Saturday, November 13, 2004

Fallujah, Arafat, Tak Bai, Eid-ul-Fitri

We live in a globalised world – and I must be one of the more globalised persons in this globalised world, for here I am, feeling utterly depressed and worried with what is happening in Iraq, Palestine, Southern Thailand and other Muslim hotspots around the world – less than 12 hours before Eid-ul-Fitri, a day to commemorate and celebrate our victory throughout Ramadhan. I cannot be alone; there must be millions of Muslims around the world feeling this pinch of globalisation lately.

This year’s Eid-ul-Fitri is reminiscent to 2001’s Eid-ul-Fitri, when I celebrated it moderately in London in the midst of cluster and daisy cutter bombs being mercilessly dropped in Afghanistan. Back then, the most common Eid greeting that I sent to friends was not to forget the Afghans in our joy and spending spree – to the point that I must have irritated some of them immensely.

History repeats itself. More than a month ago, we saw and witnessed helplessly the slaughter of our brethren in Tak Bai and the systematic inhumane treatment meted out by the authority. If each day we are accustomed to a few Muslim deaths in Palestine – never before we were hit with hundreds of Muslim deaths in one day so close at home. It is more painful to bear in mind that the Muslim population of Pattani shares the same language, blood, culture and heritage with us.

A week ago, fresh from the so-called mandate (although one cannot miss the fact that Republicans manipulated the referendum on gay marriage and abortion to attract evangelical Christians to come out in drove for Bush – Bush was a secondary issue, it was the referendum that worked to the disadvantage of the Democrats) he received in the recently concluded election, Dubya authorised the assault on Fallujah – as it was with Afghanistan in 2001, this former cocaine addict ignored the importance and sacredness of Ramadhan and Eid-ul-Fitri to the Muslims. Fighting continues till this very hour, with the main hospital being overrun by the GIs and the town lacking basic medical supplies. Guardian reported that there is not even a single surgeon left in the rubble of what once a prosperous Baghdad’s suburban.

As if that is not enough to plunge me in a depression, this week we learnt of Arafat’s death. I may not be so fond of him or his PA of late, but the fact this man embodies the struggle of Palestinians over five decades for self determination and dignity cannot be denied. In Arafat we learn of Palestinians’ hope, disappointment, courage, struggle and longing for a homeland which was taken away unjustly from them.

With the geopolitical shape of the world in its current state, one cannot help but feel utterly hopeless and devastated. Conservatives and right wing governments are taking hold in Washington, Canberra, Rome, Paris, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and other important governments of the world. Even Blair’s New Labour is a shadow of its past – sometimes it sounds more right wing than the Tories. In South East Asia, we are surrounded by right wing governments left right and centre – from Thaksin in Bangkok, to Arroyo in Manila to SBY in Jakarta (although we are yet to see SBY’s true colour, the conventional wisdom says that his army background and violent suppression of Acheh separatist movement to name a few is enough to conclude that this man is a conservative right wing) to PAP government down south.

The only consolation that I can draw in this moment of utter sadness is the fact that this is not the first time Muslim ummah is besieged in such a way. Back in the 80s when Reagan was in White House, Muslims were under attacked from all fronts in a similar way, if not worse. Reagan and Thatcher were on a manhunt of Gadaffi’s head – Tripoli was on constant hit list. The massacre of Shabra and Shatilla in 1982 barely had any effect on Reagan’s or Thatcher’s foreign policy, even at a time when Soviet Union was still around. Soviet Union was busy getting its hands bloody in Afghanistan. Marcos’ regime was ruthless in its suppression of the Moros’ liberation efforts in Mindanao. Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth as a US’ stooge to conduct daily raids and bombing of Iran.

As much as so many things have changed after 20 years, nothing has changed when it comes to the fate and dignity of the ummah.

But we cannot be in perpetual despair since that will not alleviate our misery. I keep telling myself that the last time the Latin Kingdom was occupying Baitul Maqdis and the surrounding area, it took Muslim warriors of the era more than one hundred years to dislodge the Latin kings and knights for good from Jerusalem. Palestine is in the hands of the Zionist for sixty years, a comparably shorter period – and American hegemony has only come to its full form for less than two decades. Muslims have a long way to go and we cannot despair, for we have a lot of work to do – Allah grants His every promise and we shall be victorious.

It’s a question of time. Each time I think of this, it saddens me more knowing that realistically speaking, it will not happen in my life time. It took more than 100 years during the Crusade to dislodge the Latin kingdom from Middle East – this was when Muslim governments were far more superior in every aspect of life (though they lack unity among themselves). For one hundred years Imadudddin Zengi, the Atabeg of Mosul, and successively Nuruddin (Sultan of Syria), Shirkuh Asaduddin (Vezir of Egypt) and finally Salehuddin al-Ayubbi (Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Defender and Champion of Islam) harassed and attacked the Latin fortresses to rid the Holy Land of the oppressors. In spite of many victories on the battle field – it still took them more than one hundred years to retake Baitul Maqdis.

Now with the quarrelling Arab and Muslim nations, with no leadership whatsoever and each Muslim country is ruled with iron fist by a dictator who does the enemies’ bidding to save their own skin – it will take more than a mere one hundred years, let alone with the current state of appalling poverty, lack of knowledge, economic disempowerment and dispossession of Muslims around the globe.

It is with this realisation that we shall celebrate Eid-ul-Fitri this year. It shall be Fallujah, Arafat, Tak Bai and Eid that will occupy my mind in the next few days – in that order. Our prayers and tears of helplessness to the oppressed brothers and sisters around the globe, may we find our strength some day and in Allah we seek solace and protection.

* I may meet Zadin (the batch mate who is 15 minutes drive away but have not spoken to for 10 years), Sharap and Gadap this Hari Raya, since I don’t think there are many of us in this part of the world.

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