viernes, 3 de febrero de 2012

The source of the frustration in the Arab world

Where does this generalised feeling of frustration in the Arab world arise?
On going over the course of Arab history from the beginning of the Renaissance, we find a prosperous and powerful Arab nation, whose prosperity came fundamentally from the monopoly it had over trade between East and West. At the end of the XV century, the Arabs saw how the Portuguese opened up a new route to India, a route that would later be inherited by the Dutch and the British, depriving them of their main source of wealth. Their dhows, which were suitable for calm seas, were easy prey to ocean going ships. Four centuries later, the disappearance of the Sultanate of Istanbul definitively broke up the last vestige of Arab unity, intensifying a colonial epoch of total dependence on the West. We can appreciate four historical stages from the end of the XVIII century: the colonial phase, the nationalist lay states, the appearance of Islamic nationalism and the progressive development of Pan- Arabism as a sentiment in development, which is blocked due to repeated frustration after successive defeats and the disappearance of Nasser. The bitterness of defeat was followed by the emergence of fundamentalism.

The transition dates are not always precise, generally the passage from one stage to the next occurs over a period of time that affects each country at different times, and each epoch begins before the previous one has ended. Colonialism began with the disembarking of Napoleon in Alexandria in 1798, and extends to the independence of the Aran countries colonised. The Turkish re-conquest with British support meant the relief of the French garrison by the British, initiating a British presence, which lasted until the Suez War in 1956.

With the triumph of the Western powers over Turkey in the First World War, al the vestiges of Arab unity disappeared and the colonial process became generalised. In 1919, the Peace of Versailles sanctioned the share out of Arab territory between Britain and France. As a consequence of this, the United Kingdom kept Egypt and took over Jordan, Iraq and, later, Palestine; while France received Lebanon and Syria and was free to take possession of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Lines were drawn on the plans that affected the sands of empty deserts full of oil. The wars of independence were led by Arabs who knew the invaders well, spoke their language and had studied in the metropolis. The States that arise from independence have European type lay constitutions and a strong nationalist tone created during the struggle for independence.

At the same time as the colonial presence, the foreign presence gave rise to some examples of self-criticism, which led to a number of religious renovation and cultural renaissance movements. The political frustration involves the dilemma concerning how it is possible that the nation that is the depositary of divine revelation (Koranic) can be subjected to infidel powers. The answer is the traditional Semitic response that is repeated in the Bible, in the great historical crises of the Jewish people: “We have separated from the faith and we must return to religious practice in order to escape from the state of political and economic prostration” About 1928, based on this, there arose a number of initiatives which put their faith in the future in breathing new life into religious practice and the renovation of Islam. Among these is the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose motto is, “Islam is the solution”. This was founded by Asan al Banna, whose political tendencies led to them being persecuted by the authorities of the new nationalist and lay Republics. Asan al Banna was assassinated in 1949.

The Iranian revolution brought new hope to the dream of renovation through faith. The Persian example open up new horizons for pan-Arabic union through Islamic fundamentalism. The pilgrimages to Mecca are occasions for living this unity and propagating the ideals of the revolution, and the cause of confrontations. The Iraq-Iran War clarified the difference between Arabs and Persians despite the communion of the faith. An ancient difference that comes from the epoch of the Sassanids. However, fundamentalism is strengthened in its victorious struggle against the Russian invader of Afghanistan. The victory boosts the ideals of the jihad. But what are these ideals? Or what are the ideals that forged fundamentalism?

With this historical background of economic bankruptcy, the dissolution of the Sultanate, the break-up of territory and colonial occupation, the creation of the State of Israel, violence in search of independence, autonomous nationalist States, the frustration of the popular expectation of independence, the defeat of pan-Arabism, financial neo-colonialism, fundamentalist revolution; there arise a number of concepts which are included in consolidated Koranic terms which provide them with new nuances. The fundamentalist movements are not founded on the Koran, but on a number of terms distorted by ideologists who manipulate these, altering their traditional meaning with political intentions which seek to mobilise masses incited by the triumphs of the Iranian revolution and the withdrawal of the Russian army from Afghanistan, frustrated by the deception after independence, successive defeats by Israel and the economic precariousness of the masses, prone to traditionally use of religion as a political instrument.

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