Irritatingly, whenever there is terrorist attack anywhere in the world the usual suspect is some extremist Islamic organisation. Why? The simple answer is that the numbers of terrorist incidents that make it to the international media and is closely followed by it are the one done by some Islamist group inspired by the Al Qaeda ideology.
There are many other terrorist acts committed by other political, ethnic and social groups around the world but mostly they make it to the local news only. Another reason is that their impact is not as big as that of the terrorist act committed by the Islamic extremists and death toll is usually smaller. And the follow up stories on localized terrorist activities such as in Balochistan by BRA, in central India by Naxalites or in Assam by the Student movement and ETA in Spain are missing.
On the other hand Islamic terrorism is the only one which is based on globalised ideology that can be traced a 100 years back to Ibn Taymiya and more recently to Qutub of Egypt and Osama of Saudi Arabia. All other terrorist groups have localized causes hence the reaction is also limited in their own respective countries.
To understand why some Muslims across the globe are attracted to such extremist terrorist organisations and support them morally and actively a good reading is Eric S. Margolis’s ‘American Raj’. The book gives an extensive answer to the question why people in the Muslim world are disgusted with the American policies. It provides enough material to fight the case of Palestine, Kashmir, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq
Eric has been writing on the festering wounds of the Muslim countries objectively. He has vast experience of traveling in this region both as a businessman and as a journalist, which has given him a good understanding of quasi-tribal mind of the peoples of Muslim countries. His earlier book ‘War on the top of the World,” covered the struggle of people in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet. His regular columns in Toronto Sun and other journals are also narrative of these issues with full historical, religious and political perspective.
His sympathetic treatment of the Palestine and other issues is said to be influenced by his mother Nexhmie Zaimi’s writings and his decades of interaction with the people in the war zones of the area he writes about with passion. The other person who it seems has influenced Eric’s politics is the American President Dwight Eisenhower. He has reminded the Americans that there was the time when Muslim countries respected them, because Eisenhower had forced Britain, France and Israel to withdraw from the Suez Canal area. He has maintained: “After Suez, the Muslim world rang with praise for the United States. President Eisenhower was called ‘the great liberator’ who would free Muslim nations from foreign control “as surely as he had freed Europe from German occupation.” This observation is not out of place as it is a well known fact that in the late 40s and early 50s US had pressurized, first the British to hasten the process of giving independence to India and Pakistan and then the Dutch to liberate Indonesia and Malaysia.
Today the popular question in the USA and some Western countries is: “Why Muslims hate us?” Eric has blamed the American government policies for provoking hatred against his country. He has come to the conclusion that American Raj has replaced the British Raj and furthered the injustices done to them by the latter. The wave of anger against the American Raj has turned into a Tsunami in the Muslim countries today. This, Eric writes is because American policies in the Middle East are subservient to the powerful lobbies of the far right of Israel, which has been sabotaging all initiatives for peace.
On Pakistan-India conflict over Kashmir, Eric’s position is that it is one of the “two of the world’s most dangerous and intractable conflicts.” Eric observed that he has “covered fourteen wars and conflicts. Kashmir was certainly one of the dirtiest, most cruel conflicts that I have ever witnessed.”
It seems, that a bit late in the day, the new US administration is realising that how important it is to bring some resolution of the Kashmir conflict. As pointed out by Eric the pending Kashmir conflict has resulted in Pakistan encouraging a number of militant organisations to carry on the struggle across the border. On the other hand India continues to suppress the movement in the valley using brutal force of the Indian Army. To get Pakistan to take on the Jehadi Frankensteins created by it, resolution of the Kashmir issue is imperative.
American Raj is a walk-through journey for the readers who want to understand the anger against the US policies in the Muslim world. How each conflict in the Muslim world is affected by the others; how thinly-veiled oil-driven western policies affect its relations with the Muslim world; and then how Al Qaeda feeds on this across-the-board anger and whether it can be defeated?
Many books have been written in the post 9/11 period on rise of militancy among the Muslims in the world. It is profitable to write on the subject which is current, fiery and affecting everybody across the globe. But very few writers have managed to rise above personal biases. Eric has been trying to show the west that much of the Muslim terrorism and its globalisation is a reaction to foolish and selfish policies of the American government and its allies. Scholars like Oliver Roy, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Giles Kepel have analysed the issues in their books. For a better ideological perspective readers of American Raj are specially recommended to read Roy’s ‘Globalised Islam’ and Kepel’s ‘Roots of Radical Islam’ respectively.
The solutions to the problem are implied in such books. But Eric has courageously proposed solution for “Fighting the fires.” He says: “The solutions are perfectly clear; implementing them, however, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, provided that the various parties are patient and accept an incremental approach to East-West détente and an end to state-sponsored hysteria.”
On Palestine issue he is of the view that “so long there is not a just solution to this half-century-old conflict, the West and the Muslim will remain daggers drawn.” The key to this solution, according to him is with the American Raj which is in a position to press Israel like Eisenhower and should support the pro-peace lobbies in that country, instead of people like Netanyahu and parties like Likud. He maintains: “The American Raj holds supreme dominion over most of the region. Almost all the players involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict are patrons and clients of the United States.” Eric has pointed out that “Washington holds many levers to press Israel for peace: $3.6 to $5 billion of annual aid to Israel, supply of high-tech arms and vital spare parts, vetoing over seventy UN Resolutions condemning Israel and ordering it to withdraw from Occupied Territories …… continued privileged access to American markets and technology … granting of tax holiday to pro-Likud “charities” and think tanks.” Interestingly US is very hard on Muslim charities, while supporting the extremist Israeli lobbies by granting tax holiday on donations.
Next he moves to the “festering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and pleads for a speedy end. On Iraq war Eric’s view is: “The United States should not waste a moment in getting out of this ten-to-twelve-billion-dollar-a-month debacle that runs down its armed forces to the breaking point, earned America a sea of hatred.”
On Afghanistan his solution is: “Better to pull western forces out of Afghanistan and offer Afghans large rewards to find bin Laden and company, which they might actually do once the onus of cooperating with foreign occupiers are removed.” He has warned that invading Pakistan’s autonomous tribal areas is a daft idea that would only widen and intensify an already unwinnable war.”
He has criticised the Bush administration for letting Pentagon lead the foreign policy and has pleaded for it to end the ‘hostility towards Islam.’ And has advised that all legitimate struggles of the Muslims against oppression in places like Kashmir and Chechnya should not be dubbed as terrorists, without making an effort to resolve these issues. He has argued that the mid-West televangelists who spit fire against the Muslims are taken by many Muslims as representative American voices.
Eric has touched the right cord when he demands that the American Raj should stop supporting authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world. By supporting such feudal rulers or military dictators US has distanced itself from the democratic forces, who should be otherwise its allies. He has concluded: “It is time for mankind to begin ridding itself of its two worst scourges, religious fanaticism and nationalist passions. This, not empire building should be our goal in the new century.”
While American Raj is a scathing criticism of the US and it allies, it fails to criticize the distorted Salafist view of Islam present by the likes of Osama which leads people to terrorist activities. The extremists of such ideologies have hijacked Islam and the anti-imperialist struggle as well — thus damaging both. (firstname.lastname@example.org)