Ghosts Of 9/11: Muslim Nationality Movements or Pan-Islamic Jihad?
By Wajahat Ahmad
29 July, 2008
"O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other" (The Holy Quran (49:13)
Post 9/11, significant sections of Western media have
tended to misrepresent Muslims as a monolithic nation, a supposedly unified
Global community of believers- sharing a national consciousness that subsumes
their diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic, national, racial, or territorial
identities under an all encompassing identity of the "Ummah".
Writing in Times Online, British Conservative MP, Michael Gove, in an article, dated May 2, 2007 and titled, The real darkness at the Heart of Islamist terror, averred, "And when it comes to foreign policy, when we choose not to intervene, when we decide that we shan't get involved, whether in Bosnia, Chechnya or Kashmir, we are not respected for our modesty and restraint on the world stage. We are damned again, for not acting in accordance with Islamist ambitions."
The discourse has been reinforced and used by States like Russia, India and Israel to delegetimize the nationalist movements of Chechens, Kashmiris and Palestinians respectively and also to ward off any possible international opprobrium in response to their repressive policies in these occupied regions.
The goals of pan-Islamist movements like Al-Qaeda and those of Muslim
nationalists in Palestine, Chechnya or Kashmir are widely divergent. The
nationalist leadership—both insurgent and non-violent— of these regions has
repeatedly distanced themselves from the ideas of Al-Qaeda and affirmed that
their struggles are essentially aimed at achieving Statehood for their
Stateless nations and not for the realization of any pan-Islamic idea.
Even the Arab States- locked in fratricidal conflicts with one another- have refused to sacrifice their national interests at the altar of the Palestinian struggle. Not surprisingly most Arab States pay only lip service to the Palestinian struggle. One of the largest Arab States, Egypt, prioritizing her national interest over Arab Muslim concerns regarding the Palestinian Question, has since her defeat in the 1973 War, bought a long peace with Israel and refused to be the frontline State for the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Another Arab Muslim nation, Jordan enjoys friendly ties with Israel. Not surprisingly, Jordan played a key role in crushing the Palestinian militants during the Black September episode of 1970, when she enjoying active support from Pakistani and Iraqi military, launched a military offensive –led by the late Pakistani military General Zia-ul-Haq, who at that time was a Brigadier and head of the Pakistani training mission in Jordan-against Palestinian guerrillas in Jordan, forcing them to flee to other Arab countries.
After 9/11 Israel has used the 'war against terror' discourse as a shield to increase and legitimize its military repression in Palestine and label the Palestinian resistance as 'mindless terrorism' to delegitimize it. The recent Palestinian Intifada is a completely indigenous uprising which has not seen any participation of the warriors of the supposedly ubiquitous 'Islamist International' of Al-Qaeda & Co. One of the new avatars of the Palestinian political struggle, the Hamas, may employ Islamic imagery in Palestinian political mobilization or swear by an Islamic code of conduct, yet its aims are firmly restricted to achieving Palestinian statehood. Islam remains an important marker of Palestinian ethno-national identity but the contours of the 'Palestinian Jihad' are circumscribed by a territorial nationalism, which is far removed from any global Jihadi agenda.
Similar are the cases of Chechnya and Kashmir. The Chechens like many other nationalities in North Caucasus were subjugated by a bloody Czarist imperial expansion carried out by Russian Rumanovs, which succeeded only after overcoming a long and fierce Chechen resistance from 1816 to 1856. In 1944 the Chechens were deported enmass to Central Asia by Stalin's regime in the name of Russian 'national interest'.
The recent Chechen national liberation movement (1994 to 1996, which still
drags on), started and lead by Chechen progressive nationalist leaders like
Dzokhar Dudayev and Aslan Maskhadov, needs to be seen in the context of a long
history of Russian imperial expansion in the Caucasus and the resistance of
various mountain peoples to it. Even though the latter breed of Chechen
guerrilla commanders like Shamil Basayev, Salman Rudayev etc. ,have made an
increasing use of Islamic symbols and imagery-Islam being an important marker
of identity of Muslim nationalities- in their fight against Russia, but their
primary goal has been the realization of an Independent State for Chechens. The
Russian contention that Chechnya is an extension of the larger militant -
Islamist network has not attracted many buyers but Russia has definitely taken
advantage of the post 9/11 international scenario -which has seen a drastic
decline of international community's tolerance for violent ethno-nationalist
movements across the Globe- to subjugate the Chechens through the use of harsh
Pakistani militants' presence in Kashmir has been more a result of Pakistani
State's historic involvement in Kashmir Conflict, than merely a result of any
ambitious Islamist agenda pursued by the Pakistani militants. The
marginalization of Kashmiri Muslim nationalists in the Kashmiri liberation
movement was largely due to Pakistan's bear hug than due to any mass appeal in
Kashmir to the Pakistani theory of 'shah-rag' misrepresented by groups like
"Jamaat-i-Islami Kashmir" as a religious imperative for Kashmiri
In the backdrop of increasing Islamphobia post 9/11, significant sections of Western media have tended to misrepresent Muslim nationality movements as extensions of global Islamist projects. On the contrary these movements have been waged by Stateless nations struggling for creation of nation-states of their own. For the peoples of Chechnya, Kashmir and Palestine the grand ideologies of many Internationalist isms are either irrelevant or at most secondary to their sentiments of nationalism.
Wajahat Ahmad is a Lecturer at Center for International Peace & Conflict Studies, Islamic University for Science & Technology, Awantipora, Indian-administered-Kashmir. Feedback at email@example.com
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