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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:31 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment

Comments on the Kuroda paper, "Islamic Solidarity and Socio-Cultural Tradition"

Jacob Kovalio (Professor, Carleton University, Canada)

It is Professor Kuroda's recent piece that has prompted me to present my views with you so that I have the benefit of your reactions.

Professor Kuroda's piece is, in its own way, a fascinating reflection of the fact that NHK World is constantly referring to Ussama bin-Laden as "shi." [almost his excellence]. More to the point:

Shar'ia has nothing to do with 911. Neither does regular Islam. Al Khaida is the most recent of a slew of fundamentalist organizations trying to overthrow Arab rulers by using the Western/US/Jewish "boogie man" in order to grab power, as the regimes they try to replace are using the same in order to stay in power. Therefore, it is not a problem of the Arab peoples but of their leaders, old or in waiting like bin-Ladden or al Zawahiri.

At this point, Islam is in a crisis in which the kind and benevolent Islam has been hijacked by extremists and only intellectuals--as the present-day Ulama--can save it. If there is a "clash of civilizations" it is not one caused by the West--Japan included--but by extreme, cultic Islamists like Al Khaida/Takfir wa al Hijra, not by regular Islam. The fact that Islam does not have a religious hierarchy--although Mecca/Medina are the holiest places and Al Azhar University in Cairo is the centre of Islamic research in the Muslim world--creates a problem since anybody like bin Ladden, who is charismatic enough even without any religious background or certification, can call for Jihad or issue fatwas. Al Khaida is the present version of Muhammad Ahmed's [the Mahadi] movement in Sudan in the late 19th century, who launched a jihad against British imperialism. The difference is that today, unlike in the 1890s, there is no imperialism and all Arab and Muslim nations are genuinely independent and free to choose the kind of regime they want. And most of them have chosen: anything but democracy. It is up to the Arab nations to find their way to an appropriate political regime that will probably be some form of democracy in the future, an Arab democracy. There is nothing wrong with that; after all no two democracies are alike. Turkey, Japan, Britain, Canada, and Malaysia are democratic nations, though their democracies differ because their history and societies differ.

Historically, the Arab world has been in a process of transition as independent states since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Turkey, Muslim but not Arab, is the only former part of the empire that has been able to create a democracy of its own due to the powerful policies of Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk." No Arab nation has had its Ataturk, not even Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nassr. At this point, the Arab world is composed of a wide variety of nations, which, historically again, have engaged in imperialism, such as Egypt (under Nassr tried to take over Yemen and Libya, and disrupt Jordan by assassination attempts on King Hussein.), Syria (ruling in Lebanon]and Iraq (attacks on Iran and Kuwait]. As regimes, Iraq and Syria are what I have called "tribal socialist monarchies" (Allawite/Tikriti leaders, heading Ba'ath parties, with Bashar following Hafiz al Assad and Uday Saddam Hussain.)

Ussama bin Ladden is trying to implement Sayyd Qutb's ideology, which was considered so dangerous by President Nassr that he ordered Qutb executed, as was the fate of most other Islamic fundamentalist leaders in all the Arab world.

Professor Kuroda's suggestion that Japan become the bridge between "the West" and the Muslim world reminds one of Professor Itagaki Yuzo's view. I have my doubts about whether Japan can be that bridge, although there is nothing wrong with a Japanese attempt. Japan's economic and technological prowess, however, and not its Asian-ness, in my opinion, would be the "cards" it has to play. Islamic fundamentalism despises the Japanese "kafir" as much as it does the American or French or Jewish one. Look at Suayyeb Didu, a fundamentalist youth Islamic leader in Indonesia and his threats against Japanese businessmen in the country.

I have recently written a longer piece titled "Jihad for Democracy-an Antidote for Troubled Times," which deals with the impact of the 911 incident on Canada and the United States, but also considers fundamentalism and Arab anti-Semitism, and suggests an educational jihad for democracy in our society and elsewhere. It may come out here in the next few days.

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