By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Israeli diplomats are frantically visiting Washington and several European capitals to convince religious leaders, political parties and legislators that the war in Lebanon is justified and that Israel should be given a free hand to pursue its goals. The powerful media has provided these propagandists a forum to circulate their ideas freely without challenge. During the last two weeks, Israel has developed different strategies for different markets. For Arabs it has a different message and for Europeans a different argument.
To Arabs, Israel says, â€œWe are fighting your war against Shiâ€™a and Persians.â€ In an interview with Public Broadcasting, the deputy prime minister of Israel Shimon Perez said that the goal of Israel was to dismantle Hezbollah as it was promoting the Iranian agenda of â€œPersian-izingâ€ the Middle East. He tried to argue that it was in the best interests of Arabs to support Israel in its crusade against Arabs.
To Sunnis, Israel says, â€œWe are fighting in defense of Sunni Islam because Hezbollah through its Shiâ€™a network in Iran and Iraq want to convert Sunnis into Shiâ€™aism.â€ Speaking to PBS, Perez again explained that the Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon and the neighboring countries into a Shiâ€™a empire.
To Europeans, Israel says, â€œWe are fighting your war to stop radical Islam from spreading in Europe.â€ In an article appeared on an Israeli website, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and Jordan wrote, â€œIf Hezbollah is not defeated now, radical Islam will triumph and European civilization will be in danger.â€
To Americans, Israel says, â€œWe are fighting your war against terrorism.â€ In a speech made in northern Israel on August 1, 2005, the prime minister of Israel said, â€œWe are fighting for [the] principles Americans stand for in their fight against terrorism.â€
Israel is doing what it needs to do to win the war on all fronts. Its war machine is lethal and its propaganda power is enormous. It has the backing of powerful international media that has always been willing to provide it a forum.
But, what is the strategy of Arabs in particular and Muslims in general to counter the Israeli claims? The Organization of Islamic Conference has yet to take a unified stand on the issue. The Arab League is silent. The silence of Arab rulers is easily understandable as most of them wait for a green signal from Washington or London before making any statement. Their interests are tied with huge corporations and financial institutions that effectively control their financial assets. Hence, most Arab leaders cannot dare challenge the position of Bush or Blair in the Middle East.
Even if Muslims and Arabs speak to the publicâ€”who is going to listen to them seriously? Arabs and Muslims fail to take principled stands on issues confronting Muslims. Their perspectives often originate from their national, economic and sectarian interests. Rarely are Arab or Muslim world leaders of governments taking principled stands on the basis of loyalty to God and commitment to Islam.
While some 5,000 Christian evangelical pastors assembled in Washington to lobby for Israel and demand from congress unconditional support for Israelâ€™s war against Lebanon, Muslim religious or secular leaders have yet to evolve a consensus on their unified strategy to counter the warmongers. Even if they make noises in Washington or elsewhere, who is going to listen to them?
Why would anyone respect a voice that is not even faithful to its own ideals and faith?
Day in and day out, Muslim scholars and leaders preach to the world that Islam demands peace, equality and justice for all, yet few have taken the trouble of standing for justice, equality and peace in real sense of the term for Muslims or non-Muslims.
The current war is beyond the control of any one. Israel with the full backing of Bush and Blair would go to the end of the rope to achieve its objective. It wants to win. The UN will bring in international force only when Israel has achieved its goals. In the minds of Israel and the Bush Administration, the outcome has already been pre-determined. No amount of diplomacy or politics at this state would stop this war. Consequently the Lebanese and Palestinian people pay a heavy price and Hezbollah will diminish in military strength. For Hezbollah, it is almost a matter of life and death. Their complete defeat and surrender would mean disaster for their supporters in Lebanon. They will fight to their maximum capacity to inflict as many casualties as possible to force an Israeli retreat. That is their only chance for survival. There are no indications to believe that either Syria or Iran are in a position to interfere in the present conflict. Thus, we should not be surprised for a prolonged war whose outcome will be determined on the basis of casualties suffered by Israel.
We Muslims must be prepared for an aggressive assault on Islam and Muslims for a long time. Do not expect to be defended by world leaders. We need a strategy to stand for ourselves and our dignity. We do not see real decisions or guidance from the OIC or from Muslim counties. Probably, we Muslim Americans have to rise to this occasion to understand and fulfill our responsibilities to the `ummah at this time. But under the circumstances and the culture that prevails in our organizations, we cannot do that. We need a new initiative to put our house in order. We need a new movement to put ourselves on the straight path. This new initiative must be based on our understand of the Qur`an and sunnah and not on the basis of organizational or sectarian goals. We have a right to defend ourselves with words, and we must exercise it now.
Among Muslim Americans, the most capable group to lead the community to a new movement for our dignity and our commitment to Islam is the African Americans. They have endured the worst treatment during the last four hundred years in this country, worse than most Lebanese and Palestinians or Kashimiris have gone through. They must take a lead in organizing a Muslim summit of concerned Muslims from all ethnic backgrounds of the community. They must take a lead in galvanizing the community to reassert its Islamic identity not only for stopping the war in Lebanon, but also for building justice, peace and equality for those of all religious and ethnic confessions. â€¢