2016 - CRITICAL CONCERNS FROM EAST TO WEST

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CRITICAL CONCERNS FROM EAST TO WEST

CRITICAL CONCERNS FROM EAST TO WEST A COLLECTION OF COMMENTARIES & ESSAYS

Chandra Muzaffar

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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

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CRITICAL CONCERNS FROM EAST TO WEST

CRITICAL CONCERNS FROM EAST TO WEST

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PREFACE

One of the reasons why I decided to put together this collection of commentaries and essays was because of the queries I received at talks and seminars at home and abroad about JUST’s stand on current and contemporary international issues. If we have already taken a position on an issue I would often refer the questioner to the JUST website. Unfortunately, through the website one does not easily comprehend how JUST’s stand on issue X relates to its position on some other controversy and why it reflects JUST’s larger philosophy. A book which embraces JUST’s positions on various issues within a certain time frame reinforced by essays that provide a deeper analysis of the concerns that underscore these and other issues would, I felt, serve a purpose. Most of the commentaries in this book are responses to issues in the global arena which had challenged us, citizens of planet earth, between the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2016. A few of these issues have become outdated while in other instances certain circumstances impacting upon an issue have changed. I have kept the issues and events --- and my responses --- as they are without attempting to update them. There is some merit in adopting this approach. The significance of an issue and its relevance at a particular moment is preserved for what it is worth. As a result, we understand better events and their flow and how they have shaped contemporary global politics. The essays are mainly papers presented at academic and semi-academic conferences. In some instances they focus upon contemporary concerns. Even in such cases, I attempt to elucidate their larger significance and relate it to JUST’s enduring commitment to human dignity, global justice and world peace anchored in God Consciousness.

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An essay or two goes beyond contemporary concerns and explores future possibilities. A word about the title of this book. The commentaries and essays have beeen arranged in such a way that we journey from the East to the West. Our journey begins with Japan and the struggle to preserve Article 9 in the Japanese Constitution and then we go through ASEAN and witness how that regional grouping is grappling with internal and external challenges before we confront the turmoil in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) and finally we end up in Latin America with all its trials and tribulations. Of course the book does not fit into a neat East-West trajectory. Commentaries and essays in between and at the end of the compilation also analyze themes of perennial importance such as violence and extremism and the principles of shared humanity and global citizenship. There is also an essay on protecting the dignity of the child. These are concerns that transcend the East-West dichotomy. One hopes that the book will achieve its modest goals of deepening our understanding of current and contemporary issues and of encouraging serious dialogue on the monumental challenges that confront a world in transition. Chandra Muzaffar April 2016.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

As with the preparation of my other books, I have been fortunate to receive the assistance and cooperation of a handful of capable and dedicated JUST staff . My Personal Assistant, Ms. Nurul Haida Dzulkifli, started the whole process by compiling the essays and commentaries I had written in the last few years. JUST’s Program Coordinator, Hassanal Noor Rashid, not only converted them into chapters for the book but also designed its cover. JUST’s Senior Executive, Al- Malik Abdullah, will be doing the online distribution of Critical Concerns from East to West. I am deeply grateful to all three of them. If this publication has taken this form and is now available to you, it is largely because of their efforts. If there are any shortcomings in the book --- and there may be many --- I assume full responsibility for them. Chandra Muzaffar

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CONTENTS PREFACE

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. CHAPTER 1 ARTICLE 9 AND THE MILITARIZED WORLD: WHAT CAN WE DO?

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CHAPTER 2 FROM SEEKING PEACE TO CREATING CONFLICT: THE RE-INTERPRETATION OF ARTICLE 9.

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CHAPTER 3 THE NANJING GENOCIDE AND THE FUTURE OF ASIA

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CHAPTER 4 THE CHINA JAPAN DISPUTE OVER DIAOYU: LET THE TRUTH PREVAIL!

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CHAPTER 5 THE INFLUENCE OF MAJOR POWERS IN THE ASEAN REGION

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CHAPTER 6 AN ASEAN-CHINA FORUM FOR THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

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CHAPTER 7 MH 370: RESPECTING ONE’S FRIENDS

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CHAPTER 8 STRUGGLES FOR SELF DETERMINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

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CHAPTER 9 PEACE BETWEEN MANILA AND THE MUSLIMS OF MINDANAO.

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CHAPTER 10 THE ROHINGYAS: A GLIMMER OF HOPE

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CHAPTER 11 THE NAY PYI TAW DECLARATION: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

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CHAPTER 12 ENHANCING ASEAN

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CHAPTER 13 ASEAN: HUMAN RIGHTS AND CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY

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CHAPTER 14 THE BANDUNG FORUM

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CHAPTER 15 POLITICS IN THE BAY OF BENGAL: CURBING VIOLENCE; ENHANCING HARMONY

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CHAPTER 16 THE SHIA ISSUE IN PERSPECTIVE

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CHAPTER 17 UPHOLD THE AMMAN MESSAGE

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CHAPTER 18 THE MALAYSIAN LINK TO TERROR IN SYRIA

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CHAPTER 19 SYRIA: DESTROYING HUMANITY’S HERITAGE

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CHAPTER 20 THE SYRIAN VOTE: THE PEOPLE REJECT REGIME CHANGE

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CHAPTER 21 10 CATASTROPHES: IRAQ 10 YEARS AFTER

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CHAPTER 22 THE FLOTILLA TRAGEDY: A TURNING POINT?

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CHAPTER 23 FLOTILLA 2 DESERVES OUR APPLAUSE

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CHAPTER 24 THE GAZA MASSACRE: THE UNDERLYING MOTIVES

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CHAPTER 25 THE IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

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CHAPTER 26 THE POST IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL SCENARIO

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CHAPTER 27 VIOLENCE AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN EGYPT

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CHAPTER 28 MORSI: SENTENCING JUSTICE TO DEATH IN EGYPT

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CHAPTER 29 YEMEN: NO MILITARY SOLUTION

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CHAPTER 30 SAUDI EXECUTIONS: SOME POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES

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CHAPTER 31 THE SOMALI FAMINE: HUNGER AND POWER

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CHAPTER 32 MEDITERRANEAN CATASTROPHES: TIME THAT THE PEOPLE OF EUROPE STOOD UP

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CHAPTER 33 UPHEAVAL IN WANA :WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

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CHAPTER 34 OUSTING A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LEADER IN UKRAINE AND ELSEWHERE

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CHAPTER 35 MH 17: WHO STANDS TO GAIN?

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CHAPTER 36 MH 17: THE QUESTIONS REMAIN ONE YEAR AFTER

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CHAPTER 37 THE BLOCKADE AGAINST CUBA — AN ASSAULT UPON HUMANITY’S CONSCIENCE

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CHAPTER 38 CUBA: END THE BLOCKADE IMMEDIATELY!

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CHAPTER 39 THE CUBAN FIVE : TERRORISM AS A WEAPON OF HEGEMONY

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CHAPTER 40 TRANSFORMING A NATION: THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION IN VENEZUELA

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CHAPTER 41 VENEZUELA: A THREAT?

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CHAPTER 42 THE MALVINAS : AN UNRESOLVED DISPUTE

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CHAPTER 43 CHALLENGING CASINO CAPITALISM

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CHAPTER 44 INITIATIVES FOR TRANSFORMING THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

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CHAPTER 45 ELIMINATE TAX HAVENS !

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CHAPTER 46 THE MEDIA: UNIVERSALIZING JUSTICE

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CHAPTER 47 WILL MEDIA CONNECT WITH RELIGION IN A WORLD IN CONFLICT AND CRISIS ?

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CHAPTER 48 THE US-SAUDI MILITARY DEAL AND GLOBAL MILITARY EXPENDITURE

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CHAPTER 49 WORSENING TRENDS IN GLOBAL ARMS TRANSFERS

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CHAPTER 50 OPPOSE DRONE STRIKES ― A WAR CRIME!

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CHAPTER 51 NUCLEAR TERRORISM AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS

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CHAPTER 52 9-11: TEN YEARS AFTER

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CHAPTER 53 THE TRUTH ABOUT DAESH

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CHAPTER 54 PROSECUTE THE TORTURERS!

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CHAPTER 55 BOKO HARAM AND THE POLITICS OF TERROR

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CHAPTER 56 NAIROBI AND PESHAWAR: THE FUTILITY OF TERROR TACTICS.

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CHAPTER 57 PARIS: A DASTARDLY ACT OF TERROR

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CHAPTER 58 TERRORISM AND THE POLITICS OF HEGEMONY

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CHAPTER 59 EXTREMIST TENDENCIES IN CONTEMPORARY MUSLIM COMMUNITIES

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CHAPTER 60 THE MASSACRE OF CHILDREN

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CHAPTER 61 TODAY’S CHILD; TOMORROW’S WORLD: THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN PROTECTING THE DIGNITY OF THE CHILD IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION

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CHAPTER 62 RELIGIOUS LOYALTIES, SHARED HUMANITY AND GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP

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……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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CHAPTER 1

ARTICLE 9 AND THE MILITARIZED WORLD: WHAT CAN WE DO? A paper presented at the Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution, 29 November to 1st December 2007, Tokyo. While it does not seem likely that the Japanese government will in the immediate future abrogate or even modify Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, largely because of recent domestic political developments, peace activists cannot afford to be complacent about the danger of the emergence of a militarized Japan pursuing the militarized agenda of a militarized world. This concern about a militarized Japan will be analyzed by first examining those forces that are determined to persuade Japan to assume an overt military role in future conflicts in the region and the world. It will be followed by reflections on some of the countervailing forces in the region and the world that may help to check this militaristic push. We shall then propose concrete measures that various civil society actors can adopt in order to strengthen peace. An attempt will be made to highlight the special role that religion --- in our case Islam--- can play in this endeavor. In our conclusion we shall give some attention to moves to prohibit war and how such moves can bring the different religious communities together. A Military Role Within Japanese society there has always been a nationalistic, militaristic tendency associated with the political right. Groups that reflect this tendency are of the

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view that only a militarily strong Japan will be able to protect the nation’s economic assets and defend a somewhat vulnerable insular society. Besides, military muscle will also ensure that Japan has the capacity to secure oil and other much needed natural resources for a natural resource deficient nation. Many of those who think along these lines are also critical of Japan’s military dependence upon the United States and would like Japan to be a military power in its own right. But there are also those who see a militarily strong Japan as enhancing the US’s military hegemony. Indeed, the US’s own desire to strengthen Japan’s military hand is yet another factor driving Japan in the direction of militarism. Why would the US that had insisted upon disarming Japan in the wake of the latter’s defeat in the second world war now want to rearm Japan? There is no need to emphasize that it is because of the US’s current policy of seeking to contain China. For some Washington elites, a militarily powerful Japan would not only serve as a counterweight to China but may even be able to thwart its ascendancy. This is why the US is so keen on the abrogation of Article 9. Both militarism within Japanese society and the push from the US should be viewed in the context of some larger regional and global developments. A number of countries in the region such as China, North and South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan have all in the last decade or so increased their military expenditure for a variety of reasons. The growing economic prosperity of some of these countries is witnessing an escalation in such expenditure. This is also happening at the global level with the US leading the world in military spending. It is estimated that annual global military expenditure now stands at 1.2 trillion US dollars. The arms trade continues to flourish with a number of new actors joining the game. Newer and

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deadlier weapons are being manufactured. Research in weapons technology has reached new heights. Global militarization has become an even more serious threat to humankind since it has now found a new raison d’etre. This is the US led global war on terror. Though sophisticated weaponry is of little help in the fight against terrorism, militaristic elites and arms merchants are using the war on terror as an excuse to expand military budgets. At the same time, they refuse to address the root causes of global terrorism which are related directly to US occupation of foreign lands, its establishment of foreign bases, its usurpation of oil, and its endorsement of Israeli subjugation of the Palestinian people. As a close ally of the US, Japan is also not willing to come to grips with the underlying causes of global terrorism. In fact, Japanese leaders have often alluded to the threat of global terrorism as one of the principal justifications for rescinding Article 9. Article 9 and Peace If this is how Japanese elites and elites in the US and other parts of the world feel about militarization, what hope is there for the preservation of Article 9 and the maintenance of peace? Within Japanese society itself, there is ---in spite of everything--- considerable support for Article 9 and the Peace Constitution. This support comes from people in all walks of life. Because of the terrible catastrophe of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a significant segment of the Japanese national community is averse to war and remains deeply attached to the ideal of peace. Outside Japan, in the rest of Asia, especially in Northeast and Southeast Asia, both governments and peoples are inclined towards political stability and economic prosperity which they know are only possible if there is no war or armed conflict. Indeed, for more than two decades now the whole of the East Asian region

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stretching from China and Japan to Indonesia and the Philippines has experienced relative peace and tranquility. Steady economic development achieved within an environment of stability and security has become the dominant ethos of the region. It explains to some extent at least why the rest of East Asia rejects almost instinctively the thought of a militarily resurgent Japan. Besides, it brings back bitter memories of a tragic past. East Asian states are also acutely aware of the mortal danger posed by a militarily resurgent Japan forging an even stronger security alliance with the US. They have no doubt that it will trigger a response from China. It could lead to tensions in the region which would surely impede East Asian economic advancement. In other words, East Asia has a direct stake in the perpetuation of Article 9. It is not just East Asia which fears war. The world as a whole is weary of war as demonstrated so vividly in the massive global opposition to the US led invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003. It was arguably the biggest--- and the most extensive---anti-war, pro-peace movement in human history. The protests revealed a profound yearning for peace which has expressed itself on other occasions in the last four years. Peace Proposals It is this yearning for peace that civil society should harness in the struggle against war, violence and militarization. Article 9 could serve as the rallying point for it embodies an unambiguous renunciation of “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling disputes.� Parliaments of the world should be persuaded to adopt resolutions which renounce war and the use of force as envisaged by Article 9. Political parties should also be encouraged to adopt a similar stand. Trade unions and business organizations should also join the effort. All sectors of

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society should be mobilized to the hilt to oppose war and militarization. Islam’s Contribution It is in this regard that we visualize a special role for religion. Islam, like other religions, is orientated towards peace and justice. There is no need to emphasize that the term ‘Islam’ itself implies peace through submission to God. The Qur’an eulogizes peace as a noble goal and implores humankind to strive to create harmony and understanding among nations and peoples. It is because peace is only attainable if there is justice that the Qur’an pleads for justice. This is also why it deplores aggression and oppression since aggression jeopardizes peace and oppression repudiates justice. Because aggression and oppression are anathema to the religion, Islam expects its followers to resist aggression and oppression. Resistance is vital for the protection of one’s honor and dignity. These principles were embodied in the life and mission of the Prophet Muhammad. He defended his nascent Muslim community against aggression and oppression but at the same time did his utmost to avoid violence and bloodshed. Peace through justice was his cherished objective. Prohibiting War It is because peace is such an exalted ideal that Muslims have from time to time sought to translate this ideal into concrete reality. One such attempt was a proposal to repudiate war as a means of resolving inter-state disputes which I had put forward on the eve of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Kuala Lumpur in February 2003. In a letter to the media dated 2 February 2003, I suggested that “to be non-aligned today is not to be aligned to war. There are two advantages in defining non-alignment in this manner. It distinguishes—and

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distances--- NAM as a collectivity from Washington’s formidable war machine while eschewing war as a tool of foreign policy. It also serves to remind NAM members themselves that they should not resort to war and violence as a means of settling conflicts”. I went on to argue that “to be non-aligned is not only to repudiate war but also to affirm faith in peace. After all peace was one of the most powerful motivations for the establishment of NAM. In both the 1947 Asian Relations Conference in Delhi and in the 1955 Bandung Conference --- widely recognized as precursors of the 1961 Belgrade meeting at which NAM was officially launched --- peace was proclaimed as one of the cardinal goals of non-alignment”. By a happy coincidence the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who presided at the NAM Summit used the occasion to also urge the world to prohibit war as a means of settling conflicts. Since retirement, Mahathir has launched a movement to criminalize war. It has not gained much momentum partly because the mainstream global media has chosen to ignore the movement. One is not surprised by the media’s attitude. The mainstream media is after all integral to the US helmed global power structure which seeks to perpetuate its hegemony through war and violence. It is simply not in the media’s interest to criminalize war. This is why we have no choice but to turn to the new media. Through the new information and communication channels available to us --- such as the internet and the DVD--- we should raise public awareness of the importance of combating war. Indeed, criminalizing war should emerge as that fundamental mission that unites people of different faiths in a common struggle. No religion regards war as a virtue. The death and destruction that accompanies war is a

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denial of life and the sanctity of life that all religions cherish in different ways. In the ultimate analysis it is because life is sacred in the eyes of each and every religion that the preservation and perpetuation of Article 9 has become such a blessed endeavor. -25 September 2007.

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CHAPTER 2

FROM SEEKING PEACE TO CREATING CONFLICT: THE RE-INTERPRETATION OF ARTICLE 9. Paper presented at the Fourth Global Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 and Global Peace Transcending Nationalism at YMCA Asia Youth Center in Tokyo from 1st to 5th December 2014. On the 1st of July 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet decided to re-interpret Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution to enable Japan to exercise “collective self-defense.” What this means in effect is that Japan can now get involved in military operations in other countries as long as they are in Japan’s interests. She can send her troops to other lands and sell her military hardware to other states. This represents a major shift for a nation which after the second world war adopted a constitution that states clearly that “aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes”. (Article 9) (1) As an aside, it may be observed that though war is renounced in its Constitution, “Japan has a wellequipped standing military (known as Self-Defense Forces) of 225,000 personnel, including by most conventional standards, a formidable Navy (Maritime SDF).” (2) Based upon its share of world military expenditure in 2013, Japan occupies the eighth position globally, tying with Germany. Its actual military expenditure for that year amounted to 48.6 billion dollars. (3)

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This makes Japan --- even before its re-interpretation of Article 9 --- one of the most formidable military powers on earth. Influences It is against this background that we should look at the reinterpretation of Article 9 which undoubtedly has been influenced by a number of factors. There has always been a view within Japanese society associated with the political Right that only a militarily strong Japan would be able to defend its vulnerable, insular situation and circumstance. Besides, it is only with military muscle that the nation would be able to ensure that it has the capacity to secure oil and other much needed natural resources in which it is so deficient. As a prominent global economic actor, Japan also has no choice but to protect its vast economic assets which the Right believes requires military strength. (4) The rise of Abe has also played a major part in the reinterpretation of Article 9. A right-wing nationalist who has downplayed Japan’s war-time atrocities, including the issue of comfort women in Korea and other Asian countries and who insists that class A war criminals are not criminals under Japanese domestic law, Abe has increased defense expenditure since becoming Prime Minister for a second time in December 2012. He has also announced a five year military expansion plan. On a number of regional issues, involving notably China and South Korea, Abe has adopted a belligerent stance. His solid majority in parliament --- his party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) commands 294 out of 480 seats in the Lower House --- has given him the confidence to pursue a militaristically oriented nationalistic policy. It is not without significance that Abe’s rise has coincided with the “US pivot to Asia”. The phrase itself is a misnomer since the US has remained a principal political and economic force in Asia, in spite of its defeat in Vietnam in

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the seventies and the closing down of its air and naval bases in the Philippines in the nineties as a result of a popular uprising. Describing its current approach to Asia as a sort of “re-balancing” is also off the mark since the assumption is that there is already a dominant power in our continent that the US is helping to check or rebalance. What the US is doing is to re-assert its power in Asia in an organized and systematic manner. Japan is certainly central to that strategy. The re-assertion of US power is driven by at least three factors. One, the rise of China as an economic powerhouse in the region and globally which has endowed it with increasing political clout. The US views this as a challenge to its hegemony. Two, the emergence of Asia as the epicenter of the global economy with China, Japan and South Korea playing pivotal roles. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and possibly India are also important in this changing scenario. The US wants to ensure that it has a huge slice of the Asian cake. Three, because of factors one and two, the US fears that if it does not re-assert its power at this stage it will not be able to perpetuate its position as the world’s leading economy and its sole military superpower. To put it differently, the re-assertion of US power in Asia today is about the maintenance of its global hegemony. The US knows that it cannot achieve this goal without the support and cooperation of its allies such as Japan. After two expensive wars in two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, in the last 13 years, the US needs Japan’s financial wherewithal to sustain its military infrastructure in Asia. This is why it has been pushing Japan to go beyond Article 9 and commit itself to US- led military operations in other parts of the world. That push has become more

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concerted in light of the US’s own economic decline and the rise of China as an economic power. That Japan shares the US fear of China’s rise is an understatement. It is said in some circles that when China overtook Japan as the world’s second largest economy it made a dent on the Japanese psyche. But more than the question of economic ranking, there is a serious maritime dispute over the Senkaku Islands (the Chinese refer to them as Diaoyu) which has widened the rift between the two nations. (5). Competing claims over the five tiny islands and three rocks covering a mere seven square kilometers have gotten worse since 2010 leading to several clashes in recent years. This maritime conflict should be viewed against the backdrop of China’s deep unhappiness over Japan’s invasion and occupation of parts of China from 1937 to 1945 and the latter’s reluctance to issue a genuine apology over the war and the accompanying atrocities. (6). Because this has always rankled the Chinese collective memory, the Japanese Right is convinced that China will remain hostile towards Japan and Japan should accordingly be militarily prepared to deal with this reality. For the Right in Japan, the South Korean public also feels the same way about Japan. The Japanese colonization of Korea for 35 years from 1910 to 1945 left an indelible mark upon the Korean psyche. It is partly because of the suffering and humiliation that the people went through that the Koreans remain angry and bitter about the issue of Korean comfort women and sex slavery in general. Instead of demonstrating genuine remorse for what had happened in the past, the present Japanese leadership

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in particular appears to be skirting around the issue through all sorts of rationalizations. The Right sees Koreans as implacable and that becomes a justification for its own agenda of greater military alertness on the part of Japan. Then there is North Korea or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Its nuclear tests and its military stances have helped to strengthen the hand of the Japanese Right and those who are in favor of a reinterpretation of Article 9. They argue that North Korea is a constant reminder of the dangers that lurk in Japan’s neighborhood. If the proponents of re-interpretation have discovered yet another argument it is in the tensions that are expressing themselves in the region from the re-assertion of US power, on the one hand, and the rise of China, on the other. The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China over what the former calls the Scarborough Shoal and the latter calls the Huangyan Island which has led to a series of collisions have drawn in both the US and Japan(7). Initially, it was just the US at times encouraging and at times provoking the Philippines, its longtime ally, to adopt a hardline position against China. Now Japan has also come out in support of the Philippines through its promise of closer security ties (8). Japan is also forging stronger military relations with Australia, another intimate US ally in the region. (9) To these ties with the two US allies, one should also add Japan’s growing friendship with India. Some foreign policy analysts in both countries regard the rapport between Japanese Prime Minister, Shinto Abe, and the new Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as a bond borne of their common concern for China’s rise --- a

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bond that the US would like to see getting stronger as a counterweight to Chinese power (10). It would serve the US’s larger agenda of containing China while engaging her. (11) From the various influences shaping Article 9, it is obvious there are significant geopolitical and geo-economic forces propelling Abe and Japan in a certain direction. The desire and determination of the US elite to pursue and perpetuate its hegemony with the active collaboration of surrogates such as Abe’s Japan is a critical factor. Sometimes the drive for hegemony reinforces longstanding frictions and conflicts among neighbors in the region. At other times, current disputes and disagreements are igniting fresh tensions. But whatever the actual dynamics, the importance of Article 9 goes beyond Japanese shores. This is why it is crucial to examine the implications and consequences of Article 9 for Japan, for Asia and for the world. Implications and Consequences. For Japan, the re-interpretation of Article 9 could lead to a vigorous resurgence of the political Right --- a resurgence not witnessed since the end of the second world war. The military budget could be increased substantially. There could be greater acceptance of military bases, including those in Okinawa. There may even be a push for developing nuclear weapons. Japan could be inducted into military alliances. It may even take a lead role in military adventures abroad. At the same time, the militaristic trend could prompt peace movements to re-organize and re-strategize with a greater sense of purpose. The opposition to US bases in

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Japan could become stronger. The campaign against not just nuclear weapons but also nuclear plants that generate nuclear energy for electricity and other peaceful purposes could gather momentum. The Japanese people may mobilize against military alliances and sending combat soldiers abroad. There may even emerge a powerful movement to compel the elite to adhere to the original meaning of Article 9 as envisaged in the Constitution. Outside Japan, in the rest of Asia, the resurgence of Japanese militarism would be viewed with grave concern. Though the actual victims of Japanese aggression including the diminishing cohorts of comfort women may not be around in a few years’ time, the collective memories of Japanese atrocities in various Asian countries will live on forever. Even among allies such as the Philippines, there will be no jettisoning of this memory of pain and suffering. It is quite conceivable that as a reaction to Japanese militarism, other countries could expand their military budgets. There could be an arms race in the region. Even as it is, there is an arms build-up in Asia which the mainstream Western media and its Asian counterparts are blaming upon the so-called China threat. (12). The truth is that China --- unlike Japan or Western nations --has not conquered or occupied any other country. If Asian countries have to fear conquest or occupation, the threat from Japan and the West is more real --- based upon historical facts --- than an imaginary threat from China. This is the reason why a militarily resurgent Japan is a much greater danger to the rest of Asia than a China reacting to a re-assertive United States. As in the case of Japan, militarization in various Asian countries may induce peace groups to enhance their commitment. They may speak up against their governments for not only increasing their military expenditure but also for forging military links with other

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states that only serve to escalate tensions and frictions in the region. In this regard, I can see peace activists in countries such as the Philippines and India voicing their opposition to any attempt to establish a special military relationship with the US or with the US through Japan. This brings us to the US’s role in Asia and the world mediated through Japan. Since the US’s hegemonic power is declining --- as pointed out by a number of thinkers and analysts from different parts of the world (13) --- any move to perpetuate its hegemony by getting allies like Japan to employ money, men and machine on its behalf would be resented by a lot of people who realize that US dominance and control has been a bane upon humankind. Japan would also incur the wrath of an expanding segment of the global community. Indeed, if Japan plays this surrogate role, it is very likely that whatever goodwill Japan has accumulated over the decades especially in Asia as a result of its extensive business and trade ties in the region will dissipate quickly. Japan, in other words, will be perceived in an extremely negative light. Opposition to Re-Interpretation of Article 9. Though Japan’s militaristic role in the future and the US’s continuing attempt to perpetuate its hegemony may be detrimental to the interests of the people, at the moment there does not seem to be much opposition to the reinterpretation of Article 9 in countries outside Japan. It has not become a major concern among the masses anywhere in Asia or the West for that matter. This is mainly because of the media which has not given any emphasis to the question of Article 9. There has been hardly any in-depth analysis of the issue in any major media outlet in the continent outside Japan. Most people are just ignorant of Article 9 and what it implies and how it will impact upon their own lives. No non-Japanese NGO

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in the region of some weight (with the exception of some Church groups) has campaigned vigorously against the re-interpretation of the Article. Intellectuals in Asia as a whole have given scant attention to this vitally crucial issue that will have an enormous impact upon present and future generations. The exception as I have alluded to are some Churches. It is significant that the central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) itself meeting in Geneva from 2nd to 8th July 2014 adopted a resolution which: 1. “Expresses its grave concern at the direction indicated by the Japanese government’s initiative to reinterpret or change article 9 of the constitution, and its impact on regional security, on the positive example provided by this constitutional prohibition, and on efforts towards global peace and non-violence; 2. Calls on the Japanese government to honor and respect both the letter and the spirit of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution which upholds nonviolence as ameans to settle disputes; 3. Urges the government of Japan to live up to its “Peace Constitution” and build non-military collective peace and security agreements with all neighboring states in Northeast Asia; 4. Encourages the Japanese government not to surrender to external pressures to change or reinterpret Article 9 of their Constitution; 5. Invites member churches to accompany the struggles of peace-loving Japanese people and churches in prayer.” (14) Though the Abe government has yet to respond positively to the WCC resolution, the churches’ bold and brave stand is commendable. It is the sort of stand that

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an institution founded upon religious principles should take when confronted by a fundamental moral issue. Others Should Also Stand Up. If Christian institutions and groups are prepared to openly oppose the re-interpretation of Article 9, there is no reason why people of other faiths should not also make their voices heard. After all, any move that justifies war and violence in whatever guise is unacceptable to all religions. All religions value life, each and every life. Because people of faith cherish the sacredness of life, the destruction of life is abhorrent to them. In this regard, Muslims and Islam have an important role to play. (15) The Muslim population of Japan may be infinitesimal but Islam is the religion with the biggest number of followers in Asia. Muslims should be concerned about the re-interpretation of a law that will alter significantly Japan’s role in Asia and as a result change the political landscape of the entire continent. To re- interpret “collective self-defense” to legitimize the formation of military alliances and Japan’s participation in foreign wars goes against the concept of resisting aggression or fighting oppression in Islam. The wars that Japan’s protector, the US, has helmed since the early sixties have been essentially wars of aggression. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq would be three examples. It is towards these types of wars that Japan would be expected to contribute money, men and machine. Muslims should not only oppose these types of wars but also reject any attempt to camouflage their real intent through the usage of terms such as “collective self-defense.” It should also be emphasized that resisting aggression or combating oppression through arms --- legitimate as it is in Islam as in international law --- is but an act of last

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resort. It is only when other peaceful, non-violent means of resolving a conflict have failed that one is permitted to protect one’s integrity and dignity as a victim of aggression and oppression by taking up arms. What this implies is that the peaceful resolution of conflicts is the preferred option in Islam. Building a culture that encourages this is the religion’s real aim (16). This is why Article 9 and Japan’s Peace Constitution would be highly prized in Islamic thought. Islam would want laws and constitutions of this kind to be promoted and popularized since they bring forth the essence of the faith. Conclusion. At a time when Article 9 is being re-interpreted, people of faith everywhere and indeed, all human beings, should join hands and reiterate the singular significance of the Article to the future of humankind. We should not just be reactive. We should be proactive and proclaim to the world that it is this Article in its original sense that should be incorporated into the constitution of every nation on earth. This would be in line with what we did at the ‘InterReligious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia’ held in Tokyo from 29 November to 1st December 2007. We called upon religious circles and persons in Asia and the world to:1. “Treasure Article 9 as a patrimony of the whole of the human race and establish a global Article 9 network. 2. Encourage a clause in favor of demilitarization and renunciation of war to be included in the constitution of every nation. 3. Chart a new path for human history, using every opportunity to publicly call for the abolishment of all war.” (17)

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There were many other messages that emanated from that conference. Seven years later, as we encounter a determined drive by powerful forces within and without Japan to change the very meaning of Article 9 in order to pursue their agenda of hegemony through war and violence, we would do well to re-dedicate ourselves to the ideas and ideals that the conference presented to the world. We should perhaps do something more. We should pledge to ourselves that each of us will do what we can to translate those lofty goals into concrete realities. For deeds speak louder than words. -16 September 2014. END NOTES 1) Quoted from Concept Paper for WCC Busan Madang Workshop Article 9 of the Japanese Peace Constitution, November 7 2013. 2) See B.A. Hamzah, “Abe-san walks a tightrope” New Straits Times, August 11, 2014. 3) Sourced from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)’s Yearbook 2014. Online version. 4) See my “Article 9 and the Militarized World --- What Can We Do?” Paper presented at the Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia, Tokyo, November 29 --- December 1, 2007. 5) See my “The China Japan Dispute Over Diaoyu : Let The Truth Prevail!” JUST Commentary October 2012. 6) See Wikipedia Second Sino-Japanese War. 7) See my “An ASEAN-China Forum for the South China Sea” JUST Commentary June 2012. 8) Julius Cesar I. Trujano, “Japan and the Philippines Unite Against China” East Asia Forum 21 August 2013.

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9) Andrew Carr and Harry White, “Japanese Security, Australian Risk? The Consequences of our Special Relationship.” The Guardian.com 8 July 2014. 10)See Mitsuru Obe and Niharika Mandhana, “India and Japan Pursue Closer Ties to Counter China,” The Wall Street Journal 1 September 2014. 11)For an analysis of this strategy see my “ Containing China: A Flawed Agenda,” in my Hegemony, Justice; Peace ( Shah Alam Malaysia: Arah Publications, 2008) 12)For example see “Asia arms up to keep rising China threat at bay,” New Straits Times 12 September 2014. 13)There have been a number of studies on the decline of the United States. Among them, Richard Falk, The Declining World Order (New York: Routledge, 2004) and James Petras Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Atlanta, USA: Clarity Press, 2008). I have also been writing on the signs of an American decline for almost 12 years now. My latest thoughts on it can be found in, “The decline of US helmed Global Hegemony: The Emergence of a More Equitable Pattern of International Relations? in my A World in Crisis: Is There a Cure? ( www. Justinternational.org, 2013) ( e-book) 14)See Statement on the Re-interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution Documents ( Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2014) p. 2 15)I make this point in my paper “Article 9 and the Militarized World… Op.Cit at the Inter-Religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia held in Tokyo from 29 November to 1st December 2007. 16)For some reflections on Islam’s commitment to peace see Hassan Hanafi, Islam in the Modern World Vol 11 ( Heliapolis, Egypt: Dar Kebaa Bookshop, 1995) especially the section on “ Islam and World Peace.” 17)See Statement from Inter-religious Conference on Article 9 and Peace in Asia, November 29 --December 1, 2007 in Article 9 Global Inter-Religious Conference, p.23

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POSTSCRIPT JAPAN: PROTESTING FOR PEACE On Sunday, 30 August 2015, more than 100,000 Japanese protested in the vicinity of the Japanese parliament against new security bills tabled in the upper legislative chamber by the Shinto Abe government. About 300 similar rallies were held in different cities all over the country. One television station estimated that perhaps a million people had participated in the mass protests. There is overwhelming opposition to the bills which allow the Japanese armed forces to engage in overseas combat if that was required to protect Japanese interests. Protecting Japanese interests is given a wide interpretation as to include cooperating militarily with allies in foreign operations. Prime Minister Abe sees this as a form of “collective selfdefense.” The bills were passed by the powerful lower legislative chamber in July 2015, in spite of popular opposition. They are almost certain to be adopted by the upper chamber at the end of September where Abe’s ruling bloc has a majority. Most Japanese constitutional scholars argue that the bills violate the Japanese Constitution, specifically Article 9. Under Article 9, “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.” This is why they, and a whole spectrum of academics from various other disciplines, have denounced Abe’s security bills and are campaigning for the preservation of the sanctity of Article 9. A lot of Japanese are afraid that if the bills are passed, Japan would be drawn into regional and global armed conflicts that serve the narrow interests of elites at home and in the United States who want Japan to play a more direct and decisive role in containing China. It follows from this that Japan’s relations with China could deteriorate further. North Korea could become even more hostile towards Japan. Ties with South Korea could take a turn for the worse. Japan could find

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itself adopting military postures on behalf of one party or the other in unresolved territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In a nutshell, Japan’s interaction with the rest of Asia would be fraught with new challenges expressed through friction and tension. This is why ASEAN citizens and other Asians should be deeply concerned about what is happening now in Japan. If Japan seeks a more militaristically oriented role, it would have an adverse impact upon present and future generations in the continent. We should make it abundantly clear that we do not want to see Japan embroiled in wars and conflicts in other lands. We should be explicit in our support for Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. In 2007 and in 2014, in inter-religious conferences in Tokyo, I had underlined the significance of Article 9 to peace in Asia and the world. Article 9, I opined, should be incorporated into the constitution of every nation on earth. At a time like this when Article 9 is being subverted by powerful forces within and without Japan, we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers in Japan as they demonstrate their total commitment to peace. -5 September 2015.

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CHAPTER 3

THE NANJING GENOCIDE AND THE FUTURE OF ASIA For the first time in its history, China commemorated the Nanjing genocide on the 13th of December as a National Memorial Day. The mass killings and systematic rapes perpetrated by some Japanese soldiers against civilians and disarmed combatants in Nanjing, then the capital of China, for a period of six weeks or so, starting on the 13 th of December 1937, is undoubtedly one of the most brutal chapters in the history of 20th century Asia. This genocide occurred in the thick of the Japanese invasion of China. Though estimates differ, it is generally accepted that between 140,000 and 300,000 Chinese perished at the hands of the Japanese during those six weeks of incredible moral depravity and unspeakable human cruelty. The Nanjing genocide is not just recorded in Chinese archives and etched in the collective memory of the Chinese people. There are numerous well-documented accounts of what happened in Nanjing by Western doctors, missionaries, businessmen, journalists and diplomats who were living there at that time. Japanese writers and activists have also attempted to tell the truth and some have been campaigning for justice for the people of Nanjing and China for decades. I had some exposure to some of these individuals when I was a guest lecturer on a Japanese Peace Boat --- an

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NGO committed to the promotion of peace --- in February 2005. The passengers, almost all of whom were Japanese, were deeply concerned about their country’s role in Nanjing. Their concern, I gathered from the organizer of the peace voyage, was a reflection of how a lot of Japanese felt about a dark blot in their history. It is important for Japanese who are aware of Nanjing to become more vocal and get more organized at this juncture in the nation’s politics. This is because right-wing nationalists are more emboldened now to push for their agenda since the prevailing political climate in Japan appears to favor them. A number of these elements continue to argue that the genocide never took place! They have forgotten that two tribunals established after the Second World War, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, had convicted some of the men responsible for the Nanjing genocide of war crimes and put them to death. And, on the 15th of August 1995, on the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the end of WW 2, the then Prime Minister, Tomiichi Muruyama, apologized publicly for Japan’s aggression, including the atrocities committed in Nanjing, and for the “great suffering” his country had inflicted upon the people of Asia. He should have also provided a written apology. Muruyama’s successors have failed to build upon his outstanding initiative. Instead, some of them have hardened their position on Japan’s past misdeeds. A couple of them have visited the Yasukuni Shrine where the remains of some ‘Class A’ war criminals including those implicated in the Nanjing genocide are preserved.

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If Japanese leaders are sincere about removing one of the longstanding causes of friction between their country and their neighbors in Asia, they should cease making these visits immediately. It would assure Asian societies that were victims of Japanese aggression seven decades ago that Japan has finally repudiated its militaristic past. The present Japanese leadership should also make a much more earnest attempt to resolve its territorial dispute in the East China Sea over what it calls the Senkaku Islands and what the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands. At this moment, in the wake of the APEC Summit in Beijing in November 2014, there is a slight thaw in the otherwise tense relations between the Japanese and Chinese governments. That thaw offers some hope for dialogue in view of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mature approach to the commemoration of the Nanjing genocide. He made it very clear in his speech at the commemoration that one should not “bear hatred against an entire nation because of a small minority of militarists who had launched aggressive wars.” Given this positive signal from President Xi, can ASEAN, which is geographically, politically and economically close to both Japan and China play a role in reducing the differences and narrowing the gap between these two Asian neighbors? Can ASEAN as a collective entity encourage the two countries to address the thorny issues that separate them through a carefully planned stage by stage dialogue? Shouldn’t Malaysia as the incoming ASEAN Chair for 2015 craft a mechanism for Sino-Japanese dialogue which could lead to a lasting peace between two nations

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whose diligence, discipline and dynamism (3Ds) when applied in unison could well change the world? Peace between China and Japan is therefore vital for the future of Asia and indeed the world. We should do all we can to achieve this precious peace within a short span for an obvious reason. There are actors within and without the region who are already exploiting Sino-Japanese tensions in pursuit of their own agendas. We should not allow them to succeed through default. -22 December 2014.

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CHAPTER 4

THE CHINA JAPAN DISPUTE OVER DIAOYU: LET THE TRUTH PREVAIL! Tensions are rising in the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands — 5 tiny islands and 3 rocks covering a mere 7 square kilometres in the East China Sea. It is a pity that this is happening especially when ChineseJapanese economic ties have reached a new level since the end of last year with the two countries agreeing to use their respective currencies in their bilateral trade, instead of the US dollar. To de-escalate tensions, Japan should make the first move. It was the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the islands from the Kurihara family on 11 September 2012 that ignited the present crisis. That decision should be rescinded immediately. In fact, Japan has been upping the ante on Diaoyu — which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands — for some time now. It will be recalled that on 7 September 2010 when a Chinese fishing boat collided accidentally with a Japanese patrol vessel near Diaoyu, the captain and the crew of the Chinese boat were detained by the Japanese Coast Guard for a few days. Though they were all released in the end, the incident revealed a new toughness on the part of the Japanese. The Chinese have been reacting to this and other such incidents. What explains this new toughness? Some analysts attribute it partly to the growth of the Political Right in Japanese politics. Japanese economic stagnation for more than two decades and China’s success in replacing Japan as the world’s second most important

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economy have increased the influence of conservative nationalist forces in the country who are now targeting China. Impending elections within the ruling Democratic Party and the forthcoming General Election have also widened the berth for conservative politics. It is also not a coincidence that the Japanese Right has become more vocal — especially vis-a-vis China— at a time when the United States is seeking to re-assert its presence and its power in the Asia-Pacific region. In the last couple of years, US political and military officials have on a number of occasions underscored the significance of US-Japan security ties. Even on the Diaoyu dispute, the US government, while professing to remain neutral, has through the Pentagon made it clear that the Japan-US Security Treaty would come into force in the event of a military conflict between Japan and China. This stance has to be viewed in the larger context of the US’s active military alignment with the Philippines in its recent clash with China over the Huangyan Island in the South China Sea and its support for Vietnam in its longstanding tiff with China over parts of the Spratly Islands and the Paracels. For both Japan and the US there may also be other reasons why the Diaoyu Islands are important. In 1968-9, a United Nations agency, it is reported, had discovered potential oil and gas reserves near Diaoyu. The US military, it is not widely known, also uses one of the five islands — Kuba— as a practice range for aircraft bombing. Whatever the reasons for holding on to Diaoyu, Japan’s claim to ownership is weak. There are books, reports and maps from the 15th century, during the period of the Ming Dynasty, that establish in no uncertain terms that Diaoyu is Chinese territory. The book Voyage with a Tail Wind and the Record of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu bear

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testimony to this. Even writings by Japanese scholars in the late 19th century acknowledged this fact. The challenge to Chinese ownership of Diaoyu came from Japanese annexation of the Islands in 1894-5 following the first Sino-Japanese War. China under the Ching Dynasty was too weak to fight back and regain lost territory. But annexation through military force does not confer legitimacy upon the act of conquest. This is why when Japan was defeated in the Second World War the victors who included China and the US recognised that Diaoyu was Chinese territory. Both the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration acknowledged this though for administrative purposes Diaoyu was placed under US control as part of its governance over the Ryukyu Islands. The US was then the occupying power in Japan following the latter’s surrender. However, when China was taken over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the US changed its position and began to treat the Islands as part of Japan. The Chinese communist leadership protested vehemently. In 1971, the US Senate returned the Diaoyu Islands, together with Okinawa, to Japan under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. Again, the Chinese government in Beijing objected, as did the Taiwan government which also regards the Islands as part of China. Since the normalization of relations between China and Japan in 1972, both sides have agreed to allow their fisher folk to operate in the waters surrounding the Islands without resolving the issue of ownership. Of course, neither China nor Japan has relinquished even an iota of its claim in the last 40 years. Recent incidents have however forced this unresolved issue into the open.

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Apart from taking the first step by abrogating its purchase of the Islands, as we have proposed, Japan should also come to terms with undeniable historical, legal and ethical facts. It must accept the irrefutable reality that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China. We realize that there are powerful vested interests that will not allow Japan to embrace this truth. Nonetheless, we should all try to persuade the Japanese government and the Japanese people that it would be in their best interest to do so. Governments in Asia should convey this message to Japanese elites through quiet diplomacy. Citizen groups throughout the continent should speak up in a firm and courteous manner. The media should play its role by laying out the arguments for an amicable resolution of the dispute which respects truth and justice. -17 September 2012.

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CHAPTER 5

THE INFLUENCE OF MAJOR POWERS IN THE ASEAN REGION A Lecture Organized by the Malaysian Institute of Defense and Security (MiDAS) in Kuala Lumpur in May 2014. Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, YB Dato Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein, Minister of Defence, Malaysia, YB Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, Deputy Minister of Defence, Malaysia, Tan Sri- Tan Sri, DatukDatuk, Dif- Dif yang Terhormat, Para hadirin yang budiman, Assalamualaikum, Salam Sejahtera and Peace be with you. I would like to begin by thanking MiDAS for this very kind invitation. I am honoured and privileged to be here with you this morning. I am happy the Honourable YB Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, the Defence Minister of Malaysia is here with us. He is at a personal level a very old friend of mine. Friends, ASEAN has been exposed to foreign powers for a very, very long while. It is so much a part of our ASEAN history. History of Southeast Asia. If one looks at Greek records and Chinese records perhaps for close to 2000 years, this region has witnessed the influence of various nations from outside this region. We know of the influence of the Chinese and the Indians on Southeast Asia. Two very big nations which have shaped the culture and history of the region for a long time. We are also aware of the influence of the European powers. The influence of the European powers upon the region from the 16 th century onwards. We had the Spanish, the Portuguese,

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later the Dutch, the British and the French playing a role in our history. We had the Americans. We also had the Japanese, an outside power, playing a role in our history. The foreigner is part of ASEAN’s DNA. We are not alien to foreign powers. This is something that we have to keep in mind. We have managed our relations with outsiders with a great deal of finesse, diplomacy and with a degree of farsightedness. Today, friends, we are confronted with yet another challenge, two major foreign powers who would undoubtedly be shaping the future of this region, of Asia and of the world. And ASEAN would have a very critical role to play in the way in which the two powers relate to each other and how they shape the world. I am of course referring to the United States (US) and China, which will be the focus of my presentation this morning. I would like to look at how the US has interacted with Southeast Asia and ASEAN over a period of time and its relationship with China. Then I will look at China. Its relationship with Southeast Asia or ASEAN and its relationship with the US. The interaction between these two powers especially in relation to ASEAN and finally what ASEAN can do to shape the future of this region itself. That would be the framework of my presentation. Let me begin with the US and its relationship with Southeast Asia or ASEAN. We know of trade ties from perhaps the 18th century. But that is not really significant. The most significant tie between the US and Southeast Asia came in the form of colonialism. Its colonization of the Philippines at the end of the 19th century, which was a major event for the US because in some ways it was partly because of the colonization of the Philippines that the US emerged as a colonial power - apart from its colonization of parts of Latin America and so on. But the colonization of the Philippines was critical in the

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emergence of the US as a colonial power. And as we know it ruled the Philippines for a few decades. The next major event in its relationship with ASEAN was actually its war with Vietnam and Indo- China. From the 1960’s up to 1975, there was a long bloody war. Huge in terms of cost as far as human lives were concerned. More than 3 million Vietnamese were killed; perhaps 1 million Cambodians and Laotians killed in the war. More than fifty thousand Americans were killed in the war. This was the relationship with Vietnam. In that war in the end, the US was defeated in Vietnam as we can see from the Paris Agreement. Let me add that even if you look at the colonization of the Philippines, what is often not mentioned in history books is the human cost which was horrendous. Hundreds of thousands died in the US occupation and colonization of the Philippines. That’s part of the US’s history and involvement in the region. Now, after its defeat in Vietnam and Indochina the US did not actually leave Southeast Asia or Asia. This is one of the myths that is perpetuated; it had its bases in the Philippines right up to the early 1990s when they were formally terminated. As you know, the US had the Subic Naval base and the Clark Air base in the Philippines, but partly because of the revolt by the people that overthrew President Ferdinand Marcos, eventually the bases were closed down. The US continued to be involved in Southeast Asia. In terms of trade, investments, education, culture and even in defense and security matters. Its navy had access to a number of ports in the region, including ports in Malaysia. So when US leaders and commentators opine that the US had abdicated Asia after Vietnam it is not absolutely true. It has been a part of the history and the evolution of this region for many decades and will continue to be part of the region. Against this backdrop, “What does the pivoting to Asia mean?” I think the term is a misnomer.

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They are not pivoting to Asia because they have always been here and are still in Asia. I regard the term as the reassertion of US power in Asia. What we are witnessing is a reassertion of US power in the South China Seas. The US is reasserting its power in a more systematic and organized manner than ever before for a variety of reasons. I shall highlight two of them here. One, because there is no doubt at all, that this part of Asia is the centre of economic growth. It is undoubtedly the region that will drive the global economy. This part of the Asia Pacific is the engine of growth and the US wants to be part of it. It wants to be more than be a part of it. It wants to ensure that it will be a dominant player in the economic growth and transformation of this region. And this is why the US has termed itself a Pacific Power because it gives it a geographical position within the region. After the Second World War, the US kept on emphasizing to the Europeans that it was an Atlantic Power. If power shifts to the Antarctic the US will call itself an Antarctic Power. This is how it is, this is how a global hegemon operates. So now it is fashioning itself as a Pacific Power because that makes the US a part of this dynamic region and it wants to ensure that it will be able to shape the economic transformation of this region and benefit from it. It wants to be a dominant part of investments and businesses and financial services. Perhaps there is another reason, a more important reason why the US is reasserting its power. And that reason is of course China. The rise of China as all of us know has convinced the US that it must be here. Why? Because the US is deeply worried about the rise of China. It sees China as a power that may upstage the US. In other words, China could become the number one power. It could overtake the US economy in terms of the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) measurement.

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However, China continues to see itself as a poor country. As the Chinese Prime Minister said recently in Africa, China is still a poor, developing country. China is nowhere in actual economic power compared to the US economy. Nonetheless, what the US is worried about is Chinese economic vitality. China is a powerhouse. If you look at global manufacturing, global trade, China is right at the forefront. It is the Chinese economy that drives global manufacturing. It is the Chinese economy that drives global trade to a great extent. For ASEAN, it is China that is our number one trading partner. This is the reality and the US knows this. The US is worried that given its economic vitality and dynamism, China will become a very important and powerful nation in the future. Economic power is usually accompanied by political influence and later buttressed by military power. And this is what the US is worried about, that the Chinese will become the dominant power. Why is it worried about this? Because the US is determined to perpetuate its position as the number one nation in the world. To me, this is a very important factor. The US wants to ensure that it remains the global hegemon, that it will determine the future, that it will shape the world. To paraphrase the well-known American political thinker and dissident, Noam Chomsky, the US’s greatest obsession is to remain “the ruler of the world” which is why it will not allow China to emerge as a global power. It explains why in the region the US is doing everything to ensure that it remains on top. Isn’t this what the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) is all about? If you look at the TPP proposals, if you look at the clauses on financial services, on small and medium enterprises, the mechanisms for the settlement of trade disputes, intellectual property rights, if you look at the power given to huge global companies, pharmaceutical firms, in almost every area, the US wants to enhance its position vis-à-vis the other 11 countries that are part of the TPP process. Which is why the Japanese refused to concede to US demands despite US President

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Obama’s recent visit to Japan as it would have severely affected Japan’s automobile industry and agriculture. As far as the US is concerned, the TPP is one of the devices it is going to use to ensure that it dominates the economic transformation of the region in the present and the future. This is why China was excluded from the TPP process. The TPP is part of the US plan to check China’s rise, to contain China. There is also a military dimension to the containment of China. In 2011 it was announced that US troops would be deployed in Darwin, Australia on a rotational basis. Darwin will not become a permanent US base but it will reinforce the US military presence in the southern part of the Asia-Pacific region. Even more significant is the 10 year military agreement with the Philippines called the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Arrangement forged in April 2014 during President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Philippines. If you look at all the clauses of this agreement, it gives the US and its military access to Philippine naval bases, air bases, almost everything. I have just been reading an article on this, produced by a think tank in the Philippines. The think tank argues that this agreement is no different from having permanent bases in the Philippines. You can’t have permanent bases because the Philippines Constitution --- after the changes made in 1994 --- does not allow for building new foreign bases in the country. Since you cannot have foreign bases, what you can have is a rotating arrangement whereby US troops will move in and out of different strategic points in the Philippines on a constant and continuous basis. It is an arrangement that provides the US with a measure of control over the Philippines. Which is why, I think legal and political challenges are being mounted by the people. The people do not want new bases after they succeeded in eliminating the earlier permanent bases.

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If you look at all the military arrangements that they have had in the past with the US, they have benefited the US more than the Philippines. This is the situation of the Philippines in this era of the reassertion of US power. Look at the arrangement the US has worked out with Singapore. The deployment of rapid vessels from Singapore done in a very quiet way, in the usual Singapore style, an arrangement that provides the US with a clear military edge over any rival in the region. This is also part of its pivot to Asia. Cozying up to Vietnam is also part of this pivot. The US is taking full advantage of the current and historical animosity between Vietnam and China. It is seeking to forge a military tie with the nation that it had once invaded and occupied. And if you go beyond ASEAN, the US is tapping into the resurgence of Japanese nationalism under Prime Minister Shinto Abe. Since this nationalism is directed mainly against China, it fits in with the US’s own agenda of containing China. The US is also giving full backing to South Korea in its entanglement with North Korea, whose only ally is China. So here again, the constant friction between the two Koreas is being exploited by anti-China elements in Washington D.C. to keep South Korea from getting too close to China. US relations with India are also being shaped --- more so now than in the past --- by the China factor. The US elite knows that though Sino-Indian ties are warm, there are unresolved disputes between the two Asian giants that can be exploited to advance the US mission. The dispute over the McMahon Line which led to a war between China and India in 1962 is still the most outstanding issue that separates the two nations.

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It is obvious from all this that the US is positioning itself to ensure that it would be able to curtail China’s rise. But China presents a dilemma to the US, which is why you cannot see Chinese-US relations through the lenses of the Cold War as it just does not make sense. Why do I say this? It is not a Cold War type situation. Why? Because China and the US are also actively interacting with one another. It did not happen during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US. But now you have active interaction between the US and China and at the same time there is a tussle for power and influence between the two. In other words, the US wants to contain China but at the same time it has to interact with and engage China. This engagement is taking place at all levels and in different ways. The visit of Michelle Obama and her daughters to China is one example. The chief of the Chinese Armed Forces is meeting up with the top General in the US, Martin Dempsey, in Washington DC. The US cannot help but interact with China. Just as China cannot help but interact with the US. The US cannot cut itself off from China for a very obvious reason. Why? Because of trade, investments but mostly because China holds so much of US Treasury Bills as the US is the biggest debtor nation on earth with a debt of US$ 17.5 trillion. The Chinese meanwhile need US technology. If they want to develop, if they want to grow, they need US technology. So the interaction will continue, which is why we are confronted with an extraordinary situation today. On the part of the US, the need to contain but also at the same time the need to engage. Let me now look at China. China’s relations with Southeast Asia. China has interacted with South East Asia

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since time immemorial. If you look at Chinese records, in fact the earliest description of the various kingdoms in Southeast Asia are actually found in Chinese records. To give you a simple example, the word “Melayu” as a description of a people, first appears in Chinese records. So the Chinese have interacted with the region for a very long time, for perhaps 2000 years and the Chinese have kept amazing historical records. And we also know that when some of the Malay Kingdoms were emerging, China played a critical role especially during the period of the Ming Dynasty in China which was the time that the illustrious Chinese Admiral Cheng He embarked on his famous seven voyages. Nearly every one of the voyages involved Southeast Asia. And the Chinese developed diplomatic ties and trade ties with Southeast Asian kingdoms. One of the most important of those kingdoms was of course the Sultanate of Melaka. It was because of Chinese protection of Melaka that it emerged as a major maritime state capable of taking on its rival in the region, the Kingdom of Siam. After the decline of the Majapahit Empire, these were the two contending powers in Southeast Asia, Siam and Melaka. For protecting Melaka and assisting it to outdo a militarily stronger Siam, China did not demand that Melaka become its vassal state or its colony. What it sought was a sort of tributary relationship. Melaka paid a tribute, a “Bunga Mas” that implicitly acknowledged China as a sort of protector. There was no attempt to control or dominate Melaka or to annex its territory. To illustrate this outlook, I recall a famous story about Admiral Cheng He. When he went to Java, there was a dispute between two rival contenders for the throne in one of the kingdoms in Java. One of them promised Admiral Cheng He that if he took his side, he would give Cheng He half his Kingdom. Admiral Cheng He turned it down and said that he was not interested in other

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people’s land. China did not want to rule over foreign kingdoms. This is a critical point to keep in mind because there are revisionist historians today who argue that China was like any other imperial power determined to conquer foreign lands and subjugate their people. The truth is historically China never sought to be a hegemonic power. Just compare China to Portugal and Spain since they were major maritime powers in the sixteenth century. Though their ships were so much smaller than China’s, they were aggressive and violent, killing thousands of people and conquering foreign territories. The Chinese, on the other hand, emphasized the exchange of gifts and goods, were curious about other cultures and were diplomatic and courteous in their approach towards ‘the other.’ Going down the centuries, China’s next major engagement with Southeast Asia was during the Western colonial period. Because of wars, famines, and turmoil in various parts of China, tens of thousands of Chinese migrated to colonial Southeast Asia. More precisely, from the 18th Century onwards, a mass migration of Chinese occurred not just to Malaya, but also to Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and the Indo-China states. With the exception of Thailand which was not formally colonized, the Chinese by and large served the colonial economy in various ways. They were not integrated into the indigenous economy or society. This chasm created an indigenous – nonindigenous dichotomy which continues to impact Southeast Asia to this day. It was towards the end of this period that communism which was gaining strength in China began to influence pockets of Chinese in Southeast Asia. This was most obvious in Malaya. In some other Southeast Asian states, indigenous groups were also attracted to communism partly through their contact with colonial Europe. In this regard, it is worth observing that the Malayan Communist

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Party (MCP) was the only party of its kind in the region that had overwhelmingly more Chinese than indigenous people in both its leadership and its rank-and-file. The presence of the MCP was a source of tension between Malaysia and China. The tension was reduced after Malaysia established diplomatic relations with China in 1974. In that sense establishing relations with Beijing was a clever strategic move since it helped to minimize support from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for the MCP. The demise of the MCP came with the signing of the Hat Yai Agreement between the MCP and the Malaysian government in 1989. Since 1978, when China decided to embrace the market economy, it has entered into a new phase in its relations with Southeast Asia. China today invests heavily in the region. It has extensive trade ties. Its interaction with Southeast Asia in fields such as education, culture and tourism has increased by leaps and bounds. Of course, the breadth and depth of China’s relations with different countries in the region varies. But by and large, China has become deeply embedded in the Southeast Asian landscape. It is hard to conceive of Southeast Asian economies today without China. Now that brings us to China’s relationship with the US. China looks at the US as a power that wants to curb its rise. Of course, the US has always denied that it has any such intention. It maintains that it would like to see the emergence of a prosperous China. But the Chinese know that deeds speak louder than words. They have read the US correctly based upon the US’s military maneuvers and its economic measures some of which we have talked about. Since China is determined to raise the standard of living of its people and at the same time become a major economic power, it will not allow itself to be distracted from these goals. What this means is that it will not be provoked into a war, a major war that will undoubtedly

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sap its human and material resources. Its great economic and social gains will be wiped out if it is embroiled in a war. This is why even if there are provocations here and there from the US or some of its regional allies, China will not respond through military action. It will continue to concentrate upon development for the sake of its own people and also because it is determined to become a global economic power. In more concrete terms, China will continue to initiate and finance infrastructure development on a massive regional and global scale. In the next few years, it will be building roads and bridges, railway lines and sea-ports all over the world with much more vigor and energy than ever before. This is why I do not see China going to war against the US or against Japan or Vietnam or the Philippines or any other country for that matter. By war I mean a huge conflagration that mobilizes people and assets to the hilt over a period of time with the aim of pulverizing one’s adversary. Does this mean that even when its core interests are challenged, China will not go to war? Though it views its claim over almost the whole of the South China Sea as one of its core interests, it is doubtful that China will go to war if its alleged sovereignty over an island or a shoal in the South China Sea is seriously challenged by some other state. The exception could be Taiwan. If Taiwan declares itself an independent, sovereign state, backed by the US, I can see China responding militarily. Turning to the US, will the US risk a war? I don’t think the US would either, partly because of the economic and financial ties with China that I have already discussed. US businesses need the huge Chinese market. There are other reasons too. The American people would not want their government or certain vested interests to lead the nation to another war. They have had enough of wars, after Afghanistan and Iraq. It is partly because public opinion was against

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war per se, that the Obama Administration was forced to abandon its plan to strike Syria last year. Many Americans are now saying why go to war, when so many serious problems in the US itself --- from poverty and the paucity of affordable housing to a crisis in education and tensions in race relations --- have not been given the attention they deserve. Besides, the US can ill afford at this stage, given its economic woes, to embark upon another war. War may not happen. China and the US are not likely candidates. But you can never be sure. Because accidents can occur. A 100 years ago, war --- the First World War --- was ignited by an accident of sorts in Sarajevo. This is why we should always be vigilant about averting war and preserving peace. This brings us to the conclusion of my talk. What is the role of ASEAN in averting war and preserving peace? What is our role as citizens of ASEAN? I would like to suggest that there are three areas that we could concentrate on with regards to ASEAN. To start with, ASEAN should make a concerted attempt to forge a ‘Common Policy’ vis-a-vis the US on one hand and China on the other. A Common ASEAN Policy vis-a-vis China and US is imperative. If we do not forge such a policy we could get into a situation where different ASEAN member states are going to take the side of the US or China on policy issues that affect ASEAN as an entity. On the economy, on security and on politics, they may choose to adopt positions that are so diametrically different that they jeopardize the integrity of ASEAN itself. For instance, there should be a clear ASEAN position on whether foreign military bases should be allowed within ASEAN or whether an ASEAN state should be permitted to enter into a security pact with either China or the US. ASEAN states should not quarrel among themselves and become antagonistic towards one another on account

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of their respective economic relations with China or the US. There is a real danger of this happening because of the competing interests and agendas of the two powers. China has endorsed a regional economic pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) while the US is, as I have mentioned, pursuing the Trans Pacific Partnership. It is important to reiterate that the RCEP does not include the US and the TPP does not include China. To put it simply, an intense tussle for power in the region between the US and China could have severe repercussions for ASEAN’s internal cohesion and its external role. Evolving a common ASEAN policy towards the US and China is not going to be a walk in the park. Discussions will not only have to be held at the highest levels of government but also among other actors --- diplomats, civil servants, academics, activists, media practitioners from all the different ASEAN states. There will be many obstacles to overcome including the way in which relations between an ASEAN state and the US or China have developed over time. But a dialogue on this challenge --- the challenge of forging a common perspective on the US and China --- will have to start sooner than later. This brings me to my second proposal. We need to create mechanisms that are aimed at solving problems that will crop up in the relations among ASEAN states as they interact with both China and the US. Disputes and frictions should be resolved immediately and not be allowed to fester for a long while. Perhaps what we need is a rapid response task force comprising diplomats, security personnel and media practitioners from all the ASEAN states. This task force will act as soon as tension and friction occurs. It will study a situation in depth and make recommendations to the relevant ASEAN leaders. The leaders will then take appropriate measures to ameliorate the situation.

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The proposed task force should work in tandem with a permanent Eminent Persons Group (EPG). It is the EPG that will reflect in depth upon the underlying causes of tension and conflict in the triangular relationship between ASEAN, China and the US. Its findings will be transmitted to the top leaders of ASEAN as well as the men and women at the helm in the US and China. The proposed rapid response task force and the EPG will be further reinforced by a Code of Conduct which is what ASEAN and China are working on now. The Code which grew out of a Declaration of Conduct that ASEAN and China announced in 2002 is concerned primarily with the South China Sea and the overlapping maritime claims of China, including Taiwan, and some of the states in ASEAN. The Code will lay out the principles guiding the conduct of China and ASEAN in the South China Sea There is no reason why the Code cannot also cover the Straits of Melaka. The US should also be requested to endorse the Code since it is undoubtedly very much a part of present and potential conflicts in the region. The three proposals made here ---- the crafting of a common ASEAN position on relations with the US and China; the establishment of a twin mechanism to deal with actual conflicts in the ASEAN – China - US triangle in the form of a rapid response task force and an Eminent Persons Group; and the finalization of a Code of Conduct that will guide interactions among ASEAN, China and the US ---- are based upon the premise that it is inevitable that there will be disputes and conflicts among the three actors in the foreseeable future. What is important is how we manage these disputes and conflicts. This is why sound policies, effective mechanisms and viable codes are critically important at this juncture.

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Next year, 2015, Malaysia assumes the chair of ASEAN. We should provide leadership in laying the foundation for the emergence of a united ASEAN that interacts with China and the US with dignity and honor in our noble quest for a just, humane world. -November 2014.

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CHAPTER 6

AN ASEAN-CHINA FORUM FOR THE SOUTH CHINA SEA No one will believe that the stand-off between the Philippines and China over a disputed island in the South China Sea is a straightforward bilateral issue. It has serious implications not only for regional politics but also for the changing pattern of global power. This is why it is imperative that a clear basis be established for the resolution of the dispute without any further delay. Both the Philippines and China have adopted what appear to be rigid positions on the ownership of the uninhabitable rock and the waters around it which the former calls Scarborough Shoal and the latter calls Huangyan Island. The Philippines claims that Scarborough Shoal which is 135 nautical miles from Luzon comes within its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. China, on the other hand, argues that historically Huangyan has been part of her territory and is mentioned in a 13th century Chinese map. There are counter-arguments against both positions. If the Shoal is part of the Philippines--- Chinese commentators point out--- why didn’t the Treaty of Paris of 1898 which gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines recognise it as such? On the other side, there are Filipino analysts who have reminded China that for hundreds of years before the 13th century, the ancestors of presentday Filipinos, Indonesians, and Malaysians, known for their superb maritime skills, were in fact the masters of the seas in the entire region, including what is now known as the South China Sea. The Philippines wants the stand-off resolved through international law, on the basis of the Law of the Seas. China is totally opposed to this and insists that it be

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settled through bilateral talks. Though both sides will not budge they are determined to avoid a military confrontation. This gives us some hope. What sort of peaceful resolution will satisfy both parties? This is where ASEAN may have a role to play. ASEAN could propose the establishment of an ASEAN-China Forum which will serve as a platform for continuous discussions and negotiations on the Shoal/Huangyan dispute and other related conflicts pertaining to the South China Sea. After all, three other ASEAN states, apart from the Philippines--- Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia--- have also staked claims to parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The opposing claimant in all these cases is China which maintains that it has sovereign rights over most of the South China Sea and the islands in it. One of those islands---- the Paracels--- is also claimed by Vietnam. Since four ASEAN states are involved, it makes sense for the regional entity to approach the various disputes over sovereignty vis-a-vis China on a collective basis. The proposed ASEAN-China Forum should not involve any other state or institution outside the contending parties. In the past, China has not been keen on this collective approach. It must be persuaded to accept it. A collective approach may serve the larger interests of both ASEAN and China for two other reasons. One, the South China Sea is reputed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas. Though estimates vary, the area is regarded as one of the major sources of mineral wealth of the future. It is undoubtedly one of the factors behind the intense interest in the South China Sea not only among the claimants but also other powers outside the region. Why shouldn’t ASEAN and China jointly harness the wealth of the South China Sea for the well-being of their people?

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Malaysia has set a good example in this. In February 1979 it came to an agreement with Thailand to set aside a boundary dispute with the latter in the Gulf of Thailand by joining hands with Thailand to explore oil and gas in a 7250 square kilometer area in the Gulf. The agreement has been working well. The Joint Development Authority which manages the exploration had by the end of 2007 discovered approximately 8.5 trillion standard cubic feet of gas reserves from 22 fields in the area. With such a track record, Malaysia should perhaps take the lead and push for an ASEAN-China Forum on the South China Sea. Two, ASEAN and China are acutely aware that if the Shoal/Huangyan dispute drags on, and other similar disputes erupt in the near future, a military superpower which has already declared its interest in the South China Sea will not hesitate to enter the fray as a direct player. Its involvement will almost certainly aggravate the situation since the ASEAN claimant that is being backed by the United States may be emboldened to adopt an even more belligerent posture than it would otherwise do. China is bound to retaliate since it regards the South China Sea as “its core interest.� A military conflict between China and the US could have devastating consequences for ASEAN as a whole. This is why China and ASEAN whose economic ties have deepened and broadened as never before in the last decade, should now elevate their relationship through a forum which will address that one most contentious issue that could tear them asunder. -28 May 2012.

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CHAPTER 7

MH 370: RESPECTING ONE’S FRIENDS There is an irony in this. On the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia, Sino-Malaysian ties are at their lowest ebb. In the wake of the MH 370 tragedy, relatives of some of the Chinese passengers on that ill-fated flight, a segment of the Chinese media and a section of the public have chosen to vent their anger against Malaysia. Malaysian leaders and MAS officials have been labeled ‘liars’ and ‘murderers’; Malaysian celebrities with a following in China have been verbally abused; a demonstration has been held outside the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing; and there have been calls to boycott Malaysian products. At the same time, there are Chinese citizens who have come out in defense of Malaysia. The anger and frustration among relatives of some of the passengers is understandable to a point. 153 of the 227 passengers were Chinese nationals. For some of them the loss of a son or daughter means the end of the family line, given the one-child policy of the last few decades. Besides, Malaysian authorities in the initial days also exacerbated the angst and agony of the relatives through some contradictory statements about the lost airliner. They have also not been able to explain satisfactorily why an “unidentified object” captured on Malaysian military radar in the early hours of the 8 th of March --- later confirmed as the missing aircraft --- did not evoke a prompt response from the Malaysian air force. This is an issue which Chinese relatives have repeatedly raised at MAS briefings in Beijing.

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Nonetheless, our shortcomings do not warrant the sort of harsh and aggressive reaction we have been witnessing from some overly emotional and irrational Chinese in the last three weeks. Everything considered, Malaysian authorities have --after some early fumbles --- managed the flow of information with as much transparency as possible in an extraordinary situation characterized by an incredible dearth of evidence. They have also offered care and counseling services, financial assistance, hotel accommodation in Malaysian cities and Beijing, and free flights to aggrieved family members, as part of the humanitarian support that typifies Malaysian hospitality. How Malaysia has been responding to Chinese nationals and others affected by the MH 370 tragedy has to be viewed in the larger context of Malaysia’s bilateral ties with China. Malaysia was not only the first non-communist state in Southeast Asia to recognize China in 1974, it has also consistently refused to be drawn into any military or security arrangement that would directly or indirectly impact adversely upon China. On the question of both the Straits of Melaka and the South China Sea --- strategic routes in China’s geopolitical map --- Malaysia has adopted positions which are more benign to China’s interests than the approach taken by almost all its other neighbors. There is no denying that over the last 40 years Malaysia has emerged as one of China’s most trusted friends. This is why a lot of Malaysians are deeply disappointed with the hostility and antagonism shown by some sectors of Chinese society towards us in the wake of the MH 370 tragedy.

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This deplorable attitude has to be understood against the backdrop of China’s conflicts with a number of its neighbors in recent times. Even when there is a certain degree of historical justification for aspects of the Chinese position in some of its conflicts with Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, there is a tendency on the part of the Chinese to display such self-righteous indignation that it often borders on jingoism. This is true even in the case of its conflict with the Philippines --- a conflict which is not as historically rooted nor as multi-dimensional as China’s conflict with Japan --where the uncompromising stance of the Chinese on the Spratly Islands has limited the options available to the Philippines. Indeed, on issues of territorial sovereignty pertaining to the South China Sea as a whole, it is partly because of China’s unyielding approach that those who dispute its claims have not been able to arrive at some settlement with their giant neighbor to the north. The Chinese approach to its neighbors raises some disturbing questions about bilateral and multilateral relations. As China wields more economic and political clout, is it also becoming less accommodative of the interests of its neighbors? Is its assertiveness a manifestation of a psychology that privileges its own interests even to the extent of marginalizing the well-being of others? Is this some sort of ‘Middle Kingdom Complex’ that is inherently incapable of according the same degree of rights and respect to the other as it demands for itself? As someone who for many years has defended the peaceful rise of China as a global power as a positive development that will lead to the emergence of a more equitable multi-polar international order, I feel that it is

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imperative that China demonstrates greater sensitivity towards its neighbors. It should never be seen as a nation with a narrow, blinkered view of its own interests with little empathy for the honor and dignity of other people, especially those who are its true and tested friends. The MH 370 tragedy has brought this issue to the fore. -31 March 2014.

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CHAPTER 8

STRUGGLES FOR SELF DETERMINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES The paper below was one of the presentations made in the course of a lecture tour of Metro Manila and Davao City in the Philippines organized by various NGOs and Universities from 14 to 18 November 2011. In this paper on the struggle for self-determination in the context of the Republic of the Philippines, I shall focus more upon the Bangsamoro than the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) partly because one is a little more familiar with the former rather than the latter. I shall:Provide an historical overview of the struggles of both groups; Examine attempts at conflict resolution; Reflect upon the central issues in the conflicts; and Analyse possible solutions. Overview I shall begin with the IPs. There are 14 to 17 million IPs , scattered among 110 ethno-linguistic groups, mainly concentrated in the Cordillera Administrative Region of Luzon( 33%) and Mindanao ( 61%). Once cohesive, viable communities, the IPs were emasculated by Spanish colonialism which usurped their lands and marginalized their cultures and knowledge systems. US colonialism which followed also weakened the IPs’ hold on their lands and provided access to US agricultural corporations. Though independent Philippines made some amendments to Spanish and US colonial laws,

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‘development’ in the form of mining, logging, commercial plantations, mega dams and tourism have not only dislocated and displaced IPs but also destroyed their means of sustenance. The Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination (SD) which began in the 16th century has been described as perhaps the longest SD struggle in history. About 5 to 6 million in number, the Bangsamoro are Muslims drawn from 13 ethno-linguistic tribes largely in Mindanao. The Maguindanaons, the Maranaos and the Tausogs are the main groups. As a people who constituted independent, flourishing sultanates that held sway over large parts of what is today the Philippines, the Bangsamoro from the very beginning resisted Spanish colonial rule. Like the Spaniards, the US colonizers also used massive military force to try to subjugate the Bangsamoro. They exploited Mindanao’s rich natural resources. This has continued in the post-colonial period exacerbated by the large-scale importation of Filipino settlers from other parts of the country to Mindanao. It is one of the primary causes of war, violence and conflict in that island--- a conflict which is sometimes erroneously perceived as a Christian-Muslim conflict. It is this conflict that has spawned organizations like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which challenged the authority of Manila for 25 years (1971-1996) and espoused secession. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is now at the forefront of the Bangsamoro struggle advocates a sub-state within the Republic of the Philippines that would protect the Moro people’s identity and integrity. There is also the terrorist Abu Sayyaf which claims to be the champion of an Islamic state.

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Conflict Resolution For the IPs, the most significant legislation aimed at addressing their legitimate grievances is the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. This law not only provides a broad and all-encompassing definition of the ancestral domains of the IPs but also allows for the settlement of their land claims. While there has been some progress, in reality the rights of the indigenous peoples have not always been upheld largely because of the encroachment of powerful vested interests which I have already alluded to. Because they do not possess any economic clout and lack political representation, the IPs of the Philippines, like IPs all over the world, are among the nation’s poorest and have limited access to basic social services, health care facilities and education. Besides, they are also caught in the crossfire of the 40 year-old armed conflict in Mindanao between the Bangsamoro and the Philippines Government. In the case of the Bangsamoro, their centuries-long quest for nationhood morphed into an organized armed struggle from the early seventies. It is alleged that more than 200,000 lives have been lost in this conflict and tens of thousands of refugees have fled mainly to Sabah in Malaysia. It was partly because of the human and material costs of the war that the Ferdinand Marcos government signed an agreement with the MNLF known as the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, brokered to an extent by the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. The Tripoli Agreement provided for the creation of two autonomous Muslim regions through negotiations and a plebiscite.

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The Agreement did not lead to the cessation of armed conflict partly because of a lack of trust between the MNLF and the Government and partly because of the latter’s fear of losing territorial control and authority as a result of the implementation of the provisions on autonomy. Successor governments under Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada also attempted to implement the Tripoli Agreement. In fact, in 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Government but it was rejected by the MILF which by that time had much more grassroots support than the MNLF. The MILF argued that the FPA did not deal with the core of the Bangsamoro problem which is the usurpation of the Moros’ ancestral homeland. Ancestral domain therefore lies at the heart of the struggle for selfdetermination. The MILF and the Government of the Philippines made an attempt to resolve this thorny issue in negotiations held in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of 2008. They agreed that 700 villages in Mindanao would conduct a referendum within 12 months to decide whether they would want to join the Muslim homeland. The signing of the agreement was set for August 5 2008 and a formal peace deal was scheduled to be concluded in November 2009. However there was tremendous opposition to the accord from a variety of groups, including leading Senators who felt it would lead to the dismemberment of the State. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court of the Philippines seeking to restrain the Government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from signing the accord. The Supreme Court granted the petition on the basis of a 8-7 vote and effectively killed the move to settle the ancestral domain issue.

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Now under a new President, Benigno Aquino 111, peace talks have resumed on the question of ancestral domain and other related matters. Central Issues In a sense, the challenge facing IPs in the Philippines is related to the central issue in governance everywhere: powerful vested interests subverting the rights of the weak and the vulnerable. This is what happens when the State is subservient to the strong, often embodied in big capital and politically well-connected elites. Development becomes an ideology inextricably intertwined with elite interests. It is top-down in character often marginalizing the grass-roots. It is not just the orientation of the State and the nature of capitalist development that are antithetical to the wellbeing of IPs. The dominant worldview of society is prejudiced and pejorative towards IPs and their lifestyles, values and knowledge systems. They are seen as a relic of the past whose relevance to the present is conditional upon their jettisoning their outmoded ways and embracing wholeheartedly the modern world of economic growth, cut-throat competition and materialistic affluence. As with the IPs, many of the issues that are at the crux and core of the Bangsamoro quest for self-determination parallel the challenges confronting other communities struggling for autonomy and freedom in other parts of the world. The Philippine State regards itself --- like states everywhere--- as the custodian of the nation’s territorial integrity. Any bid by a component element of the nation to secede or even to assert its autonomy would be an outright affront to the custodian.

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Oftentimes it would be repelled by force, by all the coercive power at the command of the men and women who helm the state. The State also sees itself as the protector of the nation’s identity--- an identity that is explicitly or implicitly equated with the religion and culture of the majority community or the dominant elites. Given this equation, there is a tendency to view religious or cultural minorities as groups that are not quite within the national fold. This perception becomes even more negative when the minority in question resists assimilation, or worse, opposes the dominant power of the majority. If anything has aggravated further this negative perception, it is the fact that the Bangsamoro are Muslims. From the time of the Spanish colonizers, caricaturing and demonizing Muslims and Islam has been pervasive among a segment of the Philippine population. The Spaniards were already deeply antagonistic towards the religion and its followers even before they began to colonize the Philippines. This antagonism was due in part to their conquest by the Muslims--- the Moors as the Spaniards called them--- in the early part of the eighth century and the subsequent defeat of the European crusaders at the hands of the Muslims. Stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims spawned during Spanish rule and perpetuated and reinforced through American colonialism have now become part of contemporary Philippine folklore. As a reaction, sections of the Bangsamoro have built up their own stockpile of communal slurs and slanders against the majority Christians. This negative stereotyping on both sides has widened the chasm between the majority and the minority communities. It is undoubtedly one of the formidable barriers that will have to be overcome in order to develop and strengthen majorityminority ties in the Philippines.

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Possible Solutions For the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines exposing the injustices they suffer from and the human rights violations against them would be an important aspect of the quest for a solution to their problem. In recent years the alternative media have played a significant role in this. Seeking remedies through the courts is yet another avenue available to the IPs. Given the powerful vested interests arraigned against them, the IPs are justifiably cautious in adopting this approach. IPs should also perhaps share information and analysis about their situation with other civil society groups in the ASEAN region on a much more systematic and organized manner. Since there are also groups championing the cause of indigenous peoples in a number of ASEAN countries, establishing links with them should be priority. ASEAN wide mobilization of public opinion on some of the concrete challenges facing IPs in the Philippines and in other ASEAN countries facilitated by the alternative media would bring the IPs struggle to a higher level. Indeed, progressive elements in civil society, the media and the universities in ASEAN should view the IPs struggle as a critical entry-point for raising fundamental concerns about the nature of development and the role of grassroots communities in the region. As we have hinted, the developmental orientation of governments in ASEAN, including the Philippines, is seriously flawed, what with their emphasis upon perpetuating the wealth and power of the elite stratum of society. We have also suggested that there may be elements in the worldview and knowledge system of the IPs that are worth harnessing if we are sincere about transforming society guided by spiritual and moral values. In fact, there is greater realization of the fatal weaknesses in our dominant capitalist system today compared to the last 20 years---- which is why certain IPs’ values related to sharing and giving have acquired a new meaning in the

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search for alternatives. This should spur those of us who appreciate the role and contribution of indigenous peoples and cultures to human civilization to strive harder for their cause. By the same token, the environmental crisis whose impact upon the human family and all other life-forms, is massive has compelled thinking, caring individuals everywhere to pay serious attention to the deep relationship that indigenous peoples had forged--and continue to sustain--- with nature. More and more people now acknowledge that we ‘moderns’ have a lot to learn from them. If the relevance of the IPs experience to the present offers the hope that their grievances will be attended to by the rest of society, the onerous burden of a long and costly war has convinced both the Government and the leaders of the Bangsamoro that they must resolve the conflict sooner than later. This is one of the main reasons why every Philippine President in the last 35 years from Marcos to Aquino 111 has sought to negotiate with the MNLF or the MILF. It is only through negotiations that a peace settlement will be achieved. The MILF and its associates now recognize that the struggle for self-determination need not always culminate in an independent, sovereign state. Besides, secession--as we have alluded to--- is anathema to the Philippine Government. Full-fledged autonomy, a sort of internal self-determination, is perhaps the only feasible solution. The present Government appears to accept the principle of autonomy though it has not spelt out its contents and contours. There is some fear that autonomy will encourage fissiparous tendencies and even lead to the break-up of the Philippine State. Hence, the opposition of most political leaders and a substantial portion of the populace to the Ancestral Domain Accord of 2008.

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Philippine state and society will have to be assured that genuine autonomy that not only allows the Bangsamoro to elect their own assembly with the powers of decisionmaking but also guarantees effective control over their lands and other natural resources, is in the larger interest of the Philippine nation. It is very likely that such autonomy will bring to an end the conflict, violence and war that have bedeviled Philippine society for so long. The nation will be free to concentrate on enhancing the dignity and well-being of all its citizens. Relations between the majority and minority communities, between Christians and Muslims will also enter a new era---unencumbered by distrust and suspicion, hatred and antagonism. Hopefully, it will lead eventually to greater social cohesion and religious harmony. To convince Filipinos of the importance of genuine autonomy, groups and individuals committed to this goal will have to target the majority, Christian community. Their effectiveness would be enhanced if they came from the majority community itself. Unfortunately, there are not enough such groups and individuals. It is only when those in the majority community who regard genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro as their mission in life reach a critical mass that the tide will begin to change. When a sizeable segment of society, including the intelligentsia, pushes forward a specific agenda with vigour and energy in a democracy, the powers-that-be will have to respond. Filipinos from the majority and minority communities dedicated to genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoros should carry their campaign beyond the shores of the Philippines. They should mobilise support from the entire ASEAN family. If thousands and thousands of men and women in each ASEAN state sign a collective petition demanding that Manila accords genuine autonomy to the Bangsamoro , their government will have to sit up and take notice. Of course, a mass signature campaign alone may not be enough to compel Manila to act.

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Other more radical but peaceful forms of action may be necessary. But it is a step that is worth taking---- on behalf of the longest struggle for self- determination in history. - 14-18 November 2014.

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CHAPTER 9

PEACE BETWEEN MANILA AND THE MUSLIMS OF MINDANAO. The Peace Accord to be signed in Manila on the 15 th of October 2012 between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is of tremendous significance to the Philippine nation. If it succeeds, it will not only bring to an end a decadesold conflict which has claimed at least 150,000 lives but also resolve the larger question of the rights and dignity of the Muslim populace in a land that they once ruled ---- a question which is deeply rooted in the tragic history of Spanish colonialism and American occupation. The Accord addresses the primary concerns of both the Manila Government and the Muslims of Mindanao. For the Government it preserves the territorial integrity and the geographical unity of the nation in accordance with the Philippine Constitution. Besides, the Government will retain authority over foreign policy, defense, security, monetary matters and citizenship. Mindanao Muslims will exercise some control over revenues, enjoy an equitable share of the benefits of taxation, and manage local-level law enforcement within an autonomous Bangsamoro region which will come into being in about two years. The Peace Accord will be finalized in 2016 by which time details about the extent of the Bangsamoro territory and the laws governing the region would be worked out. The next few years will also witness a plebiscite to be followed by an election. A Ministerial form of Government will most likely take shape. Given the challenges that lie ahead before peace becomes a reality, one can only be cautiously optimistic

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about the future. After all there have been many other attempts in the past to reach a settlement. The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 failed to end the violence when the late President Ferdinand Marcos violated its terms. In 1989 the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created but was never really implemented. Then in 1996, the Philippine Government and the Mindanao National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed an agreement which gave some substance to the ARMM. Again, the implementation was hobbled by elements on both sides of the divide. From 2002 to 2010, the ManilaMindanao conflict blew hot and cold with peace talks punctuating escalating military confrontations on the ground. Finally, in August 2011, President Benigno Aquino met up with MILF chief, Al Haj Murad Ibrahim, in Tokyo and resumed peace negotiations which in spite of setbacks here and there culminated in the present Peace Accord. If we reflect upon the failures of the past, it is apparent that the lack of sincerity on the part of critical groups and individuals among the principal protagonists at the level of implementation has been the main stumbling-block. President Aquino and Al Haj Murad appear to be determined to ensure that the Peace Accord succeeds. Their political will is going to be a critical factor. Equally important would be the immediate and effective implementation of people oriented socio-economic programs that will help overcome problems of poverty, unemployment and social immobility in those parts of Mindanao that will eventually become Bangsamoro land. It is not just the Philippine Government that will have to play a role in this. Its ASEAN partners must be willing to come forward. Malaysia, in tandem with the Philippine Government, should take the lead in mobilizing both the public and private sectors in ASEAN to meet the

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challenge of fulfilling the basic aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. After all, it is Malaysia, more than any other ASEAN state that has been adversely affected by the protracted turmoil in Mindanao which has seen thousands of Filipinos crossing the border to Sabah over a period of almost four decades. It is also true that Malaysia had played an important part in the quest for peace in Mindanao. Malaysia’s second Prime Minister, the late Tun Razak Hussein, was the first ASEAN leader to raise the question of the plight of the Mindanao Muslims in ASEAN circles in the early seventies. The fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as the host to the peace talks from 2001was instrumental in keeping the dialogue going in very difficult circumstances. From 2010, the current Prime Minister, Dato Sri Mohd Najib Razak, showed a firm commitment to the peace negotiations --- a fact that was acknowledged by Aquino when he announced the Accord in Manila on the 7th of October 2012. Indeed, the role that Malaysia has played in facilitating the Manila-Mindanao Peace Accord is a reflection of the emphasis it has given since Independence to the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes involving the nation itself and other nations. There are few other countries in the world that have demonstrated through deeds such an unwavering commitment to peace among nations, a peace that shuns war, violence and bloodshed. Malaysia’s outstanding contribution to major UN helmed peace-keeping missions since 1961 and its principled opposition to wars such as the Iraq War of 2003 would testify to this.

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Our regional and international record on behalf of peace is in a sense an extension of our dedication to the maintenance of inter-ethnic peace in one of the most complex multi-ethnic nations in the world ---- a feat which has few parallels on earth. -11 October 2012.

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CHAPTER 10

THE ROHINGYAS: A GLIMMER OF HOPE It is commendable that the Malaysian government has undertaken a systematic Search and Rescue (SAR) operation in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal aimed at saving the lives of thousands of stranded Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. The right to life is the highest human right and all the governments in ASEAN should have committed themselves to this sacred principle at the very outset of the present crisis. Civil society organizations in the region should also assist in whatever way they can. In this regard, the effort of Malaysian philanthropist, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, is praiseworthy. He was not only among the first to appeal to the Malaysian government to launch a humanitarian mission on behalf of the stranded Rohingyas and Bangladeshis but has also on his own sent aid in the form of medicines, food and water to the Malaysian Navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to be distributed to the refugees and migrants in rickety boats at sea. However, to conduct SAR operations without taking other measures to stem the flow of refugees and migrants into the region would not be a wise thing to do. There must also be a robust ASEAN policy implemented immediately with the cooperation of the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to destroy people smuggling syndicates in those two countries and in the ASEAN region. Intelligence gathering capabilities should be enhanced to enable the authorities to act against the kingpins in these syndicates before their boats set sail. More important, corruption which is one of the main reasons why human trafficking thrives should be weeded out. Enforcement agencies not only in Myanmar and

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Bangladesh but also within ASEAN should be purged of corrupt personnel. If this is done, it would be easier to repatriate Bangladeshi migrants to their country. Unlike the Rohingyas of Myanmar, the vast majority of Bangladeshis appear to be economic migrants escaping poverty at home and hoping to secure decent jobs in Malaysia and other ASEAN countries. It is revealing that about 700 of the 1,100 people given temporary shelter in Langkawi in northern Malaysia in the last two weeks are actually Bangladeshi migrants. As far as the Rohingyas are concerned, the Malaysian and other ASEAN governments should increase persuasion and pressure upon the Myanmar government to treat these refugees as human beings and citizens. The fetters imposed upon them by the State on various aspects of their lives --- their right to employment, to education, to health care, to free movement --- should be removed immediately. Most of all, the citizenship of the Rohingya minority which was rescinded by the military junta in power in Myanmar in 1982, should be restored. It is the loss of citizenship which is the root cause of their suffering. It is this that has rendered the Rohingya one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. It is encouraging that the Foreign Minister of Myanmar in his meeting with his Malaysian counterpart in Naypyitaw ( the capital of Myanmar) yesterday indicated that his government was prepared to cooperate fully with Malaysia in trying to resolve the crisis involving Rakhine state ( the province in Myanmar where the Rohingya live). Other ASEAN governments should also persuade the Myanmar government to address the root cause of the crisis. Indeed other Asian governments such as China, India, Japan and South Korea should also play their role.

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China in particular with its extensive economic ties with Myanmar --- including investments in Rakhine --- should make it very clear that it is deeply concerned about the plight of the Rohingya people. It is a pity that it has been rather quiet on this fundamental question of human dignity. The United States and the European Union who had once imposed sanctions upon Myanmar because of its appalling human rights record underscored by the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi should now apply maximum diplomatic pressure upon Myanmar to compel it to accord a modicum of respect to the persecuted Rohingya minority. If the Myanmar government does not respond positively to world opinion, the United Nations should once again focus upon Myanmar and its abysmal treatment of the Rohingya and other minorities. This is perhaps the right time for the world to act for two reasons. One, the tragedy of thousands of human beings struggling to survive --- many have died of starvation --- in the open sea has pierced the conscience of humanity as never before at least on the question of the fate of the Rohingyas. Two, there are now influential voices within Myanmar pleading with the government to grant citizenship to the Rohingyas. In a recent media interview, a spokesperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party in the country,has called upon the government to recognize Rohingyas who have lived in Myanmar for generations as citizens with the same rights as other Myanmar citizens.

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A leading Buddhist monk, U Pinyasiha, has also asked the government of Thein Sein to resolve the issue of citizenship for the Rohingyas. From the perspective of Buddhist principles, which emphasize saving lives and showing compassion to fellow human beings regardless of religion, it is only right --- he has argued --- to help the Rohingyas. Let’s hope that the Myanmar government will now listen and act. -22 May 2015.

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CHAPTER 11

THE NAY PYI TAW DECLARATION: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION The Nay Pyi Taw Declaration adopted by the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the end of the 24th ASEAN Summit at Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, on the 11th of May 2014, may turn out to be one of the regional grouping’s most significant documents. The Declaration spells out, albeit in general terms, a unified position on the contentious issue of the territorial disputes between China, on the one hand, and various ASEAN states, on the other, pertaining to the South China Sea (SCS).It calls upon all parties involved in competing claims on the SCS to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from using force or taking action that will escalate tension. At the same time, the Declaration urges both China and ASEAN to implement effectively the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (DOC) in accordance with international law. It seeks an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC) in the SCS which is what the DOC is supposed to lead to. A unified position might not have emerged if Vietnam and the Philippines were not incensed by what they perceived as provocative Chinese behaviour in the SCS. China had moved an oil-drilling rig in early May into waters also claimed by Hanoi, off the Paracel Islands. It is alleged that Chinese vessels had then attacked Vietnamese boats. The Philippines had accused China of poaching in waters that are also claimed by the former. 11 crew members of the poaching boat were subsequently arrested by Philippine maritime authorities. Both the Vietnamese and Philippine delegations at the

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Nay Pyi Taw Summit lobbied hard for a united stand. It will be recalled that in the 2012 Summit held in Phnom Penh ASEAN leaders failed to come up with a consensus on the maritime issue. It is critically important for China to understand ASEAN’s unified stand this time. ASEAN is a region that China cannot afford to antagonize. The friendship and respect of its neighbor is vital for China’s emergence as a major global player. It should never give the impression to any of the ASEAN states that it seeks to dominate and control any individual state or the region. It is partly because the Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe, part of its neighborhood, during the Soviet era that the states in that region and even those within the Soviet Union eventually threw off the yoke and asserted their independence. Likewise, it is because of the United States’ relentless drive for hegemony over Latin America to the south of its border that a significant number of states in the region have revolted against US power and are now carving out their own collective path to the future. It would be in China’s own interest therefore to show greater empathy for the position of various ASEAN states in disputes over the SCS and to abide by international law. Just as China needs to empathize with ASEAN, so should ASEAN develop a genuine bond of fraternity with its huge neighbor to the north. It is a bond that should go beyond trade, investment and tourism. Through education, culture and science, ASEAN should endeavor to add depth and breadth to its relationship with China. Malaysia which commemorates the 40th year of its diplomatic ties with China this May, and assumes the Chair of ASEAN next year, should be in the forefront of this mission. While the ASEAN-China bond is crucial, the Nay Pyi Taw Declaration also signals an opportunity to strengthen unity and solidarity within ASEAN itself. Achieving political consensus on controversial and divisive issues facing the

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grouping has always been a challenge. It has now taken a small but significant step. It should build upon this minor accomplishment. In more concrete language, ASEAN should try to develop a common policy position on its relations with China on the one hand and the US on the other. This is admittedly an arduous task given the differences in attitudes towards the two powers among ASEAN states. Nonetheless, it is imperative that we make the effort. There is no guarantee that the relationship between China and the US will not take a turn for the worse in the future. When the US feels that China’s ascendancy --- not just in the economic sphere --- is a direct threat to its desire for global hegemony, it may seek to confront China. This may see the ASEAN region which is vital to both China and the US in terms of the assertion of their geopolitical and geo-economic power, transformed into a cockpit of conflict. And ASEAN states may be forced to choose between the antagonists. This is why evolving a shared perspective on the role of the US and China in the region which may prevent ASEAN from being torn asunder is of paramount significance. Through sincere dialogue among not only political leaders and government officials but also between other sectors of society in ASEAN we may be able to craft a common position vis-a-vis the US and China. This is a better path to take than to forge quasi-military alliances and security pacts with one side or the other which will only expedite the very conflict that we want to avoid.

-13 May 2014.

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CHAPTER 12

ENHANCING ASEAN The Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dato Seri Anifah Aman, has adopted the right stance at the meeting of the ASEAN Ministers of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur by emphasizing the importance of continuing with ASEAN’s nonconfrontational approach in dealing with maritime disputes in the South China Sea between certain ASEAN states and China. A confrontational approach which forces ASEAN as a collective entity into an antagonistic mode in its relations with China will be detrimental to both sides. It will undermine on-going efforts to formulate a Code of Conduct governing ASEAN-China relations especially in the context of the South China Sea. One hopes that the ASEAN Summit this time will also facilitate the opening up of yet another channel of communication between ASEAN and China through think tanks, research institutes and universities which will explore in depth the many facets in the interaction between the two sides. Since the geopolitical and geoeconomic dimensions of this relationship will undoubtedly figure prominently in an exploration of this sort, the entities concerned should also interface with US think tanks and universities. A three way interaction among ASEAN, China and the US through this channel may make it a little easier to surmount some of the challenges that confront the three actors today. ASEAN researchers and scholars should view this interaction as an opportunity to strengthen the cohesiveness and solidarity of ASEAN as a distinct political community of sovereign states that is determined to protect its independence in the face of escalating SinoUS rivalry.

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The ASEAN Summit should also address yet another challenge to its cohesiveness and solidarity. The frayed relations between segments of the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar and Thailand call for an earnest effort to address some of the underlying causes of friction between the two communities. While attempts to overcome some immediate concerns should continue through the government in both states, civil society groups should also hold substantive dialogues between Buddhists and Muslims. It is significant that civil society groups have been doing this for decades below the radar screen. A platform has now been created for Buddhist-Muslim relations --- the International Forum for Buddhist-Muslim Relations (BMF) established in August 2013 --- which seeks to promote their shared values through action programs. The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Muhammadiyah and Religions for Peace are among the partners in this endeavor. We have reached out to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. The ASEAN Summit should give a boost to this ASEAN citizens’ effort by recognizing the importance of inter-faith dialogue and action that goes beyond Muslim and Buddhist communities and embraces all the religions in the region. Appreciating the role of civil society groups in building bridges among communities should be part of the larger goal of transforming ASEAN into a people-centered entity. Though some ASEAN governments have long spoken of this aspiration, very little concrete action has been taken --- outside business circles --- to translate it into reality. There are at least three areas where this can be done. A pioneer program which brings together a hundred upper secondary school students between the ages of 15 and 17, ten from each ASEAN country, should

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be launched as soon as feasible with the eventual aim of nurturing tens of thousands of young people with genuine understanding of, and real-life exposure to, ASEAN. Each student selected for this program should immerse herself in a month long study course on the various dimensions of ASEAN, including its geography, history and myriad cultures before she spends a month staying in each of the other nine ASEAN states, over a nine month period. After she returns home, hopefully armed with an ASEAN outlook, she would be required to write a monograph or produce a video on her nine month tour of ASEAN. She should then be invited to visit secondary schools throughout her own country to disseminate information and knowledge about ASEAN based upon her own experience and her learning. Finally, student participants and educationists in all ten ASEAN states should do an assessment of this pioneer program to determine its future. An equally powerful arena for fostering an ASEAN outlook and an ASEAN spirit would be culture and entertainment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to popularize ASEAN cuisines within ASEAN itself? Over time, ASEAN citizens should be able to empathize with ASEAN cuisines other than their own. Could we also organize ASEAN cultural exhibitions and shows in not only the cities but also in the small towns that dot the ASEAN landscape which will bring bits of ASEAN to the remotest corners of this region? Would it be possible to sponsor an ASEAN –wide song contest which would require each contestant to sing a song in the language of her land? What about increasing the screening of films and documentaries from other ASEAN countries in each and every ASEAN state? Since the radio is still an influential medium of communication in much of rural ASEAN, could we

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expand broadcast hours allotted to news and entertainment from our ASEAN neighbors? If culture and entertainment impact upon people, so does sports. It is somewhat surprising that ASEAN has not established an ASEAN badminton team, given the presence of so many world-class badminton players in individual ASEAN states. Such a badminton team which could take on a Chinese or Japanese or Danish team would help in fostering an ASEAN identity. The same could be done in table-tennis or hockey or football or basketball or netball. Even an ASEAN athletics contingent which could compete at the international level would bring ASEAN citizens together. When people are able to see ASEAN perform as ASEAN, whether in the sports field or the entertainment arena, they will begin to identify with ASEAN. Similarly, when an ASEAN consciousness seeps into the minds of school students, it is quite conceivable that future generations will feel and think ASEAN. It is at that point that ASEAN would have become a people centered entity, not a state based outfit. -26 April 2015.

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CHAPTER 13

ASEAN: HUMAN RIGHTS AND CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY A Talk delivered at the ASEAN Human Rights Council Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 22 September 2010 What is the relationship between corporations and human rights? On 3rd December 1984, a chemical plant owned by Union Carbide Corporation from the United States located in Bhopal, India, leaked, emitting a gas called methyl isocyanate (MIC) which, according to some estimates, killed 8,000 people within a few weeks. Another 8,000 have died since from gas-related diseases. Bhopal, the greatest industrial catastrophe in history, is a grim reminder of the disastrous impact of corporate neglect of safety standards upon the most fundamental of all human rights --- the right to life. Though safety and maintenance standards have improved since Bhopal, corporate violation of human rights continues to happen in various parts of the world. Factories owned by multinational textile and footwear companies in Indonesia pay such pitiable wages to their workers that they are barely able to survive. In the Philippines, 22.9% of the 33 million employed Filipino workers in 2006 received very low wages and worked for long hours in unsafe working conditions. Vietnam is another country where very low wages, long working hours, and dangerous working environments, have earned the ire of human rights groups. Even in a middle-income nation like Malaysia, categories of workers remain un-unionized, and are thus denied a basic human right.

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Why are the human rights of workers not respected to the fullest in all these ASEAN states? The corporations that operate in these states, whether domestic or international, it is obvious, are more concerned about maximizing their profits than about protecting the rights of their workers. But that is not the only explanation. Domestic companies in many instances do not have the revenue base to enable them to protect the socioeconomic well-being of their employees. Besides, laws that protect the health and safety of workers, or ensure their political and civil liberties are woefully inadequate in a number of ASEAN societies. Even when they exist, they are not effectively enforced. On top of it all, in order to lure foreign Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) to invest in their countries, ASEAN governments have been rather soft on these MNCs when it comes to worker wages, conditions of work, health and safety standards, skill and technology transfers, reinvestment in worker training and education programs, and of course, the repatriation of profits. Given the global economic decline, rising unemployment levels in the Western economies in particular, the depletion of non-renewable resources such as oil, and the contraction in global investments and global trade, it is not inconceivable that ASEAN governments, in their haste to attract both international and domestic capital, may further curb and curtail the human rights of the ASEAN worker. Human rights advocates should be cognizant of this possibility. In a situation like this, what are the solutions that human rights advocates can put forward?

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For convenience sake, these solutions will have to be categorized into ‘national’ ‘regional’ and ‘international’:National 1) Improve the standard of living of the majority by strengthening the agrarian base of society; expanding and reinforcing small and medium-sized enterprises; investing heavily in research and development; encouraging innovation and creativity; discovering new sources of wealth; and eliminating corruption, leakages, wastage, and extravagance. 2) As society as a whole becomes more prosperous, introduce legislation that would require corporations to increase wages of workers significantly; enhance their working conditions, including their health and safety; provide more opportunities for education and skill acquisition; and focus upon saving schemes and retirement benefits for workers. 3) Encourage NGOs, media, think tanks and universities to monitor corporations to ensure that they comply with laws and policies that demand that they protect and enhance the human rights of their workers. Regional 1) National efforts aimed at reducing poverty should be buttressed by regional initiatives that seek to raise the standard of living of the majority by directing intra-regional investments in education, training, health-care, and infrastructure to the vulnerable and the marginalized in ASEAN.

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2) Establish an ASEAN monitoring mechanism that will examine the policies and practices of a corporation from a certain ASEAN state that is operating in another ASEAN state to ensure that it protects the rights and dignity of the workers under its care. This monitoring mechanism will also look at the activities of a corporation that has ASEAN wide investments. 3) Ensure that regional NGOs and other bodies committed to workers’ rights cooperate fully with the ASEAN monitoring mechanism. International 1) National and regional efforts at reducing poverty and bridging the gap between those who have a lot and those who have a little, should be augmented by a global endeavor to eradicate both absolute and relative poverty. Towards this end, the global financial system should be reformed to curb speculation and capital volatility; global trade should be made fairer from the standpoint of the Global South; and the rules pertaining to intellectual property rights should be made more equitable, to enable the Global South to benefit from, and contribute towards, scientific development. 2) A Center should be established --- or rather reestablished --- in the United Nations under the aegis of the UN General Assembly, to monitor all MNCs with the aim of ensuring that they protect and uphold the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of all those who work for them in whatever capacity. At the very least, these rights should include health and occupational safety, and prohibition of the employment of children under a certain age. The Center will replace the

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Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights appointed in 2005. The Center’s long-term goal should be to create an environment whereby MNCs would automatically adhere to the highest standards of corporate social responsibility. 3) The Center on MNCs will cooperate with the proposed ASEAN monitoring mechanism and with NGOs at national, regional and international levels concerned about the dignity of the worker. The institutional arrangements that we have put forward here will not achieve their laudable goals unless there is a significant change in the mindset of those who own, control and manage corporations and businesses. As long as “maximizing profits” is their credo, one cannot expect the well-being of the worker, his rights and his dignity, to be accorded importance. And yet it was not always like this. There was a time when the businessman, the trader, made his profits, and yet cared about those who worked for him as if they were his own family, cherished his relationship with his fellowmen, helped the community in whatever way he could, and most of all, remained ever conscious of his role as a trustee on earth, answerable to the Almighty. -22 September 2010.

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CHAPTER 14

THE BANDUNG FORUM It was at the Perdana Global Peace Foundation’s Conference on “ Global Peace Efforts: What Went Wrong?” in Kuala Lumpur on 25 August 2013 that I broached the idea of a Bandung Forum as a platform for dialogue and awareness building among citizens of the Asian continent on the imminent challenges facing the region in relation to peace and security. Since then I have reflected further on the idea. While the Bandung Forum that I have in mind seeks inspiration from the famous Bandung Conference of 18 to 24 April 1955 which brought together illustrious political personalities from the anti-colonial struggle in Asia and Africa at that point in time, the aims and activities of the Forum will be quite different from that epoch-making event 59 years ago. Of course, the underlying commitment to peace founded upon justice in the 1955 meeting will still be the leitmotif of the proposed forum. However, the Bandung Forum will be a conduit for citizen groups from all over Asia to exchange views on the pressing concerns of the day ranging from the environment and the economy to politics and culture and to propose solutions which would strengthen the quest for a just peace. Governmental leaders will not be part of the Forum. There are two reasons for excluding governments from the Forum. One, I envisage this Forum as an opportunity for citizens to articulate far-reaching changes to state and society in Asia, unimpeded by considerations related to existing intra-state structures of power and wealth or prevailing

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inter-state ties. What should be encouraged through the new Bandung are expressions of the imagination which transcend the realities of the moment. Two, government leaders and officials already possess numerous channels for interaction at the regional and continental level. Citizen groups in Asia, on the other hand, have very few avenues for sustained communication and collective action. In other words, citizen groups in the continent do not communicate their thoughts and coordinate their programs across state boundaries on issues pertaining to political struggles within a nation-state or disputes and conflicts between state actors as often as they should. Who are the citizen groups that will be part of Bandung? A whole spectrum of active citizen groups from different spheres --- those that are focused on hegemony and liberation; poverty and socio-economic disparities; human rights and human dignity; women’s rights and the integrity of the family; consumer rights and business ethics; religion and culture --- should be part of the process. Priority should be given to those citizen groups that have an Asian and/or global perspective. Whatever their specific concerns, they should manifest a clear commitment to global justice and global peace. At this point, it is important to emphasize that the Bandung Forum will be confined to Asia as we know it --Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. Australia and New Zealand will not be part of the Forum.

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Neither will the United States be a participant. These three countries are not part of the inter-woven indigenous, precolonial history, of Asia proper. To be effective, the Forum should not be too large. A maximum of 200 participants representing different Asiawide causes would be ideal. The Forum itself could meet once or twice a year. In between sessions small clusters could work on specific issues. For instance, we could have a cluster looking at the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute. Another cluster could study in depth the impact of the global financial system upon Asian economies and explore the possibility of evolving alternatives which are rooted in those spiritual-moral values that are integral to our religious philosophies. A third cluster could focus upon climate change and how it is affecting weather patterns in Asia. The findings of the clusters should be discussed at the Forum’s annual conference. Recommendations from the Forum could then be submitted to the relevant governments. If the Forum, as a case in point, produces a peace plan aimed at resolving the Sino-Japanese dispute or if it has a concrete proposal on how to settle the longstanding conflict between China and its neighbors over the South China Sea, it should talk to the parties concerned. The Forum should also engage with the public at large through seminars and conferences, and online newsletters and the social media so that citizens in the continent will be more knowledgeable about the challenges facing us. Who should initiate this Forum? One NGO, or even a coalition of NGOs, can take the lead but I am doubtful if such an endeavor will have the desired impact. From my

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own experience, there is hardly any NGO in Asia that has the presence or the personality to attract and hold together NGOs from different parts of the continent devoted to a common cause. Perhaps ASEAN should make the first move. In the name of creating an ASEAN Community --- which is one of ASEAN’s cherished goals --- ASEAN governments could help to bring together NGOs whose purpose would be to establish an NGO network outside the power and authority of the governments in the region. This may sound somewhat paradoxical but if ASEAN governments appreciate the importance of strengthening citizen groups for the sake of the regional grouping itself, they would be willing to take this step. Needless to say, the citizens’ network that we are thinking of will go beyond ASEAN and embrace the whole of Asia. IF ASEAN is prepared to take the initiative, one hopes it will also be willing to mobilize seed money for the Bandung Forum. The launch fund could come from both governments and private sector sources in the region. Here again, it is worth reiterating that just because funds come from governments and the private sector, there should be no attempt to control or dictate to the Bandung Forum. It is imperative that the Forum is truly independent and not beholden to any external actor. Governments, private corporations and philanthropists alike should appreciate this. Perhaps the Malaysian government can play a role in persuading other ASEAN governments to support this idea of an independent, autonomous Bandung Forum. Malaysia has a wide array of active and dynamic citizen groups, some of which are deeply committed to global peace and justice.

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The government has extended a helping hand to some of these groups. And yet they remain independent and autonomous. Can the Malaysian example inspire others in ASEAN to pool their resources for a larger cause --- a citizens’ movement called the Bandung Forum? A citizen based movement or network focusing upon a JUST PEACE for Asia is critical at this juncture in our history Why? The United States is pivoting to Asia in order to contain and encircle China. The rise of China as an economic powerhouse has sent shivers down the spine of the world’s military superpower which fears that it will lead inevitably to a new power configuration that may see the US playing a subordinate role in global politics. This is why the US is moving 60 percent of its military naval assets to the Asia Pacific, forging new military alliances in the region, refurbishing earlier ties, shoring up potential rivals to China and even fuelling conflicts between China and its neighbors. In response, China is also flexing its muscles on sea and in the air. Some analysts are of the view that given the way the two powers are positioning themselves there could well be a major conflagration within a decade. What have heightened the danger of war in Asia are continuous inter-state tensions some of which I have already alluded to. They are easily exploited by warmongers. Schisms within nation- states between religious and ethnic communities can also be manipulated to weaken a government or to create instability in pursuit of the nefarious agenda of some big power or other. Gross economic and social disparities and intense interparty political rivalries serve as cannon-fodder for those

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who are bent on perpetuating their dominance and control. A citizens’ forum would be better suited to expose machinations by the powerful in regional and global politics. As we have seen, it would not be constrained by diplomatic niceties or other concerns related to power. The Bandung Forum will also be in a position to discuss issues of religion and ethnicity with greater candidness thus contributing to the formulation of genuine solutions. Because it will not have to contend with vested interests in business and politics, it may be able to propose bolder ideas which may be more successful in overcoming the current malaise in some countries in the region. All in all, the Bandung Forum as a voice for the citizens of Asia offers some exciting possibilities at a time when we are faced with monumental challenges. -14 January 2014.

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CHAPTER 15

POLITICS IN THE BAY OF BENGAL: CURBING VIOLENCE; ENHANCING HARMONY Paper presented at the conference on Buddhist- Muslim Tensions in the Bay of Bengal, organized by the Center for Asian Research, Arizona State University, USA, 8 and 9 October 2014. In this paper I shall attempt to analyze the underlying causes of tension and violence between Buddhists and Muslims in three countries around the Bay of Bengal, namely, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Are there certain common threads that run through the three cases? How have geopolitical factors impacted upon BuddhistMuslim relations? I shall also examine how governments and people in the region have addressed challenges arising from relations between the two communities. This will include the role played by civil society actors. The paper will end with reflections on Buddhist-Muslim relations in the context of a changing world. Thailand. Of the three countries around the Bay of Bengal, it is the conflict involving Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims in Southern Thailand which has been going on for the longest while.(1) It has its roots in the Thai (Siamese) conquest of the independent Malay Sultanate of Pattani in 1785. Right from the beginning, the Malay Muslims of Pattani resisted Siamese Buddhist rule as evidenced in rebellions in 1791 and 1808. However, the Thai rulers maintained their grip and further consolidated their

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position through the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 which acknowledged a segment of the area covered by the old Sultanate --- known today as Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Satun and Songkla --- as part of the Thai kingdom. Because Thai rulers, especially some of the authoritarian military strongmen in the post second world war decades sought to assimilate Malay Muslims into the Thai way of life, resentment on the part of the latter gave rise to a series of liberation movements such as the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Pattani Melayu (BRN) in 1960, the Pattani United Liberation Organisation (PULO) in 1968 and BERSATU in 1989.( 2) Since these movements pursued their goal of an independent nation called Pattani Darulsalam through violence, the Thai state also responded with force. The level of violence on both sides has ebbed and flowed over the decades. After a lull of sorts for a few years in the nineteen nineties, which seemed to coincide with the growth of democracy in Thailand, a new round of violence suddenly erupted in January 2004. It began “when an organized group of more than 50 men, according to some sources, raided an army depot in Narathiwat killing four soldiers and stealing some 100 rifles and a large quantity of ammunitions. Eighteen schools were also simultaneously set alight in what appeared to be well-coordinated attacks. Immediately after this incident more violence broke out with acts of arson, drive-by shootings and attacks against government officials and property.� (3) The kidnapping of a Muslim human rights lawyer who was defending some alleged Muslim terrorists, the arbitrary arrest and detention of a number of so-called Muslim militants and the inspection of mosques and madrasas (Islamic religious schools) by Thai officials, further exacerbated the situation.

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To make matters worse, Thai security forces “killed 107 suspected militants, many of whom were members of a local soccer team, who were accused of planning acts of terrorism. Thirty-two were gunned down inside the historic Krue Se Mosque in Pattani” (4) in April 2004. Though a government commission of inquiry found security personnel guilty of excessive force against the militants, Krue Se created a lot of anger against the government among the Muslims. Muslim anger reached a crescendo when another incident happened in October 2004. While “trying to break up a demonstration at the Tak Bai Police Station by about 1500 protesters who were demanding the release of six men accused of giving weapons to Islamic militants Thai security forces shot dead six protesters and detained over one thousand three hundred people. The detainees were then stacked like logs into a number of military trucks and transferred to a military camp on a journey which lasted as long as five hours for some of the detainees. Many later alleged that they were maltreated and even tortured and abused by the Thai security forces while under detention. As a result of this, almost 80 people died of suffocation while there were also claims that many more had been left unaccounted.”(5) The Tak Bai incident ignited a huge international outcry especially in the Muslim world. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was harshly condemned by groups and individuals right across the globe. His image was in tatters. As expected, Tak Bai generated even more acts of violence from both the militants and the government. In March 2012 for instance the militants coordinated carbomb attacks in various parts of the South.

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The government now deploys about 60,000 security personnel in the three Malay Muslim provinces of Patani, Yala and Narathiwat. It has been estimated that since 2004, some 6000 people have been killed in the conflict, 60% of them Muslim and about 40% Buddhist. The question that one should ask at this point is this: What are the underlying causes of violence and conflict in Southern Thailand? Some of the answers have already been provided. The conquest of an independent entity with a different religion, culture and language which wants to maintain its own identity is an important explanation for the unending conflict. The situation has been exacerbated by concerted attempts by Thai elites at different times to assimilate Malay Muslims into what they regard as the nation’s identity. It arises from an inability on the part of the Thai elite to appreciate the fact that because of the way they perceive and practice their religion, Malay Muslims may exhibit a strong antipathy towards certain symbols, rituals and forms associated with the Thai Buddhist majority. The well-known Thai Malay-Muslim intellectual, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan --- one of Thailand’s most effective inter-ethnic, inter-religious bridge-builders --- has provided a number of examples of a collision as it were between two different cosmologies. He recounts an incident way back from 1983 when Ministry of Education officials in Bangkok thought it was alright to place a Buddha image beside the flagpole during the morning ceremony of singing the national anthem in those schools where there were also many Muslim students. (6) In more recent years, Muslim villagers receiving personal loans have been charged interest (usury) and scholarships awarded to students have been drawn from legalized gambling funds. (7) This lack of sensitivity to the religious sentiments of a minority is sometimes the product of a majoritarian psychology. It feeds the drive towards assimilation which

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is one of the causes of the alienation of the Malay Muslim in the South. When the drive towards assimilation is accompanied by authoritarian elite postures and policies, there is a real danger of serious damage to inter-ethnic relations. This happened when Thaksin Shinawatra was in power in the years leading to the tragic events of 2004. According to a researcher he “resorted to combative measures to tackle problems in the South, refusing to negotiate and compromise. He ordered the dissolution of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre on April 1, 2002 and transferred the then Army Chief, Fourth Army Commander, Defense Minister, Provincial Governors, the Police Chief and Interior Minister to other posts and filled the vacancies with his close confidants who would comply to his demand for a quick solution.” (8) He ignored wise counsel on the resolution of the problems of the South in a peaceful manner. Instead, he initiated draconian measures and declared an emergency which further estranged the Malay Muslim population. This explains in part the abysmal performance of his party, the Thai Rak Thai, (TRT) in the Malay Muslim provinces in the February 2005 General Election. Although TRT “won overwhelmingly in all of Thailand securing more than a two-thirds majority, it suffered a major setback in the southern provinces where it lost all but one constituency.” (9). That the authoritarian approach is counter-productive becomes obvious when one contrasts it with the relative success of accommodative, conciliatory measures adopted within a democratic framework in addressing Malay Muslim challenges in Thailand. Such measures related to the acceptance of Islamic banking practices, the introduction of organized halal certification, and the streamlining of religious education, instituted in the democratic ethos of the nineties, have been among some of the attempts to provide Malay

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Muslims in the South with a sense of belonging to the larger Thai nation. Malay Muslims themselves have sought to advance their needs and interests through articulation and action via the democratic process. It was not just Shinawatra’s authoritarianism that turned the Malay Muslims against him. His open support for the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and his readiness to send Thai soldiers to fight under the banner of the invader disappointed and angered a lot of Muslims in the country. It was partly because of strong Muslim opposition that the Thai contingent was withdrawn from Iraq within a year. So far I have looked at those causes of the Thai Buddhist Malay Muslim conflict which are connected to the Thai State and the Thai elites. But Malay Muslims opposed to the State are also responsible in a sense for the perpetuation of the conflict. Apart from their resort to violence, with all its dire consequences for the people in the region and the nation as a whole, many of the militant groups also subscribe to ideas about Islam and society which appear to be exclusive rather than inclusive, parochial rather than universal, retrogressive rather than progressive. There is some evidence to suggest that this is the result of the exposure of some of the key elements in these groups to narrow, conservative teachings associated with some of the madrasas in the three provinces, apart from Islamic institutions in South Asia and West Asia. In more concrete language, there is a Wahabi strain in the ideological outlook of a significant segment of the movement for the independence of the southern provinces. It is this outlook that hinders and hampers the ability of its leaders and followers to understand and empathize with the Buddhist Other.

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Myanmar There are some important parallels between Thailand and Myanmar as my analysis of the conflict in Myanmar will reveal. But before that, I shall present a brief overview of the conflict itself --- a conflict between a largely Buddhist elite and a Muslim ethnic minority known as the Rohingyas. It is this conflict that has captured media headlines in various parts of the world in the last few years. Discrimination against the Rohingyas, in a sense, began soon after a Burmese king annexed Arakan (now known as Rakhine) in 1784, the province in which the Rohingyas have lived for centuries, perhaps since the eighth century. There were episodes of violence though there were also long periods of relative harmony between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine and between Muslims and Buddhists in the rest of Myanmar. In fact, in the early years of Independence, (10) Rohingyas were recognized as full citizens and participated in various sectors of national life, including politics and culture, apart from the economy. They served in parliament and “held positions in the country’s security forces and other ministries.” (11) Their language was broadcasted over the national broadcasting service three times a week and they were “ permitted to form their own communal, professional and student associations bearing the name “ Rohingya,” and above all, granted a special administrative region for the two large pockets in western Burma made up of 70 percent Rohingya Muslims.” (12)

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Of course, the Rohingyas, given their long association with commerce, were economically active in Rakhine and in Myanmar as a whole. Things began to change for the Rohingyas in early 1978. In the guise of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, the government started to target Rohingyas. 200,000 of them were forced to leave and relocate in Bangladesh. Their specific ethno-cultural identity was denied and they were labelled “Bengalis” since some recently domiciled groups in Rakhine had links with Bangladesh, the nation with which Rakhine shares a border. This operation against the Rohingyas culminated in a 1982 law which formally removed them from the list of officially recognized ethnic and religious minorities. It implied that Rohingyas qua Rohingyas were no longer citizens of Myanmar! In its recently concluded population census from 30 March 2014 to 10 April 2014 --- the first in three decades --- the Myanmar government refused to recognize the Rohingyas as a distinct ethnic group. It is the abrogation of their status as citizens which sounded the death-knell for the Rohingyas. Since 1982 there has been systematic marginalization and even oppression of this minority. It is important to emphasize at this point that it was a harsh, authoritarian military government that stripped the Rohingyas of their citizenship. For more than three decades, they have been subjected to what the well-known scholar-activist from Myanmar, Maung Zarni, describes as “a government-organized, systematic campaign of mass killing, terror, torture, attempts to prevent births, forced labor, severe restrictions on physical movement, large-scale internal displacement of an estimated 140,000 people, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, summary execution, landgrabbing and community destruction.”(13)

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It is because of the disastrous impact of all this that life conditions for the Rohingyas are abysmal. Zarni highlights that their “doctor-patient ratio is 1:80,000 ( the national average is about 1: 400), the infant mortality rate is three times the country’s average, and 90 percent of Rohingya are deliberately left illiterate in a country with one of the highest adult literacy rates in all of Asia.” (14) It explains why in the last twenty to thirty years there has been a mass exodus of Rohingyas to a number of countries, notably, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia. The exodus, Zarni argues, is a direct consequence of all the acts of commission and omission against this minority of 1.3 million people. He asserts boldly that, “The militarycontrolled state of Myanmar --- now headed by exgeneral Thein Sein and his quasi-civilian government in Naypyidaw --- has both paved the way for and carried out ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. Ethnocide of the Rohingya has empowered the racist, ultra-nationalists among the local Buddhist Rakhine, national leaders and Buddhist society at large to dehumanize the Rohingya.” (15). It is against this backdrop that one should view the serious eruptions of violence that have occurred in recent years. In June 2012 for instance a number of Muslim males were killed when angry Buddhist mobs attacked a bus incensed by a baseless allegation that some passengers on that bus had raped and murdered a young Buddhist woman. In October of the same year there was another violent clash that resulted in the death of more than a hundred people mostly Rohingya.(16) There was another major episode in March 2013 that began in the district of Meikhtila. It resulted in forty-four deaths. 2014 has also witnessed violence between the two communities. What are the principal causes of this continuous turmoil and violence?

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As in the case of Thailand, the annexation and incorporation of a kingdom populated by a numerically significant ethnic and religious community that is distinct and different from the kingdom that had invaded the former appears to have been a contributory factor. But unlike Thailand, the minority in question was at various points in history --- and certainly in the first couple of decades after Independence --- accepted into the mainstream which might suggest that the genesis of the conflict did not have that great an impact. It is equally significant that the acceptance of the Rohingyas coincided more or less with that period in Myanmar’s political history before the military which usurped power in 1962 succeeded in tightening its grip upon authority. The earlier part of this period especially between 1948 and 1958 when Myanmar was a parliamentary democracy was a time when not only the Rohingyas but also other minorities such as the Shans, Kachins, Chins and Karens had some political and cultural space to articulate their rights and to protect their identities.(17) It shows that ethnic minorities are relatively safer and more secure within a democratic framework, as the Thai experience also proves to a limited degree. Needless to say, Myanmar establishes yet again that military authoritarianism --- this is also true of Thailand --- is the greatest challenge to the integrity of minority groups like the Rohingyas. Indeed, the situation is much worse in Myanmar for a majoritarian military mindset has been wedded to an ideology that unashamedly expresses hate and fear towards a small, weak and helpless minority. It is this politics of hate and fear that has spawned an ethnocide that is riddled with religious bigotry. The Muslim dimension of Rohingya identity has become the object of a form of Islamophobia.

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This is why right at the forefront of this virulent campaign against Rohingya Muslims and Muslims in general in Myanmar are some Buddhist monks with substantial followings like Ashin Wirathu of Mandalay who in his speeches has presented Muslims --- given their alleged fertility --- as a huge demographic threat to the Buddhist majority. He has also railed against the Muslim role in the economy.( 18) The 969 movement of which he is a leading light seeks to discourage Buddhists from patronizing Muslim businesses and wants the State to impose severe restrictions upon Buddhist-Muslim marriages. (19) That the 969 movement is growing is an indication of the danger posed by ethno-religious chauvinism parading as Buddhist nationalism in an ethnically and religiously diverse society. Wirathu and others of his ilk have succeeded to some extent in fusing rabid ethnicity with religious bigotry --- a combustible combination which threatens to subvert some other societies too in Asia and elsewhere. It is partly because of the ethno-religious chauvinism of some monks and a segment of Buddhist society that a section of the Rohingyas and Muslims in Myanmar have begun to adopt more exclusive and antagonistic positions on issues pertaining to religion.(20) They are reluctant to reach out to Buddhists in their neighborhood and work-place. They have become increasingly susceptible to narrow, sometimes even fanatical interpretations of Islam propagated by Wahabi preachers and the like. What this suggests is that popular sentiments among Buddhists and, to an extent, Muslim Rohingyas do not conduce towards the promotion of better understanding and harmony between the two communities. Because these sentiments are not only pervasive but also entrenched, politicians seeking power and position in the

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forthcoming general elections in 2015 will not dare to swim against the tide. On the contrary, most of them are already exploiting and manipulating religious and ethnic emotions for votes. The party linked to the ruling elite for instance, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, is projecting itself as the true defender of Burmese, Buddhist identity. Even the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi which enjoys some support among the Rohingyas has maintained a deafening silence in the face of their persecution because it needs the endorsement of the majority Buddhist community especially the Buddhist clergy. This shows that while democracy allows for the representation of community interests, the electoral process sometimes serves as a conduit for the escalation of religious and ethnic emotions which in turn leads to deterioration in inter-community relations. In other words, electoral democracy can also be a cause for interreligious tensions and inter-ethnic ruptures. This brings us to yet another cause which, in a manner of speaking, lies outside Myanmar. Geopolitical rivalries may also be responsible for the perpetuation of the conflict between a segment of the Buddhist community and the Rohingyas. For more than a decade and a half now, the United States has been concerned about what it perceives as growing Chinese influence over the government of Myanmar. This influence manifests itself in various ways, especially through Chinese investments in infrastructure development, trade and aid. China has also developed extensive linkages with plans and projects aimed at harnessing Myanmar’s rich, untapped resources. Given Myanmar’s strategic location vis-à-vis the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, the US is apprehensive that China may use its economic ties with Myanmar to extend its reach into the Bay and the Ocean. This could have an adverse impact upon the US’s

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dominant position in the Indian Ocean --- reflected in its base in Diego Garcia --- and its global hegemony. This is why when the Myanmar government itself under Thien Sein began to open up to the US mainly because it did not want to become overly dependent on just one big power --- its neighbor to the North --- the US seized the opportunity to cultivate good ties with a nation it had shunned for decades. While developing these ties, the US, has through some NGOs such as the Soros outfits and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) continued to support the Rohingyas and other minorities. Going on the basis of how the US Administration has operated in other countries, its support for the Rohingyas is a subtle warning to the Myanmar government that it should not tilt too far towards Beijing; otherwise the US will create problems for her through other channels. To put it in another way, it is quite conceivable that in order to ensure it has influence over Myanmar, the US may want the Rohingyas to continue to stand up to the Myanmar government. It would not be the first time that support for a genuine human rights cause also serves a geopolitical agenda.(21) Sri Lanka. From Myanmar to Sri Lanka, there are some similarities in some of the causes behind Buddhist-Muslim tensions. I shall analyze these similarities after I have looked at the nature of the conflict itself between elements from the two communities. In the last two years in particular, Muslims who constitute 9 percent of the Sri Lankan population have been the target of a campaign with Buddhist monks at the core

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that seeks to marginalize and suppress them. Mosques have been vandalized and defaced. Women wearing the hijab have been harassed. Buddhists have been discouraged from patronizing Muslim owned restaurants and shops. Muslims have been pushed out of areas where they have been living for hundreds of years. Buddhists have been advised not to take contraceptive pills because the Muslim birthrate is allegedly much higher and they will one day take over Sri Lanka and make it into an “Islamic State.� (22) At the center of this campaign is the drive to rid the country of halal certification.(23) Some Buddhists argue that requiring shops and supermarkets to carry the halal label is an unjust imposition of an Islamic tenet upon the ninety-one percent non-Muslim population. The halal issue has divided society and intensified negative sentiments towards the Muslim minority. The group behind the halal issue, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is the most radical anti-Muslim group in Sri Lanka today. Its leader is a Buddhist monk, Galagod Aththe Gnanasara Thero who has developed a significant following through his pronouncements and actions which denigrate the Muslims and Christians while seeking to glorify Buddhism and Sinhala identity.(24) The BBS and Gnanasara insist that the purity of Sri Lanka as a Buddhist, Sinhalese state should be protected and preserved from the pollution of minorities such as the Muslims who are determined to cling on to their own way of life. And indeed, for some Buddhists in Sri Lanka it is the Muslim attachment to halal products, a distinct attire for women, a notion of identity that separates the latter from the former, which is the real problem.

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The Muslims, they allege, do not want to conform to the demands of a Buddhist state. It has given rise to tensions and conflicts between the majority and the minority. What explains the deteriorating relationship between a segment of the Sinhalese, Buddhist population and the Muslim community? Perhaps the most important reason is linked indirectly to the decades-long conflict between the Sinhalese and the Tamils which was to all intents and purposes a fullblown civil war. The war and the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009 appears to have boosted Sinhalese pride and confidence which within certain sections of the populace has morphed into a sort of chauvinism. It is a chauvinism which insists upon privileging the position of the Sinhalese Buddhist in society and finds its ultimate expression in the idea of a Sinhalese Buddhist state that marginalizes its non-Buddhist minorities. The Muslim minority with its somewhat distinct identity has borne the brunt of this post-war Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinism. The Christian minority, it should be observed, has also been targeted as evidenced by attacks upon churches and pastors. (25) Because Buddhism has been dragged into this present phase of Sinhalese chauvinism, Buddhist monks are in the forefront of concerted moves to demonize Muslims and Islam. Given their moral stature, their stance has had a negative impact upon inter-ethnic relations. As antipathy towards Muslims grows among the people, politicians are also exploiting communal sentiments for political gain. A few ministers in the government of president Rajapaksa have been openly playing the anti-Muslim card. (26) Of course, there are both monks and politicians who argue that increasing Wahabi type thinking and practices among Sri Lankan Muslims have also exacerbated the situation. Money and missionaries from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies are the source. It is said that wealthy Saudis have also been buying land

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and properties from Sinhalese some of which are then converted to mosques and madrasas. If one reflected upon these causes, one would realize that there are some similarities to Myanmar. Majoritarian chauvinism would be one of them. The role of monks and politicians would be another. The growth of narrow, exclusive attitudes among the Muslim minority would be a third parallel. There is perhaps a fourth parallel related to geopolitics. Like the Myanmar government, the Rajapaksa presidency has also developed close ties to Beijing. In fact, the war brought Rajapaksa closer to Beijing as China became one of the main suppliers of weapons to the government. Sri Lankan naval facilities have also been made available to Chinese warships. Expanding military ties between the two nations should be viewed in the light of growing Sri Lanka-China trade and economic exchanges. The US, needless to say, is uneasy about this bilateral relationship. So is Britain. It is one of the reasons why both these countries and other Western states are targeting Sri Lanka on its human rights record. They have been extremely critical of Sri Lanka’s alleged suppression of, and discrimination against, the Tamil minority during and after the war. Now they are focusing upon the government’s alleged failure to protect the Muslim minority. Once again, a nation’s human rights performance is on the radar screen --- perhaps for valid reasons --- but the actual motive for the scrutiny may be something else.

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To state the obvious, Sri Lanka’s military relationship with China impacts upon the US hegemon’s interests in the Indian Ocean. The Common Threads. Reflecting upon the experiences of the three countries in the Bay of Bengal, one is now in a position to draw out some common threads which are important in understanding Buddhist- Muslim conflicts within the domestic sphere. One, it would be unwise to ignore the historical roots of a conflict. It is these roots ---in the case of Thailand and Myanmar --- that explain some of the concerns that color the conflict to this day though the depth of their impact would vary from situation to situation. Two, harsh, authoritarian rule, often associated with the military, appears to be a major cause of the perpetuation of a conflict. A majoritarian psychology that justifies exclusiveness and dominance underpins such rule. Three, the persecution of the Muslim minority takes certain predictable forms. The hijab (Muslim female attire) is often targeted. Mosques, Muslim businesses and Muslim birth rates are also targets. In Sri Lanka an important Muslim identity –marker --- halal certification --- has attracted extraordinary attention from leaders claiming to represent the Buddhist majority. Four, more significant, in both Myanmar and Sri Lanka, an ideology of hate and fear that distorts Buddhism and dovetails it to narrow nationalism has emerged justifying exclusiveness and dominance. Some monks have projected themselves as the interpreters of this ideology. They have consciously lent moral legitimacy to the marginalization and persecution of the Muslim minority.

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Five, if monks are the creators and interpreters of this ideology, politicians are their peddlers. In all three countries politicians have manipulated issues related to Buddhist-Muslim ties in pursuit of their own political agendas. Electoral politics seems to have whetted their appetite for such manipulation. Six, narrow, bigoted attitudes among some Muslims in all three countries --- sometimes a reaction against some of the positions adopted by elements among the majority --have aggravated the situation. Such attitudes also stem from atavistic interpretations of the religion by Muslim religious leaders themselves. Seven, democratic governance may in some instances help to reduce tensions, reconcile antagonistic positions and offer solutions to inter-ethnic conflicts. But when mass sentiments are mobilized along ethnic lines, democracy becomes a conduit for the articulation of base communal feelings which invariably threaten interethnic peace. The Geopolitical Dimension. Outside domestic politics, there is yet another common thread which this analysis has revealed. This is the geopolitical dimension of the conflicts in the region. In both Myanmar and Sri Lanka ---- less obvious in the case of Thailand --- Buddhist-Muslim tensions are now enmeshed in the larger struggle for geopolitical influence in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean between an established superpower and an emerging world power. The US, there is no need to repeat, is as determined as ever to maintain its dominance over the Indian Ocean and will brook no rival. This is a crucial aspect of its “Pivot to Asia”, euphemistically described today as “rebalancing.”

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Since the US perpetuates dominance partly through regimes that are allied to it, the present inclination of the governments in Myanmar and Sri Lanka --- as I have noted --- is not to its liking. This is why it is quite conceivable that the US Administration will continue to be actively involved in the politics of the two countries. China, on the other hand, realizes that as its economic muscles get stronger, it needs greater access to both resources and routes. (27) Its ties with Myanmar ensures the first while its relationship to Sri Lanka facilitates the second. As it seeks access, China is bound to collide with the superpower that is bent upon perpetuating its hegemonic control. At the moment, there has been no open flare-up between the two in the Indian Ocean --- unlike the South China Sea or the North China Sea where skirmishes between the Philippines and China, on the one hand, and Japan and China, on the other, conceal and camouflage deeper tensions between the US and China. However, the danger of a more insidious conflict between the two is ever present. In order to curb and control the growing influence of China in Asia, the US elite may choose to employ a tactic that most imperial powers have resorted to in their desire to perpetuate their hegemony. It may play community against community, religious group against religious group in different countries in the region. In other words, it could embark upon a policy of “divide and rule.� Muslims and Buddhists --- more than other religious communities in Asia --- should be cognizant of this. In a number of countries all over the continent, Buddhists are the majority and Muslims are a minority and viceversa. In the three countries that are part of this study, for instance, Buddhists are the majority community while Muslims are a minority.

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However, in Indonesia and Malaysia, Muslims are in the majority and Buddhists are a minority group. It is significant, that in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with its 600 million inhabitants, 42% are Muslim and 40% are Buddhist. If Muslims and Buddhists are embroiled in continuous friction and conflict not only will individual ASEAN states suffer but ASEAN as a regional entity will also be crippled. This will only serve the interests of those who want to see ASEAN sapped of its strength. China will be deeply concerned if ASEAN is in turmoil. When your neighborhood is in chaos, your own peace and stability will be adversely affected. This is why it is critical that Muslims and Buddhists who live cheek by jowl, within and without ASEAN, develop harmonious relations between them. They should not allow anyone to exploit their differences with the aim of controlling and dominating their societies. Addressing Challenges. How will Buddhists and Muslims cultivate harmonious relations? How much has been done so far to overcome the challenges facing the two communities? I shall first focus upon the efforts of governments, intergovernmental organizations and international bodies and then examine the contributions of civil society actors, specifically NGOs.

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Governments, Inter-Governmental Organizations and International Bodies. Since the sixties the Thai government has made attempts to solve the conflict in southern Thailand. These attempts have come in fits and starts. The first serious endeavor to address the root causes of the conflict and propose viable short-term and long-term remedies was through the establishment of a National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) in March 2005. The NRC chaired by a former Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun had representatives from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. One-third of its members were Muslims from the South. Buddhist monks, social activists, academics and other public figures were also members of the NRC. The NRC submitted its report to the Thaksin government in June 2006. It produced some outstanding recommendations. It proposed the establishment of a Strategic Administrative Center for Southern Border Provinces.( 28) Through this center, the local population in the South, specifically the Malay Muslims of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, would manage their own affairs. The PattaniMalay language would be recognized as a working language in the three Malay majority provinces. Aspects of Islamic law would also be applied. The NRC also suggested ways of dealing with the problem of unemployment, of improving the education system and of building confidence in the judicial process. It called upon the authorities to act decisively against state officials who abuse their power. The NRC even urged the state to engage with the militant groups through sustained dialogue. Unfortunately, the NRC’s enlightened report was never implemented. It became a victim of Thailand’s highly

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charged, partisan, divisive politics. Since 2006, it is this divisive politics that has taken center stage. Now a military junta is back in the saddle of power. It is doubtful if it would be inclined to address the challenge of the South. Consolidating its own power would be its main preoccupation. In passing, it should be observed that over the last 20 years or so, there have been moves to involve the Malaysian government obliquely in the challenge of restoring peace and stability in the South. The Malaysian government has been receptive to these overtures but the complexity of the situation especially the problem of identifying the real leaders of the militant groups, and the approach adopted by some elements in the Thai security hierarchy who place a high premium on law and order above everything else, have stymied these efforts. When one compares Thailand to Myanmar, one gets the impression that the Myanmar government is not even prepared to acknowledge that there are issues connected to the Rohingyas that should be addressed. It has denied that certain massacres ever took place. Even when it admits that the security forces had killed Rohingyas, there is hardly any attempt to prosecute the wrongdoers. This is one of the reasons why some analysts have concluded that the state is complicit in at least some of the massacres. The Myanmar government is also hostile towards any attempt to involve so-called “outsiders� in resolving the Rohingya issue. ASEAN of which Myanmar is a member has not been allowed to discuss the plight of the Rohingyas, mainly because of the staunch opposition from the Myanmar government. It is only on the sidelines of ASEAN summits or other conferences that other ASEAN leaders have tried to talk to the Myanmar president about his country’s treatment of the Rohingyas. Besides, it should be remembered that ASEAN itself has a

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fundamental rule about “non-interference� in the internal affairs of member states. Another inter-governmental organization, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was also given the cold shoulder when it attempted to seek some answers to questions about the Rohingyas. When a delegation from the OIC led by its then SecretaryGeneral, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, visited riot-hit areas and Rohingya refugee camps in Rakhine in November 2013, it was greeted by anti-OIC demonstrators opposed to the visit. It is suspected that the demonstration was organized with the connivance of the government. The government also rejected outright the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly’s human rights committee of 19 November 2013 which urged the Myanmar government to grant citizenship to the stateless Rohingyas. The resolution also asked the government to curb violence against Muslims. (29) It is apparent that while the Myanmar government does not want to come to grips with the question of citizenship for the Rohingyas, it will not accept advice or guidance from any regional, inter-governmental or international organization. Perhaps it knows that its quiet defiance of world opinion will not result in sanctions being imposed against it or in other punitive measures for the simple reason that everyone is now vying to invest in resourcerich Myanmar. The attitude of the Sri Lankan government towards the problem of rising tensions between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority is not very positive either. True, it recognizes that there have been incidents which have led to a deterioration in inter-religious ties. But the government does not act firmly and decisively against the guilty. Indeed, there have been occasions when law enforcement agencies appear to be reluctant to rein in an overtly aggressive monk or a Muslim baiting politician. This has given rise to allegations that certain ministers and

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public officials are complicit. They are protecting or even encouraging BBS. It explains why the state appears to lack the political will to fight hate speech and acts of sacrilege against the Muslim minority. Like their Myanmar counterparts, the Sri Lankan elites also bristle at criticisms from “outsiders.” (30) Individual Western governments have been taken to task for their comments on the country just as the Sri Lankan government was offended by the OIC’s condemnation of its handling of the Muslim minority. A number of UN human rights experts and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have also incurred the wrath of Sri Lankan officials for their negative views on the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record vis-a- vis its Muslim minority. While a lot of these criticisms have a basis, one should not be naïve and ignore the possibility --- given other situations --- that there may be some exaggeration. There may not be incontrovertible evidence in some instances to support the contention of some government critics that it is the government that is orchestrating all the attacks against the Muslims. One should also bear in mind that there are external actors who have a stake in chastising and denigrating the Sri Lankan government. As noted previously, it serves their geopolitical agenda. My analysis has shown that for different reasons the three governments have not done enough to address the challenges related to Buddhist –Muslim ties in their respective countries. Neither are inter-governmental and international organizations in a position to act. This leaves us with civil society actors or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). What have they done to reduce friction and conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in the region and enhance harmony and amity between the two?

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NGOs and the Quest for Muslim-Buddhist Harmony NGOs from within and without the region have been vocal articulators on issues pertaining to Buddhist-Muslim relations in Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Given the breadth of their work, it will not be possible to offer even a brief review of their activities. What I will do instead is to look at the role played by my own NGO, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) on the question of Muslim-Buddhist ties for eighteen years. JUST’s modest contribution is in a sense a microcosm of what NGOs as a whole have been doing in this area. In trying to address challenges faced by the two communities, JUST, a multi-religious international NGO with a Muslim majority based in Malaysia, has partnered a handful of Buddhist NGOs. The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) has been our constant partner in this endeavor. We have also joined hands with Soka Gakkai Malaysia at various times and cooperated with the Taiwanese Buddhist monk, Master Shin Tao’s Global Family for Love and Peace and his Museum of World Religions in organizing Muslim-Buddhist dialogues in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Paris. JUST’s first venture into the realm of Buddhist-Muslim dialogue was in 1996 when it joined the Bangkok based Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute, an educational outfit under the spiritual leadership of Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa, one of the founders of INEB, to convene a conference in Penang, Malaysia on the theme “Alternative Politics for Asia” which sought to establish the relevance of eternal spiritual and moral values garnered from Islam and Buddhism for the transformation of contemporary Asia. (31) Since then JUST has initiated and participated in numerous Buddhist-Muslim dialogues in different parts of the world.

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By and large, there are three dimensions to JUST’s approach to Muslim – Buddhist relations which may resonate with the work of other NGOs as well. One, addressing eruptions in relations between the two communities in a fair and equitable manner. Two, proposing mechanisms and instruments to improve relations between Muslims and Buddhists. Three, emphasizing shared values and principles in the philosophies of the two religions thatcould help to strengthen their bond as they struggle for a more just and compassionate world which enhances the dignity of all living beings. One, from the very outset, JUST reckoned that eruptions that occur from time to time in the interaction between Buddhists and Muslims will have to be addressed with courage and integrity. Hence, our strong stand against the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan in 2001 which gave birth to JUST’s international campaign on the protection of places of worship that elicited support from a wide spectrum of groups and individuals from all over the world. (32). At the same time, incidents like Tak Bai in Thailand in 2004 or the persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar in recent years have also evoked a principled response from JUST. It is because of our just position on what are perceived as Buddhist or Muslim concerns that we have succeeded in gaining the trust of both communities which is a vital prerequisite for keeping the channels of dialogue open. Two, JUST realizes that it is not enough to take positions on issues of concern. NGOs should also come up with specific ideas on how to resolve inter-religious challenges. This is why in June 2006, JUST, together with the Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute and INEB, proposed the establishment of a Buddhist-Muslim Citizens’ Commission

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for Southeast Asia in the Dusit Declaration that we adopted at our joint conference.(33) It was hoped that the Commission would help foster “a more inclusive and universal approach to both religions informed by values of justice, compassion and forgiveness.� (34). Unfortunately, the Commission did not take off mainly because of a lack of financial resources. Another attempt is now being made to forge a shared platform. This time, JUST and INEB, have been joined by the New York based Religions for Peace and the Muhammadiyyah movement from Indonesia. The new body is called the Buddhist-Muslim Forum (BMF) and was launched in Sri Lanka in August 2013.( 35) Three, nourishing a more inclusive and universal understanding of Islam and Buddhism is part of a larger mission to convince adherents of both religions that they should connect with the essential values and principles of faith that transcend religious boundaries. JUST has attempted to put across this message through a 1+2+7 formula. What is this formula? (36) The first principle is that both Islam and Buddhism recognize the primacy of the spiritual and the moral as against the material and the sensate. For Islam, the root of that spiritual basis of human existence is Allah; for Buddhism it is Nibbana. This fundamental principle is linked in turn to two other inter-related principles: the principle of upholding what is right and the principle of prohibiting what is wrong. It is significant that the concept of virtue in Islam and Buddhism bears many striking similarities. Honesty, truthfulness, kindness, a sense of justice, a feeling of compassion towards the weak are values which both religions cherish.

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Justice is the leitmotif of the Quran. Justice was the hallmark of the Buddhist emperor, Asoka. Compassion was the outstanding quality of the Buddha. Every chapter in the Quran, except one, begins with the proclamation, “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful …” Equally significant, both Islam and Buddhism adopt a similar position on a whole gamut of vices. It is not just murder or theft or lying that they regard as wrongdoings. Gambling, the consumption of intoxicants and adultery are condemned in the two religions. The concept of right and wrong found in Islam and Buddhism suggests that the basic moral structure in the two religions is quite similar. Out of this moral structure, I have derived 7 principles applicable to different spheres of living which run parallel in Islam and Buddhism. They are as follows:1) Living in harmony with the environment and protecting natural resources for future generations. 2) Establishing government and political authority on a moral basis. 3) Developing the economy guided by ethical principles. 4) Strengthening the family as the moral foundation of society. 5) Reinforcing the integrity and cohesiveness of the community. 6) Ensuring amicable, cordial relations between different religious and cultural communities. 7) Evolving a culture that strengthens human character and fortifies values such as justice, compassion, love, freedom, equality and honesty. (37) These shared principles and values it should be emphasized do not imply in any way that the two religions are the same. There are vast differences in theology and ritual which distinguish Islam from Buddhism.

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Nonetheless, they uphold certain ethical concerns which are fundamental to the life of a practicing Muslim or Buddhist. It is in this regard that the 1+2+7 formula could serve as a basis for Muslim –Buddhist cooperation for the larger good of humankind. Reflections. Of course, the 1+2+7 formula will mean little for segments of Buddhists and Muslims in Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka ensnared in friction and conflict. Nonetheless, those of us who are committed to ensuring peace and harmony between Buddhists and Muslims in the region and beyond should not cease to remind both communities of what is good and beautiful in their religions. By the same measure, however difficult the situation may be in some societies, we cannot abandon our duty to speak truth to power --- whether it appears in political or religious garb, at the national or international level. And the truth will be heard because we live in an age where marginalized, dissident voices can no longer be ignored. If the ravings of bigots sometimes saturate the air, it is because the wise have chosen to remain silent. With all the channels of communication that are available to all of us today, it is an unforgivable sin to remain silent in the face of bigotry and hatred. For Buddhists and Muslims in the Bay of Bengal nothing is more urgent at this moment than speaking and acting on behalf of justice and compassion --- the sort of justice and compassion that understands the pain of the other. -2 September 2014.

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END NOTES 1) According to population statistics estimates for 2014, of the 67.3 million people in Thailand, only 3% are Malay Muslims. 2) For more details see Wan Kadir bin Che Man The Moros of Southern Philippines and the Malays of Southern Thailand( Singapore, Oxford University Press, 1990) 3) See Omar Farouk Bajunid, “ The Malaysian Factor in the Prospects for Peace in Southern Thailand” in Understanding Conflict and Approaching Peace in Southern Thailand Imtiyaz Yusuf and Lars Peter Schmidt ( editors) ( Bangkok: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2006) Second Revised Edition. p. 196. 4) Ibid, p. 197 5) Ibid, p. 198 6) See Surin Pitsuwan, “ Keynote Address --- The Cosmologies of the Southern Conflict” Ibid, p. 285 7) Bajunid, Op. Cit, p. 214 8) See Ukrist Pathmanand, “ Religious Issues in Political Conflict During the Late Thaksin Government” in Religion and Democracy in Thailand Imtiyaz Yusuf and Canan Atilgan ( editors) ( Bangkok: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2008) pp. 83-4. 9) Bajunid Op.Cit p. 215 10)Myanmar, then known as the Union of Burma achieved Independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The Father of Burmese Independence, Aung San, envisaged a multi-ethnic nation dedicated to freedom and justice. 11) Maung Zarni, “ The systematic Repression of the Rohingya Minority Continues” JUST Commentary ( Online) March 2014, p. 11 12)Ibid. p. 11 13)Ibid. p. 11 14)Ibid. p.11

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15)Muang Zarni, “ British Aid for Myanmar Ethnic Cleansing” JUST Commentary August 2013, p.7 16)These killings are discussed in Mozammel Haque, “ Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims” The Muslim World December 2012 pp. 12-15. 17) For an in-depth analysis see, Josef Silverstein, Burmese Politics; The Dilemma of National Unity ( New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1980) 18)Wirathu says that he wants to protect Buddhists in Rakhine from “Bengalis” terrorizing them. According to some media reports he has now changed and appears to be more inclined towards peace and non-violence. 19)9 stands for the nine special attributes of the Buddha; 6 for the six special attributes of his Dhamma; and 9 for the nine special attributes of his Sangha. 20)As an example, the Muslims are also playing a numerological game to counter Buddhist 969 propaganda in a country with a strong orientation towards numerology. Some of them have intensified their attachment to 786 which in parts of Muslim South Asia is associated with the proclamation,“ In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate.” 21)There are numerous examples of this in Human Wrongs Chandra Muzaffar ( editor) (Penang, Malaysia: JUST World Trust, 1996). 22)See Religious Violence in Sri Lanka January 2013 --December 2013 An Update of Muslim Concerns Presented by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, August 2013. 23)See Hate Incidents against Muslims: January --- April 2014 especially entry for January 7 2014. 24)For a peep into his attitudes see Sri Lanka’s Militant Monk Rejects Dalai Lama as Spiritual LeaderJuly 22 2014. 25)See Religious Violence in Sri Lanka Op.Cit Annexure 11 Violence Against Christians. 26)Ibid

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27)This is elaborated in my “ Containing China: A Flawed Agenda” Hegemony,Justice; Peace ( Shah Alam, Malaysia: Arah Publications, 2008) 28) See Imtiyaz Yusuf, “Introduction” Understanding Conflict Op.Cit. pp. 12-3 29)See “Myanmar Rejects UN Resolution on Rohingya Muslims” Reuters Yangon 21 November 2013. 30)See “ Sri Lanka Must Do More To Rein In Hate Speech, Faith-Based Violence --- UN Rights Experts” UN News Centre 2 July 2014 31)The book that came out of that dialogue is entitled, Sulak Sivaraksa and Chandra Muzaffar Alternative Politics for Asia: A Buddhist- Muslim Dialogue ( Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: International Movement for a Just World, 1999). 32)For details see “ Protection of Places of Worship” JUST CommentaryJuly 2003 and “Successful Conclusion to Civil Society Campaign on Protection of Places of Worship ” JUST Commentary August 2004 33)See “Dusit Declaration” JUST Commentary July 2006. 34)Ibid 35) The Buddhist-Muslim Forum was launched at a meeting attended by activists from a few organizations including JUST and INEB in Galle, Sri Lanka in August 2013. 36)This is enunciated in my “Muslims and Buddhists in Asia” in Muslims, Dialogue Terror(Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: International Movement for a Just World, 2003) 37)Ibid

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CHAPTER 16

THE SHIA ISSUE IN PERSPECTIVE For more than three weeks now, the Bahasa Malaysia media has raised the spectre of a Shia threat to Islam and Muslims in the country. Day in and day out articles speak of Shia proselytization among Sunni Muslims; of widespread conversions which allegedly have increased the Shia population in Malaysia to almost 250,000. Though empirical evidence of Shia proselytization is scant, it is true that any organized attempt to propagate Shia teachings in largely Sunni societies, and vice versa, will have repercussions. Malaysia, like the rest of the Malay world, has been Sunni for centuries. When an individual or family converts to a minority sect that has no deep roots in the region, uneasiness develops within the larger community and tensions rise. Proselytization should be discouraged in an intelligent and mature manner. Sunni religious functionaries and scholars should engage with Shias allegedly involved in proselytization. The adverse consequences of their activity should be conveyed to them and their followers. At the same time, one should respect the beliefs of those few families in our midst who have been Shia for generations. The overwhelmingly Sunni majority should also be educated on some of those Shia beliefs and practices that do not conform to their tradition. That the Sunni-Shia schism is essentially a product of politics and power revolving around the status of Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, is a point that should be emphasised clearly.

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The Shias have a different record of Hadiths and certain prayer rituals set them apart from the Sunnis. It is also true that the majority within the sect recognizes the practice of Muta’ah (temporary marriage). Acknowledging Shia-Sunni differences in an objective fashion is not the same as misinforming the public and distorting the truth in flagrant violation of ethics which is what some of the media have been doing in recent weeks. There is no need to regurgitate those distortions. Suffice to reiterate that all Shias subscribe to the same Quran as the Sunnis. (Incidentally, the translator of the most widely read rendition of the Quran in the English language, the late Abdullah Yusuf Ali, was a Shia scholar). They are as loyal to the memory of the Prophet as the Sunnis are. They face the same Kiblah. They perform the Hajj. They observe the fast. And they pay the zakat — apart from recognising the centrality of prayer in their lives. Instead of balancing Sunni-Shia differences with these similarities, a huge segment of the Bahasa media has gone on a rampage, stigmatizing and demonizing Shias. Demonization of this sort not only spawns distrust and suspicion. It also breeds hatred and antagonism. If left unchecked, it may even lead to tensions and the very violence we want to avoid. Equally serious, when tension and hatred heighten within the Muslim Ummah, it would be so easy for those who want to control the community to exploit its internal antagonism in order to conquer and rule the community. This is what happened in Iraq in 2003. The US and British invaders exploited Shia sentiments in their bid to oust Saddam Hussein’s minority Sunni government. After Saddam was overthrown and the majority Shias came to power through the ballot-box, the US and Britain realized that the new government in Baghdad was more

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inclined towards the Shia government in Tehran. This was inimical to their interests and the agenda of their most intimate ally in the region, namely, Israel. They then began to manipulate the Sunnis against the Shia leadership in Baghdad. It is partly because of this manipulation and the concomitant power struggles that there is continuing sectarian violence in Iraq today. Syria is another tragic example of a bloody conflict which the global media controlled by the centers of power in the West, and Western allies and client states in West Asia are trying hard to camouflage as a Sunni-Shia struggle when in reality it is a stark attempt by Western powers and Israel to crush resistance to their hegemonic control of the region. Turkey, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, on the other, have additional reasons for plugging this line. For Sunni Turkey, the rise of Iran and Shia influence in the region is a challenge to its ambition and power. For Saudi Arabia, its ideological attachment to Wahabism makes it an implacable foe of the Shia belief system. The case of Iran also exposes the underlying political motive behind what is presented by the Saudi elite and other like-minded groups in West Asia as “the Shia threat to Islam.� Before the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Sunni elites in Riyadh and other Gulf capitals had a warm and cosy relationship with Iran under Shah Pahlavi in spite of its Shia orientation. The Shah, needless to say, was a staunch ally of the US and Britain. When the Revolution brought to the fore a leadership opposed to US helmed hegemony, Saudi attitude towards Iran also changed. Iran and Shia teachings became a problem. That hegemonic politics is strongly intertwined with animosity towards Shia states and movements is borne out by yet another example.

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Though the masses in West Asia shower accolades upon Hezbollah for its heroic role in protecting Lebanon’s territorial integrity in the face of Israeli aggression, some pro-Washington Sunni elites continue to disparage the movement. They have now been joined by some wellknown Sunni ulama who are incensed that the Hezbollah came to the aid of Bashar Al- Assad’s soldiers in freeing a Syrian-Lebanese border town from the control of Western sponsored, Saudi and Qatari financed rebels. It explains the massive, persistent attacks upon Hezbollah and its Shia character by the ulama in the Arab media. It is the pronouncements of these ulama which are largely responsible for the upsurge of Shia bashing in Malaysia in the last few weeks. These ulama — especially someone like Sheikh Yusuf Al- Qaradawi ― have a huge following in the country and are highly revered by the Muslim populace. There is almost uncritical adulation of these ulama. Instead of blind worship, Malaysian Muslims should try to understand the political dimension of the Shia issue and cease to demonize this minority sect within the Ummah. In fact, they should be looking for meeting-points between the Sunni majority and Shia minority. Apart from those fundamental aspects of faith that we have alluded to, there are other important links between the two groups that are worth highlighting. At the theological level, it is sometimes forgotten that Imam Abu Hanifah (died 768), the founder of the Hanafi mazhab, the largest doctrinal school within the Sunni community, was a student of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (died 757), the sixth Imam of the Shias and the founder of the largest group within the Shia community, known as Ithna ashariyyah, or Twelve –Imam Shi’ism. Indeed, the links were so pervasive at various periods in history that the Sunni-Shia dichotomy was often blurred. It is also important to recall that some of the most enlightened Muslim personalities in the contemporary

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epoch, both Sunni and Shia, like Shah Wali Allah, Sayyid Jamaluddin Al-Afghani, Muhammed Abduh, and Mahmud Shaltut had sought to reconcile Sunni and Shia teachings. So did Imam Khomeini, contrary to what some Bahasa newspapers have suggested. It was Khomeini who prohibited Shias from denigrating some of the wives of the Prophet and the first three Caliphs. He also inaugurated Al-Quds Day as a way of building solidarity between Sunnis and Shias on behalf of the Palestinian struggle. There was a time when even Qaradawi committed himself to amity between Sunnis and Shias. In a joint statement with the Iranian Shia leader, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 2007, he “stressed the impermissibility of the fighting between the Sunnis and Shias” and the need to “be aware of the conspiracies of the forces of hegemony and Zionism which aim to weaken Islam and tear it apart in Iraq.” -10 August 2013.

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CHAPTER 17

UPHOLD THE AMMAN MESSAGE The recent proposal by some political and religious leaders to amend the Malaysian Constitution to specify that Article 3 which states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation” refers only to the teachings of Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWJ) has far-reaching implications. Does it mean that non-Sunni, minority sects will not be recognized as Islamic? If such sects — the Shias being a case in point — are not recognized as Islamic, what would be their status? How would such an amendment impact upon Malay Shias since Islam is one of the defining attributes of Malay identity? From the perspective of the global Muslim community, this attempt to confine Islam to the ASWJ runs contrary to the thinking of the vast majority of Sunni scholars themselves. Though they acknowledge the differences between the ASWJ and the Shias, they have always regarded the minority sect as a legitimate part of the Muslim ummah. This was reiterated in unambiguous language in the Amman Message which has been described as one of the most important declarations produced by the Muslim world in the last one thousand years. Initiated by King Abdullah 11, the monarch of Jordan, in November 2004, the Amman Message was formalized by 200 of the world’s leading Islamic scholars from 50 countries at an international conference in Amman in July 2005.

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Among them were the Grand Shaykh Al-Azhar, Shaykh Mohammed Sayyid Tantawi and Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, both Sunnis, and the Grand Ayatollah Sistani, a Shia. The Amman Message embodies three essential points. 1) It recognizes the validity of all 8 Mathhabs (legal schools) of Sunni, Shia and Ibadhi Islam; of traditional Islamic theology ( Ash’arism); of Islamic Mysticism ( Sufism), and of true Salafi thought. 2) It forbids takfir (declarations of apostasy) between Muslims. 3) It sets forth the subjective and objective preconditions for the issuing of fatwas, thereby exposing ignorant and illegitimate edicts in the name of Islam. These three points were adopted at the OIC summit in Mecca in December 2005 and at other scholarly assemblies culminating with its acceptance by the International Islamic Fiqh Academy of Jeddah in July 2006. The official website of The Amman Message shows that the Message and its three points have been endorsed by a large number of Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and other high officials, apart from notable religious personalities representing the majority and minority sects within the ummah. Both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali Khamenei of Iran are endorsers. It is significant that from Malaysia, the former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, heads the list of endorsers. The current leader of the Opposition, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim is also an endorser as are two serving Ministers in the present Federal Cabinet, namely, Dato Seri Shahidan Kassim and Khairy Jamaluddin.

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Two established Malaysian Islamic scholars, Professor Hashim Kamali and Professor Kamal Hassan, are also on the list of endorsers. In the last couple of years there have been other efforts to reduce the antagonism between Sunnis and Shias and to promote better understanding between the two sects. In May 2013, through JUST, I initiated a joint appeal from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the former Iranian President, Muhammad Khatami, to Sunnis and Shias the world over to stop killing one another. In early October this year, I co-convened a special session at the World Public Forum in Rhodes, Greece which brought together Sunni and Shia scholars from different countries who reiterated their support for the Amman Message and proposed various other measures to improve ties between the two groups. Given the prevailing negative attitude towards Shias among some religious and political figures in Malaysia, it is imperative that the Prime Minister, the Minister in charge of Islamic Affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office, and State and Federal Territory Muftis publicly endorse the Amman Message. There are at least 5 compelling reasons why they should do so. 1) It would signal a clear rejection of the erroneous view propagated by a segment of the media and various public personalities that the Shias are a ‘deviant’ sect. As we have seen, this is a view that is totally unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of Muslims who see them as integral to the ummah. 2) It would assure Malaysian Muslims as a whole that those who demonize Shias and place them in the same category as cults such as “Tuhan Harun”

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have not gained control of the Religious Establishment and are not dictating policies pertaining to Islam. 3) It would serve to assuage the fear among thinking Malaysians that certain aspects of our domestic and foreign policies are being increasingly influenced by the interests of retrogressive, conservative forces from elsewhere who are unwittingly undermining our social cohesion, on the one hand, and our national sovereignty, on the other. 4) It would reinforce our commitment to the unity of the Muslim ummah especially since the Sunni-Shia divide has been exploited by various groups to weaken Muslim solidarity in the face of monumental challenges emanating from global powers bent on perpetuating their hegemony. 5) It would contribute significantly to national unity since the Amman Message also contains ideas which are most conducive for fostering empathy in a multi-religious society. It states lucidly that “Islam honors every human being, without regard to race and religion.” It further emphasizes that “Islam demands that the faithful treat others as they desire to be treated. It urges tolerance and forgiveness, qualities that elevate human life, and calls for treating others justly, safeguarding their rights and possessions.” It is not enough for our political and religious leaders to merely endorse the Amman Message. The Message should be made part of the Islamic curriculum in secondary schools and universities. It should be distributed within the entire community of ustaz and ustazah (religious teachers) throughout the

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country. The Amman Message should be integrated into the Friday Khutbah (sermon) and the media, especially Radio and Television, should focus on it. When the Amman Message becomes an important dimension of the collective consciousness of the people, Malaysian Muslims will have a better appreciation of the relationship between Sunnis and Shias. They will understand their similarities and differences in the context of the essence of Islam. It is when they become really knowledgeable about the essence of Islam that the inclination to switch from one sect to another will also diminish. -23 December 2013.

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CHAPTER 18

THE MALAYSIAN LINK TO TERROR IN SYRIA Since April 2014, the Malaysian media has carried numerous stories of Malaysians who are directly or indirectly linked to terrorist groups operating in Syria, and to a lesser extent, Iraq. We are told that they see themselves as “jihadis” who are fighting for an Islamic cause. There are unconfirmed reports that some of them have been killed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Police intelligence appears to have mined a lot of information about the activities of these individuals and groups. Their local training hideouts have been revealed and their regional and international links exposed. This has enabled the police to make several arrests. Eliminating Muslim terrorist networks of this sort will not be a walk in the park. The police, and indeed, the majority of the Malaysian populace share the same faith as the individuals associated with these terrorist operations. A lot of Malaysian Muslims may also harbor some of the misconceptions and prejudices which impelled some of these jihadis to take the road to Damascus. What would have motivated them to tread this perilous path? What would have persuaded thousands of Muslims from some 80 countries — according to a certain estimate — to join the armed rebels against the Bashar Al-Assad government in Syria? Why are they so determined to topple Bashar? It must be remembered that this is not the first time in recent decades that Muslims from various parts of the

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world have come together to do battle on behalf of a common cause. The global Muslim campaign against the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in the nineteen eighties was in a sense even more extensive and sustained. Muslims from Malaysia were also involved in that campaign which they saw rightly as the foreign occupation of a Muslim land. Repelling occupation is a Quranic imperative. But Syria today is not occupied the way Afghanistan was in the eighties. If there is any occupation in Syria, it is Israeli occupation of the strategic Golan Heights since 1967 which should concern Muslims and others who cherish justice and sovereignty. And yet the jihadis from Malaysia and the rebels who are their comrades-in-arms do not seem to be bothered about the liberation of the Golan Heights. On the contrary, it is an open secret that Israel has colluded with some of the rebels — by providing training and supplying intelligence —-in the fight against Bashar since the middle of 2011. Israel itself has conducted a series of military strikes within Syria in the course of the last two years with the aim of sapping the strength of the Syrian army. Mission If the rebels are not fighting alien occupation, what is their mission? It is obvious that the Malaysian jihadis, like their counterparts from other countries, see themselves as defending the Sunnis of Syria against alleged oppression by the Shia ruling elite. There is a parallel perception of Shia suppression of Sunnis in Iraq. Both these perceptions are part of a wider view fostered by various influential groups in West Asia (including Israel) and in some parts of the West that an arc of Shia power is rising from Iran through Bahrain to Iraq and Lebanon and this is a threat

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to the Sunni majority in the region. Adding to this phobia of the Shias — Shiaphobia — especially in the case of Syria is the rebels’ opposition to secularism and the secular state. It is a state which in their reckoning has to be replaced by a Caliphate — a Global Sunni Caliphate — which has now become the rallying-cry of some of the rebels, specifically the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). This narrative of Sunnis being suppressed; of Shia power; of the illegitimacy of the secular state; of a Sunni Caliphate, has reached a crescendo in the last few years in the midst of the Syrian conflict. Leading religious personalities in West Asia especially from the Gulf monarchies have been vitriolic in their denunciation of the Shias. In mosques and through the media, they have succeeded in fuelling hatred of this minority sect within and beyond the region while creating a sense of siege among the majority Sunni population. Consequently, the Sunni-Shia divide has become more pronounced than ever before. Because some of these Islamic personalities are highly revered in Malaysia, their utterances command a substantial constituency. They have legitimized the already prevailing antipathy towards the Shias among the local ulama (religious scholars).As a result, the antiShia campaign led by the ulama has gained much prominence among the populace. Some of the ulama are part of the religious establishment; others are freelance operators. Academics and media practitioners have also reinforced the vile bigotry emanating from some of the ulama. So have politicians from both the government and the opposition. NGO activists have been equally vocal in conjuring an ominous Shia threat in a Sunni-Muslim majority nation where the sect is an insignificant minority. Given how pervasive and intensive the targeting of this sect has been in recent months, propelled by the massive propaganda flowing from parts of the Arab world, it is not

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surprising that some impressionable youth in the country have been lured by the slogan of Sunnis facing the danger of extermination in Syria and now Iraq. There are perhaps two additional factors that explain this fatal attraction. For centuries, Sunni Muslims in Malaysia, as in some other parts of the Muslim world, have been somewhat uneasy about Shias— which is why any negative imaging of the sect is so readily absorbed. The videos on You Tube showing the alleged atrocities committed by the Syrian government in the course of the last three years have also had a huge impact upon Muslims here, as elsewhere. Indeed, cyber media as a whole has been a major tool in mobilizing Sunnis globally to defend themselves. Critical Analysis While there is no denying that the Syrian Army and its affiliates have committed gross atrocities in trying to quell the armed rebellion, Muslims in Malaysia and other countries have unfortunately failed to subject the media blitz launched by the rebels, their supporters in West Asia and in Western capitals to critical analysis. Independent investigations into a number of horrendous massacres for which the mainstream media had immediately blamed the Syrian authorities have now revealed that the rebels were actually culpable. The Khalidiya and Karm Allouz massacres in March 2012 and the Houla massacre in May 2012 would be outstanding examples. The most startling expose of all was the Ghouta sarin gas attack of August 2013, pinpointed upon the Bashar government, which the celebrated American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, showed through meticulous analysis was in fact the work of a rebel group carried out with the connivance of Turkey.

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Young Malaysian Muslims should realize that half-truths, outright lies and wholesale fabrication in order to demonize an adversary and to camouflage the truth are part and parcel of the arsenal of the powerful as they seek to perpetuate their interests. Indeed, even allegations about the suppression of Sunnis who are the majority in Syria should be examined with greater objectivity. Sunnis constitute the bulk of the Syrian armed forces and are at the core of the top brass. The current defense minister is Sunni. His predecessor was a Christian assassinated by the rebels. Some of the most influential positions in the dominant public sector are held by Sunnis while major businesses in the private sector are Sunni owned. The highest religious authority in Syria, the Grand Mufti, is a Sunni from the Shafie doctrinal school, the same Mazhab as the Muslims of Malaysia. It is because many Muslims trapped in the web of propaganda spun by certain elements in West Asia and the West refuse to come to grips with realities that they do not want to acknowledge that Syria is one of the few countries in the region that has succeeded in integrating the majority community with the minorities and has developed an inclusive Syrian citizenship that transcends religious boundaries. This is also the reason why the Syrian leadership has always been opposed to any notion of an exclusive Muslim religious identity in politics peddled by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Just as the question of an inclusive versus exclusive idea of citizenship is fundamental to Malaysia’s own quest for national identity, so is the other issue that appears to have attracted some Muslims to the Syrian rebellion, the issue of Syria’s fidelity to Islam. For most of the armed rebels and the Malaysian Muslims who have joined them, one of the reasons why they regard the Bashar government as not ‘Islamic’ is because it has not

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implemented the Islamic penal code, erroneously interpreted as Hudud. They may not be aware that in the Syrian Constitution Islamic jurisprudence is a main source of legislation and the President of the Syrian Republic has to be a Muslim, the faith of the vast majority of the citizenry. More than that, there are many aspects of governance — free education, universal healthcare, specific worker representation in public decision-making and so on— which would make Syria Islamic. By the same token, there are other aspects of the Bashar administration which violate Islamic norms such as the ubiquitous role of its secret police, the curtailment of dissent, and the persistence of corruption. However, Bashar’s Syrian opponents and their Malaysian friends do not adopt a balanced, rational approach when it comes to determining the credentials of a government. They are more inclined towards labeling a government as ‘Islamic’ or ‘secular’ driven by their own shallow, superficial approach to religion and politics. In this regard, they would view an absolute monarchy that denies basic rights to the people but implements hudud as ‘Islamic’ while condemning a state that applies the rule of law to all its citizens and provides space to women and men to participate in politics but does not include hudud in its legal system, as ‘secular.’ This then is the nub of the issue. It is a shallow, superficial understanding of what is happening in Syria that has pushed some Malaysian Muslims into the arms of the Syrian conflict. Their ignorance has been exacerbated by distorted information and skewed analysis. There is hardly any appreciation among these jihadis of the underlying causes of the conflict and how they are linked to regional and global politics with long-term significance. That the Syrian conflict epitomizes the perennial US-Israeli goal of crushing resistance to their hegemony over West Asia is something that escapes our jihadis. This is why there is an urgent need to develop a deeper, broader understanding of the conflict among religious

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elites, politicians, activists, youths, students, academics and the media. This is as important as intelligence gathering and effective action against the culprits based upon law. A more profound appreciation of conflicts such as Syria should be accompanied by a serious endeavor to impart an understanding of Islam that is inclusive, universal, progressive and enlightened through our educational institutions, religious bodies and the media. The national leadership has a particularly important role to play in this. It should be clear in its total rejection of the sort of religious extremism that breeds terror and violence. In both its domestic and foreign policies it should demonstrate through deeds — not words — that it subscribes to a “justly balanced” outlook, as prescribed in the Quran. There can be no room for ambiguity or ambivalence in its approach to issues that hint of religious bigotry and dogmatism. As a nation, we should not be under any illusion. Malaysians with a terrorist orientation, willing to exploit religion in pursuit of their agenda, are now operating in other countries. There is no reason to believe that they and their kind will not turn their guns upon local targets one day. We should not let that happen — which is why we must act now. -30 June 2014.

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CHAPTER 19

SYRIA: DESTROYING HUMANITY’S HERITAGE One of the most tragic consequences of the three year war in Syria has been the destruction of historic architectural sites and the loss of archaeological treasures of immense significance. Severe damage has been caused to all six world heritage sites in the country. Syria is arguably that one place on earth that has more ancient monuments and historic sites than any other country in the world. In January 2013, one of the rebel groups, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), destroyed a sixth century Byzantine mosaic near the city of Raqqa. According to the writer, Patrick Cockburn, other sites destroyed by rebel groups like this include a Roman cemetery and “statues carved out of the sides of a valley at al-Qatora” in Aleppo province. The church “at St. Simeon has been turned into a military training area and artillery range by the rebels.” Rebel groups are not the only culprits. Pitched battles between the Syrian Army and the rebels have also led to the destruction of historic sites. The one thousand year old minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo --- a world heritage site --- was destroyed in early 2013. The city’s Souk Al-Madina, the largest covered historic market in the world, was burnt and partially destroyed in September 2012, as a result of the fighting between the Army and the rebels. The Omari Mosque, the Crac des Chevaliers and Palmyra’s temples have all been rocked by shells, mortar bombs and rockets. Apart from the destruction brought about by actual conflict situations, Syria’s great archaeological treasures have also become victims of looters. Much of this looting which is now massive involves mafias from Lebanon, Iraq

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and Turkey abetted by Syrians themselves. Many inside and outside West Asia have profited from this despicable activity. While military encounters and looting have had a devastating impact upon Syria’s rich heritage, those who really care about the country are equally concerned about rebel groups who for narrow, bigoted ideological reasons are hell-bent on destroying statues and sculptures that portray the human form. They regard such depictions as an affront to their religious beliefs. It explains why in rebel controlled areas there is a concerted drive to destroy mosaics with mythological figures and Greek and Roman statues from an earlier age. It is this same mentality that is responsible for attacks on some historical sites in Iraq --- though the Anglo-American occupation also caused immense damage to the nation’s historical heritage such as when the US military turned an area in ancient Babylon into Camp Alpha in 2003 and 2004. The destruction of the Buddhist shrines in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, by the Taliban in 2001 is also a product of the same religious bigotry. Bigots who defiled the mausoleums of Sufi saints in Timbuktu, Mali in 2013 were also adhering to the same dogmatic script that their counterparts in other Muslim countries had faithfully followed. The danger posed by religious bigotry to the history and identity of a nation will have to be dealt with through mass education aimed at developing an accommodative and inclusive outlook on matters of faith and belief. Unfortunately, there are very few religious teachers and scholars within the Muslim world who are prepared to assume this responsibility at this juncture. The Organisation

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of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for instance has made no attempt to draw together the ulama (religious scholars) within the ummah (community) to fight the sort of bigotry that provides religious legitimacy to the destruction of a people’s memory. However, UNESCO has made efforts to alert the world to the destruction that is happening in Syria. There have been some positive responses. But much more has to be done to save Syria’s illustrious history which is humanity’s common heritage. -21 February 2014.

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CHAPTER 20

THE SYRIAN VOTE: THE PEOPLE REJECT REGIME CHANGE If one is sincere about resolving the bloody three year-old conflict in Syria, one would regard the outcome of the presidential election held on the 3rd of June 2014 as an opportunity for working out a viable solution. The election was a genuine endorsement of the leadership of Bashar al-Assad. 73% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the first ever multi-candidate direct presidential election in Syria. Assad secured 88.7 % of the votes. There were no allegations of electoral fraud or manipulation. It is significant that Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan — hosts to the majority of refugees from the on-going war in Syria — voted overwhelmingly for Assad. It is of course true that those parts of the country which are still in rebel hands could not vote. This would be mainly some parts of rural Syria and one medium-sized city. But all the other cities — and they account for the majority of the population — went to the ballot-box. US officials and the Western media have dismissed the election result contemptuously because a portion of the electorate could not vote, ignoring the fact that the vast majority participated enthusiastically in the polls. They have conveniently forgotten that in the presidential election in Ukraine on the 25th of May millions of Russian speaking voters in the eastern part of the country refused to participate and yet the verdict was endorsed by the centres of power in the West. This is yet another example of blatant double standards. Instead of rubbishing the election result, Western leaders and commentators should try to find out why the Syrian

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people showed so much enthusiasm for the election and why they gave so much support to Assad. One, for the vast majority of Syrians, the election was their repudiation of the war and the killings that have claimed tens of thousands of lives since March 2011. It was their way of affirming their commitment to peace and stability. The proud and dignified Syrian citizen had chosen the ballot-box to appeal to the world to end the war and to usher in peace. Two, the Syrians know that the only leader who can bring peace and stability to their land is Bashar al-Assad since he has always commanded the support of the majority of his people. The election proved his popularity. In spite of what the Western and most of the West Asian media have been telling us about how the majority Sunnis are revolting against a minority Alawite-Shia leader, most of the Sunnis voted for Assad, as did various minority groups, from Shias to Christians. Assad also has the backing of the armed forces, the public service and the business community. Three, there is also a great deal of appreciation among the people for the way in which the Assad government has managed to ensure that essential goods and services are available to a broad cross-section of the people in spite of the terrible devastation and destruction caused by the war. Four, the election result is also a show of appreciation of the role played by the armed forces which has lost at least sixty-one thousand men in the war and which in the eyes of the people has succeeded in protecting the innocent and preventing some brazen massacres. It in no way justifies, it should be emphasized, some of the excesses committed by the armed forces which a number of us have condemned from the outset.

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Five, if Assad won so convincingly it is also partly because the opposition is hopelessly divided. The different armed groups are pitted against each other. There is no common platform. They were not even able to put forward a common candidate in the election. Six, more than the opposition’s utter disarray it is the barbaric brutality of some of the armed groups revealed in so many episodes in the war that turned a lot of Syrians against them and indirectly increased support for Assad. What has caused even greater revulsion among the people is the claim of these groups that they are the true representatives of Islam. Seven, since some of these groups are foreign and the foreign hands behind the war are so obvious to most Syrians, rallying around Assad in the election was the people’s response to what they perceive as a massive foreign conspiracy to break Syria’s principled resistance to US helmed hegemony — hegemony that serves the interests of Israel. Ousting Assad is central to the goal of breaking resistance. This is why the people sought through the ballot-box to foil a determined push to achieve regime-change in Damascus. This, in the ultimate analysis, is the real significance of Assad’s electoral triumph. The Syrian people have defeated a violent, aggressive attempt at achieving regime-change as part of that perpetual plan to ensure US and Western hegemony, especially in a region which is pivotal to their quest for global domination. Apart from Israel which launched a number of air-strikes against Syria in the course of the war, some of the West’s other regional allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have also played a major role in pursuit of this diabolical agenda. Given that the US and some of its allies are democracies, will they now concede that since the Syrian people have

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spoken, they will respect their wishes and cease their pursuit of regime change? It is most unlikely that they would. After all, hegemony has always taken precedence over democracy. Hegemony trumps everything else. Does it matter to the hegemon and its allies that if they continue along this path, thousands more are going to die or become refugees in some other land? Perhaps one should reach out to ordinary American citizens in the hope that they would persuade their government to put an end to the war and create the conditions for peace in Syria. It may be worthwhile trying this approach. A Pew Research Centre poll conducted in 2013 showed that “70% of Americans oppose arming the Syrian rebels.� Can they now be convinced that arming rebels against a democratically elected president nullifies everything that a democracy stands for? Can we expect American citizens to share the dream of their Syrian counterparts for an end to war in their land? Will they act to make that dream come true? -9 June 2014.

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CHAPTER 21

10 CATASTROPHES: IRAQ 10 YEARS AFTER 10 years after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq a number of analysts have come to the tragic conclusion that the most immoral and unjust war in recent years has generated nothing but a series of catastrophes. The 10 catastrophes that we have outlined below represent only a small portion of a horrendous tragedy that continues to unfold to this day. Catastrophe no. 1 While the figure on the total number of deaths associated directly or indirectly with the invasion varies, it is held that there were 1.5 million deaths from 20 March 2003 to 31 st December 2011 when US and allied combat brigades withdrew from Iraq. If we included the number who died as a result of the earlier Kuwait War in 1991 and the sanctions imposed upon the people of Iraq from August 1990 to March 2003, the total would increase dramatically by 1.9 million. Of these 3.4 million deaths, a huge percentage would be children killed by the sanctions in the first phase of the assault on Iraq and those that died after the invasion from occupation related causes. Catastrophe no. 2 The death of children in Iraq correlates strongly with “contamination from depleted uranium (du) munitions and other military related pollution — suspected of causing a sharp rise in congenital birth defects, cancer cases, and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq.” According to Iraqi government statistics, prior to the Kuwait War of 1991, “the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was

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40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000, and by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.” Of particular significance in this regard is the situation in Fallujah which was subjected to a massive bombardment by US troops in 2004. A 2010 study has shown “a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks.” The study has also revealed that “ the sex ratio had become skewed to 86 boys born to every 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage ― similar to, but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.” Catastrophe no. 3 Though there are some improvements here and there, the average Iraqi continues to struggle to make ends meet. It is estimated that 27 to 60% of Iraqis are unemployed or under-employed. Inflation hovers around 75%! Catastrophe no. 4 The invasion destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure. A nation which once had superb amenities from clean water and regular supply of electricity to excellent hospitals and well-run schools has now been reduced to shambles. The US has made good the threat that the former US Secretary of State, James Baker, conveyed to the then Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, in 1991 that the US would bomb Iraq back to the stone age. Catastrophe no. 5 The invasion and occupation could have cost the US and its allies over 3 trillion dollars. This does not include the money spent on the treatment of injured soldiers or the

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rehabilitation of war veterans. In a sense, the 6,000 veterans from the Kuwait and Iraq wars who commit suicide every year also constitute a cost factor. Catastrophe no. 6 Many companies have also profiteered from post invasion Iraq. Oil corporations from a few countries have been given access to Iraq’s oil fields. Other companies have been involved in providing support services to US and allied military operations. One such company is the Houston based engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc, which was spun off from its parent firm, Halliburton Co. KBR, it is alleged, was “given 39.5 billion in Iraqrelated contracts over the past decade.” Catastrophe no. 7 The invasion and occupation of Iraq was, right from the outset, a blatant violation of international law. The United Nations was pushed aside and the US, Britain and some of their other allies embarked upon a war of aggression whose real motives were to advance their imperial interests vis-a-vis oil, strategic routes and Israel. For Israel itself, the war fought on its behalf decimated a leadership vehemently opposed to its occupation of Palestine and other Arab lands and was therefore a bonanza. Catastrophe no. 8 This illegal war is the principal reason why law and order has broken down in many parts of Iraq today. Gangs and hoodlums control various cities and villages. Crime is rampant. Kidnappings and murders have become routine. Fear and a general feeling of insecurity grip many Iraqi citizens.

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Catastrophe no. 9 The occupation of Iraq was inextricably intertwined with the manipulation and exploitation of sectarian sentiments. In the initial phase, the occupiers and their underlings manipulated the resentment of the Shia majority against the Sunni minority. Later, when influential elements within the democratically elected Shia government demonstrated that they were inclined to the Shia leadership in Iran, Sunni feelings of deprivation were exploited to the hilt. Playing Sunnis against Shias and vice-versa has become a dangerous and violent game. Thousands have been killed in these sectarian conflicts which feed upon centuries of distrust and suspicion. They continue to this day even though formal military occupation ended in December 2011. Indeed, observers of Iraqi politics are beginning to wonder whether the Sunni-Shia conflict will lead very soon to an all-out civil war. Such a prospect has unfathomable regional implications since there are Sunnis and Shias in different proportions in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen and a few other Arab states. The two sects are also found in Turkey and Iran — apart from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Catastrophe no. 10 The culprits behind all these catastrophes, those who were at the helm of the US and Britain in 2003 — George Bush and Dick Cheney, on the one hand, and Tony Blair, on the other — have not been convicted in any court of law as war criminals. It is only NGO sponsored tribunals in different parts of the world who have found them and others guilty of invading and occupying Iraq and condemned them on behalf of humanity.

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10 years after committing an unconscionable act of wanton aggression, they remain free — a shameful blot on the collective conscience of the human family. -25 March 2013.

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CHAPTER 22

THE FLOTILLA TRAGEDY: A TURNING POINT? In the wake of the flotilla tragedy of 31st May 2010, are there signs to suggest that the struggle of the Palestinian people and other Arabs for justice and peace has entered a new phase? Are some elements of the shift more obvious than others? How should we encourage the change that may be taking place? There are five signs that we may want to focus upon. One, the flotilla has underscored the growing significance of people’s movements and citizens’ groups in the Palestinian struggle. In a sense, people’s movements have always been part of the resistance to Zionism. It was people’s movements that first stood up to the intensification of organized Zionist colonization of Palestine, following the Balfour Declaration of 1917. The general Arab uprising of 1936 was an example of this. However, after Israel was established in 1948, Arab states played a big role in resisting Israeli aggression. All the early wars — 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 — involved states. Of course, Palestinian groups such as Al-Fatah were also at the heart of the resistance. In November 1987, people power came to the fore once again through the first Intifada. Since then, people’s initiatives have remained important. In the last 20 years there has been a proliferation of people’s movements and citizen groups in the Palestinian struggle, including groups that are part of the Palestinian Diaspora. People’s movements and citizens’ groups are a source of strength to the Palestinian cause. Since they are less constrained by considerations that inhibit governments

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from committing themselves totally to the Palestinians — considerations such as their relationship with the United States in an international system dominated by the West — these forces are able to adopt principled positions on behalf of the oppressed and the dispossessed. Though US and Western dominance is declining, there are still many governments in the Arab and Muslim world that are eager to project themselves as allies of Israel’s most devoted patron and protector. In such a situation, it is not surprising that people’s movements and citizens groups have been able to campaign with much greater vigor and vitality for Palestinian rights. Two, the flotilla has also shown that the movement for Palestine is becoming more and more multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-national. There were a number of prominent individuals from outside the Muslim and Arab world in the six ships that were part of the 31st May flotilla and in earlier flotillas — the most notable of whom was the Irish Peace Laureate, Mairead Maguire. Equally significant, the active and extensive involvement of Turkish nationals has taken the Palestinian struggle beyond Arab boundaries. Of course, even in the past, there were non-Arabs and non-Muslims who defended the Palestinian cause. It is not widely known that Mahatma Gandhi was one such public figure who expressed his support in writing way back in the late nineteen thirties, in the midst of creeping Zionism. There is no need to emphasize that over the decades there have been scores of Jewish intellectuals and activists committed to Palestine. The Palestinian movement should be encouraged to become more diverse in every sense of the word. It is when it embraces the whole of humanity that it will have

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the moral might and power to overcome Israel and Zionism, with their inordinate influence over US elites in every sphere of life. Some Muslim groups that tend to see the Palestinian struggle in exclusive religious terms will have to learn to appreciate the imperative importance of an all-encompassing movement transcending the Muslim ummah. Three, the flotilla episode has also highlighted the value and virtue of peaceful, non-violent protest. The flotilla was a protest against the inhuman, unjust, illegal, blockade of Gaza imposed by the Israeli regime since 2007. None of the boats was armed. None of the passengers carried weapons. If violence erupted on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, it was because the Israeli commandos who hijacked the ship in international waters intended to kill some of the peace activists. It is when they started shooting that some of the activists retaliated with knives and sticks and pistols they had seized from the commandos. This is the allegation made by the leader of the Malaysian team of 11 activists on the Marmara, who claims to have seen the commandos’ hit list. According to the autopsies performed, many of the nine Turkish males who were killed were shot four or five times, and at close range. It is this brutal barbarism of the Israeli commandos in contrast to the humanitarian mission of the flotilla that has created so much moral outrage among decent men and women everywhere. When stark violence is employed to crush peaceful protest, human sympathy is transformed into human solidarity with the victim. It is because the Israeli regime under Benjamin Netanyahu knows that non-violent resistance to Israeli power has tremendous psychological impact upon

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people that he is going all out to convince the world that the Marmara activists were violent. Israeli propaganda in fact reinforces the case for nonviolent resistance and non-violent protest. And indeed, non-violent resistance and non-violent protest has been gaining more and more adherents in recent years. Apart from flotillas, there have also been attempts to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza through land routes. Groups in Turkey, Malaysia and Britain have pledged that they will continue to organize many more land and sea missions to bring food, medicines and other essentials to the beleaguered people of Gaza. Universities in Britain have voted to boycott Israeli academics; churches in the US have divested from Israeli companies that operate in the occupied West Bank; and Swedish workers have launched a week-long blockade of Israeli ships and goods arriving in that Scandinavian nation. As non-violent opposition to the Israeli regime gathers momentum, as rejection of Israel’s arrogance and intransigence becomes a global phenomenon, it will be totally isolated in the international arena. Even its ardent defenders would be too embarrassed to come to its aid. Israel’s isolation brought about through its own haughtiness will eventually compel its protector, the US, to force Israel to change its policies and to recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This is why Palestinian freedom fighters themselves should not at this critical juncture undermine their own struggle by resorting to acts of senseless, mindless violence. Killing Israeli civilians or indulging in revenge for its own sake, will not advance the Palestinian cause. The goodwill and support generated by the flotilla tragedy should be harnessed to the hilt to strengthen the struggle.

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Four, as a consequence of the flotilla episode, advocates of Palestine should step up efforts to tell the world their story. The world is at the moment in a mood to listen. An oppressed people who have justice on their side should not hesitate to convey the truth to millions who still do not know how the Palestinians became the dispossessed, how Zionism and Colonialism conspired to deprive them of their land, how the UN betrayed its own Charter and the inalienable right of the Palestinians to selfdetermination in order to create the state of Israel, and how over the last 62 years through wars, expulsions, usurpation of land, and territorial expansion, successive Israeli regimes have sought to cleanse an ancient land of its indigenous population. Compared to Israel and the Zionist propaganda machine whose tentacles extend to every nook and cranny of the planet, the Palestinians have been rather ineffective in sharing their pain and anguish with their fellow human beings. It is not only the Palestinian case that should be put across with intelligence and eloquence; Israeli manipulations and machinations, its distortions and its fabrications, its atrocities and its injustices should be disseminated as widely as possible. Because of Zionist media control, not many people know that Israeli discrimination against its Palestinian–Arab citizens is so pervasive and so extensive that it is even worse than the apartheid of the old racist Pretoria regime. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appalled by Israeli apartheid. So was Nelson Mandela who once described Palestine “as the greatest moral issue of our time.� Advocates of the Palestinian cause should inform the general public of all this through both the conventional and alternative media. The alternative media has been a boon to the cause. It is partly because of the new channels of communication that the truth about the flotilla tragedy reached a huge segment of society.

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Much more can be accomplished through the alternative media. Five, if the flotilla tragedy has succeeded in bringing almost the whole of the human family together in condemnation of the Israeli action, can it help to unite the two warring Palestinian groups? Is there anything to suggest that the Palestinian Authority that administers the West Bank and Hamas that is in charge of Gaza, will now bury the hatchet? If PA and Hamas cannot work together, if their feud continues unabated, will all the other changes that we have talked about here mean anything at all? Without unity and cohesion, without a single overriding purpose that transcends group interests, what hope is there for the Palestinian struggle? Perhaps the Turkish leadership which has been playing such a positive role in Palestine and West Asia, can help to bring the PA and Hamas together. And after the flotilla tragedy that impacted directly upon Turkish nationals, Ankara may be more inclined to try its hand at resolving the intra-Palestinian conflict. For their part, Palestinian leaders from the PA and Hamas should realize that if they do not turn to one another in amity, the flotilla tragedy of 31st May might not be a turning –point in the Palestinian struggle for justice and peace. -7 June 2010.

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CHAPTER 23

FLOTILLA 2 DESERVES OUR APPLAUSE It is a shame that the Greek authorities have gone all out to prevent Freedom Flotilla 2 from sailing from Greece to Gaza. In the latest incident, a French motor yacht, the Dignite al Karama that managed to slip out of Greek waters on the 5th of July 2011 has been stopped by Greek coast guards. Earlier, the captain of a US boat, the Audacity of Hope, was detained after the boat was intercepted while attempting to break the Greek ban. The captain, John Klusmer, was released on the 5 th of July. A Canadian ship, Tahrir, with activists from Canada, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, was also prevented from leaving for Gaza on the 4th of July. The Greek government, it is alleged, has succumbed to tremendous pressure from not only the Israeli regime but also certain governments in Europe and the United States. It has sworn to “prevent breach of Israel’s naval blockade.” Greece’s current economic woes have made it even more vulnerable to external pressures. Turkey, it appears, has also yielded to pressure from the US and Israel. The Mavi Marmara, which was at the forefront of Flotilla 1 in May 2010,was supposed to join Flotilla 2. At the eleventh hour, it cancelled its participation. It is not just pressure upon governments that has hobbled Flotilla 2. Two of the ships berthed at Piraeus, the port of Athens, were damaged, it is believed, by saboteurs. A law suit filed in a Manhattan Court in the US by a father and son claiming to be victims of a Palestinian terrorist attack in 2002 sought to delay the flotilla from sailing.

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A warning letter was also sent to maritime insurance companies that had provided insurance to the flotilla. Another warning letter was sent to the giant communications firm, Immarsat, not to provide communication services to the flotilla. The US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, accused the flotilla of provocation. United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, tried to persuade governments to stop the delivery of humanitarian aid via the Freedom Flotilla 2. Leading US media outlets criticized the flotilla for allegedly threatening Israel’s security. In spite of all this, we would regard Flotilla2 as a relative success for a variety of reasons --- even if it has not been able to deliver its much needed aid to the besieged people of Gaza. The flotilla drew 300 over activists from 22 countries which in itself is an achievement. The passengers on the US ship, the Audacity of Hope, included a notable holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, among other Jews. It is significant that on the 4 th of July--US Independence Day--- the American passengers on the boat called for the independence of the US from Israel. The flotilla also elicited the support of Nobel Peace laureates. Four of them, all women --- Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi--in an open letter to the UN Secretary-General called upon him to “ support this non-violent, international humanitarian effort.” A number of NGOs from all over the world have expressed support for, and solidarity with, Flotilla2. Even a segment of the mainstream media--- not always

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sympathetic to the Palestinian cause--- was appreciative of the flotilla’s attempt to help the Palestinians. The men and women who were part of Flotilla2 and all the others who made it possible deserve our applause for their commitment and their courage. Today, more than at any other time in the past, we have reason to be optimistic about their struggle and the valiant struggle of the Palestinian people and all those who champion their noble cause. What is important is to ensure that this struggle remains peaceful and non-violent--- and perseveres till it triumphs. -8 July 2011.

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CHAPTER 24

THE GAZA MASSACRE: THE UNDERLYING MOTIVES Massacre has become a habit. Every two or three years, Israel launches a massive military assault upon largely unarmed Palestinians in Gaza. It did this in December 2008 to January 2009. It did it again in November 2012. On each occasion hundreds of Palestinians are murdered and thousands more maimed. Every time, Israel claims the moral high ground for its brutal, barbaric action. It blames Hamas, an important component of the Palestinian liberation movement, for the present cycle of violence. It alleges, without an iota of proof, that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens on 12 June 2014. Hamas has denied any involvement. The death of the teens --- a despicable act --- provided the justification for a large-scale operation against Hamas and other so-called militants. Israeli authorities arrested a number of activists including those who were released earlier. While the global media has highlighted the killing of the Israeli teens, it has ignored a critical bit of background information that may have a connection with the tragic episode. On 15th May 2014, the Israeli army killed two unarmed Palestinian teens and wounded a third. The media has also failed to provide a context to this unconscionable murder of children in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Between 29 September 2000 and 23 June 2014, 1,523 Palestinian children were killed by Israelis as against 129 Israeli children killed by Palestinians. It is also worth noting that between the two dates, 6,876 Palestinians were killed

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by the Israeli occupiers compared to 1,110 Israelis by Palestinians. If the media has concealed these statistics from the public, it has also presented a rather distorted picture of how the present violence had unfolded. It is mainly because of the huge emotional torrent unleashed by the anti-Arab venom spewed by some politicians and religious personalities in the wake of the killing of the Israeli teens that some Israeli settlers may have killed a Palestinian teen and burnt his body on the 2 nd of July. This incident --- not unexpectedly --- provoked thousands of Palestinians to launch angry protests in not only Gaza but also the West Bank. The Benjamin Netanyahu regime retaliated with harsh punitive measures including missile strikes and the collective punishment of entire communities. It is against this backdrop that one should look at the primitive rockets launched by Hamas against targets in Israel. Only one person has been killed so far. It is true that these rockets have generated some fear among segments of the Israeli population.This fear, and the rockets, serve as “evidence” for Netanyahu to convince the world that Israel is under threat and is forced to defend itself and to protect its people. This is why one wonders whether as a strategic option the rockets serve a purpose. If anything, the rockets have helped to divert attention from the underlying motives for Israel’s current aggressive offensive. What are these motives? One, the offensive, ostensibly directed at Hamas, actually demonstrates Israel’s overwhelming military power in the region. Its neighbors are reminded at regular intervals that no one should try to trifle with West Asia’s most formidable

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armed forces. The projection of power in this manner is consistent with Israel’s singular obsession with its security. For the nation’s security, in the Israeli psyche, is equated with its ability to dominate the region, militarily. Hence its opposition to any other state in West Asia possessing even the remotest capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Besides, Israel is determined to show friend and foe that it is above the law, that the norms that apply to other states bear no relevance to it. It is “exceptional” because the Jews are a “chosen people.” Two, the need to project its power is all the greater at this moment in view of the reconciliation agreement reached between Hamas and its rival Fatah on the 23rd of April 2014. Israel perceives a united Palestinian liberation struggle as a major threat to its agenda of domination and control through the strategy of divide and rule. If, as a result of a Hamas-Fatah unity government, Gaza and the West Bank are brought together, the Israeli plan of keeping them apart --- and weak --- will be thwarted. Three, the Netanyahu regime is also worried that more and more people especially in Europe are beginning to appreciate the justice of the Palestinian cause as reflected in the growing support of big corporations and universities for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s post -1967 occupation of Palestinian land. In order to check this trend, Netanyahu is once again playing the victim card especially with Europe in mind: Israel is still under a grave threat, its survival is at stake. Do not abandon Israel. Four, playing victim has acquired a new urgency in light of a recent development. This is the attempt to resolve the longstanding dispute between Iran and the US over the former’s nuclear program. Though no agreement has been reached so far, and the talks between Iran, on the one hand, and the US and other big powers, on the other, have been extended by a few months, there is a possibility that some consensus will be reached soon. This is something that Israel does not want. As we have

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hinted, for Israel, an oil-rich Iran with a strong scientific base and a clear Islamic ideological orientation, is a challenge to its security, read, dominance. It explains why it has gone all out to foil Iran’s rapprochement with the US in particular. The present offensive which attempts to link Hamas’s rockets with Iran is both an endeavor to make Iran look like the culprit and to underscore Israel’s vulnerability. Since the motives reveal an extremely myopic perspective on Israel’s interests, all the more reason why an immediate ceasefire in Gaza is critical. But it has to be a just ceasefire that not only brings the fighting to an end but also provides some relief and hope to the besieged population in Gaza. There is no sign of that happening. On the contrary, the situation is getting worse with Israel launching a ground assault on 17th July which has already increased the Palestinian death toll by a significant margin. However, even if there is a just ceasefire in the coming days, it is not a solution in itself. There will continue to be massacres of this sort in the future unless the fundamental cause of the Israeli-Palestinian/ Arab conflict is addressed. It is widely accepted that the root of the conflict is Israeli occupation of Palestinian/Arab land. It is because of their abject situation--- their dispossession --that Palestinians and other Arabs are sometimes even prepared to resort to violence in order to restore their dignity. This is something that the Israeli elite and its backers in the West should understand. As it has been said on numerous occasions, there will be no security for Israelis unless there is justice for the Palestinians and other Arabs. -21 July 2014.

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CHAPTER 25

THE IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT: A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. There is no guarantee that the preliminary agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 2nd April 2015 between Iran, on the one hand, and the United States and five other world powers, namely, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, on the other, in relation to Iran’s nuclear program will lead to a final accord at the end of June this year, as envisaged by the parties concerned. There is considerable opposition to the agreement especially in the US. A lot of Republican lawmakers and some democrats are opposed to it. They allege that the deal does not protect Israeli interests. There are powerful Israeli lobbies in the US who have condemned it. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, an implacable opponent of any negotiations with Iran from the very beginning, has described the agreement as a threat to the very survival of Israel! Netanyahu and his allies in the US are mobilizing various groups and individuals to stop the signing of the final accord. Some of the hardliners in Iran within religious, political and media circles are also unhappy with the Lausanne agreement. They feel that it imposes severe restrictions upon Iran’s nuclear program and infringes upon the nation’s sovereignty. But the vast majority of Iranians --- it appears from media reports --- are in a celebratory mood. They are happy because the final accord will lead to the lifting of sanctions pushed forward by the US, the European Union and the United Nations in recent years

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that have weakened the Iranian economy and brought widespread suffering to the people. The sanctions were terribly unjust because they were based upon the false premise that Iran was manufacturing nuclear weapons when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which had over years conducted the most intrusive and extensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities failed to produce even an iota of hard evidence that suggested that Iran’s nuclear program had some other ulterior motive. Doubts raised on a couple of occasions and accusations hurled by IAEA inspectors, highlighted by the global media, turned out to be hollow largely because they were inspired by fabricated “evidence” supplied by Israeli intelligence. It is also important to emphasize that right from the outset Iran’s supreme leaders, first Imam Khomeini and then the current spiritual head, Ayatollah Khamenei, had declared on a number of occasions that manufacturing, storing and deploying nuclear weapons is “haram” ( prohibited) in Islam. Iran’s nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes with the focus upon generating electricity and undertaking medical research. The agreement recognizes Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for such goals. Harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is part and parcel of the national agenda of more than 40 countries --- a right recognized under the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which Iran is a signatory. To demonstrate in unequivocal terms its total commitment to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Iran should now lead a campaign to declare West Asia and North Africa (WANA) a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. No country and no entity in the region should be allowed to manufacture, keep or use nuclear weapons.

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Every country and every entity should be prepared to be subjected to IAEA inspections. This will put the only state in the region that is known to possess nuclear weapons to the test. Israel should not be treated as a special case in this instance. There should be a massive mobilization of public opinion within and without WANA to force Israel to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. It is grossly unfair that the one entity that has been most vocal in denouncing Iran’s unproven nuclear weapons has escaped scrutiny of, and censure about, its own nuclear weapons arsenal from the world community. After the Lausanne agreement we should all now turn our attention to Israel and demand that Israel demolish its stock of nuclear weapons immediately and pledge not to produce such weapons any more. A nuclear weapons free WANA is the best hope for peace and security for all the states in that region, including Israel. Iran should also campaign to abolish other weapons of mass destruction such as biological and chemical weapons from WANA. There are a few states in the region that continue to stockpile such weapons. This again will help usher in an era where there is less barbaric violence and brutal massacres. In this regard, Iran should also join groups in other parts of the world and campaign for the prohibition of war as a means of settling conflicts between and within nations. It would be amazing if such a campaign took root in WANA which has witnessed so many wars since the end of the Second World War. In fact, I had hoped when a revolution took place in Iran in the name of Islam in 1979 that Iran would pioneer a new approach to international relations by championing the cause of a world without war and a world without nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

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It may still happen if the agreement of 2nd April evolves into a comprehensive accord at the end of June 2015 and politics in WANA slowly moves in a different direction. 4th April 2015.

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CHAPTER 26

THE POST IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL SCENARIO

Now that the Iran nuclear deal is being implemented, it is perhaps time to ask, what does it mean for Iran, for other nations in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), for Israel, for the United States of America, for Europe? What does it mean for the world as a whole? Iran With the lifting in mid-January 2016 of years of crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, Iran is now able to trade openly with the rest of the world including exporting its oil. Both the Iranian government and private companies are purchasing goods and equipment from abroad. Iran is also now re-connected to the international financial system. All this hopefully will strengthen the Iranian economy and improve the standard of living of the people. As Iran embraces the international financial system, it should be cautious about embarking upon massive privatization, deregulation, and liberalization, accompanied by the elimination of essential subsidies, as demanded by certain global financial institutions and actors --- in short pursuing a “neo-liberal” agenda --which invariably works to the detriment of the majority of the populace. The Rouhani government should ensure that some of the pillars of post-1979 Iran such as people’s cooperatives and Waqf (bequeathal) enterprises remain at the

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forefront of the planned economic transformation, albeit with fundamental changes aimed at enhancing professionalism and curbing corruption. How will these economic changes impact upon Iranian politics? If the lower and middle classes benefit significantly from the post-nuclear deal economic scenario, it is conceivable that the reform oriented Rouhani government will become politically stronger but as it is the conservative forces linked to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are still quite formidable. This is why one of their organs, the 12 member Guardian Council has been able to exclude thousands of candidates from contesting the Majlis (parliamentary) election and the election to the 88 member Assembly of Experts expected at the end of February 2016. One of those aspiring for a seat in the powerful Assembly of Experts which not only monitors the Supreme Leader but also picks his successor who has become a victim of the power play of the conservatives is Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hassan is known to be close to former President, Muhammad Khatami, the charismatic icon of the reform movement. In fact, Khatami himself continues to be subjected to various restrictions engineered by the conservatives, including a ban on the use of his picture in the state media and orders prohibiting him from speaking at public universities. Two reformers who stood for the controversial 2009 Presidential Election, former Prime Minister Hossein Mousavi, and former Parliamentary Speaker, Mehdi Karroubi, are still under house arrest. Though conservative, authoritarian structures and personalities hold sway at this juncture, the post nuclear deal environment may yet help the seeds of change to bear fruit faster than many think.

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WANA Turning from Iran to WANA, the immediate reaction of Iran’s adversary, Saudi Arabia, to the nuclear deal has been to assert its power. The intensification of its bombing in Yemen and its execution of the respected Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, on 2nd Jannuary 2016 --- in spite of advice from its own allies to refrain from such action against a peaceful dissenter --- show a determination to flex its muscles whatever the consequences. Qatar, like most of the other Gulf monarchies, is also lukewarm towards the nuclear deal. Turkey however has formally welcomed the deal. The attitude of most of Iran’s neighbors may have a lot to do with what a number of them perceive as Iran’s growing influence and power in WANA. After the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Shia majority Iraq in 2003, a Shia leadership has emerged in Baghdad which in spite of Washington’s patronage, does not conceal its deep religious and even political attachment to Tehran. At the same time, the concerted often clandestine attempt by the US and Israel, later aided by Britain and France and abetted by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to oust Bashar Al-Assad through arms in the wake of a small uprising in Daraa in 2011, actually strengthened Iran’s hand in Syria as the latter became more dependent upon the former for military and economic assistance. The Syrian conflict also reinforced Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah, the dominant political actor in Lebanon which is also fighting on behalf of Assad. By the same token, the armed Saudi suppression of the popular majority Shia revolt against the Bahraini ruling elite in 2011, drew the Bahraini Shias closer to their fellow religionists in Iran. Even in Yemen, it is Saudi intervention to protect the ruler against a complex network of dissenting

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groups with different agendas that has persuaded some of them to gravitate towards Iran. Expanding Iranian influence in WANA, it is apparent, is the consequence of circumstance and situation often ignited by the political maneuvers of others which in some instances had ironically undermined their own interests. Of course, some Iranian leaders have also taken advantage of these situations. The upshot of it all is a changing political landscape in which Iran is a significant actor especially in those states with an important Shia element. Faced with this reality, some Sunni governments in the region led by Saudi Arabia fear that the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions will enable Iran to exercise even more clout and threaten its neighbors. While there is no justification at all for such fears, Iran would do well to assuage this negative sentiment towards it. ‘Iranophobia’ assiduously cultivated by the Saudi elite in particular which at its root is about Saudi power is intertwined with the Sunni-Shia dichotomy, and an ArabPersian divide. These two schisms especially the former stirs deep emotions in much of the Muslim world. This is why the Iranian leadership should tread carefully, holding on to its principles in confronting this irrational fear and yet displaying flexibility manifested through skillful diplomacy -- as it has illustrated in the negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal. In approaching the Sunni-Shia challenge, the present Iranian government should perhaps take a leaf from Imam Khomeini’s book. He tried to bridge the chasm between the majority Sunnis and minority Shias globally through certain historical and contemporary events that could bring them together. The commemoration of the

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Prophet Muhammad’s birthday was one such instance. Al-Quds Day which he inaugurated --- the last Friday of Ramadan is now dedicated to the liberation of Jerusalem from Israeli Occupation --- was another such occasion. Israel Within WANA, there is another actor that is also fiercely hostile to the nuclear deal. This is WANA’s only nucleararmed entity. The Israeli elite’s antagonism to the deal has been much more organized than Saudi’s. Since Iran from the days of Khomeini has been a committed champion of the Palestinian cause, steadfast in its opposition to Israeli occupation and Zionism, Israel has always viewed Iran as a foe. Even when there was no evidence to indicate that Iran was developing nuclear weapons, Israeli intelligence manufactured so-called ‘data’ to prove to the world that Iran posed a nuclear threat to Israel and the rest of the region. This is why it went all out to try to stop the US and other Western powers from coming to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. Though it failed, Israel has not ceased to try to wreck the deal. Immediately after sanctions were lifted, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons and continues to ---spread terror throughout the world”. Netanyahu is hoping that a new US President at the end of the year will reverse the nuclear deal. It is worth noting in this regard that the Republican frontrunners in the Presidential race are totally against the deal and are vehemently opposed to any rapprochement with Iran.

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The United States The organized, sustained opposition of a segment of the Washington political elite is something that Iran will have to take into account in the implementation of the deal. The longstanding relationship between policy-makers and lobbyists in Washington, on the one hand, and Zionist interests and Israel, on the other, is part of the explanation. In recent years Christian Zionists in the US have played a major role in reinforcing and perpetuating this relationship. Their role today is perhaps more significant than that of the conventional Jewish interest groups which in any case were split on the nuclear deal with some of them endorsing it as an effective mechanism for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. For that reason the deal, they argued, will keep Israel safe. This was also one of President Barack Obama’s main arguments for pushing for Congressional endorsement of the deal. He also argued that the US’s Arab allies notably Saudi Arabia would feel secure if Iran is stripped of its ability to acquire nuclear weapons. Some of the other reasons for the deal have not been so publicly ventilated. The US leadership cannot ignore the fact that Iran today is a significant player in a region where US interests are entrenched. As we have shown, from Syria, to Iraq, to Lebanon, to Bahrain, to Yemen, Iran is a force to reckon with. It is also quite conceivable that Washington realizes that its special relationship with Israel, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, on the other, has its minuses. Backing a bellicose Netanyahu blindly does not always serve the US agenda in WANA.

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Similarly, a Saudi elite that is deeply embroiled in sectarianism and terrorism can sometimes be an embarrassment. Europe The changing power balance in WANA is one of the reasons why the European Union and most European states warmly welcomed the nuclear deal. A more compelling factor would be the economic benefits that they hope to reap from an Iran that is open to trade and investments. Iranian President Rouhani has already visited Italy and France and forged a whole range of business deals with both countries. One can expect the Iranian government to do the same with other European states in the near future. There will be obstacles. Influential Zionist lobbies exist in both Britain and France but they do not wield the sort of power that the Christian Zionists command in the US. There are other countries too from China and Russia to India and Brazil that will also feel the impact of an Iran that is free to trade and interact with the world. But Iran’s ties with them were never problematic which is why they are not on our radar screen. Conclusions We are now in a position to draw some important conclusions from our reflections on the post- Iran nuclear deal scenario. One, the impact of the deal upon Iranian politics and to a lesser extent the Iranian economy is still unclear though it has the potential to wrought significant changes.

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Two, while the deal has intensified conflicts in WANA, the changing political landscape also offers hope: a more influential Iran may be in a position to address issues such as the Sunni-Shia divide and thereby reduce friction in the region. Three, since the deal circumscribes Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons --- an aspiration which the leadership has always maintained was never its goal given the Islamic prohibition against such weaponry --Iran should now be in the forefront of a vigorous campaign to ensure that WANA becomes a nuclear weapons free zone in every sense of the term in the shortest possible time. Four, since Iran together with the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany managed to resolve one of the most contentious contemporary issues in international politics through diplomacy, and in the process, succeeded to avert war, Iran should now take the lead in tabling a resolution at the UN General Assembly banning war forever as a means of settling bilateral, regional and international disputes. War would then be regarded as a crime against humanity. Five, when war is viewed as a crime against humanity, military arsenals everywhere should also be dismantled. A massive global disarmament movement should be initiated with citizen groups from every nook and cranny participating. It should not be forgotten that disarmament was the revered goal of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the sixties and seventies. Iran is the current Chair of NAM. Shouldn’t disarmament become one of the principal aims of NAM once again? -9 February 2016.

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CHAPTER 27

VIOLENCE AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN EGYPT There is no sign to show that political violence in Egypt is abating. Political violence has become even more pronounced since the ouster of the democratically elected President, Dr Mohamed Morsi, on the 3rd of July 2013. The ouster is in fact one of the primary causes for the increased violence. They are inter-linked for two reasons. The suppression of Morsi’s movement, the IkhwanulMuslimin, by the military backed interim government has been violent. Peaceful protest camps were crushed in a deadly operation on 14 August 2013. At least a thousand people were killed in a week of violence. Thousands of Ikhwan members were arrested, including its spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie. The Ikhwan was declared a “terrorist” group in December 2013. On 25 March 2014, 529 people, many of them connected to the Ikhwan, were sentenced to death by a court for rioting and killing a policeman. It was a decision whose brutal severity shocked the world. The suppression has continued with the enactment of a new law against terrorism which provides for the death penalty for anyone committing “terrorist acts” or establishing or joining a “terrorist organization.” The law announced by the government on the 3rd of April 2014 also increases the number of judicial districts dedicated to handling terrorism-related trials, to ensure “speedy trials.”

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It was a response to bomb explosions that killed two persons, including a Police Brigadier-General, in the vicinity of Cairo University. This brings us to the second reason for the escalation of violence in Egypt in recent months. As we have seen, Ikhwan members and supporters have been reacting to the suppression of their movement through their own acts of violence. Security personnel have been their targets which explains the large number of policemen killed in the course of the last nine months. For the Ikhwan, violence is not just reactive or defensive. Since 1943, it has engaged in paramilitary activities. In 1948, an Ikhwan member allegedly murdered an Appellate Judge for passing a harsh sentence against a colleague. In the same year, the then Prime Minister of Egypt was killed by an Ikhwan member. On 26 October 1954, Ikhwan attempted to assassinate the Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. There are other groups which perceive themselves as Islamic that have also sought to pursue their political agenda through violence. In Egypt’s Senai Peninsula, the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis is the source of some of the violent activities we have witnessed there for a few years now. The Al-Furqan Brigades are active throughout Egypt. Violence on the part of both the government and the Ikhwan and other groups is related to a much bigger battle which has marred and mired Egyptian politics for decades. It is the struggle for power between the military, on the one hand, and Islamic forces, on the other, particularly the Ikhwan, which has expressed itself in one form or another since the Free Officers revolt of 1952. Even before 1952, during the period of the monarchy, the Ikhwan was already challenging state power. This tussle for power will go on and continue to impact negatively upon the lives of ordinary people. Elections will

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not resolve this conflict as proven by the post-Mubarak situation. In spite of Presidential and Parliamentary elections which indicated the people’s preference for Islamic parties, the military and its allies have sought to perpetuate their power through subterfuge and manipulation. The unjust overthrow of Morsi was the culmination of this process. After the overthrow and the consolidation of its power, the military has, as we have noted, used and abused its authority to emasculate and decimate the Ikhwan. The new constitution endorsed in a questionable referendum on the 14th and 15th of January 2014 will further ensure that the power of the military is entrenched and extended beyond the present. The Presidential Election scheduled for the 26th and 27th of May 2014 will, to all intents and purposes, provide the imprimatur to the right of the military to rule Egypt for a long time to come. If there is a remedy to this situation, it lies with the people. The people have demonstrated that they have the wisdom and the maturity to send the right signal to their rulers. It was the people, millions of them, who through sustained, peaceful mass action over a few weeks pushed out the dictator, Hosni Mubarak, on the 11th of February 2011. It was a bold and brave rejection of authoritarianism, corruption and nepotism. At the same time, the popular uprising whose epicenter was Tahrir Square was a plea for justice, freedom, equality, and most of all, for human dignity. This is why the Egyptian people should not acquiesce with the re-assertion of authoritarianism, the resurgence of military power, through the ascendancy of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. It would be a betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of the millions who yearn for a new Egypt guided by the rule of law, rather than the might of men, a new Egypt which honors through deeds the poor

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and powerless citizen seeking shelter in the cemeteries of the rich in Cairo rather than a state which continues to glorify the pompous and arrogant elite who aggrandize power and wealth for their own ego. But those who ride the wave of the people’s hopes and aspirations should also ensure that they do not exercise power and authority in a manner that subverts the trust of the masses. The Ikhwan was in a sense guilty of this. Granted that it faced formidable obstacles in the short time that it was in power. Nonetheless, because of its attachment to dogma — a commitment to projecting its own version of Islam — it was often diverted from focusing upon the fundamental challenges faced by the people such as the lack of basic amenities, a poor delivery system, street-level corruption and a severe paucity of jobs especially for the young. Not only did this erode its popular base; it alienated the Ikhwan from a significant segment of the middle-class. It also led to the reinforcement of an approach to Islam that emphasized form at the expense of substance. Given the Ikhwan’s orientation and what the military represents, shouldn’t the Egyptian people go beyond both these forces to secure their future? -14 April 2014.

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CHAPTER 28

MORSI: SENTENCING JUSTICE TO DEATH IN EGYPT It is utterly disgraceful that the first democratically elected president of Egypt has become the first Egyptian president in history to be sentenced to death by the highest judicial and religious authorities in his country. Dr. Mohamed Morsi was elected president in June 2012 in an election that was judged “free and fair” by a number of domestic and foreign observers. He secured 52% of the popular vote. Morsi also initiated a referendum on a new national constitution that was endorsed by 64% of those who voted. The Egyptian Court that upheld an earlier death sentence against Morsi for allegedly plotting a jail break and attacks on the police during the January 2011 popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak based its decision on what appears to be fabricated evidence challenged by lawyers from within and without the Arab world. This 16 June 2015 verdict was accompanied by another travesty of justice --- the imposition of life imprisonment upon Morsi for purportedly spying for foreign elements, namely, the Palestinian Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran. In another trial in April this year, Morsi was sentenced to 20 years jail on charges of inciting violence against protesters in 2012 when he was president. All Morsi’s sentences culminating in the re-affirmation of the death penalty two days ago, endorsed by the Grand Mufti of Egypt, have been politically motivated.

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Not one of the sentences meets the minimum requirements of justice as spelt out in Egyptian domestic law or in international law. They certainly violate the exacting canons of justice embodied in Islamic jurisprudence. It is not just the persecution of Morsi through the abuse of the law that concerns defenders of justice in many parts of the world. The world is appalled by the hundreds of death sentences meted out to leaders and activists associated directly or indirectly with the IkhwanulMuslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood) --- of which Mohamed Morsi is also a leader --- through speedy mass trials. The Mursyidul Am (the principal guide) of the Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, and one of its prominent leaders, Khairat el-Shater, have also been sentenced to death. Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual adviser, has been handed down the death penalty in absentia. The United Nations has described this multitude of death penalties as “unprecedented in recent history.” These death sentences are part of a much larger drive on the part of the government of Abdul Fattah al- Sisi to crush the Brotherhood. According to some human rights groups, hundreds of Brotherhood activists have already been killed while over 40,000 have been jailed. The Brotherhood itself was classified as a “terrorist group” in December 2013. The antagonism between the Brotherhood and the dominant force in Egyptian politics which al- Sisi represents, namely, the armed forces, has a long history behind it, going back to the fifties. Since al-Sisi ousted Morsi through a military coup that had a significant degree of popular support in July 2013, eliminating the Brotherhood’s apparatus of power has become the former’s primary preoccupation.

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In a sense, he is attempting to get rid of all dissent, including those groups that are not linked to the Brotherhood or other Islamic actors. This is why al-Sisi has also banned the democratically oriented April 6 Movement that played a major role in the uprising against Mubarak. But he is not succeeding. Since he usurped power two years ago, Egypt has become even more unstable. Bloody incidents have become more frequent. The divisions in Egyptian society are getting deeper. Foreign hands that continue to manipulate Egyptian politics and the economy --- Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia --- have only exacerbated the situation. This is not to suggest that Morsi and the Brotherhood did not contribute to the mess Egypt is in today. Their religious exclusiveness and their inability to deal with some of the political and economic challenges of the day with greater strategic astuteness undermined their own interests. Nonetheless, al-Sisi’s brutal suppression of dissent in the last two years remains the fundamental cause of the current malaise in Egypt. His suppression has diminished the worth and value of some of his economic programs which have generated some employment and brought a glimmer of hope to the disadvantaged such as the new Suez venture. The world should demand that al-Sisi stops the suppression of dissent immediately. All death sentences should be annulled. Political prisoners should be released. The judiciary should be restructured to make it truly independent and credible. The rule of law should be established and implemented to the fullest. The ban on the Ikhwanul Muslimin and other political and social actors should be lifted.

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Meaningful economic and social reforms aimed at eradicating poverty, reducing the gap between the rich and poor, providing jobs and houses to the needy, ensuring a steady supply of energy and water to the people, and most of all, rooting out endemic corruption and kleptomania, should become al-Sisi’s central mission. In a nutshell, the world should intensify its scrutiny and censure of al-Sisi. It should not close its eyes to the crisis that is engulfing the Arab world’s most important and most populous nation. -18 June 2015.

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CHAPTER 29

YEMEN: NO MILITARY SOLUTION There is no military solution to the Yemen crisis. It is essentially a tussle for power between various political actors. The solution has to be political. Military air-strikes helmed by Saudi Arabia, and supported by most of the other Gulf monarchies and other governments in the region, notably Egypt, have exacerbated an already volatile situation. If these governments decide in the next few days to launch a ground offensive, the consequences will be horrendous. One, the casualties which are mounting will increase dramatically. Yemen has witnessed a great deal of death and destruction in recent years and does not deserve to suffer more pain and anguish. Two, Yemeni society which is already deeply polarized will become even more divided. An all-out war will make it more difficult to work towards reconciliation and to restore peace in the future. Three, any escalation of aggression on the part of the Saudi elite and its allies will tear the region asunder especially since they are projecting the Yemen crisis as a Sunni-Shia conflict. It will have repercussions for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and even Saudi Arabia itself. These are all Arab states where Sunnis or Shias are in the majority or are a minority. Shia Iran and Sunni Turkey will also be drawn into the maelstrom. The danger of perceiving the Yemen conflict in Sunni-Shia terms is further aggravated by a stark anti-Iran rhetoric emanating from Saudi and Egyptian elite circles which has even hinted of a foreign, non-Arab — read Persian — threat that dredges deeply ingrained sentiments rooted in the past that have always dichotomized the Muslim

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ummah. The implication is that Persians are manipulating an Arab tribe, the Houthis, in Yemen for their ‘imperial’ interests. One should not be surprised if the Iranian government reacts to such mischievous rhetoric. It is against this backdrop that one should view the proposal by the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to establish a unified Arab military force to defend Arab identity. It is a shame that al- Sisi should forefront this idea which is in the Charter of the Arab League in pursuit of religious sectarianism when he like his allies in the coalition formed to fight the Shia Houthis of Yemen have never thought of forging a united military front against Israel. After all, it was because of Israel that the Charter conceived of a unified Arab military force in 1950! No wonder the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, is euphoric over developments in Yemen which he has described as proof that Iran is seeking to dominate the entire region. It is also explains why the United States government is supporting the Saudis, the Egyptians and the others in the anti-Houthis coalition. A US National Security Council spokesperson admitted that the US was “ establishing a joint planning cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate US military and intelligence support” in the on-going military operations in Yemen. This is yet another example of a convergence of interests between the US and Israel on the one hand and the strengthening of these interests through collaboration with other close allies, agents and proxies in West Asia such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a number of other Arab states, on the other. The special significance of US collusion with these regional actors on this occasion lies in the fact that the US is also at the same time holding critical talks with Iran over its nuclear program in Lausanne. It is partly because of these talks which both Saudi Arabia and Israel are

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opposed to, that the former has initiated military action in Yemen on its own accord out of a belief that the US can no longer be trusted to safeguard Saudi interests. In a sense, the Saudi elite has forced the US to get involved in Yemen on its side against Iran. But Saudi intervention is not going to help resolve the quagmire in Yemen. At the root of the present conflict is the struggle for power between Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi — the President who fled Yemen on 25 March 2015 — and Ali Abdullah Salleh, the longtime dictator who was deposed through a popular uprising in early 2012. Salleh still commands considerable loyalty within the military and has been trying to make a comeback. It is reliably learnt that he has forged an alliance of sorts with the Houthis, who constitute about 40% of the population and belong to the Zaydi branch of the Shia sect. This is an opportunistic relationship because Salleh had in 2004 attempted to mercilessly crush a Houthi rebellion which was also directed against Israeli and US interference in Yemeni affairs. This power struggle has been rendered even more complicated by the emergence of yet another actor. Since 2009, Yemen has served as a base for Al-Qaeda. The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a major Al-Qaeda affiliate and is the coordinating centre for operations of the terrorist outfit in many parts of West Asia, North Africa and even Europe and the US. The US has been targeting AQAP terrorists through its drone attacks which have also killed scores of innocent civilians. These drone attacks have made the US immensely unpopular among the Yemeni people. Since the Yemeni government of both Salleh and his successor Hadi is seen as a collaborator, it has also lost a lot of credibility. The AQAP, it should be emphasized, is not just fighting the Yemeni government; it is also fiercely antagonistic towards the Houthis since they are Shias.

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If the US is determined to destroy the AQAP, it is mainly because Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries is nonetheless of tremendous strategic significance. At the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, it “is located along the major sea route from Europe to Asia, near some of the busiest Red Sea shipping and trading lanes. Millions of barrels of oil pass through these waters daily in both directions, to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and from the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia to the energy-hungry Asian markets.” It is not just the US that regards Yemen as strategic. All the countries in West Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Europe that are dependent upon trade and concerned about the security of those sea lanes that are critical to their economies, are watching nervously what is happening in Yemen. Strategic significance, drone attacks, AQAP, the domestic power struggle, the Sunni-Shia divide, the tussle between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional influence, the Israeli game and the continuing US drive for hegemony which are all intertwined are unfolding in a corner of the earth that is riddled with other challenges. There is a north-south divide which was not really resolved when the two parts, North Yemen and South Yemen, decided to merge in 1990. A civil war erupted in 1994 and thousands died. The uneasy alliance has held on. There are also a number of self-governing tribes. On top of all this, Yemen faces huge economic challenges. It is estimated that 40% of men between the ages of 20 and 24 in the south are unemployed. Drug addiction is rife. Corruption is rampant. During Salleh’s long rule, Yemen developed a reputation as a kleptocracy. To bring order and stability to a nation which is in such a terrible mess, one has to persuade all the relevant players to talk to one another, to negotiate, to compromise. The

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peaceful, non-violent approach to conflict resolution has not been given enough space and scope to succeed in Yemen. The UN has been trying to play a role in a very difficult situation. The UN should be given full support by all the contending forces. It should use its moral authority to demand that both sides stop fighting immediately. It should then help to establish an interim government in Sana’a of technocrats which will not only administer but also make all the necessary preparations for free, fair elections for both the presidency and parliament. An effective interim government and the entire electoral exercise under UN supervision will undoubtedly take time. But it will be worth the while if it brings to an end the war and violence we are now witnessing. -30 March 2015.

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CHAPTER 30

SAUDI EXECUTIONS: SOME POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES The execution of 47 people by the Saudi authorities on the 2nd of January 2016 reinforces my deeply held conviction that the death penalty should be abolished. No State should have the power to impose the death penalty on anyone. It is a right that can be abused and misused so easily. As of now, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. In Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, the number of people put to death by the State has seen a big increase, from 90 in 2014 to 157 in 2015. Another country in West Asia which had also executed a huge number of people in 2015 is the Islamic Republic of Iran: 694 between 1 January and 15 July. The death penalty has not been able to deter Iranians from committing many of the crimes for which the law has been enacted. In the case of Saudi Arabia, we are told that the 47 men executed were associated with “terrorist organizations” or groups espousing the “takfiri” ideology which condemns Muslims who do not subscribe to their bigoted, dogmatic thinking as “apostates” or with “criminal plots” that endangered national security. In many instances, little evidence was offered to substantiate these allegations. The trials that were held fell far below accepted international standards. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch raised serious doubts about the manner in which the most famous of the 47 executed persons, the well-known Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was sentenced to death in October 2014.

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Nimr was a consistent advocate of peaceful reform. He urged the Saudi authorities to hold free and fair elections. He was of course critical of the Saudi ruling class but there is no record of his involvement in any act of terrorism. It is in a sense ironical that the Saudi authorities should execute people for involvement in “terrorism” when there is overwhelming evidence to show that individuals and groups from the elite stratum of Saudi society have been sponsoring and providing financial support to terrorist outfits in Iraq and Syria. It appears that terrorism has become a convenient excuse to target non-violent dissent directed against Saudi elites. In the guise of combating terrorism, both Sunni and Shia critics committed to peaceful, democratic change have been eliminated. What would be the consequences of the mass executions of 2 January? Dissent which has existed in Saudi Arabia for decades but which has become more pronounced in recent years will become less conspicuous for a while at least. But there will be eruptions from time to time especially in Shia areas such as Qatif. At the regional level, Saudi Arabia has already severed diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of the firebombing of its Embassy in Tehran and its Consulate in Mashhad. In this regard, destroying the Saudi Embassy and Consulate was a clear violation of diplomatic norms. Knowing how volatile the situation was in the aftermath of Nimr’s execution, the Iranian government should have done much more to protect those Saudi entities on Iranian soil. It is commendable that President Hassan Rouhani has condemned the firebombing episodes. Saudi-Iran relations which have been deteriorating for a number of years now, will worsen further. The power struggle between these two regional actors will become

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even more bitter --- and bloodier. It will be felt not only in Syria, Iraq and Yemen which are all caught in the throes of actual armed conflicts but also in Lebanon with its perennial inter-community tensions and Bahrain which may erupt yet again. Underlying this power struggle between two states are sentiments related to the Sunni –Shia schism at the forefront of which is Sunni Saudi Arabia poised against Shia Iran. The Sunni-Shia population mix in all the above states --- some are Sunni majority others are Shia majority -- can lead to sectarian conflagrations that are capable of tearing asunder their social fabric. They may well have repercussions in countries outside the region proper such as Afghanistan and Pakistan which have a significant Shia minority. Even in societies in which the Shia element is miniscule --Indonesia and Malaysia being two examples --- the manipulation of majority Sunni sentiment against the Shia can generate unnecessary tension and friction. All in all, Sunni-Shia conflicts, actual or potential, will weaken the Muslim Ummah (community) to such an extent that the solidarity and cohesiveness that the community yearns for will become an even more distant mirage. In such a situation, it will be vulnerable to all sorts of manipulations and machinations by external forces abetted by internal elements. The Ummah would be at its nadir, much to the delight of its enemies. While all this may manifest itself in the medium and longterm, the immediate consequence of the execution of the 47 could be a more determined push by the Saudi rulers, in collusion with the Israeli elite, to thwart the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal. Since both the Saudis and the Israelis realize that the nuclear deal could change the power balance in the

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region, their aim would be to exploit the deterioration in ties with Iran to keep Iran in perpetual isolation. There may even be lobbies in Washington working with the Saudis and Israelis to achieve this, given some recent US moves against Tehran. This is why the situation that is unfolding from the execution of the 47 may generate much more upheaval in the most conflict prone region of the world that is already drenched in the blood of millions of innocent human beings. -4 January 2016.

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CHAPTER 31

THE SOMALI FAMINE: HUNGER AND POWER Once again, the world is witness to a horrendous catastrophe in Somalia and in other parts of the Horn of Africa which some journalists now describe as “The Horn of Hunger.” The famine that has hit the region has already claimed the lives of 29,000 Somali children under 5 years in the past three months. 12 million people need food aid. The UN has requested 2.4 billion US dollars from member states. It has raised only half that amount so far. We can all do much more to help the people of Somalia and the region. Rich countries in particular have a moral obligation to assist the starving and suffering Somalis. For wealthy Muslims, the pain and ordeal of the Somalis --who are mostly Muslims--- carries a special message since this is the month of Ramadan when Muslims all over the world observe the dawn to dusk annual fast. If one of the purposes of the fast is to develop empathy for the poor and hungry, the catastrophe in Somalia offers an opportunity for the wealthy to donate generously to the UN’s food aid program. In this regard, it is significant that ordinary individuals and communities have responded to the Somali catastrophe in a spirit of solidarity that is most touching. An 11 yearold schoolboy in Ghana, Andrew Adansi-Bonnah, has launched a campaign to raise 20 million Ghanaian cedis (about 13 million dollars) to “Save Somali Children from Hunger.” A charity in Gaza, Palestine has named its campaign, “From Gaza: hand in hand to save the children of Somalia.” When a people with such limited means of sustenance who are amongst the most dispossessed on earth, are ever ready to sacrifice for a people who are in an even worse situation than them, it gives hope to humanity.

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While we demonstrate our commitment to the plight of the Somali people, we should also try to understand the root causes of the famine. The drought, highlighted by the media, is undoubtedly a cause. But it is not the only cause. Somalia does not have a functioning government. For the better part of the last 20 years since the ouster of President Said Barre, it has seen nothing but lawlessness and anarchy. If it had a government that exercised authority and power, there may not be any mass starvation. In the mid-seventies, there was also a prolonged drought in Somalia but it did not lead to widespread hunger because there was a government that acted quickly. Somalia’s famine is also due in part to constant foreign intervention and interference in its internal affairs. Under the guise of the UN’s humanitarian intervention program, the United States sought to determine the direction of Somalia’s inter-clan politics in 1992 and 1993. Somalia’s oil potential, it is alleged, was one of the two underlying motives, the other being the geostrategic significance of the Horn of Africa. US intervention failed miserably leading to even greater chaos. After the Al-Qaeda dual embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the 9-11 episode in 2001, the US once again stuck its finger in the Somali pie. It provided material support to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in order to stem the growing popularity of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). The UIC in fact succeeded in establishing a fairly stable government in 2006 which guaranteed law and order for a short while. But the US, working hand- in- glove with the government of Ethiopia, overthrew the Islamic group alleging that it had Al-Qaeda links. Remnants from the UIC formed a mass guerrilla movement which controls large parts of the country and even captured most of the capital, Mogadishu, in May 2009. The on-going civil war is

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a huge impediment to the delivery of food supplies to the starving. Food delivery has been further compromised by an earlier US-UN imposed blockade of areas under the control of one of the militant offshoots of the UIC, AlShabaab. The Al-Shabaab, in turn, has prevented international food aid agencies from reaching its strongholds for fear of losing control over them. Needless to say, it is the poor and hungry who are the victims of this tussle for power. Somalia underscores the vital importance of an effective functioning government capable of looking after its people that is not, at the same time, the pawn of foreign powers. -15 August 2011.

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CHAPTER 32

MEDITERRANEAN CATASTROPHES: TIME THAT THE PEOPLE OF EUROPE STOOD UP About a fortnight ago --- just before midnight on the 18th of April 2015 --- the Mediterranean witnessed one of the greatest catastrophes that has ever occurred on its waters. More than 800 migrants in a small fishing boat were drowned off the coast of Libya as a result of a collision with another vessel. This was the latest in a series of tragedies of this sort. Just before the 18th April episode, there were two other shipwrecks that left 450 people dead. In September 2014, 500 migrants drowned when the traffickers navigating their boat rammed it in an attempt to force the passengers on board to get into another smaller vessel. In October 2013, 360 Africans perished when their tiny boat caught fire within sight of the Italian coast. There is clear evidence now to show that migrants packed into untrustworthy boats dying in various disasters on the Mediterranean is increasing at an alarming rate. This year, up to the end of April, at least 1750 of them were killed crossing the Mediterranean. This is 30 times more than for the same period in 2014! These desperate, largely poor migrants are from different countries. Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis, Sudanese (both North and South), Somalians, Eritreans, Malians and even Bangladeshis would be some of the nationalities involved. The vast majority of them are fleeing to Europe from the turmoil and chaos in their countries, often typified by unbearable violence, or are seeking to escape grinding

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poverty and gnawing hunger. The media portrays their countries as “failed or “failing” states. What the media does not highlight is the role of certain Western governments in creating the chaos and violence in a number of these so-called failed states. In the case of Libya for instance which now supplies some of the traffickers and generates many of the migrants, it was the NATO engineered ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that set into motion the forces that are responsible for the current upheaval in the country, as a consequence of which there is no functioning government. Gaddafi’s violent overthrow --- it is worth emphasizing over and over again --- was primarily to enable French, American and other Western companies to control Libya’s vast oil reserves and to nip in the bud his plans to ensure that Africa would not be under the sway of Western imperial interests. Likewise, if hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their country in the last three years, including those who are trying to cross the Mediterranean, it is mainly because of a brutal, violent uprising orchestrated by the US and Israel, with the active collusion of regional actors such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and executed on the ground by fanatical religious bigots like the Jabhat alNusra and Daesh ( ISIL ) which seeks to eliminate Bashar al-Assad who is a critical link in the resistance to WesternIsraeli dominance over West Asia. Yet another example, it is the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 that triggered sectarian violence leading to the present instability which has now conduced to a situation where a group like Daesh is able to control a swathe of territory further driving Iraqis from home and hearth.

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Needless to say, the principal reasons for the imperial conquest of Iraq were control over oil and buttressing Israel’s position. Turning to another country in the Arab world which has produced a number of migrants seeking refuge in Europe, it appears that by helping to create South Sudan in pursuit of their own agenda, Western powers and Israel have only exacerbated an already dire situation. Somalia is another country which has only known perpetual instability since the early nineties partly because of US meddling through its proxies in the region. The inevitable outcome of this is the exodus of migrants as the Somali presence in a number of boat tragedies in the Mediterranean reveals. One can expect US collaboration with Saudi Arabia in the latter’s assault upon Yemen to give rise to yet another exodus, a portion of which will find its way to the Mediterranean. As with Libya, Syria and Iraq, US direct and indirect intervention in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries, sometimes abetted by other Western powers and Israel, has undoubtedly made life much worse for the affected people and in many instances forced them to brave the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean in search of security and certainty. In looking for solutions to the tragedies occurring in the Mediterranean, European governments and European civil societies should focus upon this paramount issue: how US, Israeli and other Western agendas aimed at control and dominance --- or hegemony --- have been a fundamental factor in creating chaos and instability thus compelling millions of men, women and children right across West Asia and North Africa (WANA) to risk their lives in the hope that they will reach other shores that will provide them with shelter and succor. This does not mean that there are no other causes for the outflow of people from WANA. Bad governance within a

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nation-state, especially massive corruption, oppression and religious and ethnic discrimination have all contributed to the exodus, to people fleeing the land of their birth and ancestry. But incontrovertible evidence convinces us that the determined drive by the US and its allies to pursue their hegemonic agenda in WANA and elsewhere has been the principal --- sometimes the root --- cause of people trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe for a better life. The people of Europe some of whom have been deeply moved by the 18th April catastrophe should demand that their governments cease to support a hegemonic power on the other side of the Atlantic or participate in hegemonic adventures that bring death to so many and cause so much pain and misery to their fellow human beings. -1 May 2015.

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CHAPTER 33

UPHEAVAL IN WANA : WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? WANA (West Asia and North Africa) has been engulfed in turmoil and upheaval for decades. What are the root causes of instability in this vital region of the world? An objective analysis would reveal that the elite interests of two states in WANA, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the drive for dominance and control over the region by the United States and its allies lie at the root of the perpetual conflict and violence that has brought so much death and destruction to WANA. Elite interests in the two states and US helmed hegemony are often inter-woven, though they sometimes operate along separate lines. Their total impact upon the region has been colossal. I shall begin with Israel which has been the single most de-stabilizing force in WANA. Israel. Since its illegal creation in 1948, Israel has been obsessed with its security. Its notion of security is different from that of perhaps almost every other state on earth. It equates its security with the exercise of total dominance and power over the entire region. This is one of the reasons why it has continued to annex Arab lands, expand its territory and entrench its settlements in the last 66 years.

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It used its 1948-9 war with its Arab neighbors for instance to gobble up more land just as it turned the six day war in June 1967 into a massive land grab exercise annexing Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in Palestine; parts of southern Lebanon; the Golan Heights in Syria; and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Since 1967, Israel has tightened its grip over the West Bank and East Jerusalem through unending expansion of settlements. In pursuit of its policy of aggrandizement, the Israeli elite invariably targets a state and its leader. In the fifties and sixties, it saw Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser as its mortal enemy not only because of Nasser’s opposition to Israel but also because of his ability to mobilize the Arab masses for a cause. This is why Israel joined hands with Britain and France in an attempt to foil Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956. They failed partly because the American President, Dwight Eisenhower, was openly critical of the action of Israel and its friends. After the Suez episode, Israeli leaders and pro-Israel lobbyists in the US adopted various strategies to ensure that the US government would privilege Israeli interests over everything else. When the 1967 war occurred, the US leadership was unequivocally committed to Israel, as it has been ever since. It is a reflection of the inordinate influence that Israel and its American lobbies exercise over the US Congress and the Senate, the White House, the upper echelons of the nation’s economic and financial hierarchies, the media, academe, and the entertainment world. It was US power and influence that helped to move Egypt out of the Soviet Union’s orbit a few years after Nasser’s death in 1970, into the US’s sphere. This was a triumph for

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Israel. It culminated in a US brokered peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1978. The one-sided treaty weakened Arab resistance to Israel and its policies. However, the following year, Israel suffered a major setback when the Iranian people overthrew their monarch, Reza Pahlavi, who was regarded as the gendarme of the US and its allies in WANA, in one of the most popular revolutions in history. As an aside, it should be mentioned that more than two decades before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, there was another noble and courageous attempt to assert Iranian independence by a nationalist, Mohammed Mossadegh, which was crushed by British intelligence and the CIA in 1953. Back to 1979, the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, and the Iranian Republic now became Israel’s foe. Together with the US and various states in WANA, Israel sought to undermine the Revolution --- though it was not directly involved in the eight year war imposed upon the fledgling republic by a number of Arab states led by Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The war which resulted in almost half a million deaths was manipulated by the US, abetted by Britain and a handful of other Western allies. It has now come to light that the US and Britain not only supplied chemical weapons to Saddam but also secretly built a germ weapons arsenal for the dictator. It is ironic that after the Iraq-Iran War ended in 1988, the Western powers turned against Iraq. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 was the reason. The invasion provided the excuse to increase US control over Kuwait, a long-time US ally, and to launch an attack on Iraq. Israel, for its part, had been antagonistic towards Saddam and Iraq since the late seventies, its association with Iraq during its war against Iran notwithstanding. It will

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be recalled that the Israeli air force unilaterally bombed an Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak in 1981. Israel’s antagonism towards Iraq was driven by a number of factors. Saddam, like Nasser, was staunchly proPalestine and anti-Israel. Iraq has huge oil reserves and was in the early years of Saddam’s rule, the second biggest oil exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Some of this oil wealth was utilized by Saddam to help the families of Palestinian martyrs. Saddam had also invested heavily in arms and in building a scientific infrastructure. For Israel, a leader with such a track record was a threat to her security. This is why Israel endorsed wholeheartedly the suffocating sanctions that the US and Britain, through the UN Security Council, imposed upon the Iraqi people from 1991 onwards. They were reputedly responsible directly or indirectly for the deaths of some 650,000 children in the nineties. When the US and Britain invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003, Israel understood that the security of Israel was one of the two real reasons, the other being oil. What this means is that if over three million people have died in Iraq since 1990, including the eight years of US occupation from 2003 to 2011, it was partly to protect Israel. Again, in one of the many twists in the politics of WANA, when the US introduced elections in Iraq in 2006, and the majority Shias came to power, the US, Israel and some Arab monarchies suddenly realized that the Shia-led government in Baghdad was more inclined to look towards Tehran. This was something that they did not bargain for. So they began spawning and supporting Sunni militant groups opposed to the Shia government.

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Thus Al-Qaeda became part of the Iraqi political landscape. The Machiavellian manipulation and exploitation of the Sunni-Shia dichotomy in Iraq and elsewhere intensified to the zenith. It was not just the rise of Shia power in Iraq that has created some apprehension among the Israeli elite. In Lebanon, since 2001 Shia military and political power has consolidated. It was a Shia grassroots movement, the Hezbollah that succeeded in thwarting the Israeli assault upon Lebanon in 2006. If the Israeli armed forces fear any people’s movement in WANA, it is Hezbollah. Linking Hezbollah to Iran is the Syrian leadership under Bashar Al-Assad who is from an Alewite (Shia) family. These are the three elements in what Israel regards as the most formidable opposition to its power in the region. Crushing this triumvirate is at the core of Israeli policy. It is also at the center of US strategies in the region since it views the Hezbollah, the Syrian leadership and Iran as adversaries of US hegemony. It is within this framework that one should appraise the attempt by various armed groups to oust Bashar Al-Assad since 2011. Israel has provided material assistance to some of these groups. Israel itself has conducted numerous military strikes against Syrian army positions. The armed insurgency, orchestrated by regional actors such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and global players like the US, Britain and France, has drawn thousands of foreign fighters from some 80 countries who regard the ouster of Assad as a “jihad.” The three and half year insurgency has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians and soldiers, apart from the insurgents themselves. For Israel, within the triumvirate it is Iran that it views as its implacable foe. The Israeli elite realizes that Iran’s military and scientific capabilities are more formidable than Iraq’s under Saddam Hussein. It is also a major oil and gas

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exporter. The leadership has a stronger mass base. It has enduring religious links within the region and adheres to a religious ideology that is distinguished by a high degree of personal sacrifice and collective commitment. It explains why Israel has gone all out to convince its patron and protector, the US, and European powers that Iran is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program under the guise of a peaceful nuclear energy program. Though Iran has declared that producing nuclear weapons is prohibited (haram) in Islam and has allowed extensive and intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities over a number of years, the Israeli elite continues to peddle lies about Iran’s nuclear intentions. It has even forged a key document and presented it to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to incriminate Iran. Computers at Iran’s nuclear facilities have been hacked. Israel has launched a cyber war against Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian scientists have been assassinated. In a sense, all these moves by Israel merely underscore its overwhelming obsession with security --- an obsession which bears no semblance to reality. It is an obsession, there is no need to emphasize, which is most aggressively expressed in Israel’s handling of the West Bank and Gaza. I have already taken note of the entrenchment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Gaza, often described as the “world’s biggest open-air prison” has been subjected to massive Israeli onslaughts on at least three occasions since 2008. In the latest, in July- August 2014, about 2,100 Palestinians were killed, a quarter of them children. Since 29 September 2000, at least 9,100 Palestinians have been killed. Almost always, Israeli leaders justify the killings in the name of Israeli security.

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Saudi Arabia. If security is Israel’s raison d’etre, protecting the throne of the House of Saud is the actual though unstated reason for many of the decisions and actions of the Saudi ruling class. As part of the endeavor to protect their throne, Saudi rulers have over the years taken into account some of the needs and aspirations of their own people and their neighbors while ensuring that royal power remains intact. This has been their approach towards the Palestinian cause. Formally, Saudi rulers have always supported the rights of the Palestinian people and provided financial and humanitarian assistance but they will not do anything that will jeopardize their relations with Washington and London who help to protect their throne --- and who at the same time safeguard the interests of Israel. Perhaps the exception was King Feisal who though a close ally of the West also sought to use oil as a tool to exact some concessions from the US for the Arab cause in the 1973 War. Saudi’s peripheral role in the politics of the region changed through two events in 1979. There was much consternation in Riyadh over the Iranian Revolution for a number of reasons. The Saudi elite saw the Revolution as a challenge to feudal monarchies in the region. Its egalitarian thrust articulated through Islam was also at total odds with the type of Wahabi Islam practiced by the House of Saud. For the Saudi elite the fact that Iranian Islam is Shia was also problematic since the majority of Muslims are Sunni. It was around this time that the Saudis began to present the Sunni-Shia dichotomy as a major theological and political schism. It is worth observing that when Iran was under a monarch, before 1979, the Saudi elite who

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enjoyed a close relationship with the king, Reza Pahlavi, did not see his Shia affiliation as a barrier! Saudi Arabia played a critical role in the war that followed against Iran, bankrolling to some extent the Iraq helmed, US backed, coalition. The Saudis were determined to stop the spread of a pro-republican, anti-monarchical Shia Islam diametrically different from Wahabism. The other event in 1979 which evoked a response from the Saudis was actually outside WANA. This was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Saudis worked hand in glove with the US, especially the CIA, in helping to create a huge network of freedom fighters --- the mujahideen --from a number of countries who travelled to Afghanistan to liberate the land from what was perceived as a godless invader. Pakistan’s leading intelligence service, the ISI, was also involved in this exercise. The significance of the entire Afghan episode for this analysis lies in the fact that some of the militant groups that emerged out of the conflict such as Al-Qaeda appear to have strong links to Saudi Arabia. The late Osama bin Laden for instance was a Saudi national with close ties to the Saudi elite. Fifteen out of the nineteen 911 hijackers were Saudi. It is alleged that established Saudi personalities helped fund the 9-11 operation. Sunni militants in Iraq fighting a Shia government are said to be supported by Saudi money. This money need not be from the State. It could be private individuals. And since the crisis in Syria erupted in March 2011, state and non-state actors from Saudi Arabia have been heavily involved in not only funding militants but also in arranging for the flow of arms and fighters to the country. Religious preachers from Saudi have been among the most vocal in mobilizing youths to go to Syria to fight an “infidel” Shia government allegedly oppressing the Sunni majority.

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It is the rhetoric of these Saudis conveyed through You Tube and Face Book that has had a huge impact upon Muslim youths from Kuala Lumpur and Karachi to Birmingham and Berlin. In other words, Saudi money and Saudi preachers have been a crucial factor in the worldwide mobilization of Sunnis against Shias in the context of the Syrian turmoil. What this means is that the Saudis and some other groups in WANA, both Arab and non-Arab, bear some responsibility at least for the growth of terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State (IS). One should add that a lot of the sermons of IS and other preachers of the same ilk are not only blatant distortions of religious teachings but also deceitful misrepresentations of the actual situation in Syria. What is really tragic is that these perversions of truth and reality have led to the death of thousands of mainly young people from so many different parts of the world. When we reflect on how Saudi Arabia has contributed to the upheaval in WANA and compare it to the role of Israel, we will discover that the most significant point of intersection is in their common opposition to Iran. 1979 was in a sense the trigger. For Israel it has been Iran’s challenge to its security in the form of its non-existent nuclear weapons program. For Saudi Arabia it is Iran and the alleged rise of Shia power in the region. It conceals to an extent intraregional rivalry between two states for power and influence. This brings us to the role of the US. The United States of America My analysis so far has provided numerous instances of how the US maintains its hegemony over WANA. This is a goal that has become more pronounced since the sixties

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though the US began to develop an interest in the region from the twenties. Oil was the starting-point. It explains why two oil rich monarchies in WANA, Saudi Arabia and Iran, were courted by the US at that time. US oil barons in fact were following in the footsteps of the British who had forged ties with the palace in both countries. There is no need to emphasize that the nation that has served longest as a conduit for the perpetuation of US hegemony in WANA is Saudi Arabia. Immediately after the second world war, a victorious US, through its control over Saudi oil, was able to shape the direction of the rise of Europe from the ashes of the war because Europe was so dependent upon Saudi and other oil exporting states in WANA. The US invariably seeks control over the production and sale of oil. The desire for control is what makes the US an hegemonic power. This has to be distinguished from seeking access to oil which is what most states do. It is partly because they want control over oil that Britain and the US chose to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003. It was also because of the desire for control that the US and other Western powers ousted Muammar Gaddafi and attempted to install proxies to rule oil-rich Libya in 2011. Invasion and ouster are perhaps extreme examples of the drive towards hegemony. As I have hinted, most of the time, US control over oil --- the life-blood of contemporary civilization --- within WANA is achieved through the cooperation and collusion of states like Saudi Arabia and the other oil-exporting Arab monarchies. Nearly all these monarchies --- it is only too apparent ---- are puppet regimes which are only too willing to help the US maintain a tight grip on the region’s oil taps. Saudi Arabia in particular is especially important to the US because it is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and the leading member of OPEC. To put it differently, the US

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exercises indirect control over OPEC. Since Saudi Arabia is also in some ways the de facto leader of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the US also has some influence over this 57 member inter-state organization. The significance of the US-Saudi nexus in perpetuating US hegemony has come to the fore again through a recent deal between the two which has resulted in the Saudis flooding the world market with cheap oil with the underlying motive of weakening Iran and Russia, nations which are heavily dependent upon oil and gas as their principal sources of revenue. According to the wellknown analyst, William Engdahl, this Saudi operation “is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading.” Saudi Arabia is not the only state in WANA that serves US hegemony. Nearly all of them facilitate US and Western hegemony in different ways and through different arrangements. There are well-equipped US military bases in a number of states, including Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. Bahrain for instance is home to the US’s Fifth Fleet. Turkey is a longstanding member of NATO. Western economic interests in the form of its multi-national corporations and its financial hubs and instruments dominate the region. Because US hegemony is overwhelming, any attempt on the part of a government or a movement in WANA to strike out on its own is bound to evoke a negative response from countries in the region and the US itself. This has happened on a few occasions. One of the more recent ones would be the gas pipeline agreement signed between the governments of Syria, Iran and Iraq in July 2011 which would have witnessed the construction of a pipeline that would have carried gas from an Iranian port near the huge South Pars gas field to Damascus via Iraq

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and eventually to Lebanon and from there to Europe. Qatar which has its own pipeline plan and was intending to supply gas to Europe was piqued by the agreement. This, it is alleged, was one of the reasons why it joined Saudi in a concerted effort to overthrow Syria’s Bashar AlAssad through funding terrorists and recruiting so-called Jihadists. Certain influential lobbies in Washington provided moral and material support to this effort since Assad was and is an opponent of US hegemony. Washington, it should be observed, also did something else which I have alluded to: it played Shias against Sunnis and Sunnis against Shias. Dividing and ruling or dividing and dominating their targets is what hegemonic or imperial powers have indulged in right through history. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some other states, are partners of the US in this diabolical game but with their own agenda. Israel is in the same category. Exploiting the Sunni-Shia divide is one of the many facets of hegemony which Israel and the US pursue together. It can be argued that since the sixties they have been partners in hegemony in the suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people, in the conquest of Iraq, in the drive to oust Assad in Syria and in the targeting of Iran. The convergence of US-Israeli interests in these hegemonic adventures conceals a deeper, symbiotic relationship between the two nations. I have already discussed how this relationship developed over time through the influence exerted by powerful Israeli Zionist lobbies in the US. It is largely because of this relationship that Israel has been able to secure what it wants from the wars it has fought and the assaults it has conducted in the region. No other nation on earth has been protected by hegemonic power to this extent. And the protected nation has been able to use and exploit the hegemon to such a degree that one wonders whether it is the US or Israel that sets US foreign policy in WANA.

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For many observers, it is a clear case of the tail wagging the dog. Israel and Saudi Arabia help to perpetuate US hegemony over WANA. The US in turn protects Israeli and Saudi interests. From all accounts, their relationship is solid and strong. And yet, cracks have appeared in their relationship of late. Why? What does it portend for the future? Conclusion. The Israeli and Saudi elites are annoyed and angry that the US and other western powers, together with Russia and China have entered into talks with Iran on its nuclear program. The aim is to reach a comprehensive agreement that will ensure that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons while continuing nuclear research for peaceful purposes which is the right of every sovereign state. Both sides are hoping to achieve agreement by November 24 2014. Once an agreement is forged, the Iranian leadership would want the US and Europe to lift all the unjust sanctions imposed upon Iran over many years. The sanctions have had an adverse impact upon the Iranian economy though it should be emphasized that even before the present round of harsh sanctions, the Iranian government had been open to negotiations on its nuclear program. In fact, the present President, Hassan Rouhani, was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator under Muhammad Khatami when the latter was President from 1997 to 2005. This willingness to negotiate, to seek an amicable solution, to end the sort of confrontation which may lead to war and violence, on the part of Iranian leaders such as

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Rouhani, Khatami and another former President, Rafsanjani, would be one of the reasons why there is a serious endeavor now (with the ascension of Rouhani) to resolve the nuclear issue once and for all. The Iranian people on the whole have always been inclined towards the peaceful resolution of disputes, as reflected in their political culture. For certain important reasons the present US leadership too may be a little more inclined towards a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue than say George Bush Junior was. A couple of these reasons may have something to do with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Israel’s cruel and callous treatment of Palestinians borne out by its systematic and periodic massacres of the poor and powerless inhabitants of Gaza since 2008 has begun to create some revulsion among Americans themselves. It is significant in this regard that a recent Google Consumer Survey in the US shows that 6 out of 10 Americans believe that the US gives too much aid to Israel. President Barack Obama himself has been less than enthusiastic about endorsing all the policies and actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank would be among those actions which has alienated many of his supporters in the US and more so in Europe. It is because of this that Obama and some others in Washington are now seeking some balance in the US’s approach to politics in WANA. Reaching out to Iran may be part of that shift. At the same time, there may also be some disillusionment in the corridors of power in Washington with the Saudi elites arising from their direct and oblique involvement with the brutal and barbaric violence of militant Wahabi oriented jihadi groups in Iraq and Syria. Of course, the US itself, as this analysis has revealed, has been colluding with these militant groups. Nonetheless, since their

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violence has become an acute embarrassment to all those who have been hobnobbing with the militants, US leaders now appear to be distancing themselves from the more obvious funders and sponsors of terror like the Saudi rulers. Besides, more Americans and Europeans today are aware of how retrogressive and atavistic the Saudi ruling class is on matters pertaining to women, human rights, and relations with non-Muslims and even other Muslim groups. The changing attitudes of US elites to Israeli and Saudi elites which are still in their nascent stage should be viewed against the backdrop of declining US and Western power itself. It is partly because the US and the West are no longer as dominant in the global economy as they once were, and are less capable of calling the shots on international issues of political and strategic import that their approach to political actors in WANA may also be changing somewhat. The US in particular has witnessed how in spite of all the attempts to emasculate Iran, it remains resilient. Tehran’s solid ties with Russia and China have enhanced its resilience and the US is aware of this. It is quite conceivable that some quarters in Washington realize the importance of coming to terms with a nation like Iran within this changing global landscape. To all these factors, one should also perhaps add the quiet, behind- the-scenes role of various individuals on both sides of the divide who are determined to lessen tensions and misunderstandings between the US and Iran. Some of these men and women are former diplomats. Their “track 2�dialogue over a few years has paved the way for the talks between Iran and the US and other powers which are now in their final stage. There is no guarantee that an agreement will be clinched. The obstacles are formidable. Israeli and Saudi opposition remains uncompromising. But if an agreement is finalized

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and it respects Iran’s right to pursue its peaceful nuclear program and at the same time leads to the elimination of sanctions against the country, it would have a huge impact upon WANA and the world. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia will have to adjust to a new political reality where their interests will not be assured any more of unequivocal endorsement from the US. This could well induce changes in their policies and politics towards their WANA neighbors. A new balance of power within WANA and between WANA and the US may have a salutary impact upon regional and world politics. -2 November 2014.

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CHAPTER 34

OUSTING A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED LEADER IN UKRAINE AND ELSEWHERE If Ukraine is on the brink of a catastrophe, it is mainly because the present regime in Kiev and its supporters, backed by certain Western powers had violated a fundamental principle of democratic governance. They had ousted a democratically elected president through illegal means. President Viktor Yanukovich who had come to power through a free and fair election in 2010 should have been removed through the ballot-box. His opponents not only betrayed a democratic principle. They subverted a ‘Peace Deal’ signed between them and Yanukovich on 21 February 2014 in which the latter had agreed to form a national unity government within 10 days that would include opposition representatives; reinstate the 2004 Constitution; relinquish control over Ukraine’s security services; and hold presidential and parliamentary elections by December 2014. According to the Deal, endorsed by Germany, France and Poland, Yanukovich would remain president until the elections. His co-signatories had no intention of honouring the agreement. Without following procedures, parliament, with the backing of the military, voted immediately to remove Yanukovich and impeach him. The Parliamentary Speaker was elected interim President and after a few days a new regime was installed. One of the first acts of parliament was to proclaim that Ukrainian is the sole official language of the country, thus downgrading the Russian language, the mother-tongue of one-fifth of the population. Anti-Russian rhetoric which had become more strident than ever in the course of the

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protest against the Yanukovich government has reached a crescendo in the wake of the overthrow of the government. The protest gives us an idea of some of the underlying issues that have brought Ukraine to the precipice. There was undoubtedly a great deal of anger in the Western part of the country, including Kiev, over the decision of the Russian-backed Yanukovich to reject closer economic ties with the European Union (EU) in favour of financial assistance from Moscow. It explains to some extent the massive demonstrations of the last few months. Police brutality, corruption within government circles, and cronyism associated with Yanukovich had further incensed the people. But these legitimate concerns tell only one side of the story. The protest movement had also brought to the fore neo-Nazis and fascists sworn to violence. Armed and organized groups such as the Svoboda and the Right Sector provide muscle power to the protest. They are known to have targeted Jewish synagogues and Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches. It is the militias associated with these groups that are in control of street politics in Kiev. Elites in Germany, France, Britain, the United States and within the NATO establishment as a whole are very much aware of the role of neo-Nazi and fascist elements in the protest and in the current Kiev regime. Indeed, certain American and European leaders had instigated the demonstrators and were directly involved in the machinations to bring down the Yanukovich government. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland, had in her infamous telephone conversation with the US Ambassador to Ukraine admitted that her country had spent 5 billion US dollars promoting anti-Russian groups in Ukraine. For the US and the EU, control over Ukraine serves at least two goals. It expands their military reach through NATO right up to the doorstep of Russia,

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challenging the latter’s time-honored relationship with its strategic neighbor. It brings Ukraine within the EU’s economic sphere. Even as it is, almost half of Ukraine’s 35 billion dollar debt is owed to Western banks which would want the country to adopt austerity measures that would remunerate the banks. It is largely because of these geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is flexing his military muscles in Crimea, in the eastern Ukraine region, which not only has a preponderantly Russian-speaking population but is also home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Besides, Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilization. This is why Putin will go all out to protect Russian interests in Ukraine, but at the same time, there is every reason to believe that he will avoid a military confrontation and try to work out a political solution based upon the Peace Deal. The catastrophe in Ukraine reveals five dimensions in the politics of the ouster of democratically elected governments. One, the determined drive to overthrow the government by dissidents and opponents which is often uncompromising. Two, the exploitation of genuine people related issues and grievances. Three, the mobilization of a significant segment of the populace behind these mass concerns. Four, the resort to violence through militant groups often with a pronounced right-wing orientation. Five, the forging of strong linkages between domestic anti-government forces and Western governments and other Western actors, including banks and NGOs, whose

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collective aim is to perpetuate Western control and dominance or Western hegemony. Some of these dimensions are also present in Venezuela where there is another concerted attempt to oust a democratically elected government. Some genuine economic grievances related to the rising cost of living and unemployment are being manipulated and distorted to give the erroneous impression that the Maduro government does not care for the people. President Maduro, it is alleged, is suppressing dissent with brutal force. The truth is that a lot of the violence is emanating from groups linked to disgruntled elites who are opposed to the egalitarian policies pursued by Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez. They are disseminating fake pictures through social media as part of their false propaganda about the Venezuelan government’s violence against the people --- pictures which have now been exposed for what they are by media analysts. Support for this propaganda and for the street protests in Venezuela comes from US foundations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It has been estimated that in 2012 alone, the NED gave more than 1.3 million dollars to organizations and projects in Venezuela ostensibly to promote “human rights,” “democratic ideas” and “accountability.” The majority of Venezuelans have no doubt at all that this funding is to undermine a government which is not only determined to defend the nation’s independence in the face of Washington’s dominance but is also pioneering a movement to strengthen regional cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean as a bulwark against the US’s hegemonic agenda.

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It is because other countries in the region such as Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Paraguay know what the US elite is trying to do in Venezuela that they have described “the recent violent acts” in the country “ as attempts to destabilize the democratic order.” A third country where a democratically elected leader is under tremendous pressure from street demonstrators at this juncture is Thailand. Though some of the issues articulated by the demonstrators are legitimate, the fact remains that they do not represent majority sentiment which is still in favor of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. As in Ukraine and Venezuela, violence --- albeit on a much lower scale --- has seeped into the struggle for power between the incumbent and the protesters. However, foreign involvement is not that obvious to most of us. Both Yingluck and the protest movement are regarded as pro-Western. Nonetheless, there are groups in Washington and London who perceive the current government in Bangkok as more inclined towards China compared to the opposition Democratic Party or the protesters. Is this one of the reasons why a section of the mainstream Western media appears to be supportive of the demonstrations? There are a number of other instances of democratically elected leaders being overthrown by illegal means. The most recent --- in July 2013 --- was the unjust ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt. In 1973, President Salvador Allende of Chile was killed in a coup engineered by the CIA. Another democratically elected leader who was maneuvered out of office and jailed as a result of a British-US plot was Mohammed Mosaddegh of Iran in 1953.

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It is only too apparent that in most cases the ouster of democratically elected leaders have been carried out directly or indirectly by the self-proclaimed champions of democracy themselves! It reveals how hypocritical they are. What really matters to the elites in the US, Britain and other Western countries is not democracy but the perpetuation of their hegemonic power. Hegemony, not democracy, has always been their object of worship. -4 March 2014.

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CHAPTER 35

MH 17: WHO STANDS TO GAIN? The Russian military has released military monitoring data which challenge allegations circulating in the media pertaining to the MH 17 crash in the Donetsk Region of Eastern Ukraine on July 17 2014. Questions have been raised about Kiev military jets tracking MH 17, Ukrainian air traffic controllers and the deployment of Buk missile systems. Kiev should also release military data on the circumstances leading to the crash. So should the Pentagon which reportedly has relevant intelligence and satellite data. Since military data is hardcore information, Kiev and Washington should be persuaded to be transparent and accountable. The UN Secretary-General can play a role in this since there is a specialized agency within the UN, the ICAO, dedicated to international civil aviation. Military data from Moscow, Kiev and Washington should be scrutinized by the independent international panel that is supposed to probe the MH 17 catastrophe. Such data carries much more weight than videos purportedly revealing the role of the pro-Russian rebels and the Russian government in the crash. One such video showing a Buk system being moved from Ukraine to Russia is a fabrication. The billboard in the background establishes that it was shot in a town --- Krasnoarmeisk --- that has been under the control of the Ukrainian military since May 11. Similarly, a You Tube video showing a Russian General and Ukrainian rebels discussing their role in mistakenly downing a civilian aircraft was, from various tell-tale signs, produced before the event.

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The public should be wary of fabricated “evidence” of this sort, after what we have witnessed in the last so many years. Have we forgotten the monstrous lies and massive distortions that accompanied the reckless allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which led eventually to the invasion of that country in 2003 and the death of more than a million people? Iraq continues to bleed to this day. What about the Gulf of Tonkin episode of 1964 which again was a fabrication that paved the way for wanton US aggression against Vietnam that resulted in the death of more than 3 million Vietnamese? The “babies in incubators” incident in Kuwait in 1990 was yet another manufactured lie that aroused the anger of the people and served to justify the US assault on Iraq. Just last year we saw how an attempt was made by some parties to pin the blame for a sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria upon the Assad government when subsequent investigations have revealed that it was the work of some militant rebel group. From Tonkin to Ghouta there is a discernible pattern when it comes to the fabrication of evidence to justify some nefarious agenda or other. As soon as the event occurs before any proper investigation has begun, blame is apportioned upon the targeted party. This is done wilfully to divert attention from the real culprit whose act of evil remains concealed and camouflaged. The colluding media then begins to spin the “correct” version with the help of its reporters and columnists who concoct “fact” out of fiction. Any other explanation or interpretation of the event is discredited and dismissed derisively to ensure that the “credibility” of the dominant narrative remains intact. As the narrative unfolds, the target often embodied in a certain personality is demonized to such a degree that

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he arouses the ire of the public and becomes an object of venom. The pattern described here is typical of what is known as a “false flag” operation in which blame for some dastardly deed is consciously transferred to one’s adversary. It has happened right through history and many contemporary nation-states --- and not just the United States --- are guilty of flying false flags. To protect ourselves from being deceived by such operations, the general public should always ask: who stands to gain from a particular episode? Cui Bono is in fact an important principle in the investigation of a crime. In the case of the MH 17 carnage, the pro-Russian rebels do not benefit in any way from downing a civilian airliner. Their goal is independence from the Kiev government which is why they are fighting Kiev through sometimes violent means including shooting down its military planes. Massacring 298 passengers in a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur does not serve their cause. Moscow which backs the rebels to an extent also gains nothing from involving itself in such a diabolical carnage. 10 days after the carnage, it is now clear who is trying to reap benefits from that terrible tragedy in the skies. The demonization of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, orchestrated from various Western capitals, including Kiev, after Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation, thus thwarting one of the primary strategic goals of NATO’s eastward expansion, has now reached its pinnacle. After MH 17, it has become a lot easier to convince people--- even without an iota of evidence --that Putin is a “mass murderer”. The tarnishing of Putin’s image is crucial for those in the West who want to curb Russia’s political re-assertion so that the US and its allies can perpetuate their global dominance without hindrance.

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MH 17 has helped the elite in Washington in yet another sense. It has strengthened its push for tougher sanctions against Russia which began after the Crimea vote. Given their extensive economic ties with Russia, many European countries such as Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy have been somewhat lukewarm about widening and deepening sanctions. But will that change now? Will an outraged European public, incensed by the MH 17 massacre, demand that their governments punish Moscow? It is obvious that those who seek to punish Russia and the pro-Russian rebels, namely, the elite in Washington and Kiev, are poised to gain the most from the MH 17 episode. Does it imply that they would have had a role in the episode itself? Only a truly independent and impartial international inquiry would be able to provide the answer. In this regard, we must admit that while elites in Kiev and Washington may stand to gain from MH 17, those who actually pulled the trigger may be some other group or individual with links to the powerful in the two capitals. It is quite conceivable that a certain well-heeled individual equipped with the appropriate military apparatus and with access to air-control authorities in the region may have executed the act of evil itself. Because of who he is, and where his loyalties lie, that individual may have also decided to target Malaysia. Was he giving vent to his anger over our principled stand on the question of justice for the Palestinians? Was he also attempting to divert public attention from Israel’s ground offensive against Gaza which time-wise coincided with the downing of the Malaysian airliner?

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As we explore MH 17 from this angle, would we be able to connect the dots between MH 17 and MH 370, between July 17 and March 8, 2014? We should not rest till the whole truth is known and the evil behind these two colossal catastrophes punished severely. We owe this to every soul who perished on those fateful flights. (This article is dedicated to the cherished memory of all those on MH 17 --- especially the 80 children who were on board). -26 July 2014.

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CHAPTER 36

MH 17: THE QUESTIONS REMAIN ONE YEAR AFTER Tears flowed freely at the memorial held in Kuala Lumpur on 11 July 2015 to remember the victims of the MH 17 tragedy — the Malaysian airline that was blown out of the skies a year ago on 17 July 2014. The tragedy remains deeply etched upon the collective memory of the Malaysian nation, as it continues to wrench the hearts of all those who lost their loved ones from so many different countries, notably the Netherlands and Australia. The families of the victims from all these countries and indeed, people everywhere want those responsible for this heinous crime to be punished severely. They yearn for justice. It was this desire for justice that prompted the Malaysian Government to distribute a draft resolution on 8 July 2015 among UN Security Council members which called for the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the shooting of MH 17 over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. The Malaysian resolution was co-sponsored by the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. It was vetoed by Russia. Why did Russia which was the first to release military monitoring data on the downing of the aircraft and which has consistently insisted that justice and truth should be upheld in the course of the investigation, choose to kill the move to establish a tribunal? Its Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, argued that the results of the investigation should be finalized and the full report completed before a tribunal is set up. He did not want the tribunal to be manipulated to impede the goal of finding out who the actual culprits are. A number of independent investigators agree with the Russian position. They have in fact gone even further and questioned the entire investigation partly because of the role of Ukraine in it. How can Ukraine which it is alleged


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by some quarters may have been complicit in the attack on the aircraft itself be part of the investigation? And worse, how can one expect the findings to be honest and unbiased when there is an agreement signed by four nations that are pivotal to the investigation, namely, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and Ukraine, on 8 August 2014 that the results of the investigation can only be announced if they have the consent of all four parties ? Making unanimity among themselves a condition in effect gives Ukraine an effective veto over the decisionmaking process. It has also been pointed out by one well-known investigative historian, Eric Zuesse, that the investigation has downplayed what he calls the “highest-quality item of evidence” available. The evidence he has in mind is the side-panel of the cockpit next to where the plane’s pilot was sitting. That side-panel “has an enormous gash shot through it — This gash is a few feet in diameter, and its ragged edge shows that it was caused not by a huge object like a cannonball but instead by a fusillade of much smaller projectiles that had been fired at the pilot and which ripped through the panel to his body, and killed him.” It lends weight to the view that a Ukrainian military jet(s) tracking MH 17 rather than a Buk System from the ground had shot the plane. Zuesse and investigative journalists such as Robert Parry, author of “MH-17 Case Slips into Propaganda Fog” (9 July 2015) and Christof Lehmann “MH17 — The Methodology of an international Cover-Up,” (3 July 2015) have become increasingly skeptical of the Dutch led investigation for yet another reason. All their attempts to obtain independent verifiable data have not been successful. These include requests for a certified copy of radar data released by the Russian Ministry of Defense, certified copies of communications between Ukrainian Air Traffic Controllers and the flight crew on board the illfated airline and the Comma Separated Variable (CSV) file from the plane’s flight data recorder. This lack of

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transparency creates serious doubts about the integrity of the investigation. There is perhaps an even bigger problem. The investigation has not tried to link the tragedy to larger geopolitical issues. The critical question of who benefitted from the massacre in the skies has not been accorded much attention. And yet it is obvious that the massacre was used to not only demonize Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and thwart Russia’s political and military re-assertion but also to intensify sanctions against Russia. Before the 17th July massacre, European allies of the United States such as Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy were somewhat lukewarm about the US’s drive to widen and deepen sanctions against Russia. But after that dastardly episode, European public opinion changed dramatically. Because people were so incensed by the mass murder of innocent travelers which they blamed upon the Russian government, they were more than willing to endorse their governments’ imposition of sanctions against Russia. Unless all these and other issues are addressed in the final report of the investigators, the truth about what really happened on 17 July 2014 will not be known. Justice will not be done to the victims of one of the greatest tragedies of our time. The Malaysian government which has a copy of the draft of the report and is now required to provide feedback before the report is released at the end of the year, has the opportunity to ensure that neither truth nor justice is sacrificed at the altar of power and pragmatism. -15 July 2015.

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POSTSCRIPT The final report of the investigators, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) was released on 13 October 2015. The report states that the plane was “struck by a 9N314M warhead as carried on a 9M38-series missile and launched by a BUK surface-to-air missile system.� It gives various reasons for reaching this conclusion. The mainstream global media has repeatedly emphasized the fact that the BUK system was Russian made. The Russian missile manufacturer, Almaz-Antey, has shown through two experiments that the BUK missile that brought down MH 17 was an older version whose usage Russia had decommissioned in 2011. However, there are still scores of the older BUK around, owned by a number of countries including Ukraine. The missiles that the Russian army now owns no longer contain shrapnel in the shape of butterflies that were found on the fuselage of MH 17. The butterfly imprint incidentally is associated with older BUK. Critics of the DSB report have also pointed out that it was deliberately vague about the actual location of the launch site of the missile. Almaz-Antey, among others, is of the view that based upon careful calculations the missile was launched from a village 7 kilometers south of Shakhtorsk. In July 2014 that area was under the control of the Ukrainian army. A third perhaps even more convincing argument against the DSB report is related to US data. Why is there no mention in the report of US satellite and radar data? We know that such data were available from comments made by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, three days after the plane was shot down. Is it possible that the data were not included because some of it contradicted the conclusion drawn by the report? In this regard, data from Russian satellites were also not considered because the video information that was the basis of their data could not be verified. Data from Ukrainian military radar could not be examined because the system was down due to a maintenance problem. What this suggests is that the only raw data source that one can fall back upon is what the US possesses.

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Compelling the US to be honest and transparent about its data on MH 17 is the real challenge facing us. It is obvious that the DSB is not going to do it, given its performance so far. Perhaps the DSB’s inconclusive investigation has to be taken over by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which in the formal sense has the authority to conduct a thorough, comprehensive inquiry into the MH tragedy. The ICAO would at least be in a better position than the DSB to urge the US, and perhaps Ukraine, to cooperate fully with what is after all an international body. This is what we should all insist upon now: an ICAO investigation, rather than the setting up a tribunal which may command less credibility than ICAO. -21 November 2015.

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CHAPTER 37

THE BLOCKADE AGAINST CUBA — AN ASSAULT UPON HUMANITY’S CONSCIENCE. There are few other issues in international politics on which the nations of the world have been so totally united over so many years. On 29 October 2013, for the 22nd consecutive year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) called for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. 188 states supported the Resolution, 2 voted against it, namely the US and Israel, while 3 (Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau) abstained. In 1992, when the Resolution against the unjust blockade was first introduced in the UNGA, the vote was 59 against 2 (the US and Israel). 10 years later, in 2002, it was 173 against 3. The Marshall Islands joined the US and Israel. In 2012, it was 188 against 3, this time Palau teamed up with the two anti-Cuba states. It is not just the UNGA that has condemned the blockade. Various UN agencies — The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have all at different times criticized the trade sanctions against Cuba. Religious institutions, human rights groups and prominent international figures, from Muhammad Ali to Jimmy Carter, have also pleaded with the US government to lift the blockade. Why is the whole world against the blockade which prohibits US firms from selling or buying any product or service from Cuba? The blockade denies Cuba access to technology which would have helped to boost the efforts of the government to raise the standard of living of

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the people. It also prohibits trade and commerce with one of the world’s biggest markets which in turn would have increased Cuba’s national revenue and contributed to its economic growth and development. It has been estimated for instance that the blockade which began in 1961 has deprived Cuba of 1.126 trillion US dollars over the last 52 years. Governments and peoples everywhere cannot comprehend why the world’s only superpower would want to strangulate a small, poor country of 11 million people with meagre resources which — contrary to what the US elite says — poses no threat to its security! It is because the US blockade is such a travesty of justice that the human family has come together over and over again to defend Cuba. Starkly put, the blockade is an assault upon the collective conscience of humanity. US leaders have sought to justify the blockade as a sort of punitive measure against an allegedly gross violator of human rights. While there have been transgressions against civil and political liberties, the US establishment ignores the fact that there is considerable grassroots participation in political decision-making in Cuba and a great deal of debate on public policies which includes criticisms of the political leadership. In any case, the US which is more of a plutocracy than a democracy has not been able to ensure some of the fundamental rights of its own citizens, including their right to affordable health care. Worse still, it has in the decades that the blockade has been in force, colluded and conspired with harsh, brutal dictatorships in numerous countries with a hideous reputation for suppressing their people. The real reason why the US imposed the blockade in 1960 was because of the Cuban Revolution of 1959. It was a popular Revolution which swept aside a regime which was a mere US puppet. Since then, Cuba has been steadfast in its determination to chart its own destiny in spite of all the attempts by its huge neighbor to crush it. Apart from trade sanctions, the Cuban people have withstood a botched invasion, germ warfare, terrorist

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attacks and numerous plots to assassinate the leader of their Revolution, Fidel Castro. If the resilience of the leadership and the people has incensed the US elite it is also because of Cuba’s embrace of Marxism and its close relationship with the Soviet Union in the era of the Cold War. Though the Cold War ended in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, US elite antagonism towards Cuba has not abated. The only explanation for this is because the Cuban nation insists on its independence and refuses to submit to US hegemonic power. What is even more remarkable is the progress that Cuba has made in crucial spheres of society since 1959. Its health care programme — one doctor to 159.2 persons — is universally acknowledged as an outstanding accomplishment, without precedence or parallel. It has also succeeded in ensuring full literacy, access to education from kindergarten to university for a huge section of its populace, gender equality in most areas and harmonious inter-ethnic relations in a multi-ethnic society which before the Revolution was marred by White racist attitudes. Within the Global South, Cuba is one of those countries that has established a sound scientific base and has done commendable research in medicine and biotechnology. All this does not mean that Cuba has overcome the many challenges that confront it. It is trying hard to incorporate the strengths of the market — individual enterprise, private ownership of property in specific spheres, a notion of reasonable profits — into its economy. It is also seeking to enhance public accountability and reinforce the rule of law.

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Nonetheless, there is no doubt at all that the Cuban leadership has, over the decades, looked after its people better than many other governments in the Global North and the Global South. Is that one of the reasons why the US is hell-bent on perpetuating its blockade? Is it because Cuba is an example that it does not want others to emulate? If a small nation under such enormous pressures can achieve so much what sort of message does it send to people in other countries who are also determined to resist US, or any other, hegemonic power? If this is one of the motives behind the blockade, then it has obviously failed. In the last 10 to 15 years, Cuba has emerged as an inspiration to a number of Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador which are also keen to shape their own futures without the hegemonic dictation of the US. It suggests that the inhuman, unjust blockade of 52 years has been defeated — in accordance with the will of the people of the world! -13 November 2013.

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CHAPTER 38

CUBA: END THE BLOCKADE IMMEDIATELY! A Resolution on “ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” will once again be presented to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 27 October 2015. There is a special significance about bringing the Resolution, overwhelmingly endorsed by the UNGA for 23 consecutive years, to the attention of the world body this time. It is happening after the US restored diplomatic relations with Cuba on 17 December 2014. The announcement on the restoration of diplomatic relations was followed by the return of three Cuban antiterrorist fighters who had been unjustly imprisoned in the US for years. President Barack Obama also informed the US Congress that he was removing Cuba from the list of States “sponsoring international terrorism” --- a list which should never have included Cuba in the first instance since Cuba had been a victim of US engineered terrorism for decades, dramatized by the bombing of one of its civilian aircraft in 1976 that killed a large number of schoolchildren. Obama has also urged the Congress to put an end to the US blockade against Cuba. Some restrictions pertaining to travel to Cuba, telecommunications and remittances have been relaxed. But the blockade remains. Any entity that engages in any financial, commercial or other economic activities with Cuba continues to be penalized. A huge fine for instance was imposed upon a German bank in March 2015 just as an American company was subjected to a severe penalty for allegedly violating the blockade. In the last eight years or so, 42 fines have

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been imposed upon US and foreign entities amounting to more than 13 billion US dollars. The US blockade, needless to say, impacts adversely upon every sector of Cuban society, from food and health care to education and sports. If Cuba could buy goods and products from the US market --- rather than from some faraway country --- it could have saved billions and billions of dollars. In fact, it has been calculated that the 54 year old blockade has cost the Cuban economy more than 1.1 trillion dollars. This money could have been used to raise the standard of living of the Cuban people. It is because the blockade continues to impede Cuban development that many governments and civil society organizations in various parts of the world have called for its elimination since it was first introduced in 1961. The calls have become louder and louder over the decades. Last year when the UNGA voted on the Resolution to end the blockade, 188 member states supported the Resolution while only two opposed it and three abstained. The two opposing votes came from the US and Israel and the three states that abstained were Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau. Since Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, many US civic leaders, Church figures and former public officials have openly demanded that the unjust, inhuman, immoral blockade be terminated immediately. Even current leaders have spoken up. In early October 2015, nine US State Governors sent a letter to the leadership of the US Senate and House of Representatives urging an end to the blockade and emphasizing the benefits of such a move to US’s agricultural industries. More significantly, a Pew Research Center poll conducted in July 2015 showed that 72% of

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the US population wants an end to the blockade, up from 66% in January 2015. The only remaining major obstacle now is the US Congress. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by the Republicans and Republicans as a whole (there are a number of exceptions) are ideologically more averse to a socialist state like Cuba than the Democrats. Besides, there is a small but influential Cuban-American caucus in both the House of Representatives and Senate that is as antagonistic as ever to the Castro government in Havana. Both the outgoing House Speaker, John Boehner, and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, are against normalization of ties with Cuba. This is why after the October 27 vote in the UN General Assembly --- expected to be almost unanimous in favor of the lifting of the blockade --- a multi-national panel comprising representatives of governments that would have endorsed the Cuban position should seek a formal meeting with the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader to convey to them the feelings of the people of the world about the decades old suffocating embargo against a small nation of eleven million whose only wish is to preserve its independence, its sovereignty and its dignity. The leaders and members of the US Congress should be told in no uncertain terms that they cannot continue to ignore the voice of the international community, and indeed, the voice of their own people. If they fail to end the blockade now, if they fail to act out of a sense of justice and fairness, they will be damned forever and consigned to the rubbish heap of history. -18 October 2015.

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CHAPTER 39

THE CUBAN FIVE : TERRORISM AS A WEAPON OF HEGEMONY Once again, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) joins hands with the people of Cuba and justiceloving people in every nook and cranny of the planet, in demanding the immediate release of the three remaining prisoners from the Cuban Five who are still languishing in US jails, after 13 years. Two were released after completing their prison terms --Rene Gonzales on the 7th of October 2011, and Fernando Gonzales on the 27th of February 2014. It is important to emphasize that they walked to freedom with their dignity intact. The three who are still in jail --- Gerardo Hernandez, Antonio Guerrero and Ramon Labanino --- deserve our fullest support and solidarity. We should continue to campaign for them with all our heart and soul. To reiterate, the imprisonment of all five is a travesty of justice. The Cuban Five were monitoring Cuban exile groups in the US in the nineties who had a proven record of committing terrorist acts against the Cuban people. They were gathering information about the terrorist missions that these groups were planning and had informed the US authorities about what they (the Cuban Five) were doing. And yet they were arrested and jailed after an unfair and unjust trial. If the Cuban Five working under the direction of the Cuban government was determined to expose terrorist activities being carried out against their motherland from US soil, it was mainly because Cuba and its leadership had been victims of US sponsored terror and violence for decades. In 1976, a Cuban commercial plane with 73 passengers on board, a number of them school children, was bombed, killing everyone.

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The alleged mastermind of this terrorist act, Luis Posada Carriles, is still alive, protected by the US government. There was also an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba by groups in the US in 1961, the infamous ‘Bay of Pigs’ fiasco. A series of terrorist attacks targeting hotels and tourists in the nineties sought to cripple the Cuban economy. And there have been innumerable attempts to assassinate the Leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, right through the 47 years that he was in power. Add to all this the crippling economic sanctions imposed upon Cuba by every US Administration since 1961 and we will get a complete picture of how a small nation of 11 million people has had to endure the terror unleashed against it by its superpower neighbor. Why has Cuba been the target of terrorism in all its manifestations for so long? The reason is simple. The US elite will not accept in its neighborhood, a nation which is determined to choose its own path to the future without being dictated to, or dominated by, the US. It will not tolerate a people who are committed to defending their independence and sovereignty. To put it in another way, the US drive for hegemony does not permit another nation--- especially a nation with a different worldview --to preserve and enhance its dignity. This hegemonic attitude is borne out by the US’s treatment of other countries in Latin America. Whenever a nation steps out of line, the US line, it is clobbered. Sometimes through terror and violence. Look at Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, at different times and in different circumstances. Even in West Asia, terror has been employed to both undermine governments which want to maintain a degree of independence from the US and the West and to create instability and chaos in society.

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This is the story of Somalia and Sudan, of Libya and Lebanon, of Iraq and Syria. In Southeast Asia too, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians and Laotians have all experienced US terror, just as the people of the Philippines had in the past. Weren’t the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also exposed to a US “rain of terror” in 1945? Let’s be clear about this. Terrorism is a tool for dominance and control. Terrorism is a weapon of hegemony. The US --- like some other states too—uses this weapon in both ways. It employs terror when it suits its interests. It also fights against terrorism when it serves its agenda. This is why for the US there are “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists.” It is quite happy to collude with the former and crush the latter. This was obvious in Iraq following the Anglo-American occupation of the land in 2003. In the initial phase the occupier encouraged the Shia militias to fight the Sunni remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime. Once the Shias got into power through the democratic process and moved closer to Iran, the US became worried and backed Sunni militias fighting the Shia dominated government. Now of course, Sunni-Shia clashes, compounded by various other forces, have assumed a life of their own. In Syria, it is an open secret that the US and other Western and regional actors have been actively involved in supporting the armed rebels against the Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus. Some of the rebels are favored more than others by the US just as other rebels are linked to some of the other external players. The good terrorists from the US perspective receive a lot of assistance including weapons and funds through

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channels connected to US allies in the region. Are there bad terrorists in the Syrian conflict? While the US may not approve of the tactics used by some of the rebels, it has refrained from strong denunciation of them since it shares their overriding objective of eliminating Assad. So it is Assad who is the bad terrorist in the eyes of the US. Assad is bad because he has been consistent in his opposition to US-Israeli hegemony over West Asia. There is parallel of sorts to the Cuban situation. All those individuals and groups opposed to the Cuban government, however violent they may be, are good terrorists and have been bestowed with all kinds of aid by US agencies through various conduits. Fidel Castro, and his successor, Raul Castro, are the bad ones. Fidel in particular was demonized in the mainstream Western media as few other leaders had been. Needless to say, it was because of his principled position against US helmed hegemony, articulated with such depth and clarity, that a grossly negative image of the man was disseminated through the media. But Fidel Castro and the Cuban Five have demonstrated that in the ultimate analysis truth will triumph. Today, Fidel commands a lot of respect and affection among ordinary men and women everywhere for what he has accomplished for his people and indeed for the people of Latin America and the Global South. Similarly, the cause of the Cuban Five has become one of the major rallying-points in the worldwide struggle for human freedom and human dignity because it symbolizes the struggle of the powerless against the powerful. -16 June 2014.

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CHAPTER 40

TRANSFORMING A NATION: THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION IN VENEZUELA Venezuela is in the throes of change. President Hugo Chavez Frias is determined to transform a society of extreme inequalities into an egalitarian nation where justice reigns supreme. He has christened his mission to transform Venezuela ‘The Bolivarian Revolution’, after the nineteenth century South American revolutionary, Simon Bolivar, who sought to liberate the continent from colonial rule. The ideological thrust of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution is socialism, more precisely, twenty-first century socialism. The Revolution began in 1998, the year Chavez came to power through the ballot-box Economic and Social Changes It is irrefutably true that in the last eleven years Venezuela has witnessed tremendous change. In 1998, 48.1 percent of the population in the world’s fifth biggest exporter of oil lived below the poverty-line. Today, the figure is 33.1 percent. Unemployment has been reduced to 6.3 percent which, according to Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics, is the lowest in the country’s history. Inflation which in the early nineties averaged 59.4 percent now stands at 19.6 percent. The minimum wage of 286 US dollars a month is one of the highest in the continent. In the last 5 years, Venezuela has also recorded the highest growth rate in South and Central America —a GDP of 11.8 percent.

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It has also succeeded under Chavez to free itself from debt to both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. At the same time, Venezuela’s infant mortality rate which was 21.4 out of 1,000 children in 1998 has now been reduced to 13.8 out of 1000. In 1997-8, a little more than 6 million children were in school. In 2006-7, the total number of school going children had reached more than 11.8 million. The student enrolment in colleges and universities in 1998 was about 668,000; in 2008, it had exceeded 1.7 million. Democracy What is impressive about Venezuela’s socio-economic progress in the last eleven years is that it has been achieved within a democratic environment. Chavez’s policies have been under constant scrutiny by large segments of a media that is often hostile to the man. Since 1998, elections and referenda held at least a dozen times have provided the people with the opportunity to evaluate the Administration. A strong political opposition, an independent National Assembly and an autonomous judiciary have further reinforced the democratic sinews of Venezuelan society. Indeed, there are observers who argue that democracy itself has been abused by Chavez’s adversaries. Some of them own and control influential outlets within the private media which are unrelenting in their attempts to undermine the Chavez leadership. A lot of the NGOs are also aligned to his adversaries. I was surprised to learn that even the universities — a majority of them— display varying degrees of antipathy towards the President.

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For many of them, the primary reason for their opposition is their fear that Chavez’s pro-poor policies would be antithetical to their interests. Their sole aim is to protect their power, wealth and privilege at all costs. A substantial portion of these anti-Chavez forces are linked in one way or another to the Washington elite and allied groups who also view him as a threat to their hegemonic power. Popular Support This explains why both domestic and foreign forces colluded to overthrow Chavez in April 2002. They failed because the people, especially the poor, rallied around their President and restored him to power. Never before in history have ordinary unarmed people played such a decisive role in defeating a coup. Since 2002, Chavez’s authority and influence have grown significantly. In a 2008 referendum that sought to remove restrictions on the tenure of the presidency, he obtained a clear-cut endorsement from the people. Chavez and his ruling party are now engaged in a massive exercise to mould popular consciousness on behalf of the Bolivarian Revolution and its ideals of justice, equality and human dignity. The university that I spoke at — the Universidad Nacional Experimental Politecnica de la Fuerza Armada (UNEFA)— in Caracas on 25 March 2009 is one of the few institutions of higher learning that is actively involved in propagating the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution. The theme of my hour-long lecture was “ A Spiritual-Moral Response to an Empire in Crisis.” The depth and maturity of the questions and comments from the audience — more than 500 post-graduate students and academics— impressed me.

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UNEFA was gracious enough to confer the title of “Honorary Professor” on me. Regional Initiatives From our reflections so far on Chavez’s Bolivarian mission, it is obvious that he is faced with huge obstacles. And yet he perseveres. His tenacity is also reflected in his regional and international policies. It was Chavez, together with the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, who initiated the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of our America (ALBA) in 2004. Apart from Cuba and Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and the Commonwealth of Dominica have now joined ALBA. ALBA seeks to develop regional cooperation on a different basis, with the emphasis upon the people’s real needs and aspirations. Thus, Cuba sends thousands of doctors and teachers to Venezuela which is trying so hard to improve its primary health care system and to expand educational opportunities while Cuba receives in exchange from Venezuela oil at a preferential price to enhance its economic development. ALBA has also formulated a treaty on food security which will encourage greater food production among ALBA members. Another important ALBA project is the ALBA Bank which will try to ensure that the huge capital generated by countries in the region is retained within the region, and channeled to finance grassroots programs that will bring direct, tangible benefits to the poor. Even before ALBA was launched, a regional television network was established. Telesur, based in Venezuela, has become the favorite channel for millions in South and Central America. Opposing Neo-Liberal Capitalism and Hegemony

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If Telesur and other regional initiatives have struck root, it is partly because the political mood in much of the region has changed dramatically in the last five to seven years. A number of governments—- Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Paraguay, and to a lesser degree, Chile and Argentina are all opposed to ‘The Washington Consensus’ also known as Neo-liberal Capitalism which had wrought so much havoc upon their economies from the eighties onwards. The chasm separating an opulent elite and the disenfranchised masses in most countries in South and Central America —which had all paid obeisance to neo-liberal capitalism— had become so obscene that the ruling classes had very little credibility left. The people wanted alternatives that would ensure justice for the majority and at the same time safeguard national sovereignty and independence. For a lot of them, the only example of a nation in their region that had succeeded in defending its sovereignty against attacks from the greatest hegemonic power on earth was Cuba. Hugo Chavez in particular sought inspiration from the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro. In a number of speeches, he has acknowledged the intellectual and moral debt that he owes Fidel. It is because of Chavez’s determination to stand up to Washington helmed hegemony that he has also forged warm ties with countries like Iran. Their cooperation and collaboration began in OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and has deepened in recent years. Washington’s targeting of both countries has in fact brought them closer together. Trade and investment between Venezuela and Iran have blossomed. They even operate a joint bank to facilitate bilateral activities.

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More than bilateral relations, what really impacted upon the people of Iran and indeed, Muslims everywhere, was the courage that Chavez exhibited when he cut off diplomatic ties with Israel at the height of Israel’s brutal assault upon the defenseless people of Gaza at the end of December 2008 and the beginning of January 2009. Instantaneously he became a hero in Muslim eyes. They did not hesitate to compare him to their own gutless leaders who were ever ready to toady to Israeli and Western governments in the midst of the Gaza assault. With this as the backdrop, I alluded to the importance of courage in the struggle against global hegemony in my second talk in Venezuela to the Institute de Altos Estudies Diplomaticos (Institute of Diplomacy) on 26 March. The talk entitled “The Role of the Global South in Overcoming Global Hegemony” was attended by officials of the Ministry of External Relations and a handful of academics. The last two days of my 5 day trip to Venezuela were spent acquainting myself with some of the country’s cultural and developmental projects. The trip (my wife had accompanied me) was at the invitation of Venezuela’s Ministry of External Relations. We were in Bogota, Colombia before that to participate in an international meeting on resistance to empire (see ‘The Bogota Declaration’, JUST Commentary Vol. 9, No. 4, April 2009). Conclusion There is no doubt at all that Venezuela under Hugo Chavez has taken huge strides in redressing the injustices of the past. No other President has done as much in mobilizing and directing the nation’s massive oil wealth for the benefit of the poor and powerless masses. By the same token, Chavez is the first Venezuelan president to fight US hegemony over his country and the region with such courage, energy and dedication.

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Through concrete, tangible measures, he has forged a formidable alliance against US hegemony which has the potential of changing not just regional politics but also the present pattern of international relations. But Chavez knows more than anyone else that both in the domestic arena and at the regional and international level, the forces that are arraigned against him are as determined as ever to weaken his base and to topple him. After 11 years in power, he is still not out of the woods. The evil plotters are waiting in the wings. Chavez is faced with other less serious challenges as well. On the domestic front, he is very conscious of the fact that corruption, the lack of social discipline and bureaucratic incompetence may derail some of his lofty plans for the people. Attempts to check these ills have yet to yield results. These ills are related in a sense to a larger question. Since Chavez’s socialism accepts private enterprise, how will it balance the relationship between the public and private sectors? Will it strike a happy equilibrium which harnesses the strengths of each sector while minimizing the weaknesses of both? It is still not clear how the Venezuelan government will achieve this much needed equilibrium. Will it be easier to achieve this equilibrium if one’s commitment is to certain universal spiritual and moral values rather than to an ideology or dogma such as socialism? In other words, values such as honesty and trustworthiness or a sense of responsibility should be held in esteem for what they are, regardless of whether they emanate from a public official or a private entrepreneur.

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Can we expect such an approach from a leadership which worships a particular ideology? Isn’t a critical, evaluative attitude towards socialism itself — given its successes and failures over so many decades— a prerequisite for the triumph of Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution? -1 June 2009.

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CHAPTER 41

VENEZUELA: A THREAT? The most absurd political pronouncement of 2015 was made on March 9. The US President issued an Executive Order that declared “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela …” A White House spokesman explained that Venezuela was a threat because of “Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption…” He further asserted that these officials will not be welcome in the US, “and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems.” Seven individuals have been targeted by the White House. There have been other sanctions against Venezuelan officials and citizens in the past. So far the US has not provided any tangible evidence of how Venezuelan officials have violated human rights or indulged in public corruption. Its reckless allegations have been effectively refuted by the Caracas government. Even leaders from other Latin American countries have condemned the statements emanating from Washington DC. They have also criticized Washington for demanding that Caracas release all “political prisoners” allegedly detained by the government including “dozens of students.” The Venezuelan government insists that those detained are facing trial for criminal offences linked to violent attempts to destabilize the situation and oust the democratically elected government of the day. The government has been able to offer incontrovertible proof of this to the public.

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Former Caracas mayor, Antonio Ledezma, for instance, was arrested in February for his role in the February 12 coup which also implicated Air Force personnel and terrorists such as Lorent Saleh. Another opposition leader facing trial is Leopoldo Lopez who was at the head of a series of violent opposition protests in 2014 that sought to overthrow the Nicolas Maduro government. The protests that Lopez led caused the death of 43 people, the majority of whom were from the security forces or followers of the charismatic late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. In fact, Ledezma and Lopez, together with a third rightwing leader, Maria Corina Machado, were actively involved in the infamous April 11 2002 coup against Chavez. The coup failed, it is worth reiterating, mainly because tens of thousands of ordinary Venezuelans came out in full force to demand that Chavez be restored to power. As I stated in an article on the 1st of June 2009, “Never before in history have ordinary unarmed people played such a decisive role in defeating a coup.� The US, through the CIA, was, needless to say, responsible for engineering the coup. This time all three coup manipulators from 2002, had allegedly signed a document which openly espoused the overthrow of the Maduro government. President Maduro has shared with his people recordings of phone conversations that some of these individuals had in recent months with other Venezuelan politicians living in New York and Miami which suggest a complex coup plot. The execution of the plot envisaged the privatization of most public services and the intervention of the IMF, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank in the Venezuelan economy for the benefit of the pro-US elite in the country and their masters in Washington and other Western capitals. Maduro has promised to reveal more details of the planned coup at the Summit of the Americas scheduled for April in Panama.

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Since this is what is happening --- a concerted drive by the US elite to oust a democratically elected government which has been going on for at least 13 years --- how can Obama talk of a Venezuelan threat to the US? If anything, it is the US that is a present and continuous threat to the people of Venezuela. It is the US elite that is undermining Venezuelan democracy. Why is the US doing this to Venezuela? The reason is simple. Since Hugo Chavez Frias became President through the ballot-box in 1998, he and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, have been determined to preserve and enhance the independence, sovereignty and integrity of their nation. The Venezuelan people as a whole are not prepared to yield to US dominance and control over their land which was the reality for long decades before 1998. It is not just because of the resistance of the Venezuelan people to US hegemony that they are being threatened and punished in this way. The US elite knows that their resistance is part of an ever-widening, ever-expanding resistance that encompasses a large number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their collective desire to protect and enhance their sovereignty and independence has now found expression through regional initiatives such as ALBA and CELAC. The Venezuelan leadership itself continues to play a significant role in these initiatives. As more and more nations in a region that was once contemptuously referred to as “the US’s backyard� assert their dignity and self-respect, it is obvious that US power and influence in Latin America and the Caribbean is waning rapidly. The very fact that that the overwhelming majority of states in the region have rallied around Venezuela as it faces threats from its northern neighbor is

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proof that the tide has changed. A while ago, Latin American states also stood by Argentina when it was subjected to enormous pressures from Wall Street speculators and financers. If the US realizes that it cannot throw its weight around anymore it is also because of the increasingly close ties that are developing between nations in the region and China, and to a lesser extent, Russia. In other words, the new scenarios that are unfolding are not to the US’s liking. Perhaps, it is in that sense that Venezuela --- one of the movers of change in Latin America and the Caribbean --is a “threat” to a declining hegemon. -14 March 2015.

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CHAPTER 42

THE MALVINAS: AN UNRESOLVED DISPUTE The question of the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands) remains one of those unresolved disputes in international politics which seldom receives much attention from the world community. This is a pity since the United Nations has for the last 50 years called upon the two parties to the dispute --Argentina and Britain --- to negotiate a peaceful solution through bilateral negotiations. The call from the UN is embodied in a General Assembly Resolution --- Resolution 2065 (XX) --- adopted on the 16th of December 1965. It invites the Governments of Argentina and Britain “to proceed without delay with the negotiations recommended by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and of General Assembly resolution 1514(XV) and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands ( Malvinas).� Argentina has all along expressed a readiness to negotiate. Initially, Britain had also agreed to open talks on the dispute. Its Foreign Secretary, on a visit to Argentina in January 1966, expressed this view. In paving the way for bilateral negotiations the two governments agreed to cooperate on specific matters related to air and maritime services, and postal and telegraphic communications. However, London made negotiations on the dispute difficult when it embarked upon exploration of natural

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resources in the Malvinas, thus contravening the spirit of the UN Resolution. This forced the UN General Assembly to adopt yet another Resolution --- Resolution 31/49 --- in December 1976 requesting both parties to the dispute “to refrain from adopting decisions that entail the introduction of unilateral modifications to the situation while the islands are going through the process recommended� by UN Resolutions. 102 states voted in favour of the Resolution, 1 (Britain) voted against it while 32 abstained.Britain ignored the stand of the vast majority of nation-states. It was partly because of British intransigence that the military junta ruling Argentina at that time decided to invade the Malvinas in April 1982 to re-assert Argentinian sovereignty over the islands. It is of course true that the transfer of power from one military dictator to another, economic stagnation and a degree of civil unrest in Argentina were even more prominent factors in the decision to go to war. Argentina’s defeat in the 10 week war emboldened the British elite to strengthen its grip upon the Malvinas. London was even less prepared now to negotiate with Buenos Aries. But the UN has stood by its decision that there must be direct bilateral negotiations between the two countries to find a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute. The UN does not recognize any British claim to suzerainty over the Malvinas and the surrounding islands. Regional groupings in Latin America and the Caribbean such as ALBA and CELAC also support the Argentinian position. So do most of the non-aligned nations who regard British control over the Malvinas as a vestige of the colonial era. Argentina for its part has since 1994 incorporated its claim of sovereignty over the Malvinas into its national constitution.

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What civil society should do is to endorse the UN call for negotiations. Many more civil society voices should be raised on behalf of bilateral talks as the only feasible way of finding a peaceful solution to a dispute that goes back to the early decades of the 18th century. Civil society groups in Britain in particular should speak up. They have a moral responsibility to do so. -25 January 2016.

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CHAPTER 43

CHALLENGING CASINO CAPITALISM A number of Asian and European governments are convinced that there has to be an effective international regulatory framework to ensure accountability and transparency on the part of capital markets and rating agencies. They feel that the absence of a regulatory framework is the primary cause of the current global financial crisis. At the crucial 15 November Summit of the leaders of twenty of the world’s most important economies in Washington, they are expected to push for greater market surveillance and oversight. Can we expect Asian and European leaders at the Washington Summit to go beyond that? Can we also expect them to call for the permanent banning of unregulated short selling of stocks and shares? Will they ask for a ban on unscrupulous trade in derivatives? Will they seek to prohibit speculation on shares, currencies and commodities? Are they prepared to propose fundamental structural changes to the international financial architecture to ensure that the prohibition of speculation remains effective? Are they ready to commit themselves to the eventual goal of eliminating casino capitalism itself, once and for all? For casino capitalism is at the root of the global financial crisis. As the author of the term, the late British academic, Susan Strange, observed some 22 years ago, “The Western financial system is rapidly coming to resemble nothing as much as a vast casino. Every day games are played in this casino that involve sums of money so large that they cannot be imagined. At night the games go on at the other side of the world. In the towering office blocks that dominate all the great

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cities of the world, rooms are full of chain-smoking young men all playing these games. Their eyes are fixed on computer screens flickering with changing prices. They play by intercontinental telephone or by tapping electronic machines. They are just like the gamblers in casinos watching the clicking spin of a silver ball on a roulette wheel and putting their chips on red or black, odd or even ones.” “As in a casino, the world of high finance today offers the players a choice of games. Instead of roulette, blackjack, or poker, there is dealing to be done--- foreign exchange market and all its variations; or in bonds, government securities or shares. In all these markets you may place bets on the future by dealing forward and by buying or selling options and all sorts of other recondite financial inventions. Some of the players—banks especially—play with large stakes. There are also many quite small operators. There are tipsters, too, selling advice, and peddlers of systems to the gullible. And the croupiers in this global financial casino are the big bankers and brokers.” The growth of casino capitalism can perhaps be traced back to 1973 though the signs were already present in the sixties. It was in 1973 that there was an effective devaluation of the dollar “and the accompanying decision to leave the determination of exchange rates to the markets”. This decision followed the unilateral abrogation of the Bretton Woods system by the then US President, Richard Nixon, in August 1971. By allowing markets to determine exchange rates, market volatility increased. It is this volatility brought about by floating rates that has opened the door to massive speculation, accelerated no doubt by the ever expanding reservoir of capital from the eighties onwards, and the computer revolution.

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The adverse impact of speculation upon the rapid exit of capital from markets has ruined many an economy and left millions of people destitute. In recent years we have witnessed the pain and suffering it has caused to the poor in Indonesia and Argentina. Today, tens of thousands of Americans who have lost their jobs have become the latest victims of that unfettered capitalism of the casino that the worshippers of the market idolize. Casino capitalism has also led to the concentration of wealth and the widening of income and social disparities between the upper and lower echelons of society on a global scale as never before. In the US, this is reflected in the astronomical personal incomes of the fat cats of Wall Street that exceeded a billion US dollars in the four years from 2003 to 2007. Among the industrial economies of the Global North, the US has the worst income differentials between rich and poor. Indeed, in a number of other countries which once boasted of fairly equitable income distributions, such as South Korea and Singapore in the East and Canada and Germany in the West, the globalizaton of casino capitalism has resulted in increasing income gaps. If these income disparities and the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few appear to be acceptable to the majority of the populace, it is partly because casino capitalism has succeeded --- as no other ideology before it has--- in institutionalizing and legitimizing greed as a social phenomenon. The rapacious acquisition and accumulation of wealth by an elite is sanctified as a vital pre-requisite for the progress and prosperity of the people. The poor, it is argued, will eventually benefit from the wealth created by the elite. It is doubtful if Asian and European leaders will want to expose the evil of casino capitalism at the Washington Summit. Though the state driven capitalism of East Asian

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states such as Japan, Korea and China and the social market capitalism of much of Western Europe are in some respects different from the casino capitalism that originated in the US, their economies are so interlocked today that it would be almost impossible for the former to disengage from the latter without serious repercussions for their own societies. It is widely acknowledged for instance that it is in the interest of China and Japan who hold billions of dollars worth of US treasury bills and other financial instruments to ensure that the US economy remains afloat in the face of the present crisis. Similarly, derivatives trading, options and futures contracts are as integral to British and German financial centers as they are to New York. Even Saudi Arabia, one of the countries invited to the Summit, whose economy is purportedly ‘Islamic’ is deeply entrenched in the US helmed international financial system. Besides, the US elite, while making some concessions here and there, can be expected to defend casino capitalism to the last currency speculator since it ensures the global financial hegemony of the US. This is why the real challenge to casino capitalism will have to come from people’s movements and other civil society groups outside the State. Groups in the US in particular and the West in general will have a big role to play. Civil society groups in other parts of the world will be their partners. In this regard, it will be recalled that it was the sustained challenge from labor and socialist movements that forced nineteenth century European capitalism to shed its uglier features and attempt a degree of transformation. Civil society groups today should not only intensify their criticism of, and campaign against, casino capitalism in all its ramifications. They should articulate with much greater intellectual vigor and moral candor an

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alternative vision that goes beyond the crisis of the moment. Eliminating speculation and establishing an effective regulatory framework aside, they should suggest how a just international monetary system could be created which would have phased out the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. A people based banking system with citizens’ oversight and a global taxation system to prevent transfer pricing and tax evasion should also be explored as part of this alternative vision. The alternative vision should incorporate new ideas on expenditure and investment. Military expenditure should be reduced drastically at national levels. Let us not forget that US military spending in Vietnam was one of the reasons why it chose to abandon the fixed exchange rate in the earlier seventies. The Iraq War which some economists estimate has already cost the US 3 trillion dollars is one of the indirect causes of the present financial mess in the US. The savings made from the military budget of the US and other militaristic states and the huge reserves accumulated by China, Japan and other countries should be directed towards eradicating global poverty, providing basic social services such as water, electricity, health, education and housing, and building roads, railway lines and ports in areas that lack the infrastructure for economic development. Governments should also be encouraged to invest substantially in agricultural and industrial research and in environmental protection and enhancement. Most people everywhere I suspect will endorse this alternative vision, aspects of which have been put forward by some social movements and nongovernmental organizations which had participated in the People’s Forum that had paralleled the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing in the middle of October this year.

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It is those in the vortex of casino capitalism and the governments and elites aligned to them who will oppose the vision and the transformation it promises. It underscores the critical importance of a global people’s movement to fight casino capitalism, and indeed, capitalism itself. -28 October 2008.

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CHAPTER 44

INITIATIVES FOR TRANSFORMING THE GLOBAL ECONOMY A number of important initiatives linked largely to the economy made public in the last few years may have a huge impact upon the future of humankind. ASEAN and China have played a pioneering role in some of them. The ASEAN initiated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), negotiations for which started in early 2013, seeks to forge a pact among the 10 ASEAN members and its six free trade partners, namely, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea on trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, dispute settlement and other issues. RCEP is, in a sense, a diluted version of the East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC) proposed by former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in the early nineties. EAEC, confined to ASEAN and the three East Asian states, China, Japan and South Korea, had a more coherent economic, cultural, geographical and historical basis but the idea was vehemently opposed by the United States of America and to a lesser extent, by Japan. In spite of its geographical dispersion, RCEP is still a viable proposition. At its third ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur in August 2015, there was a determined effort to give RCEP a push. Some consensus was reached about eliminating tariffs in the goods sector. There are issues pertaining to agriculture, investments, intellectual property and dispute settlement which have yet to be resolved.

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A momentum of sorts has been created in Kuala Lumpur largely through the hard work of officials at the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) which one hopes will be sustained through future meetings. A more significant initiative emanating from China is of course the much publicized Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Formed in October 2014, it is a multilateral development bank that aims to provide finance to infrastructure projects in Asia. It has been estimated that Asia requires 8 trillion US dollars’ worth of infrastructure investment from 2010 to 2020 to be able to sustain its economic development. Neither the Japan led Asian Development Bank (ADB) nor the US helmed World Bank has the capacity or the inclination to fund such a mammoth transformation. China’s willingness to respond to the challenge has been warmly welcomed by a number of countries. Besides, the Chinese leadership is also frustrated by the lack of sincerity on the part of the US and Japanese governments in reforming the World Bank and the ADB respectively to reflect the new demands and the emerging realities of the global economy. While the AIIB is an important development in itself, it is the response of a number of close allies of the US to the bank which is revealing of current and future patterns of global economic power. Sensing the shift in global economic power, Britain withstood intense pressure from the US Administration and joined the AIIB in March 2015. Three other European allies of the US --- Germany, France and Italy --- followed suit. US allies from West Asia, Eastern Europe and the Pacific have all signed up. The bank’s membership is rapidly approaching 60. The two major economies that have decided to stay out are the US and Japan.

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It is not just the AIIB that is reflective of the emerging pattern of global economic power. China has also been at the forefront of BRICS which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Collectively, this grouping, which held its first summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia in June 2009, represents 3 billion people. Its nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at 16.039 trillion US dollars. BRICS emphasizes cooperation in economic and financial matters. It created a bank called the New Development Bank with a 100 billion dollar base in July 2015. There is a third Chinese initiative that has the potential for transforming a whole range of economies in both the Global South and the Global North. The One Belt One Road (OBOR) project built upon the ancient Silk Road focuses on both land and maritime routes. The aim is to invest in infrastructure development and other economic activities in Southeast Asia, parts of South Asia, Central Asia, East Africa and West Asia right up to Europe. The question that is often asked nowadays is whether China, given its slowing economy, would be able to finance all these massive projects in the coming years? The slowdown is to a great extent due to a deliberate policy decision to shift from export-led growth to domestic consumption. This in turn would help to reduce income and social disparities within China which would in the medium and long-term strengthen the economy and society. Disparities are undoubtedly one of the formidable challenges facing China. Corruption, enhancing the rule of law, legitimizing dissent, and improving the quality of the environment would be some of the other major challenges which are all being addressed by the leadership with varying degrees of effectiveness. But China’s ability to transform the global economy would also be determined by the strength and solidarity of its ties with its neighbors and friends and whether it

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succeeds in overcoming certain longstanding territorial disputes with some of them. There is yet another decisive factor that will impact upon China’s global role: how would the antagonism of those who resent China’s rise as a global power express itself in the coming years? -21 September 2015.

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CHAPTER 45

ELIMINATE TAX HAVENS ! Oxfam, the global aid and development confederation that focuses upon poverty, in a briefing paper launched on 18 January 2016 has shown how the global inequality crisis has reached “new extremes”. Quoting Credit Suisse, it reiterates that “the richest 1% have now accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together”. Titled ‘An Economy for the 1%’, Oxfam’s briefing paper reveals that “In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people --the bottom half of humanity. This figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010”. It elaborates that “ the wealth of the richest 62 people has risen by 44% in the five years since 2010 --- that is an increase of more than half a trillion dollars ( $ 542bn) to $1.76 trillion while the wealth of the bottom half fell by just over a trillion dollars in the same period --- a drop of 41%”. These figures merely underscore an obvious truth. As Oxfam puts it, “There is no getting away from the fact that the big winners in our global economy are those at the top. Our economic system is heavily skewed in their favor and arguably increasingly so. Far from trickling down, income and wealth are instead being sucked upwards at an alarming rate”. This is happening for a variety of reasons. In proportional terms, the larger share of the income of a nation has been going to the owners of capital rather than to workers. In fact, almost everywhere the workers’ share has been decreasing significantly. While “many workers have seen their wages stagnate, there has been a huge increase in salaries for those at the top”. Economic policy in recent decades has also emphasized liberalization, deregulation and privatization which have

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brought much greater benefits to the rich and powerful. This emphasis is part and parcel of a general enchantment with the “market” which is largely ideological. Within these market dominated economies, it is the financial sector that has “grown most rapidly in recent decades, and now accounts for one in five billionaires. In this sector, the gap between salaries and rewards and actual value added to the economy is larger than in any other. A recent study by the OECD showed that countries with oversized financial sectors suffer from greater economic instability and higher inequality. Certainly, the public debt crisis caused by the financial crisis, bank bailouts and subsequent austerity policies has hit the poorest people the most”. This is why any attempt to reduce gross economic inequalities must address issues in the financial sector. Of these issues, Oxfam in its briefing paper has focused upon “the global spider’s web of tax havens and the industry of tax avoidance, which has blossomed over recent decades”. Tax havens and tax avoidance lead to a situation where governments are forced to cut back on critical public services. This is happening both in the Global North and the Global South. In the Global North, welfare programs are downsized while in the Global South efforts aimed at overcoming dire poverty, building primary schools and expanding basic health care are severely hampered by shrinking government budgets --- a victim of the rich escaping the tax net. Oxfam provides a concrete example of this. Almost “a third (30%) of rich Africans’ wealth--- a total of US 500bn -- is held offshore in tax havens. It is estimated that this costs African countries 14bn a year in lost tax revenues. This is enough money to pay for healthcare that could

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save the lives of 4 million children and employ enough teachers to get every African child into school”. According to one source “7.6 trillion of individual wealth -- more than the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the UK and Germany --- is currently held offshore”. Tax havens, Oxfam argues, should be brought to an end. Only if this happens will it be possible to overcome inequalities. The governments of the world should work together towards this goal. It will require making some significant changes to domestic tax law and enacting new rules for global finance. It is the sort of change that will take time. But if there is the will it can be done. Through its clarion call to bring tax havens to an end, Oxfam has thrown a challenge to the entire human family. Persuade governments to eliminate an institution which is a bane upon equality and justice. If we don’t, our grandchildren will inherit a world where there is greater divisiveness and destruction than what we are now witnessing. -27 January 2016.

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CHAPTER 46

THE MEDIA: UNIVERSALIZING JUSTICE Remarks made at the Asia Media Summit 2010 held in May 2010 in Beijing. The Summit was organized by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Development Broadcasting (AIBD). When does media content become truly universal? When it resonates with people everywhere, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, religion or culture, class or gender. The World Cup, which begins next month, is an example of a media event that is universal in terms of its appeal. Massive natural calamities such as earthquakes and cyclones and the colossal human suffering that accompanies them, are yet other examples of happenings, publicized by the media that elicit sympathy across borders and boundaries. Even a man-made catastrophe, like an imminent war, can provoke a huge response from people in different countries and continents. We witnessed that in the weeks before the US helmed invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003. The media --- especially the alternative media--- played a very significant role in the mass mobilization of men, women and children against the war. Though the citizens of the world failed to stop the war they succeeded nonetheless to de-legitimize it. In the eighties, sections of the print and electronic media played a role in spreading awareness about the evil of apartheid and the imperative need to eliminate the apartheid regime in Pretoria. The anti-apartheid movement became a global movement and campaigns to shun multinational corporations that did business with the apartheid regime gathered momentum leading eventually to the demise of the regime in the nineties.

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The South African and Iraqi episodes show that the media can play a role in universalizing or globalizing struggles for justice and human dignity. Enhancing knowledge of, and disseminating information on, struggles for justice and human dignity should be one of the primary goals of the media in the 21st century. The multiple crises facing humanity today ---- from the environmental crisis to the economic crisis---- which threatens the very survival of the human race, compels the media to re-evaluate its role. The media can no longer just report and analyze. It has to be proactive. It has to take a stand. Can the media help to universalize the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination? Can the print and electronic media make people in the East and the West aware of the terrible injustice done to the Palestinians and why recognizing their legitimate right to nationhood is vital for world peace? If some of the most important media channels in the world dare not speak up for the Palestinians, is it because of the inordinate power and influence exercised by Zionist elements over the media? Can the media make more people in the Global North and the Global South aware of other noble causes as well--- causes such as the prohibition of nuclear weapons and the abolition of the veto in the United Nations Security Council, to name but two? It is significant that many important media outlets have not championed these causes. Is it because of powerful vested interests that they are beholden to? What about some other concerns that the mainstream print and electronic media could have focused upon

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such as the eradication of poverty, the elimination of illiteracy, and the expansion of primary health care facilities for the benefit of those at the bottom of the heap--- concerns which are akin to some of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG)? If raising mass consciousness in relation to these concerns has not been the top priority of the mainstream media at national and global level, is it because of the media’s own failing, or is it because the media, especially in the case of state-run entities, is reluctant to evaluate the state’s performance vis-à-vis these goals, or is it because of global capitalism itself which subordinates anti-poverty measures, and pro- primary education and pro-basic health care programs to profits and markets? Whatever the explanation, it is only too obvious that any endeavor to universalize justice through the media is bound to face formidable obstacles. It is not quite the same as universalizing a sport or a song. Universalizing charity in the wake of some natural calamity, as we have seen, is also not an onerous task. Because universalizing justice means challenging dominant power structures and vested interests that impact upon the media, it is destined to be a long and arduous struggle. Be that as it may, committed, courageous individuals and groups within and without the media cannot afford to surrender. To surrender is to abandon humanity at its most critical hour. -May 2010.

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CHAPTER 47

WILL MEDIA CONNECT WITH RELIGION IN A WORLD IN CONFLICT AND CRISIS ? Keynote Address delivered at the International Media Dialogue on Cultures and Religions organized by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in Beijing on 24 May 2010. The media performs two major missions vis-à-vis religion in the contemporary world, one more obvious than the other. The media, whether old or new, mainstream or alternative, never fails to report and analyze all sorts of conflicts and upheavals including those that appear to have a religious thrust. Instead of just reporting and analyzing, the media must now ask itself: how can it help to contain these conflicts, minimize the violence, reduce the killings, ameliorate the pain and suffering of the people? Since conflicts with a religious edge are pervasive ---- and it is through the media that the world comes to know of these conflicts---the media cannot abdicate its responsibility to society. There are perhaps seven principles that the media could observe in reporting and analyzing these conflicts. One, do not present the conflict as a “religious conflict” when the religious factor may be secondary or of little consequence. Just because the individuals involved in a conflict may come from different religious communities one should not assume that the causes of the conflict are also “religious” Two, analyze as lucidly as possible the real causes of the conflict. Inform the public of these causes without hesitation and without delay. Very often, the real causes

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are political or economic or a combination of both. Religious doctrine or ritual which may reflect differences between religions are not the cause of conflict as such. Power rather than prayer is at the root of many a conflict. Three, do not equate the violence that mars the conflict with the religion of the militants involved. No religion cherishes violence. Every religion abjures extremism, bigotry and hatred of the other. If individuals or groups within a particular religious community preach and practice violence, condemn it as a wrongdoing without tarnishing the entire religious tradition. Four, if individuals and groups attempt to justify violence or bigotry in the name of their religion, expose them for their dishonesty and deception. The media should show their viewers or listeners or readers how a particular text has been distorted or taken out of context. Five, in condemning violence or exposing religious bigotry do not be selective. Do not highlight such misdeeds when the perpetrators are from a certain religious community and downplay these wrongdoings when they come from another religious community. Bigots and extremists are found in all communities. Our recent history has shown us that no one community has the monopoly of religious militancy. Six, focus upon prominent individuals and groups from the communities embroiled in the conflict, especially those with strong religious credentials, who have the courage and the conviction to condemn the wrongdoings committed by their own kind. The media should give equal attention to ordinary women and men who are revolted by the misuse and abuse of religion and yearn for justice and righteousness. Seven, the media should also bring to the fore instances of individuals and families from a party caught in the conflict reaching out to their counterparts on the other side. It is remarkable how in every conflict situation there

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are instances of this sort, of individuals and families protecting the victim of some atrocity committed by “one’s own people” so to speak. In many cases, the protector chooses to attribute his magnanimity to his faith. The seven principles outlined here--- there must be many others--- are by no means alien to the media. They have been observed to a lesser or greater degree by segments of the media in a number of countries over a period of time. What has yet to happen is a conscious, consistent, concerted articulation and application of these and other principles to conflict situations by the media community as a whole. This brings us to the media’s second mission. The media should show some appreciation of how the universal spiritual and moral values and principles embodied in all our religions can be harnessed to overcome some of the gravest challenges facing humanity today. I shall discuss briefly four such challenges in relation to spiritual and moral values and the failure of the media in establishing the nexus between the two. I shall also argue that the media has done very little to nurture popular consciousness on the pivotal importance of these values. First, perhaps the greatest threat to the continued existence of life on our planet at this point in time: the environmental challenge. Not many in the media are aware that in all our religions there are powerful teachings that implore us to live in harmony with nature; to use God’s bounties in a judicious manner with the unborn generations of tomorrow in mind; to fulfill our responsibility as trustees on earth by preserving that delicate ecological balance upon which our collective survival depends. The media should highlight these teachings as a spiritual-moral message that all religions share. Second, the media should also emphasize the relevance of a spiritual-moral perspective on the other monumental

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challenge confronting the entire human race--- the global economic crisis. Every aspect of the crisis--- the widening chasm between those who have a lot and those who have a little; the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few; the excessive consumerism of the upper echelons of society; the huge debt burden that many economies bear; and the preponderance of speculative capital in the global economy that has given rise to the phenomenon of casino capitalism --- is a violation of spiritual-moral principles. At the root of this crisis are two human traits which every religion condemns: selfishness and greed. In the midst of the current global economic crisis, most media outlets have failed to tell the truth about how and why the global economy and almost all our national economies transgress the essence of faith. Three, neither has the media told us that the continuous drive to enhance military power by a number of countries does not accord with a spiritual-moral worldview. That military expenditure in 2008 was a whopping 1.4 trillion US dollars is a damning indictment upon the rulers of the world. It is the sort of money that could have been used to provide the basic needs of more than three billion human beings on the planet who live on less than 2 US dollars a day. This vulgar inversion of priorities at the national and global level is nothing less than a gross betrayal of humanity’s moral conscience. And yet the media--- specifically the mainstream media--- has been deafeningly silent on this. Four, most of the mainstream media has also been silent on how mammoth military expenditure, the spread of casino capitalism and the environmental crisis, are related, directly or indirectly, to the drive for global hegemony by a global elite. This pursuit for global dominance and control is undoubtedly one of the most serious challenges confronting humankind today. The occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the subjugation of the Palestinians, the looming threat of military action against Iran, the conflicts in the Horn of Africa, the big

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power tussle over natural resources in the African continent, and the attempts to create instability in Bolivia and Venezuela, are all consequences of that hegemonic drive. The media reports on events associated with these crisis zones but it does not join the dots and make its audiences aware of the quest for global hegemonic power and why it is happening. For those who subscribe to spiritual and moral values and principles, the elite drive for hegemony is simply anathema. For no individual or group has the right to control, dominate and subjugate other human beings since the human being’s ultimate loyalty--- his engaged surrender--- is to God, and God alone. How does one enhance the media’s awareness of, and commitment to, its dual mission of comprehending conflicts with a religious dimension in depth, on the one hand, and understanding the significance of spiritualmoral values and principles in addressing some fundamental global challenges in the contemporary world, on the other? Including the philosophies and histories of the various religions, their values and principles, and their rituals and practices in the curricula of media studies in universities and other institutions of higher learning would be a step in the right direction. For serving media practitioners, there should be courses and workshops which emphasize the same themes and subjects of study. It is important that both categories are also exposed to the interface between religion and society, and some of the theories and concepts associated with this interface. Neither the conflicts of our time nor the challenges of our age--- and the role of religion in them--- can be understood in any depth without the benefit of ideas drawn from sociology, political science, economics, psychology and other social science disciplines.

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It is quite conceivable that media students and media practitioners may be somewhat reluctant to incorporate religion into their knowledge base since both media studies as a discipline and many individuals in the profession appear to be estranged from matters of faith. Expanding one’s knowledge base to include religion does not require a person to commit herself to a particular religion. In any case, those who are averse to any attachment to religion because of the bigotry of some theologians, or the obsession with rituals and rules, should realize that the sort of approach to, and understanding of religion that I am proposing here would bring to the surface the universal and inclusive, humane and enlightened essence of faith that has been pushed to the margins in recent decades in many parts of the world. However, even if media practitioners develop a more profound understanding of the nexus between religion and society, and are more appreciative of the role of spiritual-moral values in resolving fundamental contemporary challenges, there is no guarantee that there will be a significant change in the media’s outlook and role. For in the ultimate analysis, how a mainstream media channel views conflicts or challenges is determined to a great extent by the powerful interests that shape media policy. To put it differently, there are vested interests that would want to stereotype the followers of a particular religion because it serves their larger political agenda. They may be opposed to enlightened voices within different religious communities coming together in solidarity to protest against global casino capitalism or global militarism or global hegemony for the simple reason that their action would undermine their interests. This is why we should not expect the mainstream media as a whole to play a role of any significance in fulfilling the dual mission of the media, enunciated at the outset of this presentation. The best we can hope for are

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individual media practitioners here and there to commit themselves to reporting and analyzing conflicts with a deeper understanding of the role of religion. There may also be minor media outlets that are cognizant of the potential contribution of spiritual-moral principles to the shaping of a just and compassionate civilization. The alternative media which is less encumbered by vested interests may be in a better position to pursue the media’s dual mission. But even the alternative media--- or certain structures associated with it--- has links to the global power stratum. At the end of the day we should perhaps look beyond the media to propel the changes we envisage. It is when the larger situation itself begins to change that popular consciousness will also begin to change. For instance, it is because the environmental crisis has become so pronounced that more people today are turning to values embodied in religion for answers. Similarly, the economic crisis has compelled more individuals and groups including diehard secularists to explore principles pertaining to finance and the management of money in a religion like Islam. What this means is that the great global challenges that face us will force the media to develop more empathy for religion and the spiritual and moral values it enshrines. The media will not be a trail- blazer but it will certainly follow the trail. -13 May 2010.

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CHAPTER 48

THE US-SAUDI MILITARY DEAL AND GLOBAL MILITARY EXPENDITURE The US plan to sell US 60 billion dollars worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia will not contribute to peace and security in the Middle East or West Asia and North Africa (WANA) The biggest arms deal ever in history, it provides for the sale of jet fighters and helicopters to oil-rich Saudi Arabia over a period of 15 to 20 years. US officials have stated that it will enhance the security of its key allies in the region, especially in the context of the alleged threat from Iran. The Saudis, according to Pentagon sources, are worried about Iran’s missile arsenal. Independent political analysts, however, do not regard Iran as a threat to its Arab neighbors. While the rhetoric of some of its leaders may be belligerent, Iran’s diplomatic moves since the late nineties have been aimed at strengthening its ties with states in the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia. There are perhaps other motives behind the US-Saudi deal which have not been highlighted in the mainstream media. The sale reinforces US military hegemony in a region that it perceives as vital for its triple interests---Israel, oil and geopolitical control. In this regard, it should be borne in mind that the US military would retain operational control over the weaponry purchased by the Saudis. Since the sale is huge, it will also help to fill the coffers of corporate weapons manufacturers at a time when the US economy is in deep trouble But the consequences for WANA could be dire. It could encourage both friends and foes of the US to increase their military expenditure. This could ignite an arms race in the region. An arms race in turn could intensify tensions in

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WANA which is already a cockpit of conflict. An arms race could also skew the priorities of individual states and lead to the subordination of other more important goals such as the eradication of poverty or the elimination of illiteracy or the minimization of corruption. This is why countries in Asia should be careful about expanding their military budget. They should not allow weapons manufacturers and arms merchants--supported by political leaders--- to dupe them into making unnecessary military purchases. This danger is all the more real today than in the past since some of the countries in the region are rich and maybe the targets of those who are hell-bent on pursuing their business-cum-political agenda. Indeed, escalating military expenditure is a global challenge. Global military expenditure in December 2009 stood at 1.5 trillion US dollars. This represents a six percent increase in real terms over 2008. Compared to 2000, it is a 49 percent increase! Worse, the entire UN budget--- the budget of the body charged with maintaining global peace--- in 2009 was only 1.8 percent of global military expenditure in that year. It is significant that the US alone accounted for 46.5% of global military expenditure in 2009. The respected Swedish peace institute, SIPRI, observes that massive US military expenditure is one of the contributory factors to the decline of the US economy in the last decade. It is worth noting that for a few years after the end of the cold war in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, global military expenditure went down but in the last 10 years it has gone up again. It is now 2.7 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) which translates into US 225 dollars per person in the world!

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There is no doubt at all that global military expenditure has to be curbed and controlled for the good of humankind. It will be no easy task. For the vested interests that sustain military budgets in most countries are powerful. Nonetheless, we have to persevere. Perhaps for a start, governments with low military budgets, anti-war, pro-peace civil society groups and those sections of the media with a conscience, should come together to plan the mass mobilization of public opinion against mammoth military spending. -24 October 2010.

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CHAPTER 49

WORSENING TRENDS IN GLOBAL ARMS TRANSFERS The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has in its 2011 Report highlighted trends in global arms transfers which any sane human being would describe as “worsening.” SIPRI shows that “the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 24 per cent higher in the period 2007-11 than in 2002-2006.” The top supplier of arms during both periods was the United States of America. Its exports increased by 24 per cent in the latter period. The US accounted for 30 per cent of all arms exports between 2007 and 2011. The US was followed by Russia whose exports increased by 12 per cent between 2002-2006 and 2007-2011. Russia accounted for 24 per cent of all exports. Germany, France and Britain were the other three big arms suppliers. The top 5 suppliers accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of all global arms exports. The 5 biggest arms importers in 2007-2011 were India, South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore in that order. India was also the top importer in 2002-2006. Asia as a whole was the biggest importer of arms in 2007-2011, accounting for 44 per cent of imports. However, the largest arms deal for “at least two decades was Saudi Arabia’s order for 84 new and 70 rebuilt F-15SG combat aircraft.” The beneficiary of this purchase concluded in 2011 was the US. What is the larger significance of these worsening trends in global arms transfers?

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One, global security has not increased one iota as a result of increased arms transfers. Wars and armed conflicts continue unabated. The underlying causes of conflicts and tensions in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), the Korean Peninsula, East Asia, South Asia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa remain unresolved. If anything, escalating export and import of arms may even have exacerbated tensions between states within a region---- tensions arising from a relentless arms race between neighbors. Two, increased arms transfers are happening at a time when the global economy is mired in deep crisis. It is a crisis that has caused massive unemployment in some parts of the world, compounded national debts, aggravated inflationary trends, increased food and fuel prices, and reduced growth rates worldwide. To focus upon buying and selling arms when economies are crumbling and collapsing, and millions of people are without jobs or are struggling to make ends meet, is utterly, despicably, immoral and unconscionable. Governments and elites everywhere, including those who reap huge profits from the arms industry, should be concentrating upon those economic activities that conduce towards life, dignity and justice---- not an enterprise that promotes death, violence and destruction. Given this conjuncture between an increase in arms transfers, on the one hand, and a global economy in crisis, on the other, citizens the world over should persuade and pressure governments and elites to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and consumption of all major conventional weapons. It goes without saying that this cannot be done on a national or regional basis. It has to be a truly global endeavor. Governments should come together and formulate a timetable for global disarmament. This is one of humankind’s time-honored, much cherished dreams----

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a world free from all weapons of death and destruction. Translating it into reality we realize is a monumental challenge which goes beyond the cessation of the production and consumption of conventional weapons. But let the citizens of the world at least demand that those who rule in their name put disarmament on the global agenda as an urgent item that requires immediate attention. -2 April 2012.

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CHAPTER 50

OPPOSE DRONE STRIKES ― A WAR CRIME! On 12 December 2013, 15 civilians who were part of a wedding convoy were killed in an unmanned US drone attack in Central Yemen. A Yemeni official has explained that the air strike was a mistake. The missiles had missed their target. Three days earlier, another US drone had killed 3 persons driving on a road in Al-Qatan in the Hadramout province of Yemen. They were also civilians. The US based Human Rights Watch (HRW) had investigated 6 selected drone strikes since 2009 and concluded that 57 out of the 82 killed were civilians. This included a pregnant woman and her 3 children killed in September 2012. Another human rights group, Amnesty International (AI), had also examined suspected drone strikes between May 2012 and July 2013 in North Waziristan, Pakistan, and from the evidence available suggested that more than 30 civilians were killed in four of those air attacks. A report released by the UN Assistance Mission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that there were 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 injuries from drone strikes in 2012 alone in Yemen and Pakistan. In response to various criticisms of these strikes, the US Administration insists that civilian casualties are “rare” in this particular mode of warfare which began in 2004. But the evidence, as we have shown, tells a different story. The US Administration is also wrong when it argues that drones have been an effective weapon in the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, it is because drone

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attacks have wiped out innocent civilians, including women and children that terrorism has increased. An example would be the events that constitute the backdrop to the two recent drone strikes in Yemen. The two drone strikes it seems were in retaliation to an AlQaeda attack on the Defense Ministry in Sana, Yemen’s capital, on 5 December 2013. The attack killed 56 people. While claiming responsibility for the heinous massacre, Al-Qaeda emphasized that it was carried out because of US drone strikes in Yemen that have been going on for years. This is also true of Pakistan where Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives on either side of the Pakistan – Afghanistan border become even more determined to commit acts of terror when they see innocent villagers with whom they often share bonds of kinship bombed out of existence by US drones. It is not surprising therefore that a huge movement against drones has developed in Pakistan in recent years. Both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Opposition Leader, Imran Khan, are campaigning against drone attacks. The Peshawar High Court has ruled that drone attacks are “illegal, inhumane, violate the UN Charter on human rights and constitute a war crime.” In Yemen too, a significant segment of society is totally opposed to drone strikes though the US backed government of Mansour AlHadi acquiesces with them. There is no sign yet to indicate that President Obama will abandon his drone policy. Both Yemen and Pakistan are vital to the US’s hegemonic power. Yemen is adjacent to the Bab-el-Mandeb which connects the oil fields of the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and Europe. Pakistan is strategically situated in relation to China and Russia and the rich oil fields of Central Asia. The only way to get Obama to abandon his policy is for more citizen groups in Asia and the West to speak up

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against US drone strikes. Both the print and electronic media should also do much more to raise the awareness of the people so that they would be persuaded to act against this war crime. Isn’t it a shame that major media channels gave so little attention to the poor and innocent victims of the drone strikes a few days ago? -16 December 2013.

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CHAPTER 51

NUCLEAR TERRORISM AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS In some circles, ‘nuclear terrorism’ is linked to the acquisition, possession, proliferation and utilization of nuclear weapons by terrorists. However, for the victims of a nuclear attack, it does not matter whether the perpetrator is a terrorist organization, or a state that possesses nuclear weapons. A nuclear attack is nuclear terrorism. The harrowing accounts of some of the survivors of the bomb attacks upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, —the Hibakusha ---- are testimony to the terror that griped the citizens of these two Japanese cities on 6 and 9 August 1945. One such Hibakusha, Setsuko Thurlow, who was then a 13 year-old schoolgirl in Hiroshima, narrates how her schoolmates “were incinerated and vaporized without a trace…” And the perpetrator of that terror was not a conventional terrorist. It was the United States of America. This is why the attempt to present the acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists as a much greater threat to humanity than the possession of nuclear weapons by states, is fallacious. Both portend calamity. While no terror outfit has as yet gained access to nuclear weapons, there are at least eight or nine nuclear weapons’ states. Apart from the fact that it is a state that had deployed its nuclear arsenal with devastating consequences on two occasions, it is also a state that has allegedly threatened to flex its nuclear muscle on at least four occasions.

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Besides, if terrorist networks seek nuclear weapons, it is because there are a few states that monopolize nuclear weapons. Indeed, it is because there is a nuclear weapon states’ club, that other states are also determined to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons. What this means is that the only way to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons, including their spread to terrorist groups, is to eliminate all nuclear weapons. That there is no alternative to complete and comprehensive nuclear disarmament is a hackneyed cliche that is worth repeating over and over again. In this regard, the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed between the US and Russia in Prague on 8 th April 2010 which pares down their arsenals to 1,550 warheads each is a modest step forward. At the 47 nation nuclear summit hosted by the US, its president, Barack Obama, renewed his pledge to work towards a world without nuclear weapons. He sees it as a quest that will go beyond his generation. Perhaps this is the right moment for citizens’ groups all over the world to accelerate and expedite the mobilization of the masses for a global campaign for total disarmament. A signature campaign that targets millions of people may be an idea worth pursuing. The signatures could be presented to governments and the United Nations. Groups that have been conducting such campaigns on the nuclear issue, and on other issues, should come together to plan this mass mobilization. Our expanding gamut of information and communication technologies (ICT) could play a major role in this endeavor. Total disarmament is part of the UN Convention on Nuclear Security proposed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, at the recent nuclear summit in Washington. A UN Convention would presumably make the elimination of all nuclear weapons the responsibility of

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the entire global community and not just a matter to be resolved through bilateral negotiations between nuclear powers. It should not only provide for the effective monitoring of the disarmament process but also prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. At the same time however the Convention should reiterate the right of all nations, big and small, to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. For the Convention to succeed, and for nuclear disarmament to become a reality, one has to draw upon a resource that has seldom been utilized in the quest for a nuclear weapons free world. This is religion. It is potentially a powerful resource since more than 80 percent of the world’s population is attached to some religion or other. Besides, religion has a greater capacity to change an individual’s outlook and attitude than most other instruments of transformation. The values and principles embodied in all our religions suggest that the manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons is an unconscionable act. From an Islamic perspective for instance there are at least three reasons why nuclear weapons are morally reprehensible. One, they kill indiscriminately: the vast majority of the victims are bound to be civilians. Two, they harm and injure unborn generations, as we have seen in the progeny of some of the Hibakusha. Three, nuclear weapons devastate the physical environment. Of course, there are Muslim jurists, just as there are Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist theologians who endorse nuclear weapons. Their stance is influenced more by power and ego than by the enduring humane and compassionate values and principles that lie at the heart of their faiths.

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On the nuclear question, as with many other issues of great import that confront us today, it is these values and principles that should triumph. -19 April 2010.

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CHAPTER 52

9-11: TEN YEARS AFTER On the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, it would be instructive to reflect on the disastrous impact of that tragedy upon the entire human family. One, hundreds of thousands, perhaps a couple of million, lives have been lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, the AfghanPakistan border and other places as a direct or indirect consequence of the so-called “war on terror” that followed 9-11. It is not just the violence generated by the US helmed occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that is responsible for this. Terror groups that resist occupation or are seeking to avenge the death of innocent children and women at the hands of the occupiers, or those who are embroiled in the tussle for power or enmeshed in inter-sectarian and inter-factional feuds–like Al-Qaeda– are also culpable. Two, it is estimated that at least 3.7 trillion US dollars have been poured into the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This colossal military expenditure has emasculated the US economy and is one of the major causes of the nation’s chronic debt crisis which in turn has serious implications for economies everywhere. Three, the war on terror has led to the marginalization of other more important wars that the global community had pledged to fight at the beginning of the 21st century, such as the war against global poverty and global illiteracy. It has also diverted attention from the challenge of widening disparities between those who have a lot and those who have a little which has become a global phenomenon threatening social cohesion and stability in many parts of the world.

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Four, the obsession with terrorism has prompted a number of governments to introduce or expand repressive laws that curtail legitimate civil rights and liberties and embark upon Illegal incarcerations, torture and assassinations --all carried out in the name of fighting terror. Five, the terror war has spawned a new wave of Islamophobia. Fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims which is deeply embedded in the psyche of a segment of Western society has been thrust to the fore through the equation of the religion and its adherents with terrorism. Some politicians, religious leaders and a section of the mainstream media are responsible for this diabolical bigotry. Consequently, Muslims and their religious symbols have become targets of venom in various parts of the Western world. A fanatical fringe within the Muslim ummah (community) has reacted to this by venting anti-Christian and anti-Jewish bile in their sermons and their writings. The end result is a general deterioration in relations among people of different faiths. How do we overcome, or at least reduce, the negative impact of the 9-11 episode? Both the centers of power in the West and certain elements in the Muslim world should be prepared to come to grips with some irrefutable truths. One, those who are committed to truth and justice in North America and Europe should try to convince their fellow citizens through all the democratic channels available to them, that Western elites are the real perpetrators of terror and violence. In their quest for hegemony—often related to oil, or geostrategic interests or Israel or the perpetuation of economic power – these elites have created fear and terror among millions of innocent people by subjecting them to continuous bombing raids and missile attacks for months on end. This is the terrorism of the militarily powerful, of the hegemonic state or empire. In the last 10 years since 9-11, we have seen that invariably it results in much more death and

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destruction than the terrorism of those who act in retaliation. Western elites should be made to understand this simple truth by their own people. Two, in order to reach out to the truth, these elites should begin by re-visiting the 9-11 tragedy. There are many unanswered questions about that event that men and women of conscience have continued to ask in the last 10 years– questions such as the actual identities of the hijackers; why the hijacked airliners were not intercepted; what was the real cause of the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 of the World Trade Center; and whether the Pentagon was hit by a Boeing 757. Scholars of repute in Europe and the US like Hans Kochler, David Ray Griffin, Peter Dale Scott and James Fetzer have challenged the official version of 9-11. It is because the doubts about 9-11 are so widespread that JUST is of the view that the UN General Assembly should establish a truly independent international panel to ascertain the truth once and for all. Three, while Western governments and peoples have their roles to play vis-à-vis 9-11, the Muslim ummah as a whole has also got the responsibility to ensure that the militant fringe within the community renounces terrorism as a weapon to achieve its goals. Apart from the vile and vicious cruelty inherent in terrorism, it is a mode of operation that has tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims worldwide. Whatever its short-term gains, the use of violence and terror against civilians has encouraged a sort obscurantism which prevents both Muslims and nonMuslims alike from realizing that the essence of the Islamic message is the struggle for justice and peace without force or coercion. This is why it is in our interest, in the interest of everyone – 10 years after 9-11– to strengthen our resolve to combat terrorism, and its underlying causes, in all its manifestations. -7 September 2011.

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CHAPTER 53

THE TRUTH ABOUT DAESH Daesh, the Arabic term for the so-called ‘Islamic State’ also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Shams (Syria) (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been roundly condemned by everyone. It deserves to be. It deserves to be condemned because of its barbaric brutality and its harsh cruelty. It deserves to be condemned because of its collective massacres and its individual murders. It deserves to be condemned because of its oppression of Shias, of Christians, of Yazidis. It deserves to be condemned because of its degradation of women. It deserves to be condemned because of its distortion and perversion of Islamic law. Nonetheless, many of those who have condemned Daesh do not want to know how this terrorist outfit came into being in the first instance. It is a direct consequence of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. In order to anchor itself in Iraqi society, the occupier zealously sought to eliminate the power base of deposed President Saddam Hussein by dismantling his security forces and emasculating related Baathist structures. At the same time, the Shias, the majority population, were strengthened in politics and the public services. This heightened resentment among the Sunnis and led to the formation of militias among them. When democratic elections were held in 2005, Shia parties expectedly swept into power. Shia leaders reinforced their cordial ties with the Iranian Shia elite ---some of whom had been their mentors long before the 2003 invasion. Seeing the increasingly close bond between the Shias of Iraq and Iran, the US began to feel

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that its invasion of Iraq had enhanced Iranian influence in that country. Ironically, the US had strengthened the geopolitical hand of its adversary! More than the US, Israel which had also encouraged the invasion of Iraq in order to get rid of a staunch Israeli opponent in Baghdad was appalled that Iran, its other mortal foe, had now expanded its reach in the region. The Saudi elite and elites in a number of other Gulf monarchies and certain other Arab governments also viewed Iraq 窶的ran ties with much apprehension. To add to their apprehension, the Shia based Hezbollah in Lebanon was also emerging as a major actor in Lebanon following its steadfast defense of the nation against Israeli aggression in 2006. This is why a Sunni Arab leader warned his fellow Sunnis of the rise of a Shia arc in West Asia, centered in Tehran. These Sunni fears, paralleling US- Israeli concerns about their dominance over West Asia, prompted these parties to try to stem what they perceived as Shia influence in Iraq by supporting Sunni militias with arms, intelligence and money. Sunni insurgencies like Al-Qaeda became stronger and created a lot of havoc in Iraq, directed mainly at the Shias. A more radical breakaway group from Al-Qaeda calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Shams (Syria) (ISIS) established itself as a tough fighting force and moved into Syria with the same aim of ousting a Shia government, namely the government of Bashar AlAssad. In Syria, ISIS or Daesh has outdone other armed rebel groups in its insatiable appetite for violence. Daesh fighters have massacred Christian communities and beheaded scores of Shias. With ruthless efficiency they have captured strategic routes and oil fields. It is alleged that apart from the spoils of war, this terrorist outfit is also financed and armed by some of the same groups that helped the Sunni insurgents in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. It has even been suggested that Daesh has deep links with Mossad. After all, Israel which has conducted at least six military strikes against the Syrian armed forces in the current conflict is determined to oust Assad since he

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continues to oppose Israeli control over much of the strategic Golan Heights in Syria and insists on protecting his special relationship with Hezbollah and Iran as part of the resistance against US-Israeli hegemony over West Asia. It is significant that Daesh brutalities in Syria --- like those of the other armed groups --- have only elicited whimpers from the US and the West. The reason is obvious. They support the larger aim of these groups which is the overthrow of Assad. The US and the West are (or were) on the side of Daesh in Syria. And yet in Iraq they are against Daesh or ISIS which has now renamed itself as IS. What explains this seemingly glaring contradiction? If the US has decided to fight Daesh in Iraq, it is because it threatens US and other Western oil companies in the Kurdistan region in the north. All the big Western oil players --- Mobil, Chevron, Exxon and Total --- are in the region. Kurdistan, according to Robert Fisk, “accounts for 43.7 billion barrels of Iraq’s 143 billion barrels of reserves, as well as 25.5 billion barrels of unproven reserves and three to six trillion cubic meters of gas.” Preserving the West’s oil interests in Kurdistan is intimately connected to yet another factor. The US and Israel have always regarded Iraqi Kurdistan as a special ally. For decades its leadership has helped to further their agenda in West Asia. In the 2003 invasion of Iraq for instance the Kurds rendered much assistance to the US and Britain. One should not be surprised therefore that the US has chosen to defend the Kurds against the Daesh menace. It is simply a matter of protecting its geo-economic and geopolitical interests. Similarly, if in Syria the US is against Assad, it is because of the pursuit of its hegemonic design over West Asia. Since the US will not be able to eliminate the Daesh threat to Kurdistan in Iraq without taking military action against Daesh in Syria, it is now considering

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launching military strikes against Daesh in certain parts of that country. US military action against Daesh in Syria should signal the beginning of the end of all direct and indirect assistance to the various armed groups in Syria, all of which have committed acts of terror at some point or other. The US’s European and West Asian allies should also desist from providing any form of military support to these groups. Without such external support it is very likely that the violence and bloodshed in Syria will come to a halt. Syrians would then be in a better position to bring about whatever change they feel is necessary through peaceful means. What is more important, the end of crass political violence in Syria will undoubtedly help to reduce Daesh generated terror in Iraq. Terrorism in West Asia as a whole may witness a decline. If one is principled and not opportunistic or hypocritical in the fight against terrorism, it is not just Daesh in one corner of Iraq that will be one’s target. Terrorism, whether it is perpetrated by friend or foe, will be confronted and defeated with courage and integrity. -29 August 2014.

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CHAPTER 54

PROSECUTE THE TORTURERS! Two top United Nations human rights officials have demanded that the United States government prosecute all high-level government officials involved in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) torture programs. The UN’s special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson stated on December 10 2014 that the systematic torture revealed in the US Senate Report released on December 9th, was a massive violation of the 1994 UN Convention against Torture. He called upon the US Attorney-General to “bring criminal charges against those responsible.” He further emphasized that the US is legally obliged to do so under international law. Another UN official, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, made a similar call. An American law professor from the University of California’s Irvine School of Law has pointed out that torture is also a violation of domestic law since it is a federal crime and those “who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted.” Civil society groups from all over the world should endorse these calls wholeheartedly. They should ask that not only those officials directly responsible for the tortures but also those at the very apex who authorized it should be put on trial. Since the CIA’ S “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” program was authorized by President George Bush in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, he should be prosecuted, together with his Vice-President, Dick Chenney, his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom may have had a bigger role in the planning and execution of this vile plan.

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It follows from this that President Obama’s decision not to prosecute officials from the Bush Administration is wrong and unjust. It is unjust not only because it undermines both US and international law; it is unjust because the forms of torture employed were callous and cruel. Detainees at various centers were subjected to water boarding, deprivation of sleep for long hours, sexual threats and death threats. It is significant that the Report admits that in spite of all the coercion used, the interrogators did not obtain critical information about imminent terrorist attacks. Though the Senate Report was focused upon the US, there is some evidence from other sources that seem to suggest that certain other countries were also involved in the CIA’s program. In July 2014, the European court of human rights for instance ruled that the government of Poland had facilitated the CIA’s secret prison program in Europe. Other inquiries have revealed that Sweden, Italy, Macedonia and Rumania have also participated in the CIA’s program for interrogating and detaining terror suspects. Human rights groups in Britain allege that Britain’s MI 5 and MI 6 have colluded with the CIA in torturing British residents detained in Guantanamo Bay. Civil society groups should campaign for full accountability and transparency on the question of torture from these and other governments. Returning to the situation in the US, there is an even more powerful reason why top US leaders should be put in the dock. US leaders have always projected themselves as the greatest champions of democracy and human rights on earth. How can champions of democracy torture — torture in such a debased and depraved manner? Of course, even without the recent revelations, or the revelations in the last few years from Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram, many of us have never ever seen US elites as genuine defenders of human rights. How can you be a defender of human rights when you conquer foreign lands and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent

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people, from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq, in pursuit of your own hegemonic economic and political agenda? What rights are you protecting when you overthrow democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile? How can you claim to be a paragon of democratic values when you have helped to keep in power some of the most autocratic regimes in Latin America, Africa and Asia? Indeed, the US government should desist from playing the role of an upholder of democracy and human rights, given the history of the US as a nation. The barbaric annihilation of the indigenous people of America renders the white settler community in that land a violent suppressor of human rights and human dignity. Similarly, the enslavement of the African population of the US for many decades by a white elite means that it did not have an iota of respect for the honor and integrity of its victims. Perhaps what happened in Ferguson and New York in recent months serve as grim reminders of a racist past that continues to haunt 21st century peddlers of human rights. There are apologists for the US who argue that whatever its shortcomings, the US leadership was willing to admit through the Senate Report that it had tortured people, that it had done wrong. After all, many other countries also torture detainees and prisoners. True, the US elite did the right thing by revealing the dark side of its torture program, unlike most other governments. But we must remember that the US is different from others in two respects. It commands enormous global power, especially global military power. With massive power comes huge responsibilities. It is in the realm of the responsibilities that it shoulders that it has failed miserably. And its torture program is just one of the many examples of its failure to act responsibly. Besides, the US, as we have seen, often claims the high moral

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ground when it comes to democracy and human rights. Most other states do not make such claims. Judged by its own moral barometer, the US should hang down its head in shame. It is a pity that many so-called liberal human rights groups in the Global South who are quick to condemn their own governments for their human rights transgressions are deafeningly silent in the face of the US leadership’s gross violations of human dignity. -15 December 2014.

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CHAPTER 55

BOKO HARAM AND THE POLITICS OF TERROR The heinous abduction of 276 girls from a boarding school in the village of Chibok in the north eastern part of Nigeria on the 14th of April 2014 falls into a pattern of hideous terror unleashed by the Boko Haram in Nigeria, north Cameroon and Niger for a few years now. Boko Haram’s terror, it is estimated, has resulted in about 10,000 deaths. Both Muslims and Christians, clerics and non-clerics, Nigerians and non-Nigerians, have been the victims. Police stations, government offices, schools, mosques, churches, and tourist sites frequented by Westerners have been attacked at various times. Through acts of violence, Boko Haram, founded in 2002, seeks to oust the Nigerian government and replace it with an “Islamic State” based upon the sharia. Eliminating Western education in particular and a secular way of life in general is central to its notion of an Islamic state. It subscribes to a myopic interpretation of sharia with the emphasis upon harsh, punitive laws. Many of its rules keep women subservient to male power. Those who do not adhere to its notion of the sharia are categorized as “apostates” who deserve to be put to death. In that sense, Boko Haram is very much a Takfiri movement --- a movement which easily condemns fellow Muslims as apostates. A number of leading ulama (Islamic religious scholars) in Nigeria and West Africa have criticized Boko Haram for not only resorting to violence but also for its bigotry and dogmatism. Its attempts to coerce Christians to embrace Islam and to force what are perceived as secular schools to close down have earned the ire of a lot of the ulama and Muslims who constitute half of Nigeria’s total population. They rightly regard Boko Haram as a

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movement that has shamelessly betrayed Islamic teachings. Indeed, some Muslims inside and outside Nigeria have even begun to wonder if Boko Haram isn’t the creation of forces that are determined to tarnish the image of the religion ! It is alleged that it is funded by foreign elements though Boko Haram is also known to have staged bank robberies and the like to finance its operations. From its criminal activities it is obvious that the movement is not just about a distorted, perverted interpretation of religion. Boko Haram is essentially about the pursuit for power. Like many other groups, both Muslim and nonMuslim in various parts of the world, it has consciously chosen to manipulate religious emotions as it lusts for power and the glory that accompanies it. However, if Boko Haram continues to command a constituency, it is partly because of the larger situation prevailing in the country. Nigeria is one of the most unequal societies in the world with an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. There is also massive corruption at all levels of society. A weak delivery system has increased the burden of the people. All this has fuelled anger and disillusionment with the State. As a movement fighting the State, Boko Haram has been able to tap into some of that frustration. The global environment has also abetted Boko Haram. The unending suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of Israel, an intimate ally of the United States; the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and the massacre and torture of innocent civilians; and the alienation and humiliation of Muslims in many Western countries post 9-11, have helped to reinforce the antiWestern sentiments of groups like Boko Haram. These episodes and trends provide justification for militants who try to avenge injustices and indignities perpetrated against Muslims through their own acts of terror. In recent months, the presence of French soldiers in Mali and the

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Central African Republic has given Boko Haram yet another reason to ventilate its hostility towards the West. In this regard, there are Muslims who ask why Western elites are so concerned about the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls now when just two decades ago, Washington had imposed sanctions upon Iraq that killed some 650,000 children and when hundreds of deformed babies --- the tragic victims of depleted uranium from US military operations ---- continue to be born in that blighted land to this today? What this shows is that a selective approach to issues of justice in the global arena and the stark double standards of the powerful undermine the battle against violence and terrorism. It is further undermined by the material and political support that the centers of power in the West and in other parts of the world sometimes offer to certain terrorist outfits --- in spite of their rhetoric against terrorism. This had happened in Libya in 2011 and is happening now in Syria on a much more extensive and systematic scale. It is this hypocrisy that has compelled analysts to conclude that there are good terrorists and bad terrorists, the former being those who are useful tools in the perpetuation of Western hegemony while the latter are those who oppose that hegemony! Given this scenario, how does one address the terrorism of Boko Haram and other such groups? One, it is the responsibility of everyone --- governments, businesses, unions, civil society organizations, media, professionals, academics --- to work towards a just and equitable international order where no nation or cluster of nations exercises global hegemonic power that can only be sustained through violence which in turn begets violence from terrorist outfits.

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Two, elites in power and with influence at the state level everywhere should ensure that there is good, honest governance. For elite corruption as we have seen in so many countries, is grist to the mill for groups that seek to remedy the situation through violence. Three, hidden hands that manipulate terrorist groups for their own nefarious agenda at national, regional and international levels should be exposed without fear or favour. This is where the media has a critical role to play. Four, the sources of funding of terrorist groups at different levels should be laid bare through more effective intelligence gathering and exchange. There should be no tolerance for attempts to conceal or camouflage terrorist funding, even if it involves the powerful. Five, Muslim intellectuals committed to the universal, inclusive message of Islam should join hands across continents to counter the narrow, bigoted, dogmatic distortions of the purveyors of violence and terror within the ummah. In fact, there should be similar movements within all the other religious communities too, since bigotry and dogmatism often spawning violence is a challenge that has emerged in all religious communities in the 21st century. -13 May 2014.

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CHAPTER 56

NAIROBI AND PESHAWAR: THE FUTILITY OF TERROR TACTICS. The dastardly carnage in Nairobi and Peshawar proves yet again the utter futility of resorting to terror tactics in order to secure one’s political goals. In Nairobi, the brazen attack on a shopping mall by AlShabaab, a group based in Somalia, purportedly linked to Al-Qaeda, on 21 September 2013, has left at least 62 people dead and around 175 injured. This cruel slaughter of innocent men and women has elicited worldwide condemnation. It has heightened the anger of the Kenyan people against Al-Shabaab. Kenyan authorities are now more determined than ever to intensify their role in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) under whose auspices the Kenyan army had invaded Somalia in October 2011 with the aim of defeating Al-Shabaab. If Al-Shabaab’s terrorism on 21 September was to force Kenya to withdraw from Somalia, it has failed badly. Neither has it succeeded in making the people of Somalia more antagonistic towards the government in Mogadishu which Al-Shabaab alleges serves the interests of the US, other Western powers and Israel who are seeking to tighten their grip over Somalia and the Horn of Africa. If anything, through its barbaric conduct, AlShabaab has, ironically, brought Israel closer to the Kenyan government since Israeli commandos are helping Kenyan troops to eliminate terrorists from the shoppingmall. Al-Shabaab has often denounced Kenya’s ties with Israel. In other words, Al-Shabaab’s wanton terrorist assault has undermined its own position. The massacre outside the All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar on 22 September as Christian worshippers were coming out of the Church perpetrated by two suicide bombers from a group known as Jandullah, linked to the

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Pakistani Taliban, resulted in 80 deaths, including 37 women and 7 children. This heinous crime against the innocent has incensed the people of Pakistan. Thousands have participated in protests in all major cities in the country. They are demanding firm action from the State against terrorist groups of whatever hue. If the terrorist attack in the precincts of the Peshawar Church was intended as a protest against US drone assaults along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, it is unlikely that it will compel the US to change its policy. On the contrary, this brutal act has diverted attention from drones and other pressing national issues to the vulnerability of the miniscule Christian minority in Peshawar and Pakistan as a whole. It has brought to the fore the depravity and the viciousness of terrorist groups such as the Jandullah. The Nairobi and Peshawar episodes demonstrate vividly that terror tactics do not help to advance the struggle against hegemony or foreign intervention or external aggression. On the contrary, they weaken the quest to protect a people’s sovereignty and independence. Terrorism should be rejected by people everywhere. The struggle against injustice should be through peaceful, non-violent means, however difficult it may be. -24 September 2013.

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CHAPTER 57

PARIS: A DASTARDLY ACT OF TERROR It is not surprising that Muslim governments, organizations and individuals right across the globe have condemned the heinous murder of 12 persons --- 10 journalists and two police --- at the headquarters of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris in the late morning of the 7 th of January 2015. This dastardly act of terror, allegedly carried out by three Muslims, violates every norm in the Islamic faith. If it is true that the killers were trying to avenge the sanctified memory of the Prophet Muhammad who has been the subject of continuous ridicule and contempt in the weekly, murdering its cartoonists and editors is clearly an abomination. One should respond to satirical cartoons with cartoons and other works of art that expose the prejudice and bigotry of the cartoonists and editors of Charlie Hebdo. One should use the Charlie Hebdo cartoons as a platform to educate and raise the awareness of the French public about what the Quran actually teaches and who the Prophet really was and the sort of noble values that distinguished his life and struggle. To assassinate those who mock the Prophet in such a barbaric manner shows that the terrorists have no understanding at all of how the Prophet himself responded to those who poured their venom and hatred upon him when he was conveying the message of justice and compassion that is the kernel of Islam to the people of Mecca and Medina in the early 7th century. Of course, provoking the six million Muslims in France and the larger 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide through constant insults and indignities directed at the Prophet and the religion --- albeit through the medium of cartoons --- isnot

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only utterly reprehensible but also an affront to interreligious harmony and social stability. It is an example of the reckless abuse of the freedom of expression which brings much grief to everyone. Freedom of expression is not the freedom to denigrate and desecrate a Prophet who is so deeply cherished by millions and millions of Muslims. If the advocates of human rights regard the freedom of a handful of cartoonists as crucial for human civilization, they should also show some appreciation of the honor and dignity of an entire people. Surely, the right to protect one’s dignity --- the dignity of a collectivity --- is also a fundamental human right. The Charlie Hebdo episode has underscored yet again the importance of exercising freedom with a deep sense of responsibility. Restraints are part and parcel of rights. It is by balancing rights with restraints that one ensures the well-being of the whole. This balance is especially critical at a time like this in Europe. Negative feelings towards non-European migrants are getting stronger in various parts of the continent. Islamophobia is part of this though as a phenomenon it is centuries old. If attitudes towards Muslims and migrants in general have hardened in recent years, it is partly because of rising unemployment and stagnating economies. As it often happens in such situations, the “outsider� becomes the scapegoat. If in the midst of all this, elements from the majority, established community in Europe continue to provoke a minority which by and large views religion from a different perspective than the majority, and if some individuals from that minority react to the provocations through mindless violence, tension and conflict will become the order of the day. This is why both sides should be responsible and restrained.

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Indeed, both the majority and the minority should realize that acts of terror can also be manipulated to serve the agenda of some political actor or other. In the context of Charlie Hebdo, shouldn’t we ask if the killing spree on the 7th of January was also a message of sorts to the French ruling elite? Was some group sending a warning to the elite that it should not have supported Palestine’s recent failed bid in the UN Security Council to obtain endorsement for its goal of establishing an independent, sovereign state within a short time frame? Was that group the master-mind behind 7th January? Questions of this sort strengthen the case for an independent investigation preferably under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General into the Paris massacre. The truth behind the massacre may tell us a great deal about terrorism itself in our time. -9 January 2015. POSTSCRIPT Since the above was written, there has been a major development in the Paris massacre. The two brothers responsible for the massacre, Cherif and Said Kouachi, were gunned down by the French police on the 9th of January, as they emerged from a small printing firm in the Northeast of Paris where they were hiding after their widely condemned act of evil. A third person, purportedly an accomplice, who was holed up in a supermarket elsewhere in the city was also killed by the police. By killing these terrorists — which may have been inevitable from a security standpoint — it has now become more difficult to find out if the three acted on their own or if they were part of a larger group and supported by an ideologically driven network.

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Were they, especially the Kouachi brothers, motivated solely by a desire to punish Charlie Hebdo for its despicable cartoons of the Prophet as claimed by one of them according to the media or were they also fulfilling some other cleverly concealed agenda, unknown to them? This is a valid question to ask because the cartoons which have enraged a lot of French Muslims have become a regular feature of the Charlie Hebdo weekly for at least eight years now. There has been no report of any specific cartoon in recent days eliciting a particularly potent reaction from any section of the French Muslim community. Incidentally, the weekly also lampoons revered personalities from other religions. It has been suggested that it was not just the cartoons that incensed the terrorists. France’s aggressive role in fighting socalled Islamic jihadists in central Africa may have also been a factor. This argument is somewhat compromised by the fact that the French government was directly and indirectly on the side of the jihadists in Libya in the brutal overthrow of the secular Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Even more significant, the French clearly share the same trench as Islamic rebels of different shades who have been fighting another secular leader, President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, for almost four years now. So there is no reason to believe that it is France’s adventures in other parts of the world which have angered Islamic jihadists. This story about the country’s stand against jihadists in other lands may have been deliberately put out by the media to divert attention from some other more plausible explanation for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The massacre may well be a Mossad operation to contain the growing tide of support and sympathy for the Palestinians in their struggle for statehood among people in France and in a number of other European countries. This is the one really momentous development of the last few months that has impacted upon the Israeli government and global Zionism. Parliaments in Sweden and Spain to Ireland and Britain have

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adopted resolutions endorsing the Palestinian struggle. France has also taken a similar step. In my main article I alluded to the French vote in the UN Security Council which some analysts have described as the culmination of a major shift in the public mood vis-a-vis the Israel-Palestine conflict within Europe. By staging a massacre which once again reinforces the image of the Muslim as a terrorist opposed to civilized values such as the freedom of expression and incapable of living in harmony with the majority population, Mossad and the Israeli government may be seeking to drive a wedge between the majority European citizenry and the Muslim minority. The aim may be to dissuade governments and citizens in Europe from moving any further along their newly discovered path of engagement with Palestinians who they are now beginning to see as victims rather than as aggressors which is how they have been portrayed all these years by the Israeli elite and the Zionist controlled media. What better way of doing this than by reviving that deeply entrenched image of the Muslim in the European mind as a violence prone creature hell-bent on wiping out the innocent? What has always enabled the Mossad and Israel to achieve their objective is the readiness of some Muslim groups to resort to violence in order to redeem the honor of Islam which invariably leads to the vilification of the religion and the denigration of its adherents. -10 January 2015.

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CHAPTER 58

TERRORISM AND THE POLITICS OF HEGEMONY There has been a massive outpouring of sympathy for the victims of the dastardly, heinous massacre in Paris on 13 November 2015. Once again, with the help of the media, the whole of the human family has come together to grieve with the bereaved in France. I only wish there was a fraction of that sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of victims of acts of terrorism right across West Asia and North Africa (WANA) in the last few decades. In many instances these innocent men, women and children were also the targets of the terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS) or Daesh, the alleged mastermind behind the Paris carnage, and other equally vicious perpetrators of violence. But Daesh terrorism in WANA is seldom analyzed to its roots in the mainstream global media because it would reveal the ugly truth about the hidden hands that manipulate so much of the murder and mayhem in that region. To understand Daesh’s role today, one has to go back to the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the second greatest calamity to befall WANA, after the imposition of the entity called Israel upon the region in 1948. The occupation of Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein was followed by the dismantling of the country’s security apparatus which deprived tens of thousands soldiers and police personnel of their livelihood who later became a fertile recruitment base for AlQaeda in Iraq. Their anger and resentment peaked when parliamentary elections in December 2005 produced a Shia-led government (the Shias are the majority community in Iraq) which was perceived by many Sunnis as biased against them. Sunni terrorist activities

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spearheaded by Al-Qaeda received covert support from individuals and groups in other WANA states such as Saudi Arabia who feared growing Shia, and therefore, Iranian influence in the region. Israel, which since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran was totally antagonistic towards Iran for whom the liberation of the Palestinian people was a foreign policy priority, was also determined to curb the rise of Iran. Given Israel’s position, it was not surprising that the US which a few years earlier had overthrown a Sunni leader was now quietly aiding and abetting Sunni insurgents. It is worth noting that under Saddam there was not a single Al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Iraq. It was a breakaway group from Al-Qaeda in Iraq motivated by anti-Shia sentiments that moved into Syria in 2011 to reinforce the armed rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad, a member of a Shia minority sect ruling a Sunni majority population. The group morphed into Daesh. Daesh and other terrorist outfits such as the Jabhat al-Nusra receive overt and covert support from Sunni states and non-state actors within and without WANA. Apart from arms and money, recruitment networks established in a number of countries from Europe to Africa and to Asia have facilitated the flow of foreign fighters from more than 80 countries into Syria in the last 3 or 4 years. In creating and sustaining this flow, it is alleged that CIA operatives, Mossad infiltrators and M16 agents have played a significant role. They are involved “in overseeing the conduct of terrorist operations on the ground together with Turkish and Qatari special forces, as well as thousands of mercenaries recruited from Muslim countries…” How does one explain the involvement of so many different groups and states in what are clearly terrorist activities aimed at overthrowing a legitimate government?

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For many foreign fighters, the visceral hatred for the Shia sect cultivated by Sunni ulama (religious personalities) appears to be a driving force. If anything, Bashar’s brutal suppression of dissent in some situations has intensified this hatred. In the case of the Saudi elites, antagonism towards the Shia is intertwined with resentment against what they perceive as Iran’s growing political clout in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain and Yemen.15% of the Saudi population itself living mostly in the country’s oil rich province is Shia. Bashar, they know, is Iran’s staunchest ally in the region. In order to stem Iranian influence, some Saudi elites depict their opposition to Iran as an attempt to curb Persian penetration of the Arab heartland. While Qatar may share some of these sentiments, it turned against Bashar partly because he refused to acquiesce with the former’s proposal to build a gas pipeline from Qatar to Europe via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey which would have impacted adversely upon Russia’s supply of gas to Europe. Turkey from the Ottoman period has regarded Syria as vital to its own security and would have been more comfortable with a leader in Damascus who would willingly share power with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood with which the present Justice and Development (AKP) rulers in Ankara enjoy some affinity. More than Turkey, it is Israel that wants a regime change in Damascus --- a change which would lead to the termination of Damascus’s close ties with Iran, on the one hand, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the other, the two forces in WANA that remain opposed to Israel’s hegemony over the region. At the same time, it hopes that the exit of Bashar would make it easier for Israel to gain complete control over the strategic Golan Heights which it captured in the 1967 Israel-Arab War. Israel’s agenda has shaped to an extent the US and Western approach towards Syria and the region. The Obama Administration is determined toget rid of Bashar

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because it is aware of the role he plays in perpetuating the three way resistance to US and Israeli dominance of WANA expressed through the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah link. What piques Obama even more is that Syria is a strategic ally of Russia which has special naval access to the Mediterranean port of Tartus. In recent months, the SyriaRussia bond has become even stronger. It is obvious that there is a set of complex factors ranging from the religious to the geopolitical that is responsible for the opposition to Bashar, a significant part of which is related to the politics of hegemony. It is not just in relation to terrorism in Syria that the politics of hegemony is critical. If we examined the three real reasons behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003 which sired the current pattern of terrorism in WANA they are all connected to hegemony -- the US desire to control Iraqi oil; Iraq’s strategic location in WANA; and Israel’s desire to eliminate an Arab leader who was not only passionately committed to the Palestinian cause but also uncompromisingly opposed to Israeli hegemony. Indeed, hegemony is at the root of the chaotic mess that prevails in yet another Arab country today. It was because of the West’s quest for control over Libyan oil and to thwart Muamar Gaddafi’s plan for economic self-reliance and political integration for Africa that NATO chose to liquidate him in 2011. His liquidation has opened the way to intense competition for power among contending terrorist groups. If we go back in history it was the contest for hegemony between the US and the demised Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) over Afghanistan in the nineteen eighties that gave birth to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda. Even if we took another in-depth look at the Paris carnage it is undeniable that France has become a target of the IS because of its military interventions in a number of states from Syria, Iraq and Libya in WANA to

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Chad, Mali and Ivory Coast. It appears that France wants to play a more dominant role in both West Asia and Africa in pursuit of its own hegemonic agenda. This has earned it the ire of a lot of Muslims and Africans. This is why it will not be possible to eliminate terrorism unless there is a concerted attempt to overcome hegemony at the global level. Citizens within the hegemonic centers of power in particular will have to stand up and demand that their governments cease overt and covert military operations in other countries. Government leaders should know that they cannot denounce terrorism at the rhetorical level and yet hobnob with terrorist organizations in terms of realpolitik. They should be persuaded through the democratic process to abandon their hegemonic agendas forever. Respecting the independence and sovereignty of other nations and peoples should be a principle that is put into practice rather than preached from a rostrum. This does not mean that if global hegemony ends, terrorism will disappear altogether. There are many other causes of terrorism which will have to be combated with resolute vigor. Nonetheless, a global movement against global hegemony with the focus upon terrorism is the need of the hour. -16 November 2015.

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CHAPTER 59

EXTREMIST TENDENCIES IN CONTEMPORARY MUSLIM COMMUNITIES Presented at the Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Annual Seminar on Global Issues Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 14 June 2014. Extremism is a complex phenomenon. It is not easy to provide a definition. There are however certain characteristics associated with extremists which are universally acknowledged. Among them would be the following:1) A conviction that they (the extremists) --- and only they --- have an absolute monopoly over the truth. 2) It follows from this that they see others as wrong and misguided. 3) Only information or ideas that reinforce their worldview are regarded as legitimate. 4) Rigidity, and not flexibility, signifies their thinking and action. 5) Sometimes in pursuit of their goals they are ready to resort to violence. Right through history extremist tendencies have expressed themselves within all religious communities. Indeed, even within non-religious belief systems there are such tendencies which is why one can have an extremist Marxist or an extremist liberal. Extremist Muslims share similarities with extremists in other religious and non-religious streams of thought. As with other groups, they constitute only a small minority within the Muslim Ummah (community). But they are vocal and attract a lot of attention in the media. What is the origin of Muslim extremism?

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It is certainly not the Noble Quran, the fundamental source of guidance for the Muslim. Neither is it derived from the Sunnah, the way of the Prophet Muhammad. Is it possible that extremist tendencies began with the Kharijites in the latter part of the seventh century who referred to themselves as “the People of Heaven” and condemned the rest as the “People of Hell?” Whatever its origin, extremist thinking, as we have hinted, has never captured the imagination of the majority of Muslims. Nonetheless, such thinking appears to have a constituency of sorts today. What explains this? A pervasive concern with protecting and preserving what is perceived as an “Islamic identity” in the face of external challenges is part of the explanation. It was undoubtedly colonial subjugation which pierced the heart of Islamic civilization that compelled Muslim societies everywhere to revitalize and re-assert their identity. In the post-colonial era, the dispossession of the Palestinians and later the conquest of Afghanistan and the invasion and occupation of Iraq have also forced Muslims to define themselves, often in exclusive terms, in relation to the dominant other. Indeed, the perpetual attempt by the United States and the West to ensure their global hegemony to the detriment of Muslims and others has increased their sense of siege. For Muslims in particular, since hegemony embodies an overwhelmingly powerful cultural dimension, they are more conscious than others of its challenge to what they perceive as their Islamic way of life. In some instances, this challenge comes in the form of Muslim governments themselves which are perceived as “secular” or as governments that have failed to adhere to the laws of Allah. If corruption or oppression or economic and social disparities are also widespread in the societies they lead, they provide grist to the mill of those who are determined to replace these governments

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with “Islamic States”. At the same time, when Muslims in these and other societies find themselves living cheek by jowl with non-Muslim communities either as a majority or as a minority, the desire to project their Islamic identity in both the private and public spheres becomes even more pronounced. Muslims as individuals or as collectivities have responded to the colonial and post-colonial landscape in different ways. Since symbols, forms and practices are compelling identity markers which reinforce a group’s distinctiveness, they have emerged as significant determinants of the Ummah’s desire to protect itself from the onslaught of the other. Those who espouse the strengthening of identity markers and have elevated this approach towards Islam to an ideology sometimes tend to adopt extreme positions. The exclusivism of the Wahabi movement is a case in point. An even more extreme example of narrow, bigoted thinking within the Ummah would be the Takfiris who regard themselves as the only true Muslims and curse other Muslims as infidels. Extremist tendencies of this sort have remained on the fringes of many Muslim societies for many years. The attitudes of these extremists on the rights of women, the role of non-Muslim communities, the place of Islamic punishments in a contemporary setting, and the meaning of an Islamic polity are by and large inimical to the wellbeing of their fellow citizens. Sometimes they resort to acts of terror to advance their agenda as we have witnessed in a number of countries from Iraq and Syria to Pakistan and Indonesia. Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams or Daesh, Laskar-eTaiba and the Jemaah Islamiah would be among the more notorious terror outfits which have massacred scores of innocent people, both Muslim and non-Muslim. The senseless, mindless violence of these groups should be distinguished from the occasional instances of terror that genuine liberation movements are sometimes guilty of. Because of the noble cause they are committed to --the liberation of Palestine, Lebanon and other Arab lands

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from the Zionist- Israeli tentacles --- movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah should not be viewed as terrorist organizations or extremist outfits. Nonetheless, their killing of unarmed civilians should be condemned even as we uphold their larger struggle for justice. Hamas and Hezbollah and other liberation movements and groups seeking justice and dignity in the Muslim world should give greater emphasis to non-violent, peaceful change, however difficult it maybe. When the Ummah as a whole embraces peaceful change as its defining credo, extremism will begin to decline. This brings us to the final part of our presentation. How should we overcome extremist tendencies within the Ummah? There should be a massive, concerted effort within the Ummah to show Muslims and non-Muslims alike how much Islam values peace and peaceful change. Apart from the Quran, which regards the inclination towards peace as a supreme virtue, examples from the Prophet’s life and struggle also underscore the significance of peaceful ways of bringing about change. The emphasis the Quran accords to life ---if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind ( Sura 5: 32) --- should also be highlighted. Likewise, the rejection of any form of aggression in the Quran which permits the use of force only in self-defense is a principle that should be brought to the fore. Contemporary episodes which reveal how Muslim freedom fighters had consciously chosen the path of non-violent struggle should also be given greater prominence. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan who mobilized thousands in his peaceful resistance to British rule in India would be an outstanding illustration of this principle. In more recent times, the Indonesian masses in the largest Muslim country in the world ousted an entrenched dictator in a largely peaceful uprising.

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Telling the story of peace in Islamic civilization both as value and practice should be accompanied by an organized attempt to show how the Quran upholds religious and cultural diversity. In a number of chapters and verses it reminds humankind of our diversity and the importance of cherishing that diversity. In Sura 5:48, Sura 22:67 and Sura 49:13 the Quran counsels us that diversity is part of the divine plan. In Sura 109:6, we are told in no uncertain terms: “to you your religion to me mine”, which in a sense is a clarion call for peaceful coexistence. In fact, even on the question of salvation, the Quran transcends religion and community and says in Sura 2:111-112 that “whoever submits his whole self to God and is a doer of good, he will get his reward with his Lord…” The Quran’s dedication to peace and its celebration of diversity is the answer to the violence and the bigotry of some of the extremists. Indeed, the Quran makes it explicitly clear that it eschews extremism itself. It states, “And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way …” ( Sura 2: 143). In explaining the verse, the Islamic scholar, the late Muhammad Assad, points out that a community of the middle way is “a community that keeps an equitable balance between extremes…” and is in “tune with its ( the Quran’s) oft-repeated call to moderation in every aspect of life…” The critical question is how does one strengthen the commitment of Muslim societies to moderation, acceptance of diversity and peace? The curriculum for Islamic education at all levels should reflect the significance that the Quran accords to these values and principles of living. Muslim families should also be inculcated with these values and principles through neighborhood activities and community programs. The family, it is irrefutably true, is such a crucial conduit for the cultivation of attitudes and outlooks that may help to inoculate the individual from psychological tendencies that sometimes breed violence and terror.

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However, as critical as the family and the school in fortifying the foundations of peace, moderation and appreciation of diversity, are three categories of people whose impact upon Muslim societies is immense. The ulama (Muslim teachers and scholars) should be imbued with attitudes that conduce towards the creation of peace-loving societies characterized by moderation and an appreciation of diversity. This would require reeducating the ulama so that they become less obsessed with superficialities and connect with the substance of the faith. By the same token, politicians should also be persuaded to go back to school and develop a deeper understanding of the primary message of the Quran as transmitted by the Prophet which is to surrender to Allah and to perform good deeds. In the process, it is hoped that they will realize that manipulating religion for selfserving goals and separating means from ends is antithetical to Islam. Media practitioners should also shift their focus from highlighting sensational acts of violence and instead concentrate upon peace-building efforts at the level of the community which often go unnoticed. Addressing issues of how Muslims understand and practice their faith is only part of the challenge. In order to curb extremist tendencies we should also ensure that the circumstances that give rise to desperation and anger are not present. Governments and elites as a whole should be honest, accountable and trustworthy. They should translate pledges of justice into actual programs of action aimed at raising the standard of living of the least of the least. At the global level, the struggle against hegemony --- which is at the root of so many injustices ---should be intensified.

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When citizens of the world are convinced that there is justice, fairness and equity in the existing global system, the extremists and terrorists will have no constituency. It is denying them a constituency that is the real challenge before us as we seek to create a just world where diversity is celebrated and moderation reigns supreme. -8 June 2014.

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CHAPTER 60

THE MASSACRE OF CHILDREN The whole world condoles with the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. It is a terrible tragedy: 27 people dead, 20 of them six and seven year-old kids. It is the worst school massacre in the history of the United States. Senseless, mindless killings of this sort have been happening at regular intervals in the US. They have become more frequent in the course of the last couple of years. Lax gun control laws that vary from state to state are seen as one of the causes. The ruling elite should have the courage to introduce tough gun control laws at state and federal level. These should pave the way for the eventual prohibition of private gun ownership. But over and beyond the question of gun control, US society as a whole will have to deal with its deeply entrenched culture of violence.Its emergence as a state was characterised by unspeakable violence against the indigenous people of the land. The African slave population was also a victim of cruel violence perpetrated by slave owners and the ruling elite. Violence has continued to be perpetuated in politics and social life through the ages. One of the main reasons why violence figures so prominently in US society is because its global power has been built around the institutions and instruments of violence. The US is the world’s biggest military spender. In 2012, its military expenditure was 711 billion, more than 40% of total global military expenditure. Its 800 odd military bases gird the globe. It has the most devastating arsenal of weapons in the possession of any nation or empire in the history of the human race.

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This huge killing machine has gone into action on a number of occasions in the last six decades in pursuit of its agenda of control and dominance. And among its millions of victims have been thousands and thousands of children. US clandestine wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, among other Latin American countries, from the fifties to the eighties, testify to this fact. Who has kept a count of the children killed by US bombs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the sixties and early seventies? Have we forgotten the 650,000 children who died as a result of the severe Anglo-American engineered sanctions against Iraq from 1991 to 2003 --- sanctions which in reality served as a weapon of war? After the US led invasion and occupation of Iraq in March 2003, thousands of children continued to die in the unending sectarian conflicts unleashed by the war. The US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan has had a similar effect upon children. Many children have also been killed in the unmanned US drone attacks along the AfghanPakistan border. The US had participated actively in the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 in which scores of children perished. Today, the US, in collusion with some of its allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, is providing material and military support to rebels and foreign mercenaries in Syria who have deliberately --- and brutally --- massacred children in various parts of the conflict ridden country. In this regard, there is also the violence against children committed by the US’s special ally, Israel. Weren’t a disproportionately high number of Palestinian children killed in Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9? What about the children killed in the 2006 Israeli assault on Lebanon?

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Or, the large number of children wiped out by the rightwing Christian Phalangists in Sabra and Shatila in Lebanon in 1982 who were working hand- in-glove with elements in the Israeli political and military leadership? We ask, who weeps for all these children killed over decades in different parts of the world by the might of power? Who mourns for these innocent lives? Who sheds tears for these buds of beauty crushed to death under the heels of the rulers of the world? Has the mainstream Western media--- CNN or BBC; the New York Times or the London Times ---- ever highlighted the massacre of these little ones? Do politicians across the globe trip over one another to offer sympathies to the families of the children killed? But let us be clear about this: it is not just the US and its allies who have killed children. During its occupation of Afghanistan, the demised Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was also guilty of killing children. The Iraq of Saddam Hussein tortured and killed children of dissidents. So did the Syria of Hafiz Assad. In confronting the militants in his country, his son, Bashar al-Assad, has also killed children. The Taliban, in and out of power, have not spared children either in their military operations. Some Palestinian freedom fighters have, without batting an eyelid, blown up Israeli children in a school bus or in a school cafe. This utter lack of humanity has manifested itself in countless other situations involving children. In Sudan, in Somalia, in Kenya, in Rwanda, in the Congo and in Mali, children, trapped in violent conflicts, have, in the past as in the present, paid the ultimate price. Violent conflicts, whether internal or external, in any part of the world ---- in Indonesia or Thailand; in India or Sri Lanka; in Ireland or

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Serbia ----- invariably take a huge toll on the lives of our little ones. This is why we must do all we can to minimise violent conflicts. We must address the underlying causes of these conflicts which are often related to political power, economic resources or religious/cultural sentiments. Sometimes violence at the individual level may have a psychological root. There may be elements in our primary socialization that may explain our tendency to resort to acts of violence. An attempt must be made to rectify them. It is only if we are prepared to overcome the underlying causes of violence that we would be able to eliminate one of the most horrific crimes against humanity --- the massacre of children. -17 December 2012.

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CHAPTER 61

TODAY’S CHILD; TOMORROW’S WORLD: THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN PROTECTING THE DIGNITY OF THE CHILD IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION Keynote Address at an international conference on “Challenges in Young People’s World of Communication” organized by the AsiaPacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in Karlstad, Sweden from 14 to 18 June 2010. How can the media help to protect the dignity of the child in the Asia-Pacific region? There are perhaps three roles that the media, both mainstream and alternative, can play in ensuring that the self-worth and self-respect, the honor and integrity, of any person below the age of eighteen is safeguarded to the utmost in the most extensive region of the world, stretching from Syria and Iraq, at one end, to New Zealand and the Fijis, at the other end of the geographical spectrum. One, the media should be unrelenting in its mission to expose those circumstances and situations that undermine the dignity of the child in the Asia-Pacific region. Two, the media should never cease to remind policymakers, other influential elements in society, and society as a whole, of the essential prerequisites of an environment that is conducive for the dignity of the child. Three, the media should convince today’s child that if he is to live with dignity in tomorrow’s world he will have to be imbued with values and principles that are different from some of the dominant motives and attitudes that have driven economic growth and development in various countries in Asia-Pacific in the last few decades.

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Undermining Dignity Poverty is one of the greatest threats to human dignity. Though millions of people in the region no longer live in abject poverty, there are still huge numbers trapped in destitution in various parts of Asia-Pacific. There is no need to emphasize that this impacts adversely upon children --- their health, their education, their life opportunities. It is mainly because of poverty that child labor is still prevalent, especially in South Asia. A big portion of child laborers are actually bonded laborers, forced to work, often in slave –like conditions, because of a family or personal debt. There are millions of them in India, Pakistan and Nepal just as there are street children, as young as five years, in these and other countries such as the Philippines and Thailand. In Cambodia, one-third of the roughly 80,000 to 100,000 prostitutes are children. Child trafficking is also a lucrative trade in some countries in the region. The media within and without Asia-Pacific has given some attention to the indignity of bonded labor, of street children, of child prostitution. Though this has embarrassed some governments, it has also resulted in legislation aimed at curbing some of the more inhuman and degrading aspects of these practices. Legislation that offers some protection to the dignity of the child is, however, often compromised by weak implementation.

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A Conducive Environment Effective implementation of laws aside, how can one create an environment that is conducive for the dignity of the child? There must be a sincere, concerted effort to eradicate absolute poverty. At the same time, primary health care facilities and educational opportunities should be made available to every child. Other essential amenities such as piped water and electricity should also be accessible to everyone. An efficient public delivery system should be established to ensure that goods and services reach the people. These are some of the attributes of societies that have looked after their young in the Asia-Pacific region. Countries like Japan and South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, have also created well-managed economies with growth and equity. There is political stability and social order. What this means is that good governance is a vital condition for protecting the dignity of the child. Abuse of power and corruption should be eliminated. Public accountability should be enhanced. And the rule of law should reign supreme. In those countries in the region where mass poverty is ubiquitous, primary heath-care facilities are woefully inadequate and educational opportunities are deplorably truncated, the media should coax the ruling elite to address these challenges. In this regard, it is a pity that only 49 percent of children were in secondary school in South Asia between 2003 and 2008. The media should examine critically the priorities of the elite. Does the state spend much more on the military than on schools and hospitals? Can the media in Asia-Pacific do a budgetary analysis of how much each government in the region spends on protecting the dignity of the child, by looking at allocations for education from pre-school to tertiary levels, and for primary health-care?

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There are of course countries in the region that cannot do much for their children because of internal upheaval and political instability. In fact, whenever there is chaos and anarchy, children who are among the most vulnerable suffer much more than other groups in society. As a case in point, children in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan--- societies under occupation and in turmoil --- are not only deprived of the essentials of life but are also often victims of deep psychological trauma and emotional anguish. Journalists should highlight this in their reports. They should point out that foreign occupation and war have a devastating impact upon the child. Media analysts should show how other forms of global injustice also impact adversely upon the child. Crippling external debts increase further the burden of poor states that are unable to look after their child population, as proven by the Filipino experience. When a massive financial crisis generated in part by global casino capitalism --- as in the case of Indonesia in 1998--reduces a nation to penury, the government would be forced to cut back upon public expenditure including food aid to schoolchildren from disadvantaged families. From what has been discussed, the media should know that it is not only good governance within the domestic sphere but also justice in the global arena that ensures and enhances the dignity of the child.

Today; Tomorrow However conducive the domestic and global environment maybe for the dignity of the child, the media should also be aware that there are other forces at work in the contemporary world that are inimical to the spiritual and moral well-being of the child. Today’s child is growing up in a family that is in the midst of a profound crisis. The family institution in many parts of

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Asia-Pacific, as in the West, is no longer the strong, stable and secure institution it was six or seven decades ago. Pressures emanating from work, urban living, and an exaggerated notion of individualism, have resulted in the weakening of the institution. Because love, warmth and cohesiveness have ceased to be synonymous with the family, today’s child is deprived of a fundamental source of spiritual and emotional succour. The media has an obligation to focus upon this grave challenge to an institution which has been the foundation of human civilisation. It follows from this that the media should also warn the present generation about the danger of inducting the next generation into an individualistic lifestyle and culture that eschews values such as sharing, giving and caring. It would be disastrous if this happens because the various crises that confront humankind today --- the ‘peak-oil’ crisis; the water crisis; the food crisis; the environmental crisis and the economic crisis --- demand that we move away from an individualistic, self-centered lifestyle towards a culture that is more inter-connected and communitarian. That is the only assurance of our survival as a species. The media should not continue promoting directly and obliquely the vice of self-centeredness and egoism, and should instead encourage our children to be more ‘otheroriented’ through cartoons, comics and films. To inculcate attitudes orientated towards the other in our children --- attitudes of sharing, giving and caring--- the media, together with other institutions such as the family and the school, should instill in them a sincere appreciation of two supreme moral values embodied in all religions : restraint and moderation. Our children should learn the importance of restraining their own wants and desires, with the interests of the other, especially the weaker other, in mind.

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They should understand that moderation is an ethic of balance, of balancing one’s legitimate interests with the interests of others, of avoiding extremes, of walking the middle path. Restraint and moderation as living values would dissuade us from becoming overly materialistic and consumerist. They are the antidote to the greed that is the bane of this materialistic, consumerist culture. It is undeniably true that the media, especially the commercially inclined media, has played a big role in reinforcing and perpetuating this culture within the middle and upper classes in Asia-Pacific. Given the perilous state of the world, it would be suicidal if our children, with the help of the media, emulate us. This is why if our present generation, if the media, really cares for the future, for tomorrow’s world, it will help strengthen the spiritual-moral core in today’s child. If that core is strong in our children, their dignity would be enhanced, especially in an endangered planet. It would be the media’s most precious gift to the children of Asia-Pacific and the world!

-14 June 2010.

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CHAPTER 62

RELIGIOUS LOYALTIES, SHARED HUMANITY AND GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP Paper presented at the International Workshop on “ Religion and Global Citizenship� organized by the Arizona State University, USA and the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue, University of Malaya, Malaysia from 2 to 4 August 2015 at Pullman Hotel, Kuala Lumpur This is not the best time to examine the interface between religion and global citizenship. Within almost every religious community, there are groups whose words and deeds subvert the very essence of global citizenship which is respect for the other as an equal citizen of the global community. These groups not only subscribe to a narrow, bigoted, exclusive view of their religion but often marginalize those whom they regard as outside their ken and sometimes even seek to eliminate them. The Perversions of Religion One of the most notorious of these groups at this point in time is ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham) or IS ( the Islamic State) or to use its Arabic name, Daesh ( ad-Dawlah alIslamiyah).For the purpose of this study, we are not concerned with the history and evolution of Daesh, a subject on which a lot has been written.(1)Our focus will be upon its ideas and its activities and how they contradict notions of global citizenship. Daesh has indulged in collective massacres and individual beheadings in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria. Shias have been its principal target but this violent, brutal group has also killed fellow Sunnis apart from Christians, Yazidis and


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other minorities without mercy. It has forced Christians and Yazidis to convert to Islam or face death.(2) Daesh has also destroyed the places of worship of Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Yazidis and others. In this regard, it is somewhat strange that this barbaric group that has no respect for religious diversity has not been known to destroy Jewish synagogues though there are synagogues in Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq and in Aleppo in Syria. Daesh has also desisted from murdering Jews resident in areas that are now under its illegal jurisdiction.(3) Because of its ability to capture vast tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, Daesh has acquired a certain aura in militant circles within the Muslim world. Militant groups in Libya and parts of Northern Nigeria and West Africa have now pledged allegiance to Daesh. This includes the infamous Boko Haram of Nigeria. There are other militant groups, some of which are rivals of Daesh that are also active and wellorganized on the ground. One of them is Jabhat al-Nusra which operates mainly in Syria. The Taliban is another militant movement which from the nineties has been a formidable force in Afghanistan and now has its tentacles in Pakistan as well. It was associated at a certain point to Al-Qaeda which emerged from the armed campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the eighties and has affiliates in a number of countries in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), other parts of the African continent, various Asian countries and even in Europe and North America. In Southeast Asia for instance, Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf are purportedly linked to Al-Qaeda. While there are marked differences among these militant groups in both ideology and tactics, there are perhaps two characteristics that they share to a greater or lesser degree. One, as it should be obvious, they are doggedly determined to pursue their goal, whatever it may be, through violence. This fanatical attachment to violence which would tantamount to the ruthless elimination of the other means


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that these militant groups have no inkling of an allembracing vision of citizenship, whether national or global, that cherishes diversity. Two, each of these groups subscribes to a view of Islam which is self-righteous, exclusive, dogmatic and bigoted. There is no tolerance at all for dissent or differences of opinion in their understanding of the religion. Here again, they adhere to a position which is the antithesis of citizenship which by its very nature celebrates diverse perspectives on reality as an acknowledgement of the uniqueness of each and every individual that constitutes the collective. Turning now to groups that are often seen as part of the Christian Right, there are perhaps at least two tendencies that are antithetical to global citizenship. Proselytization is integral to the work of these groups. It involves targeting non-Christians. The message of Christ, so to speak, is brought to them sometimes in an aggressive manner to persuade them to abandon the religion they had inherited and embrace the new faith. A recent study has shown that in the context of multireligious Malaysia it is Buddhists, Hindus, animists and other minorities that are subjected to this proselytization mainly because the Malaysian Constitution prohibits the dissemination of other religious doctrines among the Muslim majority. Nonetheless, Christian Right preachers continue to try to spread their version of Christianity among Muslims through subtle ways. Prophecies “are routinely made over Malaysia by evangelicals. And the message is always the same: Malaysia is a divinely-chosen part of God’s plan to defeat the powers of darkness --- and in particular Islam. James Goll, founder of the Encounter Network, had this to say in 2009: “...the Islamic veil is going to be torn in two in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. …Even though the Lord could choose a nation that could appear to be less volatile like Singapore,


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the Lord is going to put His finger down for a militant reason in Malaysia. There is a fertile field called desperation that is in Malaysia…. “And so I just call forth that the hand of the Lord will come down upon Malaysia… Laws are going to change in this land. The Lord has ….a great surprise for Malaysia… A spiritual invasion…. “….Singapore has the strategic place in the middle of it all….Singapore will be ….an apostolic strategizing center for the purpose of bringing breakthrough. There will be a HOLY ALLIANCE….between the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia. ….There will be a prophetic act that is going to happen in Malaysia that has something to do with twin towers, but it’s now going to be as twin religions of Buddhism and Islam….the Lord is going to cause two towers of idols to fall…for Jesus Christ’s sake.” (4) Proselytization of this sort by Christian Right groups, a number of whom are Christian Zionists, breeds inter-religious suspicion and distrust. It could well become a source of tension and friction in multi-religious societies especially since the Christian Right is spreading its influence in various parts of the world. There is no need to emphasize that religious proselytization undermines global citizenship. For one of global citizenship’s oft-stated principles is respect for the religious and cultural beliefs and practices of the other without which there can be no peaceful co-existence between people of different religious and cultural affiliations. It is not just the Christian Right’s proselytization that is a threat to global citizenship. The Christian Right in the United States of America is an enthusiastic supporter of war aimed at perpetuating US global hegemony. The US led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 in particular “fired the evangelical imagination for many reasons --- not least because elements in the US Government right up to the President, sought to play up its “biblical” significance. Senators, congressmen, a Majority Leader, a Speaker of the


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House, Secretaries of State and their senior officers, and the President himself all portrayed the conflict as one between the Judeo-Christian world and the world of Satan, highlighting the place of the Middle East in “End Time” theology. Popular writers like Tim LaHaye exploited the perception, as did many of the movement’s pastors and theologians. Little wonder, then, that there was a marked convergence between evangelical mythology and the world institutions of military occupation --- right down to the use of the torture chamber. “The justification of torture is usually a matter of political or military expediency, with little connection to religion. In the present “War on Terror”, however, this is clearly not the case. The Americans’ own use of terror (both within and without the torture chamber) has a strongly Christian character --- in its theological justification, in its political and cultural rationale, and in its detailed calibration. Over 40% of the US military’s active personnel consider themselves to be evangelical Christians, and 60% of all military chaplains are evangelical Christians. And American evangelicalism --makes for a particularly toxic view of a colored, poor and Muslim enemy. It also provides the excuse for using torture as a weapon of Holy War.” (5) The animosity and antagonism generated by war invariably widens the chasm between peoples making it more difficult to develop a shared notion of global citizenship. It is worse when the purpose of war is to perpetuate global hegemony. Since hegemony in essence means the control and dominance of the many by a few, the latter, expectedly, has very little understanding or empathy for the former. In fact, the latter more often than not tends to look down upon the former, because of the power that the latter exercises over the former. (6) This is why a hegemonic relationship in the international arena is least conducive for the emergence of a global citizenship based upon equality, justice and respect.


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A doctrine of superiority deeply entrenched in the psyche of a people is even more stark in the case of the Jews. Jewish supremacy, it has been argued by Jewish scholars themselves such as the late Israel Shahak, is the product of perhaps three thousand years of Jewish history and Jewish religion. He shows how the Talmud and Talmudic literature legitimizes blatant discrimination against non-Jews.(7) Their influence has persisted in the contemporary era. Extremist rabbis believe that …. “A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.” (8) It is because of such attitudes that in 2007 “ Israel’s former chief rabbi, Mordechai Elyahu called for the Israeli army to mass-murder Palestinians. In fanatical language he said: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1000. And if they don’t stop after 1000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”

(9)

Though such belligerency is confined to a minority, “Israel’s religious community wields considerable influence politically, in the military and society overall. Moreover, synagogues and yeshivas are popular places where people gather to discuss issues of common interest and hear the views of their rabbinical leaders.” (10) It goes without saying that virulent hatred towards the other is a major impediment in the endeavor to develop a truly global community bound together by common citizenship. To overcome such venom --- albeit within a minority --- is no easy task. Outside the so-called Abrahamic religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), within the Indic religions, specifically Hinduism and Buddhism, there are also attitudes and outlooks which are barriers to global citizenship. Hindu extremist groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have for decades espoused the re-writing of Indian history to privilege Hindutva or Hinduness and the adoption of political and economic policies which favor the Hindu majority. Since


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the National Development Alliance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi helmed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in New Delhi with a huge vote in May 2014, the push for Hindutva has become more pronounced. An RSS leader (the RSS is affiliated to the BJP) has openly asserted that India is a Hindu state and Hindutva is the identity of India. (11) In line with this thinking, some 50 slum-dwelling Muslim families in Agra were converted to Hinduism in the middle of December 2014. Food ration cards and other financial incentives were offered as inducements. (12) Christians have also been subjected to this type of conversion. 200 Christians in the Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat were converted to Hinduism on 20 December 2014. (13) Hindu extremists have also called for the forced sterilization of Muslims and Christians in order to control their population growth. They have also demanded that idols of Hindu gods and goddesses be placed in mosques and churches. (14) An even more alarming trend is the rise of new breakaway factions of the RSS which are more militant than their parent body. The Abhinav Bharat (Pride of India), the Rashtriya Jagran Manch( National Revival Forum), the Sri Ram Sena ( Army of god Rama), the Hindu Dharam Sena ( Army for the Hindu Religion) and the Sanatan Sanstha ( Eternal Organization) would be some of the new outfits. (15) They have “launched numerous violent attacks on Christian and Muslim minorities.” (16) Once again, we are witnessing how religious extremism and religious bigotry expressed through induced conversions and militancy are dividing a society which has an illustrious history of religious tolerance and acceptance. It is weakening the fabric of inclusivity that has helped to give meaning to citizenship in multi-religious India for so long. Imposing a religion-based notion of citizenship and identity in such a society is the surest way of destroying it. In the Buddhist majority states of Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, there are also trends which challenge an inclusive


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idea of citizenship. Malay Muslims in southern Thailand for a variety of reasons connected to history and the contemporary setting have never been integrated into the Thai polity. They allege that they have been marginalized and discriminated against by the mainly Buddhist Thai authorities. There isn’t sufficient respect for their distinct Malay Muslim identity. Thai Buddhist elites in southern Thailand and Bangkok have even been accused of trying to dominate and control the Malay Muslim minority. (17) The situation in Myanmar is much more problematic. The ruling elite, linked to, and supported by, the military is perceived by governments and human rights activists in many parts of the world as adopting harsh and inhuman policies and practices towards a Muslim minority called the Rohingyas who live in Myanmar’s Rakhine province. Their Myanmar citizenship was rescinded in 1982, and they are not even recognized as an ethic minority. Worse, for more than three decades the Rohingyas have been subjected to “a government- organized, systematic campaign of mass killing, terror, torture, attempts to prevent births, forced labor, severe restrictions on physical movement, large-scale internal displacement of an estimated 140,000 people, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, summary execution, land-grabbing and community destruction.” (18) It is this persecution, in which some Buddhist monks have played a central role by providing dubious religious and ethnic justification, (19) that has led to a mass exodus of Rohingyas to other countries in the last three decades. The Rohingya tragedy vividly illustrated by their perils in the Bay of Bengal and through the discovery of mass graves along the Thai-Malaysia border have captured media headlines the world over in recent months. (20) The situation in Sri Lanka is nowhere near what is happening in Myanmar though it also revolves around the question of a majority preserving its identity in the face of a perceived threat from a religious minority. Since 2012, Muslims who constitute 9% of the population have been targeted in a


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campaign of sorts with some Buddhist monks at the core. Women wearing the hijab have been harassed. Buddhists have been discouraged from patronizing Muslim owned restaurants and shops. Mosques have been vandalized. And the Muslim insistence that products sold in shops and supermarkets carry halal labels has been interpreted as the imposition of an Islamic tenet upon the majority which is a prelude to the establishment of an “Islamic State� since the Muslim birth rate in Sri Lanka is allegedly higher than that of the Buddhists! (21) The anti-Muslim campaign, it should be observed, has declined considerably with the defeat of former President Rajapaksa in the presidential election in January 2015. The new President, Maithripala Sirisena, has been more accommodative in his approach to relations with the minorities. Nonetheless, the complexities inherent in ethnic politics in Sri Lanka remain. In all three countries, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, certain negative sentiments peddled by groups within the majority have impacted adversely upon the minority. They have affected the ability of these societies to forge a commitment to citizenship that transcends religious boundaries. The elites in all three countries are acutely aware of the danger that this poses to internal political and social cohesion and the price they may have to pay for it. Looking back at groups within the five religious communities we have reflected upon and how they have used and misused religion for their respective agendas, we are struck by the following:1) Distortions and perversions of religious teachings manifest themselves in all religious communities. 2) When these perversions result in war and violence, hegemony and the aggrandizement of power, aggressive proselytization and induced conversion, marginalization and discrimination, they negate the principles of citizenship.


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The Essence of Faith The vast majority of scholars in the different religious traditions have always maintained that those who justify violence or hegemony or discrimination in the name of religion betray the essence of their respective faiths. We shall show why this is so. Since we are more familiar with Islam there will be more emphasis upon the religion, though we shall also allude to the other religions. It has been said a number of times before by various Islamic scholars that Islam is totally opposed to the use of violence unless it is to combat aggression or to liberate a person or a community from oppression. In the words of the Qur’an: “And fight in God’s cause against those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression --- for, verily, God does not love aggressors. And slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away --- for oppression is even worse than killing.” (Chapter 2; verse 190-191). ( 22) This means that so much of the wanton massacres committed by Daesh and other such bodies have no basis in the Qur’an. It follows from this that the Qur’an forbids the killing of a Christian or Jew or any person for that matter unless the person aggresses or oppresses. It is even more sinful to kill a fellow Muslim, whatever sect or doctrinal school he may belong to. Respect for the sanctity of human life is paramount. There are a couple of oft-quoted lines in the Qur’an that stress this, “Because of this did We ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being --unless it be (in punishment) for murder or for spreading corruption on earth --- it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.(Chapter 5; verse 32) (23) That Islam rejects senseless, mindless violence is further reinforced by the Sunnah or the way of the Prophet Muhammad. Since Daesh and other such groups often view the Sunnah as the primary source of guidance, it is important


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to emphasize that the Prophet avoided the use of violence as much as he could. The battles he was involved in were defensive and constituted a minor aspect of his life and his mission. It is mainly because he was determined to avert bloodshed that he entered a treaty with his adversaries --the Treaty of Hudaybiyah --- in 628 which was not to his advantage and which angered a lot of his companions. (24) When he conquered Mecca a couple of years later, he forgave nearly all his foes and refused to take revenge on them even though that was the prevailing norm. The Sunnah also reveals an accommodative attitude towards Jews and Christians as long as they honored the pledges and treaties they had forged with the Muslims. The Charter of Medina, for instance, formulated by the Prophet, recognized the rights and responsibilities of the Jews and placed them on the same level as the Muslims and the other tribes of Medina. The Prophet also gave a solemn pledge to the Christian monks of Najran that he would protect their rights and their monasteries and he would take to task any Muslim who harmed the Christians living there . (25) It is not just on the question of violence and the position of non-Muslims that militants have betrayed Islam.Forcing a person to embrace Islam is also repugnant from a Qur’anic perspective. The Qur’an unequivocally warns, “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith.” (Chapter 2; verse 256). (26)It further adds, “Unto you, your moral law, and unto me, mine!” (Chapter 109; verse 6) (27) Yet another aspect of the Qur’an which exposes Daesh’s distortion is in relation to places of worship. The Qur’an notes that “..if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, (all) monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques --- in (all of) which God’s name is abundantly extolled --- would surely have been destroyed (ere now).” (Chapter 22; verse 40).(28) It is a clarion call to protect places of worship. There are many other verses connected with freedom of expression, differences of opinion, the rights of women, the


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nature of punishment, the types of crimes and so on which prove that what Daesh and other militant groups practice is the antithesis of what the Qur’an upholds and what the Prophet stood for. It is indisputably true that the Qur’an as a whole articulates a vision of the human being and society that gravitates towards global citizenship. It acknowledges that “All mankind were once one single community; (then they began to differ) (Chapter 2; verse 213).(29). Unity within the human family --- one of the essential premises upon which global citizenship rests --- is not the only principle that they share. Both the Qur’an and global citizenship believe that justice should be done without discrimination. Justice should extend to even those who hate you. As the Qur’an puts it, “O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do” (Chapter 5; verse 8). ( 30)

In similar vein, the Qur’an recognizes diversity. In several verses it eulogizes this reality. It says, “Unto every community have We appointed (different) ways of worship, which they ought to observe. Hence (O believer) do not let those (who follow ways other than thine) draw thee into disputes on this score, but summon (them all) unto thy Sustainer: for, behold, thou art indeed on the right way.( Chapter 22; verse 67). (31) Diversity, we are told, is part of the divine plan. “Unto every one of you have We appointed a (different) law and way of life. And if God had so willed He could surely have made you all one single community: but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ. (Chapter 5; verse 48) (32)


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In yet another sense, the Qur’an embodies the spirit of global citizenship. For it sees virtues and values, and not ethnicity or religion as the ultimate measure of a person. In its words, “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all knowing, all aware (Chapter 49; verse 13) (33). God consciousness --- and not religion per se --- is what determines one’s worth and value. This is universalism at its zenith. It is the sort of universalism that will sustain global citizenship through time. It should be emphasized that these noble Qur’anic precepts and pronouncements were, in various periods of history, translated into reality to a greater or lesser degree. From Melaka to Andalusia, kingdoms and empires emerged that reflected a cosmopolitan ethos that had no peers or parallels. People of different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds co-existed peacefully in societies where the arts and sciences flourished.(34). Since cosmopolitanism is the very heart of global citizenship, it would not be wrong to suggest that Muslim civilization in the past had blazed the trail for multi-cultural and multi-religious harmony. One can argue that even in the case of other religious communities, their actual teachings are at variance with what some of the bigoted and dogmatic groups in their midst are attempting to pursue. The aggressive proselytization of elements in the Christian Right for instance is not endorsed by most mainstream Catholic and Protestant Churches. There were also many Christian theologians and thinkers who were opposed to the abuse of Christianity by Christian politicians like George Bush and Tony Blair who had justified the invasion of Iraq in 2003 in the name of the religion. As one of them put it, “That Christian ethics can be put to such use is perhaps the greatest indictment of Christianity …” (35). Indeed, Christianity as exemplified in the life and suffering of Jesus is anti- imperialistic and anti-hegemonic. His teachings


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are critical of the dominant power of State and Empire. They present a vision of people and communities bound by love and peace. It is a vision that resonates with the ethics of global citizenship. By the same token, the Torah is a powerful statement on behalf of universal justice and human solidarity. The gems of wisdom that flow from Amos and Isaiah are of eternal value to the entire human family. They do not seek to privilege the Jews over others. It is because there is such a tradition in Jewish history that one finds a number of Jewish scholars and activists today who not only demonstrate genuine understanding of the plight of the Palestinians but are also prepared to risk stigmatization and demonization from their own people as they defend truth and justice. Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Marc Ellis would be among them. Ellis, for instance, clearly takes the side of Jews “who have struggled within and against empire for a more just future. And that struggle has been linked so intimately with history and with God that the world has experienced a deep calling, previously unknown in history, to worship a God and to embrace a covenant that has justice at its center.” (36) Turning to Hinduism, it is only too obvious that the bigotry and the dogmatism of some of those fanatics who claim to speak on its behalf contradict the spirit of harmony and universality that one finds in so many of the religion’s great scriptures. The unity of the human family and indeed of creation in its entirety is a theme that runs through some of these spiritual texts. This is why at the philosophical level the Vedas – the divine teachings associated with the Hindu Faith --- constitute a rich source of ideas for nurturing global citizenship. (37) The same can be said for Buddhism. It is worth repeating here that the extreme positions adopted by some Buddhist monks in Myanmar or Sri Lanka have no basis in the religion. Buddhism both in letter and spirit is truly universal embracing the whole of creation. The liberation and engaged


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spirituality that some contemporary Buddhist scholars and activists are committed to is not confined to Buddhists as such. It is a goal that is meant for humanity as a whole.(38) From our reflections on the actual values and principles embodied in the five religions, we have every reason to believe that there is nothing in their essential teachings that lend even an iota of legitimacy to some of the violence, bigotry and hatred spread in the name of faith in recent times. On the contrary, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism properly understood and interpreted have the capacity and the ability to forge ties of amity and empathy among their adherents. Combating Bigotry Are the adherents of the different religions then dialoguing with one another? Are they working together at all? In the last 30 to 40 years, there have been a great deal of interfaith dialogues. (39) There is perhaps greater awareness today of the values that the followers of different religions share in common --- values such as love and kindness, compassion and mercy, humility and modesty --- than at any other time in the past. More than awareness, there are so many examples of people of different faiths doing good together, from providing free medical assistance to the poor regardless of religious affiliation to planting trees to protect the environment. It is a pity that inter-faith work of this sort is seldom highlighted in the popular media. If inter-faith reflections and activities are given more prominence it would undoubtedly have a salutary impact upon global citizenship. The media would rather sensationalize inter-religious violence since that attracts people --- so it seems --- and increases media revenue! While more media support would help the inter-faith cause and strengthen global citizenship, advocates of both should


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perhaps also review their communication strategies. It is not enough to merely forefront shared values among the different religions. Whenever the fanatics and the bigots distort religion for their own ends, they should be exposed and demolished through persuasive arguments. There should be constant combat. Their ad-hoc, piecemeal manipulation of text and their failure to distinguish the contextual from the perennial in relation to prescriptions and injunctions should be fought with vigor. By attacking them through the new media in particular, we would be undermining their standing among their followers and showing the latter that there is an alternative way of understanding faith which is in consonance with the essence of one’s religion. Combating narrow, superficial interpretations of religion will not be easy. Partly because of the appeal of simplistic religious explanations, superficial interpretations may hold sway over a segment of the populace. Besides, the rhetoric of the bigots, whatever their religious affiliation, is often wrapped in the language of identity. They project themselves as the genuine protectors of the community’s religious identity and its religious dignity. This allures a portion of the masses whose notion of religious identity is intimately linked to forms and symbols that distinguish one religious community from another. Identity, it must be emphasized, is not just inter-community. Even within a religious community, sectarian identity can become a major cause of violence and bloodshed. The Sunni-Shia conflict which has torn asunder Muslim communities in certain parts of the world in recent years is a tragic example of sectarian violence borne of bigoted notions of identity fostered by narrow-minded religious elites. (40)

When the champions of religious identity are also religious figures of some standing in society, the ideas they articulate are more easily accepted and absorbed by the people. In almost every religious community, what these religious


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figures tell their flock about matters of faith and identity are often swallowed unquestioningly as the invincible truth.This is what reinforces the power and position of Muslim religious elites, whether Sunni or Shia, or Christian and Hindu priests or Buddhist monks or Jewish rabbis within their respective communities. A sacral aura envelops their authority. (41) There is no denying that superficial notions of identity and simplistic interpretations of belief, on the one hand, and uncritical acceptance of them, on the other, have been partly responsible for thwarting the emergence of an inclusive, universal, enlightened understanding of religion. But if such superficial, simplistic approaches to the different religions have persisted, it is also because of forces outside religion per se.It is these forces we should now analyze if we seek to create a global environment that is more conducive to the triumph of global citizenship. Formidable Forces Without We have already alluded to some of these forces in this paper. The drive towards global hegemony is undoubtedly one of the major reasons why bigoted and dogmatic ideas on religion continue to command some influence. It is because of their anger and unhappiness with US led hegemony and how it has impacted upon Islam and Muslim countries that a number of Muslim groups have resorted to violence as a way of countering this formidable challenge. (42) The majority of those who are inclined towards violence, as we have seen, also espouse ideas about law, state, women, non-Muslims and other related subjects which betray the essence of the Islamic faith. It is significant that almost every militant group in the Muslim world adopts an adversarial stance towards US helmed hegemony. In fact, it is because of hegemony that some of them came into being in the first instance. Given the potent power of Muslim opposition to hegemony, hegemonic forces, it is paradoxical, have decided to


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manipulate Muslim militant groups in order to perpetuate their hegemony. Thus, militant groups are created and sustained by the American hegemon for its own agenda as it happened in the Afghan resistance to the Soviet occupation of their land in the eighties, right in the midst of the Cold War. Al-Qaeda, to put it bluntly, is, to a great extent, a product of CIA machinations. After the end of the Afghan resistance, Al-Qaeda has continued its terror activities in various parts of the world. It emerged in Iraq during the years of the Anglo-American occupation of that country and became the rallying-point of Sunni opposition to a Shia dominated government in Baghdad. It had the support of the occupying powers since the aim was to curb Iranian influence in Iraq via its Shia kin. When opposition to Bashar Al-Assad in Syria began to develop in 2011, Sunni militants, linked to Al-Qaeda, backed directly and indirectly by the US and its allies, usurped the uprising and soon, the Al-Qaeda appendage morphed into Daesh. Since Da’eesh was fighting Assad who together with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran constitutes the resistance in WANA to US and Israeli hegemony, US leaders were prepared to close an eye to the terrible atrocities perpetrated by Daesh. Terrorist groups elsewhere are also tolerated as long as they serve hegemonic interests. (43) It is not just hegemony’s link to terrorism that is disturbing. The US and Britain have also tolerated, even protected, the ideology that runs parallel with the terrorism associated with Daesh, Al Qaeda and other similar outfits. The bigoted and dogmatic perspectives on various dimensions of Islam that these groups subscribe to --- which we have alluded to --- often described as Wahabism have not been subjected to criticism or condemnation by US or British elites. Since countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar --the former in particular has a deep bond with Wahabism --are close allies of the US and Britain, one wonders why there has been no attempt to persuade these feudal monarchies


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to undertake serious reforms which would bring them closer to the universal, inclusive essence of Islam.(44) Hegemony is intertwined with terrorism and bigotry in yet another sense. We have shown how elements in the Christian Right endorse totally any action by the hegemon to fight terror which more often than not is a camouflage to achieve its agenda --- its agenda of controlling oil or strategic routes or enhancing Israel’s power in WANA. (45) By backing hegemony and its agenda, the Christian Right is buttressing one of those forces that impedes the growth of a more enlightened understanding of not only Christianity but also Islam. As we have noted, the hegemonic agenda widens the gap separating Christians from Muslims and imperils any endeavor to nurture a global citizenship. In the interest of inter-religious harmony and global citizenship, hegemony will have to end. And indeed, now more than at any other time in the last 250 years, there are clear signs to indicate that the power and dominance of the US and the West as a whole is in irreversible decline. The US is no longer in a position to impose its will upon the world whether it is in the military sphere or in the economic arena. What is more significant, the ascendancy of China as a new locus of global economic power and the rise of a number of other states and regions signal the inevitable shift from a unipolar world to a multi-polar world. (46) A multi-polar world will mean not only greater dispersal and diffusion of power at the global level but also a more equitable and balanced international order.(47) Only within such an order can global citizenship achieve its real purpose. Apart from global hegemony, developments within the nation-state have also contributed towards the strengthening of extremist tendencies. When a government is autocratic and/or oppressive and suppresses its own people, certain groups in society out of anger and frustration resort to violence in order to register their protest and to bring about change. This has happened in all sorts of societies, of whatever religious or ethnic hue, over many decades. Often, the elite in such societies also tends to be


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corrupt partly because the general public, including the media and the institutions of state such as the judiciary are in no position to check the elite abuse of power. (48) They have neither the freedom nor the latitude to play their rightful roles. When corruption becomes so blatant and so pervasive, some dissidents in some societies may turn to violence to remedy the situation. Autocratic, corrupt states may also exhibit yet another dysfunctional feature. The chasm between the rich and poor may be widening at an alarming rate exacerbating angst and anger among large sections of the populace. Here again, a minority may, out of desperation, decide that there is no other way but to take up arms against the State. Confronted by a State which has failed its citizenry in these and other ways, certain dissidents with a religious orientation may be persuaded that the only real solution is a return to religion by which they mean a State that adheres strictly to narrowly defined religious dogma expressed through prescriptions, prohibitions and punishments interpreted in a conservative, retrogressive manner. For these dissidents and their supporters, such a religious State would be the panacea for all the ills of society. (49) This is how the religious ideal gains popularity in societies burdened with a multitude of problems created to a great extent by the acts of commission and omission of the elites themselves. Nonetheless, as in the case of global hegemony, changes are occurring to states in various parts of the world. There are more democratic states observing greater accountability in Latin America, Africa and Asia today than 40 years ago. Taking Asia as an example, in the eighties South Korea embraced democratic governance while the Philippines returned to democratic rule after a stint with dictatorship. Indonesia moved towards a vibrant democracy from the nineties onwards while both Malaysia and Singapore witnessed more democratic dissent in the first two decades of the 21st century. It is true that is some of these states the gap between the ‘have-a-lot’ and the ‘have-a-little’ has become more severe but at the same time there is


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increasing awareness of the pitfalls of contemporary capitalism and the need to devise alternative strategies of growth with equity. (50) There is a third formidable force outside religious doctrine and practice that also generates certain trends within religion that should concern us. Civilization as a whole has become more materialistic; more consumer-oriented, both religious and secular groups tell us. People are more individualistic. There is more selfishness and greed today than ever before. The family unit had broken down in so many societies. There is very little sense of community not only in the West but also in a number of Asian societies. For many religious groups, the solution once again is to return to religion. We should, they argue, re-assert religious principles and precepts. We should faithfully adhere to religious practices and rituals. We should make religion a way of life. To do this, they are convinced, we have to eliminate secularism. Some advocates of this approach--without much understanding of secularism --- have chosen the path of militancy. They have made secular governments and secular elites their cardinal enemies. Overthrowing such elites through force of arms is their goal. This is one of the reasons why Muslim groups from different parts of the world have gone to Syria to participate in the violent ouster of the avowedly secular Assad government. Needless to say, such an aim and the motive behind it, are inimical to the fostering of global citizenship with its respect for diverse forms of governance. Leaving aside their superficial critique of secularism and their penchant for violence in achieving political change, our religious groups, like some of their secular counterparts, are right about the crisis of civilization. They are right about individualism and the decline of family and community; about excessive elite consumption; about the institutionalization of greed and avarice. (51) The good news is more and more people all over the world are becoming


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conscious of the importance of restraining elite consumption and greed. (52) This consciousness is developing as a consequence of the massive global environmental crisis which has revealed to human beings everywhere the grave danger of unlimited exploitation of limited material resources by a few at the expense of the many. All our religious philosophies, it is worth emphasizing over and over again, are deeply committed to the protection of the environment as a fundamental spiritual-moral ethic. (53) Conclusion We have tried to show that there are powerful forces outside the conventional boundaries of religion that have a profound impact upon the way religion is understood and practiced by its followers. To put it conversely, if we had nation-states that were honest and accountable and focused upon the equitable distribution of wealth; if we had a multi-polar world that was just and egalitarian; if we had a civilization that nurtured and nourished balanced individuals, families and communities girded with universal spiritual and moral values such as giving, sharing and caring, it is quite conceivable that religious bigotry and religious extremism would have no constituency. In such an environment, the true meaning of faith will shine through in the deeds of each and every human being. And what would be the true meaning of faith? A significant segment of the human family would be deeply conscious of God, a consciousness reflected in the human being’s selfawareness of her role as a vicegerent placed on earth for a brief period of time to fulfil the divine trust of ensuring that justice is upheld at all times and the dignity of the whole of creation is protected and enhanced. That trust would transcend all other loyalties to kith and kin, to community and culture, to region and religion, to religious teacher and political leader and most of all, to oneself. It is a trust one would be challenged to fulfil every day of one’s transient life.


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It is this trust rooted in God Consciousness that connects human beings everywhere. It makes us one. It is our ultimate identity, beyond all other identities. It is this human identity as vicegerent anchored in God Consciousness that could well become the spiritual-moral foundation of Global Citizenship.

END NOTES 1) Among the writings I am familiar with are Henry Francis Espiritu, “The ISIS Described by the US Media as a “Sunni Muslim Militia” is “Made in America.” It has Nothing to Do with Sunni Islam” JUST Commentary, http://issuu.com/justinternational/docs/may ,May 2015, and Manzoor Alam, “ Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): An Objective Analysis” http://www.justinternational.org/articles/ideology-of-islamic-state-ofiraq-and-syria-isis-an-objective-analysis/ 8 April 2014, My own article on the subject is entitled, “The Truth about the IS”, http://www.justinternational.org/mediastatement/the-truth-aboutthe-is/ 29 August 2014 2) Espiritu Ibid 3) Espiritu Ibid 4) See Iain Buchanan Sang Nila Utama and the Lion of Judah Dominionism and Christian Zionism in Malaysia e-book http://issuu.com/justebooks/docs/sang_nila_utama_a nd_the_lion_of_jud pp 79-80. 5) Iain Buchanan The Armies of God A Study in Militant Christianity ( Penang, Malaysia: Citizens International, 2010) p.111 6) The relationship between power, religion and hegemony is discussed in my “Encounters Between Religions and Civilizations: The Power Dimension” Global Ethic or Global hegemony? Reflections on


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Religion, Human Dignity and Civilisational Interaction ( London: ASEAN Academic Press, 2005) 7) Israel Shahak Jewish History, Jewish Religion The Weight of Three Thousand Years ( London: Pluto Press, 1994) 8) See Stephen Lendman “ Religious Fundamentalism in Israel” Countercurrents.org http://www.countercurrents.org/lendman120809.htm 12 August 2009. 9) Lendman Ibid 10)Lendman Ibid 11)John Dayal “Documenting Hate and Communal Violence Under The Modi Regime” Countercurrents.org, http://www.countercurrents.org/dayal210315.htm 21 March 2015. 12) See The Star (Malaysia) 22 December 2014. 13) The Star Ibid 14) See, “ Hindu Extremist Leader Calls for Christians to Be Forcefully Sterilized to Control Population; Demands Hindu Gods Placed in Churches” The Christian Post 15 July 2015 15) Vishal Arora, “New, More Dangerous Hindu Extremist Groups Emerge in India” https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2009/10October/11124/ 29 October 2009. 16) Arora Ibid 17)For a fuller analysis see my paper entitled, “Politics in the Bay of Bengal: Curbing Violence; Enhancing Harmony” presented at the Conference on BuddhistMuslim Tensions in the Bay of Bengal. Organized by the Center for Asian Research, Arizona State University, USA, 8 and 9 October 2014. 18) Conference on Buddhist-Muslim Tensions … Ibid. The quote is from the well-known scholar-activist from Myanmar, Maung Zarni. 19)Conference … Ibid. In my paper, I refer specifically to the role of the Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu. 20)The issue is elaborated in Hassanal Noor Rashid, “ The Rohingyas--- Stop Persecution: End the Exodus.” JUST Commentary


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http://issuu.com/justinternational/docs/june June 2015. 21) This is discussed in my paper at the Conference on Buddhist-Muslim Tensions Op.cit 22)See The Message of the Qur’an Translated and Explained by: Muhammad Assad Gibraltar: DAR ALANDALUS, 1980). 23)Ibid 24)For some analysis see my At the Crossroads A Malaysian Reflects on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Selangor, Malaysia: Bakti Ehsanmurni, 2005) especially, “ A Non-Violent Struggle --- The Alternative to Suicide Bombing?” 25) For details see Muhammad Husein Haykal, The Life of Muhammad translated from the 8th edition by Ismail Al Faruqi ( Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust) 26) The Message of the Qur’an Op.cit 27) The Message Ibid. 28) The Message Ibid. 29) The Message Ibid 30) The Message Ibid 31) The Message Ibid 32) The Message Ibid 33) The Message Ibid 34) An outstanding example of this was Andalusia in Medieval Spain See Maria Rosa Menocal The Ornament of the World How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain ( Boston United States of America: Little, Brown and Company, 2002). 35)Michael Northcott, An Angel Directs The Storm Apocalyptic Religion & American Empire (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004) p. 13. 36)Marc H. Ellis Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation (3rd Edition) (Texas, USA: Baylor University Press, 2004) p.233. 37) For some insights see Swami Prabhavananda Vedic Religion and Philosophy ( Madras, India: Sri Ramakrishna Math n.d) 38) See Engaged Buddhism Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia edited by Christopher S. Queen


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and Sallie B. King ( New York, USA: State University of New York Press, 1996) 39)For a comprehensive overview of interfaith work see Sandy and Jael Bharat A Global Guide to Interfaith Reflections from around the world ( United Kingdom: Winchester, 2007) 40) Efforts to reduce Sunni-Shia conflicts have been pursued through various channels. One such channel is the Amman Message. See my “ Uphold the Amman Message” www.justinternational.org/mediastatement/uphold-theAmman-Message 23 December 2013 41) The role of religious elites is evaluated in my Exploring Religion in our Time ( Penang, Malaysia: Universiti Sains Malaysia Press, 2011) 42)The question of Muslim violence is analyzed in my Muslims Dialogue, Terror ( Petaling Jaya, Selangor: International Movement for a Just World(JUST), 2003) 43) For a detailed analysis see my “The Global War on Terror --- and the Prawn behind the Stone” in A World in Crisis: Is there a Cure? http://issuu.com/justebooks/docs/world_in_crisis_is_there_a_cure 44)The serious shortcomings in the Saudi system which demand reform are spelt out in “ 7 Shocking Facts About Saudi Arabia Under ‘Modernizing’ Reign of King Abdullah” JUST Commentary http://issuu.com/justinternational/docs/february February 2015. 45) A number of essays in my Hegemony, Justice; Peace (Shah Alam, Malaysia: International Movement for a Just World, 2008) discuss the real agenda of the hegemon. 46) See Pepe Escobar “How China and Russia are Running Rings Around Washington” Countercurrents.org http://www.countercurrents.org/escobar230715.htm 23 July 2015. 47) This is the thrust of my “The Decline of US Helmed Global Hegemony: The Emergence of a More Equitable Pattern of International Relations? A World in


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Crisis http://issuu.com/justebooks/docs/world_in_crisis_is_there_a_cure Op.cit 48) This point is made in my Muslims Today: Changes Within; Challenges Without (Islamabad: Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue, International Islamic University, 2010) 49) Muslims Today Ibid 50) A couple of essays in my Rights, Religion and Reform (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002) focus on this. 51) See Subverting Greed Religious Perspectives on the Global Economy edited by Paul Knitter and Chandra Muzaffar ( USA: Orbis Books, 2002) 52)See Alan Durning How Much is Enough? The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth ( New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992) 53) This is clearly elucidated in C.G. Weeramantry Tread Lightly on the Earth Religion, The Environment And The Human Future ( Sri Lanka: Stamford Lake (Pvt) Ltd, 2009)

-27 July 2015.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr Chandra Muzaffar was born in Kedah, in the northern part of Malaysia in 1947. He studied in Kedah schools before obtaining an honours degree in Political Science from the University of Singapore. His doctorate in Philosophy is also from the same university He is currently the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), an international NGO based in Malaysia, which seeks to critique global injustice and to develop an alternative vision of a just and compassionate civilization guided by universal spiritual and moral values. Chandra is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the 1Malaysia Foundation. He has published extensively on civilizational dialogue, international politics, religion, human rights and Malaysian society. The author and editor of 31 books in English and Malay, many of his writings have been translated into other languages. Before this publication, he authored an E-book entitled The Long Journey to Human Dignity and Global Justice. It was preceded by two other E- books, A World in Crisis: Is There a Cure? and Whither WANA? Reflections on the Arab Uprisings. They can all be accessed at www.just-international.org. In l977, he founded a multi-ethnic social reform group called Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN) which he led for 14 years. Today, apart from his role in JUST, Chandra sits on the board of a number of international NGOs concerned with social justice and civilizational dialogue. Chandra was Professor and Director of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, University of Malaya (1997-1999) and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia (2007-2012). Chandra travels abroad frequently, giving lectures and speaking at seminars and conferences. He is also a regular speaker at meetings at home in Malaysia. Chandra is the recipient of a number of international awards related to his scholarship and social activism. Chandra is married to Mariam Mohd Hashim and they have two daughters.

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