and provide them with a vent to strike back at the society that they perceived alienated and discriminated against them.

The war in Iraq has exasperated the sense of alienation among Muslims in that they see their governments i.e. Britain or the US are waging an "unjust war" in their opinion, against a Muslim country without legitimate justification. They see that as an assault on their values, holy places and without an outlet for them to express their dismay or objection to this type of polices, they therefore find an easy vent or an outlet in extremist groups that eventually, perhaps, would evolve into acts of terrorism through exploiting their discontent and anger.

Alienation of person(s) from his surrounding and the larger society is certainly placing the individual in a mental ghetto that impairs vision and reason. A person who is placed in such environment will end up becoming an easy prey for terrorists to harvest.
It is prudent upon Western governments that Muslims in their societies must be assured of their place in the society without being prejudiced or looked down upon as suspects simply because they have foreign sounding names or because they look “different”

This could be done through integration not assimilation for the community does not need to melt down or dissolve into the larger society so it can be accepted.
Integration could be done through various government programs designed to foster a relation of trust and good citizenry between government, individual and community.
Assimilation on the other hand might create a backlash between two different set of value systems that not necessarily in conflict on all issues, but like everything in life, have some differences between them.

Lack of opportunities for Muslim in Britain and in the US is one way to prevent Muslim integration in that society and therefore increase their Isolation and Alienation. How can you feel like an American or British or French when you are constantly reminded that you are “an Alien” foreigner” or an “Arab” Muslim” and sometimes denied jobs and better opportunities because of who you are or where you come from.

The war in Iraq has my opinion increased the risks of terrorism in the western world almost ten folds. PR gimmicks by the US government officials like Karen Hughes who is trying to “win the hearts and minds” will not work. In the mind of Muslims across the globe, the US or British polices are designed to win them over is like when an accused notorious murderer who is trying to change your mind about him by taking you out to a steak dinner. You’ll eat the steak, but you’re not going to change your views of him.

Western governments must deal with their growing Muslim population as an integral part of the society that has its own problems and concerns which must be addressed and dealt with, not as an alien outpost or a security issue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Palestinian tribalism: Fatah and Hamas

Hamas military takeover of Gaza strip,last month, and its defeat of Fatah-controlled security apparatus ushers the Palestinian politics into a new round of chaos and more crises that divert the attention from the real issues of Israeli occupation and peace negotiation into Fatah-Hamas war. It is a dangerous state of affairs that the Palestinian people as a whole have found themselves victims of power struggle between two groups over a feckless Palestinian Authority that has little or no control or power over its own supposed territories.

As the fighting erupted and Hamas militants routed their Fatah adversaries, Hamas gunmen behaved as if they were storming the Bastille or liberating Al-Aqsa mosque when TV footage showed them praying on the ground or burning government buildings, killing off their rivals by throwing them off tall buildings alive which was a thuggish display of power. Hamas called its victory of occupying government and public buildings a “second liberation”

Hamas “victory” in Gaza is however hallow and an ominous sign not just of Hamas but also for the entire Palestinian people who found themselves in a situation that might undermine the goal of establishing a Palestinian state and rid the Palestinians of the Israeli occupation.

Humanitarian crises might ensue if Gaza remained blockaded by Israel preventing food supplies and fuel and medicine from entering Gaza in enough quantities for the whole population. Gaza which is more like a big prison than a normal place to live is about 45 miles long and between 6-10 miles wide inhibited by almost 1.5 million Palestinians most of them are refugees who lost their homes and property when Israel was founded in 1948.

Hamas however is not the only one to be blamed here; Fatah Movement which is now largely a shadow of its former self, is led by Mahmoud Abbas, a weak and spineless leader and is ravaged by internal divisions and large scale corruption. Its incompetent leadership has not been able to deliver to the Palestinian people neither a state nor security from Israel ever since the Oslo accords in the early nineties. Mohammad Dahlan, one of Fatah most notorious and corrupt leaders was universally condemned by both Hamas and some Fatah leaders as the one responsible for escalating this recent conflict with Hamas through his own private armed militias.

Dahlan is a much-hated figure within the Palestinian body politics for his corruption and mafia style leadership. He nevertheless has the support of some members of the US administration and the Israeli government.
( Dahlan and Israeli PM Olmert)

Ever since it won the election a year ago, Hamas was unable to behave as government that should deliver to its consistency a state through negotiations or deliver to them the basic needs and security. This happened partly because Hamas government faced cruel and unjust sanctions against its government and also because it found itself in a schizophrenic situation. Hamas stood to decide between two difficult choices whether it should keep its armed resistance to Israeli occupation and thus remain a perpetual opposition group or enter peace negotiations with Israel under some kind of Palestinian national umbrella and behave like a political party despite constant Israeli aggressions.
Hamas chose neither.

Having reached this point of having Gaza under its control and if Hamas insist on having its way especially that its political leaders in Damascus cannot escape the shadow of Syrian dominance and interferences the Palestinians might find themselves in a precarious situation of having their long desired state restricted to Gaza only while the West Bank will remain fragmented territory in Israeli orbit.

Meanwhile Israel has successfully played off the Palestinians against each other by supporting elements of Fatah against Hamas which is an Israeli and tactic that has proven working so well since 1918 when then Zionist leaders supported some Palestinians group against others.

Almost a century later, the Palestinian leadership is still fragmented and unable to deliver a minimum victory for its people or alleviate their suffering either in Palestinian areas or elsewhere.

Israel is of course is directly responsible for making this situation as it is now when it refused to deal with the PA led by Hamas organization or dealing with Abbas and his PLO the parent organization of the Palestinian Authority that came about as a result of the Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel

While Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the PA stands helpless to face Hamas growing power and boldness, he himself is dependent on Israeli and the US support and generosity and has little to offer to the Palestinian people. Israeli policies have practically reduced Abbas into the status of a “ beggar” begging for negotiating with Israel to resume peace talks, or “ begging” for some prisoners release, or “ begging” for the release of Palestinian Tax money collected and held by Israel but only to receive either outright rebukes or lip service from Olmert and other Israeli politicians.

With the forming of a new Palestinian government by independents headed by Salam Fayyad, a respected finance minister, the United States and the European Union have lifted their sanctions and resume aid to the Palestinians. This aid however will not be reaching Gaza any time soon and will be used by Abbas new government to pressure Hamas into submission or starve Gaza. Both choices will be very difficult to achieve in light of unified and clean Palestinian leadership and in the absence of genuine Israeli desire for peace.