Saturday, February 19, 2011


The concept for pan-Islamism, unification of all Muslims under a single state, dates back to Muhammad and the early caliphates. In more recent times, pan-Islamism was a way to fight the European colonial powers. After World War II, Arab nationalism began to replace pan-Islamism.

The problem is not all countries, notably Iran, are Arabic (Iranians consider themselves Persians). Arab nationalism created secular political parties such as the Baath (the part of Saddam Hussein). The pan-Arab parties called for unity and the rebirth of the Arab world (something the Persians, Kurds and other non-Arab groups had trouble identifying with). If this were not enough to cause problems, the secular pan-Arab groups oppressed the Islamists. Sayyid Qutb, the leading theologian who helped found the Muslim brotherhood, was imprisoned, tortured and executed by the pan-Arabic movement.

Pan-Islamism began to resurface after the defeat of the Arab nationalists during the Six-Day War. Pan-Islamism became the dominant movement once Ayatollah Khoemeni took over in Iran and the Afghani Mujahadeen defeated the Soviets.

The protests that we are now seeing are actually the culmination of a movement that has existed for many centuries. Tunisia and Algeria were already had governments that were sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt had made several mistakes. First, Mubarak outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood which in effect outlawed pan-Islamism. Second, he saw himself as a pharoah and started to deny Egyptians access to their most sacred and holy temples. Third, he was seen as an ally of Israel and the United States. Taken together, all three of these factors made it almost inevitable that Mubarak would be ousted.

Now Bahrain has a similar problem in that it is home to the US Navy's 7th Fleet. The Associted Press reports, "Thousands of funeral mourners called for the downfall of Bahrain's ruling monarchy as burials began Friday after a deadly assault on pro-reform protesters that has brought army tanks into the streets of the most strategic Western ally in the Gulf.

The cries against Bahrain's king and his inner circle reflect an escalation of the demands from a political uprising that began by only asking for a weakening of the Sunni monarchy's hold on top government posts and addressing discrimination by the Shiite majority in the tiny island nation.

The mood, however, appears to have turned toward defiance of the entire ruling system after the brutal attack Thursday on a protest encampment in Bahrain's capital Manama, which left at least five dead, more than 230 injured and put the nation under emergency-style footing with military forces in key areas and checkpoints on main roadways."

Now Yemen is having an uprising. Yemen has been a hotbed of pan-Islamism for a number of years resulting in the USS Cole bombing and training of terrorists such as Abdulmuttalab (the underwear bomber). According to Fox News, "Yemeni riot police in the capital shot dead a protester and injured five others on Saturday when they opened fire on thousands marching in the 10th day of unrest rocking the country.

Protesters began marching early in the morning from the University of Sanaa to the Ministry of Justice while chanting, "the people want the fall of the regime," until they were met by riot police and supporters of the president."

Looking at the map, it is easy see why Jordan, Qatar, Libya, Morocco have all experience protests. In Oman, about 300 people demanded political reforms and better pay in a peaceful protest in Oman on Friday as unrest in other Middle East countries and North Africa turned increasingly violent.

The United States has few options to quell this movement. Our appearance of supporting "democracy" are actually helping to install religious ideologues who will run things based on Islamic law. No, I am not one of those haters who sees Islam as evil. What I do see is a huge movement taking over a large portion of the world and the US government doesn't seem to really understand what it is looking at.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion. Sultan Qaboos has worked hard to improve Oman's populations access to medical care, and education, with the literacy rate around 90% and average life expectancy in the 70s. Qatar is also doing well. Maybe there's a boredom quotient that isn't being measured.