Middle East Violence: Mr. Obama, Don’t Bark at the Wrong Tree, it is not Islam

October 31, 2014

Middle East Violence: Mr. Obama, Don’t Bark at the Wrong Tree, it is not Islam

by BA Hamzah

Islam is not at risk in the Middle East. At risk are theBA Hamzah repressive Arab regimes under the protection of the external powers. The threat to the stability of the political regimes will come from those who have been deprived of their human rights and dignity.

The women who are not allowed to drive and those who cannot find jobs in their own countries are likely to rebel for freedom and political gains. Those who cannot be accommodated by the regimes are likely to join the ranks of alternative military and political movements like ISIL or the Muslim Brotherhood.–BA Hamzah

Terrorism has been associated with different faiths at different historical times.There is no empirical evidence to suggest that violence is embedded, ingrained or inherent in any religion, certainly not in the case of Islam.

Karen Armstrong Latest BookKaren Armstrong reminds readers in her recent book (Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Bodley Head, 2014) that it is incorrect to blame religion as the cause of world’s many bloody conflicts.

Karen Armstrong makes a persuasive argument that is likely to enrage many neo-cons: the root cause of the “carnage” in the Muslim world (by extension the current political crisis in the Middle East) is “politics” rather than faith.

Many analysts have long pointed to the disputed colonial-drawn boundaries in the Middle East as a major political-cum-security problem. Abu Bakar Al-Bagdadi has reportedly promised his flock he would demolish the Skyes-Picot Treaty of 1916, which partitioned the Arab land into imperial enclaves. He wants to redraw the political map of the Middle East, to undo, the wrongs of the Imperial powers, presumably to restore Arabs’ dignity. Bagdadis’ promise borders retribution by Arab nationalists and not about Islam.

The Arab land is likely to implode further with Israel’s decision last week to expand its illegal settlements on Palestine land. By now, the world has come to realise that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about religion but about territory, suppression, human right violations and the denial of a homeland for Palestine.

The fault-lines over the territorial conflict in the Middle East are blurred but hardlyObama's Mid East Policy religious in nature. It is true that the current conflict involves some radicals who call themselves Muslims but it is NOT over Islam per se. Do not confuse Islam with the angry actions of some extremists. There is a fine distinction between Islam as faith and its use as an operating ideology by extremists.

The Islam world comprises some 1.6 billion adherents, only a small number hate peace. Unfortunately, the Western media has stigmatised and stereotyped the entire Muslim community for the actions of the few hard-core extremists.

Violence often accompanies conflicts. For example, the Thirty Years War in Europe (1618-1648). Contrary to popular belief, the cause of the Thirty Years War was not religion per se; it was due to sectarian violence, nationalism and the fight for territory as well as the continuation of rivalry for political pre-eminence between the Habsburg of Bohemia and the French Bourbon aristocracies.

The Thirty Years War also saw the involvement of external major powers, (Sweden, Spain, France and Austria) waging wars on the German soil. As history reminds us, the fall-out from this quagmire led to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), a series of peace treaties between the warring factions that gave Europe its current political boundaries and the concept of State in international relations.

The US-led coalition forces and their local Arab partners in the Middle East are obama-clueless-on-middle-east-foreign-policydefending the present political boundaries that Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot drew in 1916 and their geo-political interests there. The political divisions of the Arab world resulted from politics and big powers rivalries. Islam played no role in the political division of the Middle East.

This rivalry between big powers for the control of the Middle East is being re-enacted with ISIL as the cannon fodder. The current contest for power has to do primarily with access to strategic resources and control of the strategic waterways. At the local level, the conflict is about sectarianism, Arab nationalism and the quest for territories, identity and a revolt against suppressive regimes as well as a desire to rewrite the political history of the Middle East.

Social-cultural and economic considerations are equally important in understanding the current conflict in the Middle East. Arab nationalists masquerading as radical Muslims are also rebelling against external powers propping- up unpopular regimes. The Arab  revolutionary reawakening is about politics along a historical fault-line.

Abu Bakar Al-BagdadiThe story of ISIL is also a story of proxy wars between regional powers. On one side, we have Iran jockeying for greater eminence beyond Iraq and Syria. The Saudis are teaming up with the Qataris with help from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to expand influence in Syria and Libya. Turkey is bidding for more time before jumping into the political quagmire.

According to authority, the five Arab states in the US-led coalition against ISIL need the US as a cover their “increasingly repressive policies.” This is not about Islam. On the contrary, it is about regime preservation. The governing elites fear for their lives after what they saw in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring.

The involvement of the US, UK, France, Australia and Canada in the Middle East proxy wars is likely to embolden their internal home- grown dissidents. Read Amnesty International “Report Choice and Prejudice: Discriminations against Muslims in Europe (2012)” for a glimpse of racial profiling and discriminations against Muslims.) The solution to their citizens taking up arms in the Middle East is to provide them jobs at home and eliminate the religious stereotyping and stigma.

The current spate of the regional proxy wars commenced with the failed US policy in Iraq, followed by Sunnis frustration with a pro- Shia Al-Maliki regime. Lighting the bonfires of counter movements in the current political turmoil, apart from the US invasion of Iraq (2003), were the 2011 internal uprisings among Arabs (dubbed as the Arab Spring).

The Arab Spring has exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of many Arab political regimes. The collapse of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt at the hands of their own citizens (of course, with help from some Western powers) was unprecedented in the post 1945 Arab world.

Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq are on the danger list. The richer Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are also feeling the heat from the unresolved Syrian conflict. Their military intervention in the Syrian conflict will have long-term strategic impact including expediting their downfall.

The small Potentates suffer from massive internal problems like unemployment, corruption and human right abuses. Those who can no longer suppress the rising expectations of their people are turning to America for help.

The political regimes in Lebanon and Jordan may not last very long without outside help as they find it difficult to cope up with refugees inside their borders. The threat from ISIL/ISIS posed on their sovereignty and territorial integrity must be their regimes nightmare.

Repressive Arab regimes are at risk not Islam

Saudi prince announces defection from royal familySaudi Arabia’s Elite

Islam is not at risk in the Middle East. At risk are the repressive Arab regimes under the protection of the external powers. The threat to the stability of the political regimes will come from those who have been deprived of their human rights and dignity. The women who are not allowed to drive and those who cannot find jobs in their own countries are likely to rebel for freedom and political gains. Those who cannot be accommodated by the regimes are likely to join the ranks of alternative military and political movements like ISIL or the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are other political permutations, too. A strong Kurdistan with backing from Western States may rattle Turkey and Iraq. The thought of the Kurdish-Peshmerga forces controlling Kobane, a town on Turkey’s border, will not bode well for Istanbul that has been fighting the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) forces for the last thirty years.

With Turkey drawn in the conflict, the scenario will change the strategic calculations and political landscape on the ground. Iran and its allies (e.g., the Hezbollah in Lebanon) are not likely to remain quiet. So does Russia, which has a naval facility at Tartus, Syria.

Finally, bombing the ISIL is not the solution; it was proven during the strategic bombardment of Dresden, Germany during WW 11. The idea that the US could roll back the ISIL/ISIS with air strikes is just simply preposterous. On the contrary, the airstrikes will further radicalise the fence- sitters whose families and property were destroyed.

Also Read: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Obama_and_the_Middle_East_Two_Speeches_Three_Challenges.htm

19 thoughts on “Middle East Violence: Mr. Obama, Don’t Bark at the Wrong Tree, it is not Islam

  1. When you bark on the wrong tree, you create more problems than you think. US policymakers led by Obama believe rather naively that they can deal with the Middle East by military means and by blaming Islam. Wrong. Sadly, Obama is just aping his predecessor, Texas’s cowboy President George W. Bush who created this mess in the first place. Wonder what if Saddam Hussien, Ghaddafi were still alive. They would probably irritate the US and Europe to no end.–Din Merican

  2. Where in speech or policy is Obama barking at Islam? Obama’s military actions are not because he believe it will work but that he has few options. Nothing is going to get solved if the answer to bad politics is even worst politics.

    No way Islamic country now can claim that the violence is solely from Western bad politics. The question of whether Islam a religion or peace or not is real. Its ON-TRIAL. The Iraqis would not be willing to fight in Turkey if they did not accept this. Kurdish women would not be “badass” sensation if they did not accept it.

  3. Worshiping exceedingly high degree of self-interests and protecting the imperfect democratic values across borders, at all the costs to others, as an excuse to advance dominance are flawed with deceptions. It has profound humiliating effects that had and will continue to back-fired on the US foreign policy,… the ISIS, home growth violent radicals,…..

    It has created more terrorisms than it hopes to destroy, glaringly the emergence of Al-qaeda strong-hold in Iraq that was unheard of during Saddam’s era .

    USA needs to re-balance its policy values, both internally and internationally, for maintaining global peace and stability.

  4. If only we can go back to these times …see Operation Hajji Baba when the US helped fulfill a supreme religious duty of Muslims.
    But the cynic in me sees that as an attempt to restore America’s standing in the Middle East after US support for the establishment of Israel in 1948.
    But still, it was better than the Talibs who said that if Malala survives, they will target her again.

  5. You guys talking about Bo Obama and his barks, right..?

    Radical-extremist-coercive religions of all stripes-shapes-form, should not have a place in this material world. Humans are material except when they scream their version of “God is Great!” while massacring Others. God is spiritual, until he manifests as a Religious Fanatic.

    Anyone read “A world without Islam” by Graham Fuller? No? Here’s an excerpt, that BA Hamzah would have read, despite his reference to K. Armstrong, who’s persona non-grata in here parts. Maybe our Rezident Sino-PRC-centric Wrongway’s – who’s version of Islamophobism matches the Islamofascism of our lil Establishment OGS flunkies ought to read and perhaps digest:


  6. Its the opposite Terry. With all the Muslim hostility against the US, it is very difficult being a Muslim in the US. Muslims are ridiculed, harrased and being labeled as terrorist and Jihadist even though the Mjslims in the US are none of those and are peace loving citizens.

  7. If Islam was a gift from almighty god how can you blame Islam? Same for Christianity. Ain’t it? In Islam terrorist acts like mass torture, decapitation, mutilation followed by domination and taking over all property including women and children is part of the strategy for expansion and conquests. Talks of booty and sharing of booty can be found in the Koran. Same as the god in the old testament. The same god in the Koran. So how?
    We, people in the east are not part of this tradition. Unfortunately we are being forced to take sides and even participate in this unfinished business by the peoples of the book.

  8. @ C.L. Familiaris, a brilliant thread you have provided concerning Graham E Fuller’s exposition on ” A WORLD WITHOUT ISLAM ” , and he asks : What If Islam had never existed ….? – I think that the writer here BA Hamzah has posed the right Question to Mr Obama, the US & the world to the effect ” …..Don’t bark at the wrong tree, it is not Islam ” .

    What if Islam had never existed ? G.E. Fuller surmises that it is a comforting thought to the world ( without Islam ) , since everyone will say : No clash of civilisation , no holy wars , no terrorists…..etc . Even if Christianity had taken the world , he asks , would the picture have been different ? Further, would the 9/11 have happened without Islam ?

    Such a long exposition by this great thinker, incredible , but speaking for myself, I can only digest and condense it the way I have been used to. What he has done is, he takes us one full circle , to CONCLUDE , as any average American will say :
    ( without Islam ) : ” It will make the same difference ” !


    Please read his whole text, and you would be convinced of what he concludes – that, if the West points its finger to Islam as being equated with ‘ terrorism ‘ , he convinces us that the finger points back at them, ie : the West , as the ” conjurers ” of Terrorism. Don’t believe ? Please read on…. and you would know why , nor would you believe it , my bet !

  9. Abnizar, G.Fuller’s book is better. I agree with him.
    Go get it.
    See the next thread on K. Armstrong’s populist’s version. A Comparative Religious Scholar, makes a pale ‘political’ comparison to a former vice-chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA and adjunct professor of history.

  10. “US policymakers led by Obama believe rather naively that they have can deal with the Middle East by military means and by blaming Islam, ” Din.

    I think Din our host needs to show which Obama’s speech is blaming Islam.
    Obama is a politician. He tailors his speeches to meet the expectations of his audiences. He supports Saudi Arabia which is a propagator of Wahhabism. Their funded religious schools in Pakistan and elsewhere are centers of religious extremism. Islam is not Wahhabism.–Din Merican

  11. Dr Zuhdi Jasser with his book “A Battle for The Soul of Islam” articulates quite well the danger of political Islam to the United States and the world. He is a conservative Muslim and an unapologetic American patriot. He has a rare uncompromising stand on the separation of state and mosque. He asks American audience to differentiate between regular Muslims and Islamists. He urges we have a contest of ideas with these Islamists, who provide the conveyor belt to radical Islam.

    I wish Obama makes clear that we need to fight with political Islam ideology championed by Sayyid Qutb, and make the battle line clear just the way we had with communism. According to Dr Zuhdi Jasser, that is the cold war of 21st century. The battle line would make Saudi Arabia as rival, not friend.

    Sayyid Qutb is not the last word on Islam. He was poorly handled by Egypt, a country which made him a martyr.In 1966 he was convicted of plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and was executed by hanging.

    The clear and present danger is in my opinion the spread of Wahhabism through Saudi Arabia financed religious schools in our part of the world, combined with the ongoing religio-ideological battle between Shias and Sunnis.In our own country, we face the threat of “village” kind of Islam as a result of our politicians using ulamas and religious functionaries to pollute and manipulate the Malay mindset via officially sanctioned “Islam”.

    Malay Muslims can only deal with trivia, not issues of principle. Fancy, we can’t even touch a dog, man’s best friend. That is the ultimate form of idiocy. What else is next for Malay Muslims? Why can’t we teach the Malay Muslims to think. Read Dr. Shaharuddin Maaruf Concept of a Malay Hero. I guess the answer is that a thinking Malay Muslim is a threat to the survival of UMNO’s feudal regime.–Din Merican

  12. @ C.L. Familiaris, I agree with you . I should conclude it in this way. G.E. Fuller has taken us one full circle to come back and point his Finger back to the ‘ Accuser ‘ – what a great man of conscience he is, I would say, he is a seeker of ‘truth’ , brilliant.
    Thank you again for pointing on to Karen Armstrong, she too is my ‘secret’ admirer……, but not easy to digest her three/four books she has written , it requires a great deal of time for readers but will be well worth all the effort we have to put in .

  13. Middle East Violence. Yes. The biggest violence was in Iraq. 100,000 killed, 1 million refugees and 4 million internally displaced persons. Who is committing violence on whom and where? I don’t have to include the figures for the Palestinian issue here.

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