Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Beginings

While recently moving house and “binning” unwanted stuff I came across an old wallet of mine in the back of a drawer. I checked to see if I had left anything in it – there was nothing except a fortune cookie from some long forgotten Christmas past. It read as follows:-

“You will enjoy good health – that will be your form of wealth”.

I was rather taken aback at having this thrown in my face, as it were. It is true that I am fortunate in that I do enjoy good health and I certainly appreciate the fact that no amount of money can “buy” good health but I was surprised to have this presented to me in this manner. It was the last thing I expected but then Nature, at the time and place of its choosing, has its own way of reminding us of important facts.

This last fact – that Nature has its own way of presenting things - led me to reflect on what Al Ghazali said (he was a Muslim jurist, theologian and mystic born in Iran and who lived 1058-1111 CE) - we can learn from everyone!!:

“Punishment is the natural working out of consequences, and not an arbitrary infliction imposed ab extra.”

From this statement, by a somewhat circuitous route, I arrived at a point where I was thinking about current events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (Al Ghazali spent some time in Damascus). If punishment is the result of consequences - the natural flow of events from cause to effect - then the suffering being experienced by the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria (and by extension many of the Allied military) would be, logically, the result of some previous circumstance or circumstances (the cause).

If we examine Afghanistan for example we find that, certainly in recent times, they have had the beliefs and wishes of others imposed on them – first the Russians and now the Americans and their allies.

The Russian incursion into Afghanistan lasted nine years from December 1979 to February 1989. As part of the Cold War (the West vs Soviet Russia) the conflict between Soviet led Afghan troops fighting multi-national insurgent groups (predominantly Muslim but US aided) known as the mujahideen was very violent.

The mujahideen won and the Russians were forced out in 1989.

Now for the Americans and their allies (including Australia) the Taliban are the “enemy” in Afghanistan – but both the mujahedeen and the Taliban had their origins in the original Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and are indirect creations of the US from their attempts to weaken the Soviets during the Cold War.

Also, indirectly, it has been alleged that the early foundations of al-Qaeda stem, at least in part, from the relationships, the weaponry and the billions in US aid that was given to support the mujahedeen in their fight to expel the Soviets.

The Afghan people are a tough and independent lot – they resent any incursion by anyone.

What goes around comes around!

Then there is Iraq. I know the Saddam Hussein was a very unpleasant character but he unified and modernised Iraqi society and facilitated the education of millions of Iraqis (both male and female) to such an extent that he was even given an award by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Everything worked, people had food, employment and a level of social services that were unprecedented among Middle Eastern countries in what was an (admittedly enforced) secular country.

Now it is a disaster. Iraq is a mess of sectarian violence. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died as did thousands of Americans and their allies in the invasion of that country. For what? Bombs and general shootings are still killing hundreds of these unfortunate people. And to make matters worse previously reliable electricity and water services are now somewhat problematic and the previously excellent social services are virtually non-existent and there is high unemployment. Also it is not a “Democracy” such as would be approved by the “West”.

Syria is something else again. The current civil war (upward of 40 000 have died and millions have fled their homes) appears to be an extension of the “Arab spring” movement but would seem to have been high-jacked by the “Muslim Brotherhood” which had its origins in Egypt and others apparently affiliated to Muslim extremists and al-Qaeda.

All indications are that Syria will end up as a fragmented failed state despite the efforts of other Arab countries and the “West” who are desperately trying to prevent this.

America and the West cannot hope to impose anything resembling the Western Ideal of Democracy in the Middle East if the peoples concerned are not prepared to embrace it. If they do embrace Democracy it may be a version, a local somewhat altered version, a cherry-picked version. It will be, however, what they choose. Let it be – it will be a “grass roots” from the bottom up movement to allow the local populace a voice in running their country.  It cannot and will not be something imposed by outsiders (and non-Muslims at that).

The West, by trying to interfere in the internal affairs of these countries (something the West would never accept if the roles were reversed) has started a sequence of events that it has no power to control. If the West does not like the results – the consequences – of its interference then the West must look to itself.

As Al-Ghazali said (see my quote above) “Punishment is the natural working out of consequences, and not an arbitrary infliction imposed ab extra.”

The Arabs are not children. They will sort themselves out.  They are an intelligent people some of whom have been caught up in a quasi-religious, quasi-political ideology and, combined with a distorted view of history, are trying to impose their views and to recreate a long lost “golden age” of Arab achievement to match the West. Their “power” comes from a strict interpretation of the Koran and  application of their version of Islamic Law.

Let them be. Leave well alone. The West must learn to take responsibility for, and accept the consequences, of its actions (good or bad).

Remember what goes around comes around!

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