(Khutbah delivered at the Institute of Islamic Studies, University of the Philippines- Diliman on 14 September 2012.)
QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/ 18 September)–Riding on the fallen crest of 9/11 anniversary celebration, the world is made to witness again a twist – a twist of history that is not necessarily new, in fact, resonating a past pattern of Islamophobic advances intended to create rage as basis of maneuvering and machination in the Muslim world.
On the surface, the attack by alleged radical group known as the Ansar Shar’iah on the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya would appear to be spontaneous, spur of the moment decision by such group elicited by, accordingly, a film negatively depicting Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by a Jewish American leading into the death of Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador in Libya.
While the attack on the US Embassy may appear to be spontaneous, the context within which the event happened as reflected in many patterns of Islamophobia in the West and in other parts of the world demands an examination beyond the rhetoric of claims and counter-claims by critical players in the Middle East and “big powers” like the United States.
The pattern is very important probably dating back to, at least, as far as our memory is concerned, the “Satanic Verses” of Salman Rushdie and the succeeding works and issues precisely intended to trigger rage and reactions in the Muslim world.
It is probably not incidental that the 9/11 anniversary was made as backdrop of such Islamophobic advance given the rationale the 9/11 has provided into the expansion of US hegemony since that horrible attack 11 years ago. Attendant into this background is the seething, incoherent Arab Spring as critical context, too, in the rise of so-called Jihadist or Salafist in North Africa now swarming over into mainland Middle East.
Initially, writings about 9/11 ranged from works written hastily condemning solely Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts in the Al-Qaeda to emerging literatures that included more objective works like those of Peter Bergen, Ahmed Mosaddeq Nafazi, Unger Craig, David Ray Griffin, Richard Clarke, Bob Woodward and others to what we refer to today as “conspiracy theory.”
This range of works is important, in fact, crystallizing a major thesis that the 9/11 could not have been done by Islamic radicals outside the United States without the critical participation, planning, and maneuvering of US agencies and personalities that eventually led into that horrible event of 9/11.
The group tasked by the US government known as the 9/11 Commission came up with study and findings about the 9/11. Few months or years later, the major findings of the Commission had to be debunked by an equally important work, “The 9/11 Commission Report: The Omission and Distortions” by David Ray Griffin, alleging that there were many distortions and omissions in the Report. Griffin’s findings pinpointed the validity of many perspectives raised by conspiracy theorists about the 9/11.
A video, for instance, the “Grand Conspiracy” highlighted the maneuvering and machination by past US administrations regarding their propensity to create situations including the triggering of certain events that would justify military occupation and economic and cultural domination in many parts of the world. The “Grand Conspiracy” did not include the Mock Battle of Manila Bay or, even earlier, the bombing of USS Maine in Cuba that led into the outbreak of the American-Hispanic War that eventually implicated the Philippines and more particularly the Moros in Mindanao and Sulu.
To say the least, the pattern of events maneuvered to justify US domination and hegemony had been a major feature of America’s history before and after the Cold War. Hence, this context of understanding the 9/11 including the new twist of using Islamophobic advances if only to increase further US hegemony in many parts of the world including the Middle East and North Africa is therefore not new.
Around 20 months ago, there was preponderance of sympathy and support with the launching of what we call the Arab Spring as instrument where old regimes would be changed by supposedly democratic oriented groups and personalities that envisioned new political landscape in the Middle East.
As events turned from violence to violence, it was shown that the Arab Spring while pulled through varying strings by some powers has the chameleon tendency to take new form creating therefore headaches on those pulling the strings whenever a new twist surfaced.
In other words, the attack by the radicals on the US Embassy in Libya and the mushrooming of equally volatile situations in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Morocco, in Sudan and many others, may not on the surface be part of the Arab Spring project. It would show indeed that the Middle East or the Islamic world in general has its own milieu and orientation that could hardly be put into a box.
We said this so because while removing old, feudal Arab regimes is healthy in terms of allowing the rise of new breed of leaders in order to effect democratization, the structural condition and factors and forces that shaped the Arab mind and the dominant psychology in the Muslim world remains entrenched.
One of these is the perpetuity of the Palestinian problem and unscrupulous collaboration between international Zionism and US domination that continuously fuels radicalism in many parts of the Middle East and the Muslim world. And such structural condition remains the same before and after the 9/11. It also remains before and after or the continuing saga of the Arab Spring since 20 months ago.
Given this condition and given the continuing advances of Islamophobia maneuvered by dark forces in the West and their stooges, then we say the Arab Spring and its promise could hardly move forward to effect a new Middle East.
It only shows that addressing essentially the Muslim problem is not enough; there has to be corresponding restructuring of international arrangement including the shift of foreign policies by “big powers” so that the structural condition would not be continuously exploited by forces within and without; hence, affecting not only the interest of the ummah but the interest of the “big powers” like the US as well.
Unfortunately, as it is, the projection and rhetoric raised is that America is a victim by this new rise of radicalism muting the structural condition that precisely paved into the perpetuity of the case resulting from US domination and control in the Middle East.
A critical factor in the rise of militant groups in North Africa is not easy to decipher yet certain international development points to something obvious. Given the gradual withdrawal of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is a shift of what we call the scramble for Africa played by China and the United States.
This is not to mention the new “America Pacific Century” project that we underscored in our previous khutabah attendant to this new project by the US including the control for more resources into which Africa has been hardly hit. Hence, after the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the increasing “Drone war” in Yemen and Pakistan, if not at certain point that in the Sulu Province in south Philippines few months ago, the scramble for Africa coincided or fitted if not maneuvered the increased presence of Salafist and Jihadist in that part of the world.
The weakness however of this new mold of salafism in Africa is its being ideologically ill-equipped wherein they would end up, at times, destroying Sufi shrines and graveyards; hence, alienating them from the broader cause of the Muslim ummah, although parts of them could complicate the Arab Spring so much so that they could create a rage like the attack on the US Embassy in Libya recently.
What is this rage all about? Why is central in this rage lies the heart of the sacred in Islam? Why does Prophet Muhammad, his life and mission so close into the hearts of every believer?
Sacrality of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)
At the core or foundation of what has been the object of Islamophobic advances are deep sacred tradition in Islam. Like the Holy Qur’an, the life, personality and history of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) lie at the heart of that sacred tradition. Anyone who dilutes and destroys that sacrality is deemed against not only on that sacred tradition but the faith and belief of Muslims all over the world.
There is a verse in the Holy Qur’an that reads: “Say O Muhammad: O mankind! Verily I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and earth. None has the right to be worshipped but He. It is He who gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger who can neither read nor write, who believes in Allah and His Words – Qur’an, Taurah, Injeel – and follow him so that you may be guided.”
The sacrality of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is so high that in the “Declaration of Faith” in Islam, the shahadah and kalimatu t-tayyibah he is reified to that position as the Prophet or Messenger of Allah (SWT). Each Muslim conscious of his or her faith testifies frequently into the messengership of Nabi Muhammad (SAW).
Like many other prophets, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) carries attributes like truthfulness, dependability, and conveyance of Allah’s message. And he is protected from uttering falsehood, engaging in perfidy, and concealment of what has been revealed to him. And he is also protected from carrying certain traits or character of femininity (although it is not to impute any gender bias), hermaphrodites, deformity, lameness, deafness and dumbness, folly, poesy, and authorship. These prophetic traits are unanimously agreed upon by scholars of seerah (Prophet’s biography) and hadith (saying). We take our source from the classic, “Fathu d-dayyan fi fiqhi khairi l-adyan” (A Compendium of Muslim Theology and Jurisprudence).
All of these would suggest indeed that Islamophobic advances including the recent film about the Prophet have no basis whatsoever. Yet, because of fidelity of Muslims to the Prophet and his teachings and the firmness of their faith into the traits and character of the Prophet, an attack – even if it were a virtual attack – on the persona of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) would mean an attack on the core belief of every Muslim in many parts of the world.
Given this idea of sacred and Muslims’ veneration on Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the context within which the 9/11 and the Arab Spring have been twisted to create a scenario – rightly or wrongly – a new form of machinations notwithstanding the souring of relation between Israel and the Obama Administration because of the latter’s reluctance if not opposition on Netanyahu’s plan to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran, it is not far fetched that the film was really intended to instigate rage in the Muslim world; so that even the implementation of the project by riding on the fallen crest of 9/11 anniversary is therefore not an isolated event.
This is our way by which we are able to refresh our understanding of issues and events happening in our midst that are hardly revealed in mainstream media yet should entail serious examination so that we will be further guided and we could position ourselves very clearly; and we won’t simply be swayed by claims and counter-claims. It would make us articulate more objectively critical issues of the day.
(MINDAVIEWS is the opinion section of MindaNews. Julkipli Wadi is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Philippines Diliman).