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Mordechai Kedar: Radical Islam in Africa

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Before Islam appeared on the scene, the Arab tribes would contend with each other in endless wars that continued for hundreds of years and cost many lives. When Islam appeared in the first quarter of the seventh century CE, it was meant to be a new, religious basis for the definition of the individual and the group; a unifying focus of ideological identification that would substitute for the divisive tribal identification from which the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula suffered. The tragedy of Islam is that it failed in this important task, so the Islamic peoples and the tribes remained divided and fragmented, bickering with each other and quarreling with each other as if they had forgotten the explicit saying in the Qur’an, (Chapter 3, verse 103): “Cleave, all of you, to the religion of Allah and do not part from each other”. The worst thing is that throughout history, Islam has been used as fuel for the fires of internal conflicts, and many times in the course of the history of Islam, both sides of an internal conflict justified the conflict in terms of Islam, and each declared jihad against the other.

European colonialism left behind it in Africa heterogeneous states, each of which is an aggregation of tribes that differ from each other. Therefore, for many years, most of the African states have been afflicted with violent conflicts that leave in their wake many thousands of dead and wounded. Cases of genocide, in Biafra in the late sixties and in Rwanda in 1994, are the direct result of the conflicts between tribes within African states. In cases where one side of a conflict is Muslim and the other side is Christian or Animist (pagan), the religious element becomes part of the reason for the war, fueling the conflict and turning it into a holy jihad, thus justifying acts of mass slaughter.

When conflicts between the tribes are colored with a religious hue, situations are created in which Muslim dictators behave with total brutality: Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda between 1971 and 1979 eliminated about a half million Ugandans in cold blood. Some of them he threw into Lake Victoria, teeming with crocodiles, to be food for the predators. These days a film is circulating on the nternet of a different case: a mass murderer in Uganda, Joseph Kony, who forcefully enlisted children, armed them, and turned them into mass murderers totally lacking in compassion or conscience.

For about fifty years, in the second half of the twentieth century, a terrible and destructive war was carried out in Sudan, between the Arab-Muslim North and the Christian-Animist South. Over the years, this war has caused about two million fatalities, and it ended in an agreement in July 2011 that brought about  the division of Sudan into two states, a northern state which is Arab and Muslim, and a southern state with a Christian and Animist population.

In the Darfur region of Sudan, genocide has been taking place since 2003, in which Arab Muslim militias, aligned with the Sudanese government, have been methodically eliminating African Muslim tribes, burning their villages, slaughtering the men and making abused slaves of their wives. As of today, about half a million people have been killed as a result of the battles, arson, and starvation that have afflicted the population of Darfur, and millions of its people were forced to flee to Libya, Chad or Nigeria. At the crux of this conflict is the popular belief that prevails among Arab Muslims, that Muslims who are not Arab are not true Muslims, but rather second class Muslims only pretending to be Muslims, and therefore it is permissible to shed their blood.

It is important to note that in Arabic, a person with black skin is called “abd”, “slave”, and Arabs were the biggest slave merchants, selling Africans to work in America. This view of the people of Africa turns them into easy and legitimate prey. In the countries south of the Sahara – Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania – there is a Muslim majority, because most of their inhabitants converted to Islam during the course of history in order not to be considered as slaves. Therefore Arab Muslims consider them not to be true Muslims.

In the battles over Darfur there are organizations with an Islamic character such as “Jamaat Ansar al-Sunnah” or “Group of the Followers of Sunnah”; “Jamayat al-Kitab wal-Sunnah Alh’irih” – “Charity Association of Koran and the Tradition”; and the “Salafion” – “The Glorious Past”. And the texts that these organizations distribute are reminiscent of the texts of Usama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, past and present leader of Al-Qaeda respectively. It is important to note that during the 1990s, Al Qaeda had bases in Sudan. In 1988 the terrorists who struck the American embassy in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and Dar-es-Salam, the capital of Tanzania emanated from these bases; those attacks resulted in more than two hundred fatalities.

The State Of The Union And The State Of The World

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

As President Bush likely realized in his recent speech, the true state of our union is intimately intertwined with the state of our whole world. Our fate as Americans will depend upon our willing identification as citizens on an imperiled planet. Surely we now have the Iraq War to re-evaluate, but even so substantial and overwhelming a problem is just the tip of much larger iceberg. This “iceberg” is the always-universal nature of humankind.

Our species contains deeply within itself the sources of its own disappearance through war, terror and genocide. “The horror, the horror,” mumbles the Marlon Brando character in “Apocalypse Now.” How thin, he reflects correctly, is the veneer of our planetary civilization.

Consider not just Iraq, but also the Sudan and Somalia and Iran and North Korea. Recall Rwanda. Remember Cambodia. Crimes Against Humanity – those crimes that formed a major portion of the post-Holocaust indictment at Nuremberg − are never truly remediable through law, politics or diplomacy. They can be understood and stopped only by a prior awareness of basic individual human needs and expectations.

In the final analysis, Crimes Against Humanity, about which we Jews know all too much, stem from the unbearable loneliness of individual human beings. “Normally” unable to find meaning and security outside of groups, literally billions of individuals will often stop at nothing to acquire membership in a crowd.

It is this frantic search to belong, to overcome individual loneliness that best defines what we smugly call “history.” It is precisely this search for membership that occasions the planetary predicament that must inevitably determine the state of our union.

Real history, the president may have failed to observe, is pretty much the sum total of private souls seeking redemption. Expressions of the desperate human search for redemption in groups can sometimes be found in the ideas of sovereignty and self-determination.

But the “self” in this legal principle refers always to entire peoples, never to individuals. The ironic result is often a measureless orgy of mass killing that we mistakenly describe as international relations or power politics.

Divided into thousands of hostile tribes, almost 200 of which are now called states, we human beings routinely find it easy to slay “others.” Empathy is reserved almost exclusively for those within our own tribe, within our own union. It would follow that an expansion of empathy to include all outsiders is a basic condition of authentic peace and global union, and that without such expansion our species will remain ruthlessly dedicated to and victimized by mega-violence.

But how shall we proceed? What must be done in our particular union to encourage empathy and to foster deeply caring feelings between as well as within tribes? And how can we improve the state of our world so as to ensure a viable and prosperous state of our own union?

Sadly, the essential expansion of empathy for the many would be dreadful, improving human community but only at the expense of private sanity. We humans are designed with particular boundaries of feeling. Were it otherwise, an extended range of compassion toward others would bring about our total emotional collapse.

Humankind must therefore confront a very strange understanding: A widening circle of human compassion is both indispensable to civilizational survival and a potential source of private anguish.

Truth emerges through paradox. According to ancient Jewish tradition, the world rests upon 36 just men – the Lamed-Vav. For them, the spectacle of the world is insufferable.

There are many meanings to this tradition, but one meaning is special. A whole world of just men (and women) is impossible. It is because ordinary individuals cannot bear the torments of others beyond a narrow circle that G-d has created the Lamed-Vav. Empathy on a grand scale, however necessary, is at the same time a prescription for individual despair.

What is to be done? How shall human union now deal with a requirement for global civilization that is both essential and unbearable? Newly informed that empathy for the many is a precondition of a decent world union, what can create such empathy without producing intolerable emotional pain? How can we deal with the ongoing expressions of war, terrorism and genocide?

The answer cannot be found in ordinary political speeches and programs. It lies only in a resolute detachment of individuals from certain lethally competitive tribes and from certain other collective “selves.”

A more perfect union, both national and international, lies ultimately in a determined replacement of “civilization” with “planetization.” This

in turn, will depend upon prior affirmations of true Self, upon a steadily expanding acceptance of the sacredness of individuals.

Although the speech is past, President Bush should understand that the state of our union could never be better than the state of our world. To act upon this essential understanding, he must now go far beyond all of the usual public inventories of risk and reward to a working acknowledgment of absolutely critical global interdependence. The state of our American union can never be built apart from much broader considerations of planetary survival.

Copyright The Jewish Press, February 9, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D. Princeton 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/the-state-of-the-union-and-the-state-of-the-world/2007/02/07/

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