BY SAEED NAQVI
In the decade since 9/11, has the West’s rift with the Muslim world widened? There was a window of opportunity to compose the rift when the Arab Spring ushered in a secular mass mobilization in Tunis and more decisively in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.
Secular Muslim youth, Coptic Christians, a toned down Muslim Brotherhood, were all there, seeking change. Not once did one hear slogans against Israel or the United States. This was true of the fervent in all the countries this journalist visited – Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria even Qatif and Dahran, the oil bearing region of Saudi Arabia. But monarchies, sheikhdoms, dictatorships looked at each other in a state of funk because the people were out on the streets.
A handful of American columnists are being shortsighted in owning upto the mess that is being left behind by Britain and France in Libya. The United States was not interested in getting involved in a third Muslim country, the other two being Iraq and Afghanistan. How it was blackmailed into acquiescence in the name of saving NATO is another story.
Now, ofcourse, US diplomat and Arabist, Jeff Feltman has appeared in Benghazi just in case the scrambling Europeans forget their premier Atlantic partner.
How would the Muslim world have taken the six month long televised marathon in Libya? Also, there are 20 million Muslims in Europe. How would they react? Here is yet another occasion where one image evokes diametrically opposed responses between the West and the rest, particularly Muslims. In Europe, the responses would range from Anders Breivik’s in Oslo to the Muslim fringe, in a heightened state of agitation, after Libya. A glass, full of promise, has been spilt. Can an attempt be made to rescue some goodwill in the run upto the UN General Assembly vote on Palestine later this month?
A pity the Spring ushered in by Arab youth has been willfully wasted by the West. Indeed, the shaken monarchies and the remaining dictatorships have rallied around the US and Europe to protect themselves.
While some of the western diplomats have been selling the lemon that Libyan oil was not the reason for the invasion, facts on the ground suggest oil, water, Libya’s links with resource rich Africa are the prime reasons for European interest in the country whose leader, Qaddafi, was their friend until the other day.
I was reading an autobiography which touches on the King of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah’s exile from Lucknow in 1856, an event which triggered the great uprising of 1857. That was classical regime change, one of the many that colonialism engineered. The metropolitan centers of control in Europe have not shed habits picked up in the 19th century. Indian statecraft probably has its own logic, what I find disgraceful is the deafening silence in India’s intellectual corridors.
Western media, which in the past threw up its hands in horror at the very mention of Muslim Brotherhood, is suddenly so accommodative of the Brothers that the Economist is editorially advising whoever would care to listen that all Muslims are not ogres provided they play by democratic rules.
This is true, but this line is being devised to justify the overthrow (almost) of possibly the most secular dictator in the region other than the two Baa’th regimes in Syria and Iraq. As someone who visited Tripoli after President Reagan bombed the country on “suspicions” of terrorism and more recently, I can say with authority that it was the only society in the region free of the Mullah. The most educated person in the neighbourhood could lead the Friday prayers. The country boasted of the world’s first military academy for women. Indeed, Qaddafi’s two bodyguards were women. Difficult to believe that he “murdered” his own people as Alain Juppe and David Cameron have repeatedly alleged?
If he was such a tyrant, how do we explain cosy deals between British and French Intelligence agencies and Tripoli? When the dust settles all lies will stand exposed. In the meanwhile do not give credence to the well informed businessman from Tripoli who insists that in the melee, Qaddafi placed his bets on both sides. In other words, watch the man being brought into focus as Libya’s interim leader: keep a steady gaze on his eye which he might wink in warm recognition whenever he sees Qaddafi or his minions at a moment opportune for both.
(Saeed Naqvi is senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)