By Patrick Dele Cole
WHAT is the price for right wing extremism and nascent nationalism? This seems to be the hottest item in politics in the United States, Europe and some parts of Africa and Asia. What is really behind the fight? All these countries have problems and frequently go to war or threaten war. Some of the problems are religious – such as Islamic fundamentalism which preaches fatwa and the killing of non- Moslems. Others are ethnic – neighbours behaving badly and hating each other: Greece, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Turkey and the Kurds, Scotland and England.
Others have doctrinal issues or land claims – India, Pakistan and Kashmir; others want to remove a dictatorial leader – Syria; still others have a long history of antipathy resulting from the Cold War – United States and Cuba, United States and Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras; United States and Venezuela; North and South Korea; Russia and Ukraine. Some are drug producing states – Afghanistan, Columbia, Serbia and Montenegro – who try to sell their drugs to the United States which cannot somehow control the appetite of its citizens for drugs.
Some are racial – South Africa, Namibia. Ethnic jealousy may cause wars and other forms of instability – North and South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya – the Kikuyu and the Luo; Zambia – the Shonas and Matabele; Nigeria – the Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, the North; and South, Ijaw and the Ikwerre. Still others fight for survival: Israel, Palestine and Iran. Even a single ethnicity may have fission – I suppose the Arabs and the Israelis are Semitic tribes; other ethnic conflicts include Singapore and Malaysia and former Yugoslavia – Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia. The Arabs are divided beyond ethnicity, religion, and even geographical propinquity – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Yemen.
But immigration seems to be a deciding factor in creating cleavages both within countries and with their neighbours.
Why so? Right Wing Racial purity has a long history. It was the foundation of Nazism. It is rising again in Germany in their Ultra-Right Movement, alt right, against Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing one million Syrian Arab refugees into Germany. Sometimes these right wing movements mask under the identity of national cultural survival – Germany, Serbia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Preserving cultural national purity sometimes include religious bigotry and intolerance.
One thing is common to all these conflicts: they kill. The worst today is between Burma and the Rhohinyas which has escalated to the level of ethnic cleansing similar to that of Rwanda. Some of these conflicts have been solved; each solution is characterised by the presence of exceptional leaders – Nelson Mandela and Dr. Samuel Shafiihuma Nujoma of Namibia: Lee Kwan Yu and Tunku Abdul Rahman of the former Malaysian Federation. The problem today is the coincidental lack of exceptional leaders the world over and the spread of wars.
Demagogy is the characteristic of today’s leaders. Let us take the religious mess which also affects Nigeria but more so Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the modern Muslim subscribes more to fundamental Islam so some of the Jews of Israel submit more to Hebrew fundamentalism. Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, are seeing more fundamentalisms: There is no room for peace which gets suffocated by these fundamental postures.
If Nelson Mandela and Sam Nujoma had been fundamentalist blackmen or racial bigots there would today be no peace in South Africa and Namibia. The exceptional leadership of Lee Kwan Yu and Tunku Rahman brought peace to Malaysia.
The sad thing about all the conflicts listed above is that they can be solved. The job of conflict resolution, peaceful intervention was originally that of the United Nations which lately has largely been unsuccessful in these peace endeavours. Instead the conflicts have been brought into the United Nations, which is now increasingly paralyzed as the fundamentalists weaponise their doctrine.
Let us take the seemingly most serious conflicts because they cause so much havoc – Islamic fundamentalism, Israeli fundamentalism in a world of puny or small men as leaders of nations. The Islamic fundamentalist claims that his religion places upon him the duty to kill non-moslems by any means, especially suicide bombings which guarantee a place in heaven by the side of Allah. Anyone conversant with the Bible would find similar exhortation or the Torah where similar responsibility is called for if it is for saving Israel, God’s own chosen people.
For centuries Christians went on the Crusade to wrest control of the holy land from its moslem occupiers. The Iranian noslems hold it as a sacred duty to wipe out Israel. This story of one group wiping out the other has been told ad nuseam. So Christianity once had a sacred duty to kill all non-Christians in its pursuit to reclaim the holy land. There is no such obligation now on Christians. Moslems, especially in Iran, must be weaned away from the irresponsibility of claiming that it is beholden to wipe out Jews.
Islam does not impose any such obligation today. Iran was once determined to possess nuclear weapons but long concerted diplomacy obliterated that shiboleth, that purpose, in a treaty signed by the United States, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and China with Iran. That treaty still stands despite Mr. Trump pulling the US out, as he does on anything connected with former President, Obama.
Islam has had a long and illustrious history; it once was the epicentre of culture, knowledge, and the professions (law, medicine, accounting, and numerology) – Islamic contribution to knowledge is massive. I do not believe that a religion so versatile and so deep in its conservation and transmission of knowledge could be reduced to whatever the fundamentalists now preach. Turkey was once the cradle and key leader of civilization when the holy empire was in Constantinople. As such it ruled over millions who were not Moslems or Christians.
Constantinople was known for its elegance, its art, architecture, the beauty of its music, the depth of its religion – both Christian and Islamic. Up until the 10th or 11th century Arab moslems ruled most of southern Europe which transformed that region. Islam itself was transformed by its rulership of South Europe. Islam claims that the heart of the religion is peace: that in fact Islam means peace. At the heart of Christianity, is love. So why does peace not dialogue with love?
Why is Boko Haram in Nigeria? There are Western universities and schools in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, etc. Why is Western education not haram in these countries but is haram in Nigeria? Is education not holistic?
Islam has once changed, tolerating and teaching non moslems: mathematics, physics, astronomy, geometry, music, art – these influences smoothen the rougher edges of any religion. It would seem that Islamic fundamentalism was a revival of aspects of Islam – but that revival should not send us back to darkness. Fundamental Christian evangelism is in some respects a fear that the essence of that religion needs protection and reinvigoration. But it cannot and must not advocate violence and death as part of the revivalist dogma.
Women drive cars in Saudi Arabia instead of milking camels as before; there are cinemas, the digital technological age has arrived in the world and would change it beyond recognition: if only we can find leaders like Mandela, Nujoma, Lee Kwan Yu, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill,, De Galle, Clement Richard Attlee, Helmut Smut, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Pope John XXIII; Yitzhak Rabin to begin and sustain the discourse and dialogue for peaceful coexistence. There must be a host of great diplomats in the United States: diplomats like General Marshall, Richard Holbrooke, Foster Dulles, Dean Acheson, Senator John Mitchell; other statesmen in other countries like Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer, Pierre Trudeau, Helmut Josef Michael Kohl, Chou En Lai, and Jacques René Chirac etc. France would have other statesmen, so would Italy and Germany, Scandinavia, statesmen who are joined in one belief: that peace is possible, that human right is precisely what it means, not some ideology that the West has weaponised to conquer the world. Freedom does not exclude religiosity but it does set standards of behavior for all humanity and an injunction not to judge or destroy another human being without just cause. A small group should be set up for example to intervene between India and Pakistan over Kashmir whose conflict has lasted since 1948; Burma must accept that the Rohingyas are not slaughter mules etc. The small group of leaders should begin the dialogue between faiths and tribal violence, nudging the world towards peace and tolerance. The Federation of Malaysia was broken into Malaysia (Malays) and Singapore (Chinese) peaceably; Trudeau was able to prevent the breakup of Canada; Helman Smut and others organized the unification of Germany. Mandela and his rainbow coalition saved South Africa from racial war.
The recent incidents of attack on churches, Mosque, Synagogues should be an opportunity for real world leaders to step out and do something. The Christian leaders should preach not only to themselves but to other major religions on the theme of peace, love understanding. The Islamic leaders must carry the burden of speaking to themselves on peace and co – existence. There is little or no contact between the big faiths – it is not enough to say that the attacks are from a fringe minority or a radicalized few. They are a threat to world peace.
President Trump worsens matters by proclaiming a ban on Moslems from certain countries to enter the United States. The matter is more serious: those burning the black churches and synagogues are not Muslims.
Instead the world is faced with a real possibility of war as President Putin and President Trump continue their sabre rattling. Putin threatens peace in Crimea and Ukraine, and China’s President Xi Jinping in South East Asia and President Trump in Iran, Venezuela, and everywhere else in the world by weakening established peaceful institutions – the Paris Climate Agreement, the UN itself, his vituperations against NATO, his hostile attitude to all non-White countries – “shit hole countries” as he calls them, support for Saudi Arabia thus increasing tension in the Middle East, his antipathy to Venezuela and Cuba, etc., his stoppage of aid to Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
When Saudi Arabia butchered the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, Trump refused to condemn the killing and defended himself by claiming that if he did oil prices would rise to US $150 per barrel which would damage the world economy, and the US would lose US $450 billion in arms sale. But Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and if invested it could produce as much oil as Saudi Arabia.
A prosperous Venezuela would spread economic development in Latin America and stem the problems in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala in much the same way as Saudi Arabia’s money is the catalyst for progress in the Middle East (some would argue that Saudi’s money had been used to foment trouble in the Middle East and war in Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen).
The attitude of the US in Venezuela is based on geopolitical interest known in the US as the Monroe Doctrine (1823): namely, no other world power should have an interest in the Americas. Venezuela and Cuba are left leaning Governments – i.e. socialists and are beholden to Russia and China. Thus they should not be in the Americas.