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The Tragedy of Higher Power Politics Jun 12, 2007

Posted by ummahonline in Kolum, Vox Pop.
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By: Haris Zalkapli

Just as the Americans were relieved to see that perhaps for the first time in recent history, Muslims’ anger were not directed at their embassies, images of torture by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib were brought to the fore, again reminding Muslims of what Washington’s “war on terrorism” has brought to the country they claimed to have liberated from tyranny.

These images have revealed what is really fundamentally wrong with the American-led war, however Karen Hughes would spin it. To a growing number of Muslims, who are all ears to black and white, extreme views of America, this is how America – and probably together with all of the Western world – is defined. But Muslim extremists have not cornered the market on black and white, extreme views.

The years since George W Bush came to power as the President of the United States has highlighted the return of religion to the public scene, and not only in the United States. After September 11, 2001, the word crusade was used by Bush to explain his military action against the puny Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Following disquiet his choice of word had caused, Bush tried to calm Muslims in America, saying that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about.” But the sales pitch differs significantly from reality.

His statements later continue to send conflicting signals. He stated that this was a battle between good and evil, and forced the world to choose: “And we’re just going to have to enforce the doctrine, either you’re with us or against us. You join the coalition of freedom, or you’re on the other side of the fence.”

Since then, Bush went on further and further, and whether he said it or not, he was clearly claiming to hold the mandate from God. And the global military actions, as well as the crusading rhetoric, intensified further. Bush is on fire. Consequently, Jesus’ message of love is lost in the fire.

Exit God. Enter power imperative.

At the expense of democracy and human rights, the pursuit of power was on top of the agenda. Bombings, killings of innocnt people, years of sanctions, the Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons all over the world, and countless other atrocities were and still are being carried out and justified in the name of fighting evil.

Muslim profiling also become the order of the day. Being intimidated in airports seems like a walk in the park to unfortunate Muslims these days. In Germany, Khaled al-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent claimed that he was kidnapped while travelling to Macedonia, flown to Afghanistan, and tortured. He was held for five months without any chance of ever legally defending himself. And it turned out that Mr Khaled was not a terrorist.

Recently, wrote The New York Times’ columnist Bob Herbert, in the land of the free itself, Maher Arar was mistakenly kidnapped, sent to Syria and tortured. After 10 months, he was cleared of any involvement in terrorism.

The Canadian software engineer sought damages from the U.S. government. If you’re asking how about his rights, the American government has told him to shove it. This – and many other cases all over the world – is how low Bush holy mission has stooped. Bush has set a new low for human rights records. In the words of Mr Herbert, “If kidnapping and torturing an innocent man is O.K, what’s not O.K.?” The poor Canadian is still struggling to even live a normal life.

All this has been exposed to the world, while America is trying to win the hearts and minds of the world’s Muslims.

And the Muslim world is not entirely innocent of politicizing the Higher Power. In fact, much of the troubles besetting Muslims stems from this obsession. Most recently, rational voices criticizing the unethical and provocative publications of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures were and still are heard louder in the West. In a large part of the Muslim world, most of the time, we can only hear emotional chant that sometimes borders on inciting hate and murder, irresponsibly contradicting Muhammad’s message of peace.

To the shame of conservative ulama everywhere, some of the most coherent, rational and sound counterarguments to the lame excuse of freedom of speech came from people who are labelled “liberals” (with all the negative connotations), such as Tariq Ramadan and Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid. The old Islamist discourse seems unable to address issues such as this. As the caricatures have shown how some Westerners perceive Islam, reactions of emotional Muslims have demonstrated how Muslims have caricatured the West.

It is very, very easy for Muslims to be put under the microscope these days. And the view under the microscope would certainly not be pretty at all. The emotional Muslim reactions have made it a lot easier for the entire Muslim world to be scrutinized.
To both extreme sides, who never fail to use the name of God at every opportunity, they should ask themselves (if indeed they are acting in the name of God): Would Jesus resort to kidnapping, torture and murder? And would Muhammad burn buildings in anger, recklessly risking innocent human lives?

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