In the last 15 years, and some more, with the exception of Bosnia, there have been only two nations that have earned their independence as nation-states — East Timor carved out of Indonesia and South Sudan, when Sudan was separated into its northern and southern identities after the bloodbath at Darfur. Both are predominantly Christian populations and both had fought relatively young struggles for their independent identities. Indonesia and Sudan are recognised nation-states — Indonesia far stronger, Sudan emaciated with decades of civil war — and carving pieces of them was no mean achievement.
In the Muslim world, there are similarly two chunks of populations that have eternally been engaged in seeking their right to freedom: freedom to choose and freedom to decide their future — Kashmir and Palestine; and both are hopelessly forlorn and isolated even as they struggle to seek their own destiny. If the ongoing murderous assault on the Palestinians isn’t yet a stark reminder, what else will be of the deviousness of an international order that is at best reticent in its support to meet the needs of these two largely Muslim denominations.
The UNSC resolutions are meaningless; the long struggles have seen generations of these two groups give their blood endlessly to their cause. But it still falls far short of the pain threshold of those sitting in judgment on who will realise freedom and who will continue to suffer repression under the might of state power that controls their existence. Two Christian nations got their independence; two sets of Muslim populations did not, despite their struggle being longer and bloodier, with children and women the prime targets of a deliberate and organised genocide.
By day 16, the score in Gaza is closer to 700 — 40 per cent of them children; and there is no sign that the international community or its associated arms of human rights or justice are any near to intervening. The shooting down of a Malaysian plane leads the newscast in the Western world and newer sanctions on Russia are conveniently afoot instead. There could not have been a more opportune divine intervention for Israel and its Western supporters when Gaza and the genocide there have slipped to second place in attention. There isn’t an audible voice in their support — for both the Palestinians and the Kashmiris. The silence is deafening. Token agitation is as much shameful as it is a sham.
You can’t though blame only religious affinity as the fortuitous avenue for the lucky ones to find their freedom; it is equally the failure of the larger ethno-religious communities that the Palestinians and the Kashmiris hoped would sound their concerns to the world at large, and be their voice at international forums. Instead, narrow national interests and precarious internal vulnerabilities for most Muslim nations now force each to only fend for itself.
Gaza is blocked on three sides by Israel. On the fourth side sits the Mediterranean, controlled and managed by Israel, completing a perfect siege. It is practically now the world’s largest prison with 1.8 million inhabitants. Egypt has a 12km-wide stretch of border with Gaza but it blocks it more assiduously than even the Israelis. Hamas has its origins from a sympathetic al Ikhwan al Muslimeen, the newly banned group in Egypt. General Sisi overthrew the democratically-elected Mohamed Morsi of Ikhwan when a threat of its complicity with Hamas evolved with Morsi in power, among other reasons. More than simply the inefficiency of the Morsi regime, there were the tentacles of international and regional imperatives that forced a change in Egypt. That much should now be obvious.
Iran, a backer of Morsi, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraq and Syria, and a declared nemesis of Israel, found itself being faced down by Saudi Arabia and its various proxies in al Nusra and the ISIS as they laid waste Iranian allies with the support of the GCC minus Qatar, which got neatly aligned with Hamas and Morsi’s Egypt. Hezbollah is consumed in Syria, while Hamas is an effectively isolated entity. The ISIS is as much its own boss as it seeks its own destiny. If this doesn’t make for a ‘great game’, what else does? Netanyahu and his advisers have been all over recounting why it is important to neutralise Hamas now, beyond the fury and anger for the loss of their three countrymen. The prevailing fragmentation of what once was known as the Arab bloc provides Israel the tentative support of many Muslim nations as it goes after Hamas. This is Israel’s stated position. That also, sadly, is the story of the Arab League and why it is absent from the scene. With a fractured GCC and a divided Arab League, the OIC is not even a squib.
That also is the state of the Muslim world. Weak, fragmented and fractured, it is in its sorriest state since its primal position in the 13th and 14th centuries. Its human development index is the poorest among all major population blocs while its vulnerabilities are laid bare in today’s world where knowledge, education and technology underline the economic and social strength in a society. Most rich Arab nations sell their oil and gas to the West or their allies and buy military equipment to sustain their rule against assumed hostilities from within. Across the world, Muslim countries are easily conflated with most terrorism around the world; Netanyahu said as much to Kofi Annan when he sought to defend his country’s barbarity. The ironic part is that each of these slimy explanations sticks. Such is the depravity now ruling the religion of peace.
Notions of a transnational Ummah are impractical in today’s global structure of nation-states, each with its own set of issues plaguing their socioeconomic regression. It is time for a serious course correction within if we wish the voice of the Muslim world to be heard and be of consequence to those who depend on its support in the existing global hierarchy. This correction must be based around progressive modernism in education, science, technology and innovation. Ruling structures, of necessity, must enable participatory mechanisms and offer sound political and economic governance models. Alienation from the rest can only be disastrous. For that, though, we will have to drastically mend our ways. What of Gaza then? I am afraid, Israel, one day, will have to say, ‘it’s enough’. Beyond that, there is little hope.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2014.