The World Responds Column Archive
The Asian press asks both its public and government officials to look inward and search for meaning in the current state of the world. Why, many opinion writers have begun to explore, have so many violent actions sprung out of fervently held religious convictions? Why are so many young people swayed by extreme and fundamentalist rhetoric and incited to commit violence against others or themselves in loyalty to their cause?
Indian Muslim writer Muqtedar Khan asks Muslims, not just Americans, to reflect on these questions, and ask where the seeds of the September 11 attack were sowed. "It is time for soul-searching," Khan writes, when Islam is used to morally justify violent and hateful acts against what he calls "selective targets" of evil such as the U.S. and Israel. "Muslims, including American Muslims, have been practicing hypocrisy on a grand scale. They protest against the discriminatory practices of Israel but are silent against the discriminatory practices in Muslim states." Focusing frustration and hatred on the "other," be it the West or Israel, only allows Muslims to forget their "duty to Allah," absolving Muslim governments and leaders of their responsibilities to citizens in their own countries. "In pursuit of the inferior jihad we have sacrificed the superior jihad," he writes. "Islamic resurgence, the cherished ideals of which pursued the ultimate goal of a universally just and moral society, has been hijacked by hatred."
The opinion pages in The Nation, a Pakistani daily, echo this self-analysis -- turning inward to ask how domestic policy and questions of religious hegemony have provoked unstable and violent political structures. "Religion has never been a binding force in the history of Islam," writes Dr. Latif Naek. "[T]oday there are about 55 Muslim states among the most backward countries of the world . . . each implementing their brand of Islamic rule but vainly clamoring for the unity of Ummah!" Because much of the civil unrest in Muslim countries -- and now, the externally targeted terrorism of Osama bin Laden and groups like Hamas -- is waged in the name of Islam, Naek supports Musharraf's decision to join the international coalition against terrorism, maintaining that such a move might halt the exploitation of Islam for political and religious gains.
Even with such questions requiring national attention, The Nation, praised General Musharraf's recent inclusion of mainstream political groups in official discussions as "a welcome development given that the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan was overshadowing Pakistan's domestic agenda." The Nation hopes Musharraf's action "indicates a policy shaping up in Islamabad which banks on mainstream political groups taking their space in the political arena, neutralising the activities of extremist groups rather than the government taking harsh administrative measures against those agitating over government policy on the Afghan war." Facing a Supreme Court timeline to revive democracy in Pakistan in less than one year, the paper argues, the government must focus its attention and efforts on the nation's political future even in the face of international turmoil.
Meanwhile, The Kashmir Times also worries about using religious beliefs and ethnic loyalties as an excuse for continued "atrocities" launched against the "innocent." The paper passionately editorializes against Farooq Abdullah's "childish" and "absurd" endorsement, even incitement, of a war between India and Pakistan to solve the "Kashmir problem." Starting with the pacifist premise that "violence begets violence in a chain reaction," the paper maintains that the "bullet policies carried on since 1990 in Jammu and Kashmir has so far proved counter-productive."
The paper presents a strong case based on historical evidence that dialogue has created better opportunities for peace than the continued terrorist attacks and past bloodshed:
What India faces in Kashmir is not simply a proxy war by Pakistan but a popular revolt against the policies pursued so far by New Delhi and its successive puppet regimes imposed in the state and dissatisfaction against the present status of Jammu and Kashmir. The way out is to win back the hearts and minds of the estranged people instead of causing further wounds and find a peaceful, just and lasting solution of the basic political problem, that has been the root cause of the present conflict, through a process of multi-channel dialogue.
Many opinion writers are also arguing about Afghanistan's political future should the Taliban fall. Complicating these discussions are the uncertainties of how, when and if the Taliban will fall. The U.S. strikes are not producing quick results, and many leaders in the surrounding countries are supporting the anti-terror coalition very conditionally. Those governments are under extreme domestic pressure from religious opposition groups whose protests against the U.S. are gaining press attention.
The former Lt. Gen. of Pakistan's Army and former Chief of Staff to the President of Pakistan, Syed Refaqat, discusses the lessons we might learn from the past failures of post-war Afghanistan stability/maintenance efforts. After all, he winks, "throwing the Soviets out of Afghanistan was the easy part of the whole exercise; the real nightmare started after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan." Because, "external states are using the ethnic and geographic fault lines of Afghanistan to mirror and advance their own geostrategic interests," Refaqat argues, any post-Taliban structure that manages to take shape "may be purely transitional with the limited objective of essential reconstruction of infrastructure, to establish law and order, arrange the return of the refugees, and hold some form of election appropriate to the genius of the Afghan people." His solution? Turkey. Because Turkey has strong relationships with most of Afghanistan's neighboring countries, is a member of the more broadly supported NATO, and maintains diplomatic and cultural ties with many Afghan ethnic factions, Refaqat argues, it" is in a position to act as a strong bridge between the east and the West of Afghanistan."
Eurasianet.org reports that "serious attempts are underway in Uzbekistan by the U.S. Embassy and the local Spiritual Board to maintain support among local Muslims for U.S. strikes against Afghanistan. Although the effectiveness of these efforts is difficult to gauge because of free speech restrictions, on the surface they seem to be working." According to one source interviewed for the story, "many Uzbeks actually feel that the United States got what it deserved on September 11th." The source also claimed "even those officials in Uzbekistan who are speaking out in solidarity with the United States don't actually believe what they are saying, but are doing so out of political necessity."
-- By Alyssa Rayman-Read
More Soul Searching
Papers in the Middle East are also doing some soul-searching and self-analysis. While much of the debate still concentrates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, with the September 11th attacks playing the supporting role, many commentators ask readers to ponder why current conflicts and clashes in the name of cultural and religious beliefs have become so violent, and to consider how politics uses religion to achieve secular goals. Whether the lead focuses on recent inquiries into the U.S.-Saudi Arabia relationship, Israel's invasion of Area A and subsequent pressure on the U.S.-Israel friendship, or the war in Afghanistan, this reflective and analytical tone pervades the op-ed and editorial pages in the Mideast region this week.
Thoughts from the Israeli Press
Yair Sheleg argues in the dovish daily paper, Ha'aretz, that the Israeli right-wing has exploited the religious tension between Palestinians and Israelis to "prevent concessions at the national level," a mistake which only provokes Muslims further. He counsels fellow Israelis that not to resume negotiations with Palestinians due to what many perceive are unending religious and cultural differences would be pointless. He makes the case that better outcomes will be possible by endeavoring to understand and respect Muslim religious values instead of allowing "the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians [to be] transformed from just another ethnic dispute -- a focus for detailed, exhausting political discussions -- into a mythic, total confrontation between religions 'fated' to be inimical to one another, a war between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness." Israel could learn from the current U.S. strategy, he argues:
America has no desire whatsoever to be seen as a country that is engaged in a showdown with a billion Muslims. Quite the contrary: The U.S. is doing everything possible to disintegrate an anti-American united Muslim front and to isolate the forces that it is fighting. The U.S. is so determined to stick to this approach that it has gone to the absurd extreme of actually wooing Iran to participate in a war against Islamic terror.
[T]here is a need for confronting the shocking custom of "murder to preserve the family honor." Nonetheless, there is also a need to conduct a spiritual-cultural dialogue with Islam on the value of family life and on the value of respect for the family. The rejection of the murderous interpretation of those values does not mean a rejection of the intrinsic importance of those values, just as the rejection of the totalitarian interpretation of Communism does not mean a rejection of the intrinsic importance of the value of social equality.
A more hawkish opinion published by the conservative Jerusalem Post posits a conspiracy theory between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. In a stark and dramatic conclusion, Uri Dan predicts an ultimate doomsday:
Sooner or later, the extent of the involvement of the dictator from Baghdad in the unprecedented terrorism campaign that has brought the world to a state of global war will come to light . . . The justified war being waged by the U.S. against the Taliban in Afghanistan is therefore likely to prove just the first stage in the real campaign awaiting the super power against the Butcher of Baghdad . . . In the end, it is likely that the U.S. will be forced to deploy tactical nuclear weapons of the post World War II era, in order to demonstrate to millions of fanatical Muslims that this is how their crazy terrorist campaign will end.
Thoughts from the Arab Press
Angry editorials and opinion pieces are flowing in the Arabic press, continuing to intensely criticize recent Israeli invasions into Area A as a shrewd plan by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is capitalizing on the international campaign against terrorism to justify his increasingly violent attacks against Palestinians to secure Israeli political interests. According to an editorial by United Arab Emirates paper Al Attihad, "Sharon finds that the best way to abort peace negotiations is to pull this region into a cycle of violence and then tom-tom about Palestinian terrorism. He equates a fight for liberation with terrorism."
The Jordan Times says, "Israel has to answer a question." Has religious zealotry and Arab hatred finally pushed Israel and Israelis to prefer a fight to the finish over an effort for peace? The rise to power of Hawkish Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and recent movements away from historical peace agreements speaks loudly about Israel's agenda.
The Gulf News
The Gulf Newsalso demands Israelis ask themselves if their Palestinian policy uses anti-terrorism rhetoric to justify religious and racial persecution of hated Palestinian people:
How can men inside tanks possibly look for suspects and find anybody? The Israelis claim that their tanks went into six Palestinian towns in the self-ruled areas to hunt down alleged killers of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Zeevi. Zeevi was a particularly hard line Israeli, from the far right and anxious to see all the Palestinians out of Palestine. The truth is that the tanks went in to cause the maximum amount of destruction and death that they could, and treated their raid as tit for tat revenge rather than any supposed effort towards justice.
The Muddled Media
In the "Week's End" section of Ha'aretz, Thomas O'Dwyer wonders if September 11 "laid bare the shallowness of much American news reporting of the last decade" enabling serious (even world) news coverage to make a comeback.
A Jerusalem Post op-ed also slams the media coverage of the September 11th attacks, mocking the investigative reporting as equal to a blueprint for beginner terrorists. Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' Steering Committee, Manfred Gerstenfeld, critiques opportunities he sees created unwittingly by thorough media scrutiny of national security:
Whoever wants to establish a terrorist start-up can now find much more information about the vulnerability of specific institutions than before September 11. Prominent newspapers all over the Western world have been providing detailed insights as to where one can attack, even without spending much money or effort.
The Saudi Question
As it becomes clear that the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attack had Saudi Arabian identities, the Saudis have become a focus in the press, getting a feature in The New Yorker and making the op-ed pages, (including a very friendly comment from the Saudi Royalty in Wednesday's New York Times). As a result, television spin rooms and morning radio shows of most major U.S. news outlets are finally asking some serious questions about the intentionally under-wraps U.S.-Saudi relationship. The U.S.-Saudi precarious balancing act had previously depended on, and hidden behind, a coordinated act of smoke and mirrors -- a lack of press attention, and avoidance of intense questioning. Now pundits muse that it is about time for new scrutiny of this complex relationship.
The Arab press has offered conflicting opinions -- on the one hand, especially in the English language papers, speaking with the voice of Arab leaders wanting to maintain ties with the U.S. and continue signaling support for the coalition against terrorism, on the other hand, especially in the more popular Arab language papers, speaking with the opposing voice of popular opinion, condemning U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Arab countries and cultures in general.
Thus, many Saudi newspapers and news websites, many of which get their editorial direction directly from Saudi leadership, headline their support for the U.S.; the Saudis need America's symbolic alliance as much as the U.S. needs Saudi Arabia's oil.
The front page of the English language Saudi Times newspaper leads with a thoughtful pro-U.S., anti-extremist piece by Iraqi-born professor Kanan Makiya, who now lives in the U.S. Makiya's opinion, titled "Arabs need a True Jihad" may better represent the gentle diplomatic line that Arab leaders are taking to preserve positive ties with the U.S. than the popular anti-U.S. sentiment apparent in the protests and uprisings now threatening security or putting pressure on leaders in Arab nations. Makiya's argument, with a similar tenor to much of this week's commentary, focuses on the misuse of religious zealotry to justify terror. No concessions should be made to such cowardly exploitation "fueled by paranoia and frustration," he writes.
To argue, as many Arabs and Muslims (and not a few liberal Western voices) are doing today, that "Americans should ask themselves why they are so hated in the world" is to make such a concession; it is to provide a justification, however unwittingly, for this kind of warped mindset. The thinking is the same as the "linkage" dreamt up by Saddam Hussein when he tried to get the Arab world to believe that he had occupied Kuwait in 1990 in order to liberate Palestine. The difference being that if the argument was intellectually vacuous then, it is a thousand times more so now.
-- By Alyssa Rayman-Read
Waging War; Gauging Its Effects
Over the past few weeks, the British newspaper, The Observer has run several op-eds, side-by-side, sizing up the U.S.-led war efforts in Afghanistan. In a column that ran this past Sunday, Jason Burke, a reporter and expert on Afghanistan, argued that while "nobody can argue with the aim of the war. . .this war, as it is being fought, will not make the world a better, safer place." Burke cites failed Soviet attacks in the '70s, as well as the improbability of ever capturing Osama bin Laden, and urges the U.S. and the U.K. to realize the impracticality of their efforts. In addition, he argues that the allied strikes are only serving to radicalize a formerly moderate culture, as Afghans fall behind the Taliban in alarming numbers. "Western troops in Afghanistan just wouldn't win," he argues, "They would be forced like the Soviets, into isolated, fortified bases."
In the same edition, Geoffrey Wheatcroft writes an equally scathing critique of the anti-war effort, arguing that "by condemning the action against Osama bin Laden, the bleating Left is exposing its own futility." By citing major leaders in the anti-war lobbies and debunking them one by one, Wheatcroft mounts his case. "Even if I didn't hope and believe, as I do, that the murderous madmen of 11 September would be beaten one day, I would agree with [George] Orwell that sometimes it is no longer good enough to be 'advanced' and 'enlightened' and sneer at patriotism, courage and decency."
Another British newspaper, The Independent ran an editorial this week criticizing Prime Minister Tony Blair's rhetoric regarding the war. In a speech he gave to the Welsh Assembly on October 30, Blair spoke in terms of moral absolutes, citing Britain's "strong sense of right and wrong" and "moral fibre." This absolutist rhetoric, the editorial argued, implies that those who are unsure about the military tactics in the campaign in Afghanistan lack moral fiber altogether. While the article does not question the immorality of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it maintains that "there is no simple objective in support of that moral judgment equivalent to restoring the Kosovo Albanians to their homes, or say, to defeating Nazi Germany and imperial Japan in the greatest 'just war' of the last century. The campaign against al-Qu'aida, which is allegedly based in 60 countries, is simply not like that."
Nira Yuval-Davis, an Israeli dissident and a professor in Gender and ethnic studies at the University of Greenwich, London, examines the war through the lens of gender, urging us to view the war not as a binary "clash of civilizations," but as a "dialogical civilization." She argues that the war is presented and promoted in a masculinist way, evidenced most clearly by the West's new focus on the plight of Afghani women -- people whose rights have been severely violated, but whose oppression only became a battle cry for the West after September 11. And even then, she argues, often there is no real concern for the conditions of the women behind the veil. "Rather, as is obviously the case in this war, western interest is a device for ranking the men of the 'other' community as inferior, according to their deviation from a putatively normal western standard."
William Dalrymple, a columnist in the British newspaper The Guardian focuses on Pakistan and its growing separatism and support for Islamist groups. "Regional separatism is only one of the problems now faced by Pakistan," the article states. "President Musharraf's decision to support the American assault on the Taliban, against the wishes of more than 80% of his population, has greatly strengthened Islamist groups, bringing them support from swathes of the population not normally part of their constituency." After a decade of Talibanism, Pakistan has never been closer to an Islamic revolution, and such action could put nuclear weapons into Islamist hands: "Bin Laden's wildest dream."
The Economist describes similar effects on Muslims in Russia as a result of the bombing of Afghanistan, as Russian Muslim leaders have had to strike a precarious balance between endorsing the Kremlin's support for the American strikes and "soothing their own flocks' anxieties." As in the days of communism (and as a direct result of them), many of these leaders are ill educated, impoverished, and often quarrel among themselves, seeming "more interested in getting their share of the budget than in looking after the flock." As a result, Arab missionaries and Arab-educated and funded mullahs have made rapid inroads in the past decade; they refuse to be directed by politicians and promise peace and prosperity with the establishment of an Islamic state. Either way, Russian Muslims remain torn between "their old habit of keeping in with the Russian state and their newer desire, after decades of isolation, to identify with Muslims outside."
An article in Ljubljana Life a magazine written by and for expatriates living in Slovenia, describes the fallout of the September 11 attacks on the region, from domestic and foreign policy, to economics and national security. Most notably affected will be Slovenia's bid for EU and NATO membership. Though the country was preparing for EU membership in 2003, in the wake of the attacks, it is now unclear whether Brussels will be more or less inclined to take new members. This combined with the global economic consequences of terrorism could slow progress significantly for the region.
Immigration Policies: Open Arms, or Bolted Doors?
In a column for The Chicago Sun-Times, Andrew Greeley writes from Vienna, Austria of a "third Islamic invasion of Europe." While the first was stopped in France in the year 732 by Charles Martel, and the second occurred in the mid 15th century with the fall of Constantinople, Greeley claims the third invasion is now:
More than 10 million men and women of Islamic faith live in Western Europe today. They have not come as armed invaders seeking to take political power. Rather, they are poor people seeking jobs and the good life for themselves and their families and hoping to preserve some of their heritage while they do so.
Greeley describes the dilemma of European governments as they try to balance public security with the preservation of individual civil liberties, but he is harsh on existing racist and intolerant policies. While he posits no concrete solution, he advises tolerance and acceptance: "If the West can facilitate the integration of Islam, it will be richer and better for having done so."
The Independent criticized Britain's asylum and immigration policy in an editorial this week, characterizing it as an inefficient, inhumane, random, brutal mess. "It has become a game of chance," it argued, "encouraging economic migrants to resort to deception in order to gain entry to the U.K." The newspaper was skeptical of Home Secretary David Blunkett's announcement of a new package of measures intended to redress these concerns. The envisaged reforms would introduce a variant on the U.S. green card, replacing the former demeaning voucher system that substituted promises for cash benefits. Other prospective reforms would end the practice of detaining asylum seekers in prisons. While the editorial applauds Mr. Blunkett for taking the initiative to introduce reform, it cautions him against the tendency to exploit the despair and hopes of others, urging him to take measures to ensure immigrants get treated with utmost dignity and respect. "He must also give an unambiguous guarantee that the new rules mean the continuation of the generous provision for those who flee to us in need. That is a moral as well as a political duty."
Europe Looks at the U.S
One year after the October revolution in Serbia, Dejan Djokic, a PhD. candidate in the Department of History, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, looks at the nation's progress, particularly in the wake of September 11. Though toppling the Milosevic regime last year was an historic turning point for ex-Yugoslavia, "Belgrade must not forget it belongs to the world," he writes. September 11 has turned international attention elsewhere, leaving Serbia to continue its struggle outside the limelight. As a result, initial Serbian reactions to the U.S. tragedies reflected the bitterness of their own disillusioned circumstances. Initially following the attacks, many Serbs claimed they were "genuinely sorry for the victims of this horrible crime;" these sympathies were often overtaken by the satisfaction that "finally Americans were experiencing the pain they have inflicted upon many small nations, including, of course, Serbia, bombed by NATO only two years ago." As nations withdraw financial aid and turn their gazes to other conflicts, Djokic warns them not to leave Serbia out in the cold: "Revolutionary events do not make a revolution by themselves. Only the extent of changes in Serbia in the coming months and years will tell us whether we really witnessed a revolution in Serbia last October."
-- By Cara Feinberg
Australian news organizations are focusing on the federal elections coming on November 10. Labor Party opposition leader
href="http://www.alp.org.au/">Kim Beazley is running against current Prime Minister and Liberal Party candidate
John Howard. However, the two lead candidates agree in their support for the U.S.-led War on Terror. Howard has already deployed 1,550 Australian troops to assist the U.S., a move Beazley says he fully supports.
Also prominent in the news is Australia's policy of refusing asylum seekers arriving from the Middle East entry into Australian waters. Since August, when the Norwegian freighter USS Tampa was denied permission to land after rescuing 438 mostly Pakistani, Afghani, and Iraqi refugees from their sinking ship, the Howard government has taken a firm stance against the so-called "Boat People" -- a stance criticized by members of the press. (After a weeklong standoff, the government sent the ship's passengers to Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and New Zealand for processing). Despite the no-entry policy, hundreds of asylum seekers continue to attempt the crossing from Indonesia to Australia.
Howard's actions have been criticized for being politically motivated, an attempt to appease anti-immigration voters in rural areas. Howard told href="http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/2001/08/28/FFX7ISRBVQC.html">The Age, "Whilst this is a humanitarian, decent country we are not a soft touch and we are not a nation whose sovereign rights in relation to who comes here are going to be trampled on." However, amidst growing reports of human rights abuses suffered by asylum seekers, pressure is mounting within the Australian press for a more compassionate response. Last week, 353 Australia-bound Iraqis drowned at sea when their boat sank off the coast of Indonesia.
The outcome of the election is not likely to decide the fate of asylum seekers; Beazley also supports the policy of processing claims outside Australia. He has said that he will have better luck persuading Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri to crack down on the people-smuggling trade (relations between the two nations are still prickly after Australia's involvement in East Timor), but so far there is little evidence to back up his claim. The Howard government is now in negotiations with Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Fiji to house asylum seekers while their claims are looked at, an arrangement the island nations say they are ill equipped to handle if the numbers of refugees continue to grow. With the humanitarian crisis escalating, it's clear that is exactly what is happening.
The press has also focused on the varied response to the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan. The Australian's Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan criticizes those who have begun to charge the U.S.-led bombing campaign is dragging on, editorializing: "With strategic bombing, it's not what happens on the first night, or the second night, that matters, it's the prospect that it's going to keep going, on and on and on. The best military counsel is therefore simple: Keep your nerve and keep bombing."
Meanwhile, in sports news: Australian boxing champ Anthony "The Man" Mundine
was stripped of his World Boxing Council rating in response to comments he made about the September 11th attacks. Mundine, a Muslim, href="http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,310187
0%255E2702,00.html">told reporters, "They call it an act of terrorism but if you can understand religion, and our way of life, it's not about terrorism. It's about fighting for God's laws, and America's brought it upon themselves (for) what they've done in the history of time." Commentators tried to downplay the remarks. Said one fellow boxer, "Anthony Mundine says stupid things all the time, so it's no surprise to me."
-- By Joanna Mareth
For the past 40 months, Argentina's government has been trying to keep its economy -- one of the largest in Latin America -- afloat. Now, following last week's sharp decline in Argentina's financial markets, an economic maelstrom seems imminent. President Fernando de la Rua met with opposition governors to persuade them to accept more cuts in federal funding, and Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo attempted to find ways to balance the national budget (including a provincial accord -- a condition for IMF promised bailouts), but nonetheless, the world is still girding itself for what could be the biggest sovereign debt default in history. With the world economy still reeling from the impact of the September 11 attacks, The New York Times reports that this prospect could carry dangerous implications for the global economy. The National Review's financial contributing editor, David Malpass agrees, auguring "substantial contagion" throughout Latin America and the rest of the world.
-- By Cara Feinberg