Questioning war with Iraq

Anyone who is not Muslim will have a hard time understanding the very intense sorrow that most Muslims perhaps feel at the mere mention of war with Iraq. That is not to say that a person must be Muslim to have feelings, or to sympathize with the innocent who will suffer along with the guilty should war take place. The difference is that as Muslims, we perhaps feel a certain since of responsibility for all that has gone wrong in the Muslim world, that we couldn’t mount a more formidable opposition to the Arab regimes, leading to reforms. If there had ever been US, or French, or German support for the democratization movements of the Muslim world, they could have succeeded when it was important, and carried out to the benefit of Muslims and Arabs, which of course was not then a great enough incentive. Muslims might also feel a sense of relief that finally the world can see and hear what Muslims have been trying to say for so many years. Guilt and relief are no! t necessarily antagonists, but one must understand that when they combine in a single heart, the soul feels conflicted, and burdened none the less. How many Muslims have lost their lives over the years, because they dared to speak out against the brutality of many of the Arab regimes. How many died because they could not understand why they should not have food, adequate clothing, an opportunity to be educated like others, to have jobs, health care. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t have the same freedoms, hopes, and possibilities that others, more fortunate have. Why shouldn’t they have the same chances? Ironically Iraq, prior to the first Gulf War might have been one of these brutal Arab dictatorships, yet it was among the most progressive, and most advanced countries of the Arab Muslim world. Saddam built palaces, but he also built universities, educated Muslim women, and built an impressive infrastructure of roads and services for the Iraqi people.

Now, everyone knows the dirty secrets of oppression and tyranny that have silenced the voices of so many innocent Muslims over the years. No one knows the names, or exact numbers of the Muslims who have disappeared, or died in dirty dungeons, hands and feet shackled, tortured to death because they wore a beard, or a scarf, or prayed too often in the mosque, or spoke out about an injustice so obvious that the risk lacked merit since everyone already knew. The only difference between the one that lived and the one that died is that the one who died or disappeared thought someone cared. Is it any wonder that Islamists had to be equated with Osama bin Laden, and tagged terrorists by pro-Israeli columnists and pundits ? How else would their sacrifices be ignored, and their lives and deaths made to appear meaningless while Israel and the US take a bow for democratization? The presumed victors are writing history. Are they lying, or do they also create truth? The earth’s stomach must be churning, and its dead screaming in their graves over the mere possibility that one day the history books might read that the Muslim world was saved by the implementation of the Netanyahu Plan. ugh!

Few of us said or did anything to spare the Muslim world the shame, and the potential hardships that will accompany war. Yet, we all knew that one day, war, regime change, etc. might come. We knew because the few courageous men who would gather in the mosques prayed that one day God would tire of the injustices, and that He would take up the issue of the lost lives, and the suffering, and the tyranny and arrogance that brought one of the richest regions in the world to ruin. They used to quote the Qur’an where God said he checks one people with another, to eliminate oppressions and tyranny.

There are also questions about liberation. The United States cannot liberate Iraq because the United States is Israel’s number one patron. Sorry to say it, but no one believes that the United States is operating solely in its own interest, and few imagine that Israel gives a damn about the Iraqi people. What Iraqi will accept that they can be liberated by what they no doubt see as an Israeli surrogate? Can a person be liberated and not know it, or accept it? Can they refuse to be liberated? There are lots of suspicions about this war. Some suspect that a Zionist cabal wants to attack Iraq because no Arab country can be allowed to rival Israel, and that the Jews want to make Haj, and that some of them are determined to make Israel the preeminent power in the Middle East, over all of our dead bodies if need be. Many Muslims and Arabs and others have suspected for years that the “final solution” for Palestine would be the forced transfer of Palestinians ! to Iraq, sealing Israel’s successful bid for all of historic Palestine as a Jewish only state. Some people might feel that a cooperative regime in Iraq would open the door for forced transfers, and so the need for regime change. Some people also suspect that this might be the real reason for the threat of war, and regime change.

There are still many unanswered questions about war with Iraq. They are perhaps questions that only preoccupy the Muslim mind. Questions like, if indeed Saddam has hidden weapons of mass destruction underground and in the homes of various scientists etc., will bombs falling upon such sites release these agents? I think that for certain someone has determined that should this happen, the West will be safe, but will the soil, water and air over and inside Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world be safe? Muslims are probably also wondering what is being done to protect the Palestinians should Iraq attack Israel ? What if Ariel Sharon starts to kill even more Palestinians while we are all preoccupied with the Iraq war? Not that it will make much difference, since no one much cares what Sharon does, or whether or not Palestinians are killed. Still, someone should ask if the Palestinians can also get gas masks and small pox shots, administered of course by their own! doctors and not the UN or Israel. Along with these questions, there are others and these have to do with the rules. Once the United States is on Iraqi soil, whose rules are in force? If the Iraqi people come under US occupation are they subject to US law, and do they have US constitutional rights, or will we see another Israeli type occupation where the people have no rights? There are many questions that might be running through the Muslim mind right now, and the US administration should make an attempt to reach out to the people of the Muslim world, and Muslims internationally, in an effort to address some of our perhaps unique concerns about war. Muslim support, once war ensues, if it does, is going to be more important than it was previously, and so along with freeing the Muslim world, the US must also become accustomed to caring about, and communicating earnestly with her people, including the Palestinian people.

A lot has been said about the cooperation of the Europeans in rebuilding Iraq, yet nothing much has been said about the cooperation of the Iraqi, Arab and Muslim people in rebuilding Iraq. The United States and Israel are ready to make the same mistake that Arab governments have repeatedly made, and that is to ignore the people. I say the United States and Israel sarcastically, and in response to a New York Times article, (Is it Good for Jews? March 9, 2003) which suggests that President Bush has now capitulated to the Netanyahu Plan for the Middle East, hoping that by so-doing he will gain that part of the Jewish vote that is traditionally reserved for Democrats. This is very hard to believe only because the Jewish population, in total, including the Israeli Jews who also vote in the United States, is less than the Hispanic, or the African American populations, which also traditionally vote as Democrats. They might also have other priorities, an! d might not be as gung ho about Israel as some other groups, nor so eager to attack Iraq unilaterally. Any one of these two groups represents a larger pool of votes than the entire Jewish vote, Republican and Democrat, and so it goes almost without saying that the 20% of either of these groups who might vote Republican in support of school choice, etc., is greater than the number of Jewish voters who are  likely to vote for a President simply because he attacked Iraq. The strategy mentioned in the Times, also completely ignores the fact that the President risks alienating these larger groups of voters if he is seen as a President who is insensitive to people of color, the poor, the weak and the suffering. To suggest that Jewish voters would vote for a President because he attacked Iraq is an insult to Jewish people. To suggest that the President would attack Iraq to get votes is a cheap shot, and an insult to the President. Would the US attack Iraq to get votes from a minority of the nations third or fourth largest minority ? There are still many unanswered questions about a possible war with Iraq, and while its no doubt important to lobby the UN governments, some attention should also be paid to the questions and concerns that might be important to the 1.2 billion Muslim people of the world.

The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women and host a weekly internet radio program at IBN.Net, named “A Civilizational Dialogue.” (1-2 PM each Wednesday). The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.