Tuesday, January 25, 2011
That which I stated in theoretical form in part 1 is being played out before our very eyes. Tunisia, a country of 10 million people which was directly colonized by the French, has shaken off a post-colonial dictatorship which was supported by neo-colonialist forces. In response, there is extensive discussion of American interests in the Middle East, and a deepening worry about who will take over. Reading some of the press surrounding this momentous event in contemporary Muslim history, one would get the impression that it is Americans who should be choosing Tunisia's new government!
Now that the protests have spread to Egypt, the worry has become even greater. The fact of the matter is that those with power do not want the Muslim masses, and the other billions stuck in the prison of post-coloniality, to decide for themselves how to live. As Tunisia made clear, those who have oppressed fear the vengeance of the liberated oppressed.
In order to properly frame these historic events, it needs to be understood that the United States government has never seriously supported democracy in the Arab world. When elections in Algeria in the early 1990s were cancelled by the military, the US did nothing but watch Algeria descend into civil war. When election results in the Gaza strip in 2005 were deemed unacceptable, former President George W. Bush took back what he said about promoting democracy abroad. For decades, the US has been propping up Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak with billions of dollars in foreign-aid, much of it for weapons. Saudi Arabia's ruling monarchy, known for squashing dissent with efficient ruthlessness, is left alone in exchange for access to their enormous oil reserves.
The US knows that truly representative democracies in the Arab world would have foreign policies that are disruptive of American interests. Whether the ruling parties were secular or Islamist, Arab democratic states would experiment with self-determination in a manner deemed unacceptable to those who would prefer to see them passive subjects as opposed to active agents. So in the wake of government hypocrisy and selfishness, it is up to individuals and non-governmental organizations to support the liberation of the Arab world. Although the precise path to freedom is unclear, the rise of Arab democracy begins now, and we all need to play our part, however small. We love for our brothers and sisters in humanity that which we love for ourselves.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
As I look forward to the new semester, and all I hope to be accomplished, I am reminded of the centrality of sincerity (ikhlas). The following is a sermon I delivered last semester on this topic. May Allah make all of us from the sincere (mukhlisun), ameen!