Rene — How Three Threats Interlock

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How Three Threats Interlock
by Amin Saikal
Published on Monday, December 29, 2003
International Herald Tribune
Three minority extremist groups – the militant fundamentalist
Islamists exemplified at the far edge by Al Qaeda, certain activist
elements among America’s reborn Christians and neoconservatives, and
the most inflexible hard-line Zionists from Israel – have emerged as
dangerously destabilizing actors in world politics. Working perversely
to reinforce each other’s ideological excesses, they have managed
to drown out mainstream voices from all sides. Each has the aim of
changing the world according to its own individual vision.
If these extremists are not marginalized, they could succeed in
creating a world order with devastating consequences for generations
to come. Al Qaeda and its radical Islamist supporters, believing in
Islam as an assertive ideology of political and social transformation,
want a re-Islamization of the Muslim world according to their vision
and their social and political preferences. The alternative that they
offer is widely regarded as regressive and repressive even by most
Muslims, let alone the West. Violence against innocent civilians can
neither be justified in Islam nor find approval among a majority of
Muslims. Yet many Muslims have come to identify with the anti-American
and anti-Israeli stance of the radicals because they have grown
intolerant of America’s globalist policies
Muslims have been angered by U.S. support for dictatorial regimes in
Muslim countries, including at one point Saddam Hussein’s, and by its
backing of Israel as a force occupying Palestinian lands and Islam’s
third holiest place, East Jerusalem. The U.S.-$ led occupation of Iraq,
seen by many in the Middle East as imperial behavior harmful to the
Iraqi people, has certainly not eased these feelings. On another side
are groups of internationalist activists among American fundamentalist
Christians and neoconservatives who have found it opportune since
Sept. 11, 2001, to pursue their agendas more aggressively. They wish
to reshape the Middle East and defiant political Islam according to
their ideological and geopolitical preferences.
The extremists of these groups seek to “civilize” or “democratize”
the Arab world in particular, and the Muslim world in general, in their
own images, and they have particular influence through key appointees
in the Bush administration. The fact that democracy can neither be
imposed nor be expected to mushroom overnight does not appear to
resonate with them. (The agenda of some fundamentalist Christians,
who promote Jewish dominance of the Palestinian lands as leading the
world closer to the prophesied Judgment Day, is a variant that might
be dismissed as a hysterical fringe element if it were not connected
to a powerful voting bloc supporting President George W. Bush.)
The efforts of the neoconservatives dovetail all too effectively with
the aims of the radical Zionists who push for more and more Jewish
settlements on Palestinian land. Because of Israel’s proportional
voting system, these radicals exercise disproportionate power within
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government. Although a majority of the
Israelis still support the creation of an independent Palestinian
state based on the principle of land for peace, the electoral
system leaves them hostage to the minority of extremists in their
midst. The activities of these three extremist minorities feed on one
another: actions by each are seized on by others to justify their own
extremism. With considerable help, intended or not, from one another,
these three groups have now positioned themselves to determine the
future of world order and, for that matter, humanity. Prime Minister
Tony Blair recently declared that Iraq would define the future of
relations between the West and the Muslim world. This is also precisely
what Osama Bin Laden and his leadership associates have said from the
Islamic side. It is important that these minorities not be allowed to
have such an influence. It is necessary for the mainstream from all
sides to return to the center stage to chart the direction of world
politics before it is too late.
It takes a few to make war but many to make peace. In pursuit of
peace, not only should Al Qaeda and its associates be marginalized,
but the radical international agendas of some reborn Christians,
neoconservatives and hard-line Zionists should be completely
discredited. Doing away with one and not the others is not an option
for our future.
Amin Saikal is professor of political science and director of the
Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National
Copyright © 2003 the International Herald Tribune