ROTARY- Pag. 24-27 – 10-20
The speech of the PDG Piero Marcenaro on the n.5 of “Rotary”, May 20 ”, was an incentive for me to deepen the subject and express my thoughts on a situation that does not concern only and exclusively oil. The armed intervention in Iraq has deep and remote roots that I could trace back more than a century ago and concerns the situation of the Middle Eastern Arab world in general. In particular, I refer to some events that have profoundly affected the feelings of the Arab peoples towards the West, the U.S.A. in particular, propitiators of armed intervention in Iraq.
Religious factor in Arab countries
The temperament and tradition of the populations living in the southern part of the Mediterranean area make them particularly sensitive to religious involvement. We can better understand such an attitude if we take into consideration the fact that the whole society is impregnated with religious characters. It is enough to think that it is precisely from the Koran that every Arab State with a Muslim majority draws the laws governing the coexistence between citizens. Islam, both as a state and as a religion, contains an immutable social project, as the Koran has laid the foundations for civil society for people of all times and places. All Muslims are part of the same Umma community. Despite national borders, the concept of the Umma predominates in Muslim philosophy. From this one understands that the religious factor cannot be overlooked in addressing the problems of the Middle East. Movements and parties constituted on an Islamic religious basis have in common an anti-Western vision and intend to change society in such a way as to reconstitute, rightly or wrongly, a situation existing in past times where life was created according to the true values of Islam. They believe they have a model of civilization to offer, and they want to replace ours. The fundamentalist current, however, aims to take possession of the world and to expand beyond national borders with a spirit of conquest that at times does not exclude violence. Poverty and ignorance have favoured the extension of religious extremist culture (not to be confused with terrorism). In the last forty years there has been a very strong demographic growth in Muslim society, which has led to a doubling of the population. And this has happened in geographical areas which, with the exception of a small privileged minority, are characterized by a very low economic level compared to that of the West, which results into waves of migration towards Europe. Population growth and economic backwardness are the two main reasons for the migration to the West, which has become, particularly in recent years also due to its geographical proximity. Europe has become a pole of great attraction for many emigrants from Arab countries. We see then that religious extremism, combined with economic and cultural underdevelopment, manages to include population across the social classes, who are disappointed by the lack of economic development and social reforms always promised (and never implemented) by the so-called socialist governments. Islam is therefore perceived as an opportunity for redemption and fundamentalism exploits the ignorance of these social strata regarding its objectives of conquest. Precisely for this reason, the accusation that is most often brought against the work of the Arab governments politically allied to the West is that they do not follow the teachings of the Koran to the letter and instead give in to compromise with the Western world and its external symbols.
Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and abolition of the Caliphate
In the second half of the 18th century, with the decline of the Muslim world, the decline of the Ottoman Empire began, from which England and France tried to take advantage by acquiring power in the region. In the middle of the 19th century, thanks to Arab philosophers and thinkers, Christians and Muslims joined together, despite colonization, in search of a lost identity and to create a secular Arab nationalism on the model of the ideas imported from Europe, taken as an example for the emancipation from the medieval laws to which they were still subject. Nationalism was secular in order to bring together in the common interest all the communities that formed it; it was constitutionalist and emphasised cultural, economic and industrial development and the emancipation of women. This also had repercussions in the way the elites lived and practiced Islam: it evolved in a different way from popular practice. After the First World War, France and England agreed on the partition of the Ottoman Empire, which had kept different peoples united through the strict application of Sharia law. With the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the caliphate by Ataturk in 1924, the Muslim peoples remained “orphans” from the religious point of view, provoking reactions of rejection which gave rise to movements for the Islamic awakening and the reconstitution of the concept of “Umma” and “dar el islam” in opposition to the concept of nationality.
At a time when the Arabs, on the model of Europe, managed to emancipate themselves from religious-based legislation, a British document of 1917, the “Balfour Declaration”, guaranteed the creation of a national Jewish home, a state based on religious identity and therefore discriminating against non-Jews. The commitment made, while confirming the aspiration of the first Zionist Congress held in 1897 following the pogroms suffered by the Jews in Europe and Russia, was not in keeping with a previous commitment, consisting in the creation of an Arab State as a reward for those Arabs who had supported the war against the Turks.
We have seen that originally the union between the Arabs began as an engine to achieve independence and socialism was the instrument to introduce social justice, economic and cultural development. With the independence acquired after the Second World War, the Arab countries promoted free education and industrialization with the consequent phenomenon of urbanization. But the new recruits, especially university students, uprooted from their rural context, with a degree but no job, have become easy prey for Islamic fundamentalists, who fill in with their ideas the ideological void and absence of a stable social fabric caused by the flow of peasants coming into the city on the wave of the population explosion and graduation at all costs. With the time passing, this awakening takes on a precise political colour. Religion becomes the engine of liberation and conquest movements and coincides with the expansionism of Arab Islam in Africa. The recent movements of re-Islamization have in common the break with the previous type of social organization and are opposed to an Islam of compromise, weakened by the modernity transmitted by secularization. The “Muslim Brotherhood” movement founded in Egypt in 1928, which currently has much ramification also in the Western world, is an example of the transformation of this awakening by cultivating the anti-Western mentality and blaming the United States (the West, generally assimilated to the Christian world) for its economic and technological backwardness and for the support given to the constitution of the State of Israel. The disappointment of the middle classes and workers for the non-fulfilment of the promises made and for the defeats suffered by the State of Israel, which they see continually strengthening, offers in the 80’s a fertile ground for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, (with terrorist affiliations) financed by petrodollars.
Petrodollar: destabilisation element
Considering that the Gulf region is of strategic importance, since it accumulates the greatest energy reserves vital for the continuity of the economic expansion of the West, it is widely held that the United States have considered the Islamic monarchies as a stronghold of the interests of the West and have welcomed the diffusion of religious movements aimed at contracting the expansion of the influence of the USSR and socialism, political movement connected to Nasser; Nasser quickly spread the idea of pan-Arab union in the Arab masses under the banner of non-aligned and equidistant socialism between the USA and the USSR, therefore not pro-Western. The Saudi monarchy was hostile to the spread of the modern secular nationalism freed from religious laws and considered it a real danger for all the monarchies of the peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Emirates). Together with Pakistan these states founded the Conference of Islamic States in 1969. It is well known that Saudi Arabia, the richest country in the world, financed Islamic confraternities and movements throughout the world to promote religious fundamentalism in the name of Islam by spreading daily hatred towards the corrupted and corrupting West. In the majority of Muslim countries, Islamization is carried out through sweeping propaganda that does not neglect the use of all modern means of mass communication.
Resentment against the West
The hostility reiterated by the Arab and Muslim world can be traced back to the following factors:
- Promises broken by the Allies to create a Hashimite kingdom in return for the support received by the Arabs in World War I against the Ottoman occupation. The Kingdom should have included: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Jordan) and Arabia, all former territories of the Ottoman Empire.
- Transfer to Turkey of the region of Antioch, an area with an Arab majority with a strong Christian community ceded in 1939 by France in return for Turkish neutrality during World War II.
- Creation, favoured by the Jewish Holocaust, in 1948 of the confessional State of Israel with western connotations on the territory of Palestine, inhabited predominantly by Arabs at the expenses of the previous agreement to create a simple Jewish national Home.
- Destruction of the Arab, Christian and Muslim character in Palestine and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, Christians and Muslims.
- Rivalry of the powers for the control of energy sources in the Middle East.
- Dissemination of Islamic extremism, promoted by the Conference of Islamic States led by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and not hindered by the United States, and inclined to contain the secular movements of Arab union supported by the former USSR under the leadership of Nasser.
- Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s with one million dead where several states (including Israel) supplied armaments to the warring parties.
- Gulf war with more than 100,000 dead which, resolved in a short time, has revealed the indifference and indifference for Lebanon, a country with Arab connotations, to be saved from foreign Arab, Israeli, Iranian invasions, etc.
- Sarajevo, in the middle of Europe, where Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Jews had lived together for centuries. In front of everyone’s eyes this coexistence has been destroyed.
Further difficulties in the relationship between the western Islamic world come from the fact that the economic gap is widening between the north of the Mediterranean, mostly Christian and the south mostly Muslim, arousing the feeling of frustration of the Arab masses, often politically exploited. The commonplaces of criticism that one hears repeated against the West are of the type: economic colonialism has taken over from military colonialism, the desire for revenge against the former colonizers, the sense of victimhood, the source of the evils of the Muslim peoples (poverty, exploitation, internal divisions, …) to a strong, rich and, above all, Christian friend of the Zionists, are a propellant to the sense of frustration spreading in the masses cleverly manipulated. The terrain for the challenge becomes mature.
After September 11
The instability of the Middle East, accompanied by widespread resentment against the West, are the main ingredients of Islamic terrorism, a source of danger for the whole West and not only for the USA, but for the governments of the Mediterranean area themselves. An Arab population frustrated in its aspirations in terms of education, social and health non-existence, and prosperity, is an easy prey to political disorder, continuing to pose a threat to the stability of the region and the world. Moreover, the majority presence of Saudi Arabian terrorists has shaken USA confidence in its iron ally, the main supplier of oil but still the financier of Islamic movements opposed to the Western way of life. The main purpose of the armed intervention in Iraq in March was, in my opinion, to try to introduce in the heart of the Arab world, at the gates of Saudi Arabia, a government that brings stability and does not hinder the process of normalization of relations between Palestinians and Israelis and to bring the economic well-being and security that serve as an example of government in the region. All financed, of course, by Iraqi oil revenues. Development and justice and freedom will be the propellant for peace in the Middle East, isolating the extremist fringes and proposing an example of nationalism (Arab and Israeli) without religious extremism: the dream of Arab unity between Muslims, Jews and Christians. The elimination of the turbulence in the region would remove the motive for young people to emigrate, hoarding the wealth invested in young Arabs. As for democracy, it is not a “ready-to-wear” concept that applies to a heterogeneous social body but, with freedom of expression, it will be possible in a more or less long term to develop the process respecting ancestral values and pluralism.
If the dynamics of peace finally finds space in the Middle East, the Jewish State, with its democracy and its developed market economy, (while desisting from the confessional State), will no longer risk finding itself isolated in an area where cohesion between the Arab countries will grow, but rather would act in synergy with them. With the exception of Lebanon, until the intervention of the Syrian occupation force, the Arab world has not known freedom of expression. For Lebanon, freed from Syrian control, the opportunity presents itself to rediscover the legendary Lebanese entrepreneurial spirit which has constituted the strength of its economy and the engine of economic development of the Gulf countries. With their typical activism, the descendants of the Phoenicians are given the opportunity to take the initiative for the economic development of the entire region and the cultural revival of the Arab world. Religious pluralism and cultural liveliness, which could derive from the freedom of expression in the Middle East with the new course, would give strength to the ancient civilizations of this region, which could resume the role of bridge between East and West. Utopia? No, just hope.
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The original contributions begin with Giuseppe Samir Eid’s paper on “Iraq: not only oil”.
The original contributions begin with Giuseppe Samir Eid’s paper on “Iraq: not only oil”.
The previous article by Piero Marcenaro (“Rotary”, May 20 To know each and understand each other to co-exist and build peace, page 16) on the, so to speak, petrochemical origins, of not only ideological conflicts in the Middle East area has provoked consensus among readers and developed predictable additional queues to the Author’s assertions: it could not have gone better, since the purpose of each publication, ours in this case, is also to stimulate comparisons and further clarifications that can only benefit a better understanding of the arguments proposed and developed, even if of non-Rotarian character.) on the petrochemical origins, let’s say, of the conflicts, not only ideological, in the Middle East area, has provoked consensus among readers and developed predictable additional queues to the Author’s assertions: it could not have gone better, since the purpose of each publication, ours in this case, is also to stimulate comparisons and further clarifications that can only benefit a better understanding of the arguments proposed and developed, even if of non-Rotarian character. It should be read with extreme attention not only because it is a wise summary of different aspects of the “Islam problem” but also because it is difficult, it is my subdued thought, to find readers – including myself, in the front row – with a deep knowledge of the history of Islam, of its impulses, of its status as a religion and as a philosophy of life, of its allocation in the beginning of the millennium that we are living, of its potential conflict with the West, true or presumed to be. If you would like further documentation on the matter – and only to refer to our publications – I would like to remind you of Mangione’s article, the reply of Councils and Mangione’s clarification on “Rotary”, respectively of March and April 20 To know and understand each other to co-exist and build peace.
Free web translation from the original in Italian
The published articles intend to provide the tools for a social inclusion of the migratory flow, shed light on human rights and the condition of life of Christians in the Islamic world from which the author come from. Knowledge of the other, of cultural and religious differences are primary ingredients to create peace in the hearts of men everywhere, a prerequisite for a peaceful coexistence and convinced citizenship in the territory.