Reviews of Whither WANA? and World in Crisis: Is There a Cure?
By Eric Walberg
Chandra Muzaffar has published two ebooks at Just International which can be downloaded free and read in the comfort of one’s home, an excellent use of our ever-advancing communications technology.
is a collection of Muzaffar’s writings on Western Asia and North Africa (WANA). He prefers the term WANA to ‘Middle East’, and criticizes the term ‘Arab Spring’—both are tendentious, the former coined by the imperialists, for whom the countries involved were in the middle of their Great Game intrigues. The latter term reflects an overly optimistic view of the upheavals in WANA in the past three years.
Optimists talked of ‘revolution’ in WANA initially but the old guard have reasserted control—most prominently in Egypt with the July 2013 coup. Muzaffar is no supporter of the entrenched secular elites, but at the same time, he is disappointed that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was not more inclusive.
I am not so sure that the MB was at fault during their brief hold on power in Egypt from the triumph of the Islamists in elections in 2012 and the election of President Morsi the same year. Their hands were tied by the judiciary and military, who annulled the parliament and cancelled Morsi’s presidential powers, and then worked with the Mubarakite old guard to sabotage the economy—cutting off Egypt’s nose to spite its face. A sad commentary on the mindset of these worldly types.
Were the MBers really so guilty of promoting only their own people? Considering that they have consistently been shut out of political power and persecuted, it is not surprising that they tried to undo this discrimination. The US political process is notorious for the party in power promoting its own. At least we can be confident that the MBers are less corrupt (I know there are always exceptions).
Also, I wonder what the MB would really do if they had the chance, concerning US military hegemony in the region. Are they really so compliant as some cynics contend? And would they just let neoliberalism continue, or would they take control of Egypt’s currency and institute a nationwide employment and cultural/ economic regeneration?
Muzaffar perceptively links the Qatari obsession with ousting Syrian President Assad to their gas pipeline scheme, which involved transshipment through Syria but now is in doubt. This argument goes for the Qatari-Saudi stand-off as well. The Saudis don’t like Qatari gas plans, as they want to control economic activity in the region and resent others, including Qatar and a potentially independent, strong Egypt.
The Saudis seem to be playing either a naïve or cynical role these days in supporting their Wahhabi Islamists in Syria, and at the same time opposing the MB in Egypt. In other words, opposing the staunchly anti-Israeli military regime in Syria, while siding with the pro-Israeli military regime in Egypt. Not a pretty picture.
The Saudis and Qataris are both against Assad, but it seems for different reasons. This highlights the very complex situation in WANA, which has been wracked by intrigues and subterfuge throughout the 19th–20th centuries. The craven role the Saudis play on many levels is so obvious—it appears even US President Obama is waking up to it, as he shows some backbone in the face of the Israel lobby over further sanctions on Iran, the Saudi regime’s nemesis.
Speaking of Iran, Muzaffar makes a good point about the cool Turkey-Iran relations being a legacy of Ottoman-Safavid rivalry.
World in Crisis: Is There a Cure?
is a collection of Muzaffar’s reflections on the umma and Islam in today’s world. I agree with him that the underlying problem is with the Enlightenment and the rise of modernity based on ‘science’ (the ‘scientific method’), which precludes art and morality as integral to ‘economic development’.
Putting a nondogmatic religious worldview at the heart of our material lives is the bottom line. Muslims in the West have an important role in this struggle. The advances in communications technology can help in this (as the very publication of these books shows).
Also vital is combining the forces of the renewed struggle by indigenous peoples around the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, who have not lost their spiritual relationship with nature. Malaysia (and post-Suharto Indonesia) are key countries in this new ‘postmodern imperialist’ world.
Malaysia’s attempts to incorporate Islamic principles into economics is encouraging. Has it made a difference? The challenge for Muslims today is to show that Islam can respond to the world’s crises in an inclusive way. Malaysia’s experience is an important test.
As Muzaffar argues, the Western media delights in portraying all Islamists as terrorists. This was part of the US strategy of giving blanket support to the mujahideen in Afghanistan (and now in Syria), regardless of the consequences for borderless terrorists using this ‘window of opportunity’ to expand. Also Saudi Arabia played (plays today in Syria) a terrible role in cahoots with the US. The present Saudi support for al-Nusra in Syria is like the Saudi support for the 9/11 highjackers as revealed in the censored portion of the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry of 9/11. i have written about this at
I agree with Muzaffar’s position that ‘gaylib’ and same-sex marriage is more a sign of how far off-track the Western Enlightenment project is, than evidence of Western ‘enlightenment’. It is heartening to see that Russia has staked out a position similar to the Islamic one. This cultural battle is an important one, and a principled position well articulated, emphasizing basic human rights grounded in a spiritual context, will be an important way to wake people up to Islam’s importance in the renewal of our common civilization today.
Muzaffar argues that the Muslim diaspora in the West has a special role to play in renewing Islamic Civilization; for instance, women wearing the hijab and people both refraining from alcohol, and committing to regular prayer and fasting are subtle challenges to harmful Western secular norms.
These books help us use the increasing means provided by modern technology in a creative way to build Islamic civilization. Muzaffar’s writing is clear and engaging and deserves a wide readership.