Saturday, 26 March 2016

To be or not to be a Sunni theocracy

"As the Ottoman Empire began to lose its hold on the Middle East to European powers, the concept of Arab unity was resurrected by two competing ideologies: pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism....
Sheriff Hussein ibn Ali of Mecca, who with British support rose up against Ankara, was the first to advocate a framework of pan-Arabism with his desire for a united Arab state spanning from Aleppo to Aden.”
(Al Jazeera)

The British promised Sheriff Hussein his united Arab state if he started a revolt against the Turks in World War I. He did start the revolt but the British lied to him.
They and the French signed the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. This agreement split the Middle East into new individual Arab states that nobody had asked for. These unwanted countries became part of the British or French spheres of influence.

"In stark contrast to calls for pan-Arabism through greater westernisation, modernisation and secularisation, pan-Islamism arose almost concurrently as an alternative to those concerned by the increasingly secular language and nature of pan-Arab discourse.”
(Al Jazeera)

Pan-Arabism advocates the unity of the Arab world for all Arabs, no matter their specific religious beliefs. It is inclusive of religious minorities.
Pan-Islamism advocates the unity of the Arab world under one Sunni Islamic authority – often a Caliphate. At the very least, it excludes religious minorities.
The decolonization after the Second World War produced a string of Arab leaders who paid lip service to the pan-Arab ideal (Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Assad, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi).
They persecuted the pan-Islamists, who were forced underground.

Then along came the western invasions and the Arab “springs”. The pan-Arabist leaders were deposed and there was a leadership vacuum. The pan-Islamists seized the opportunity and started to fill the vacuum.
There are now many pan-Islamist groups. The most famous/nefarious are Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and IS. Hamas referred to Osama bin Laden as “an Arab holy warrior."

Still, there are differences, with IS being the most extreme of the extremists. IS kills all non-Sunni Muslims and infidels. The others do not go that far.

Hamas believes in a federal Caliphate. The Caliph remains the absolute ruler but the Palestinians can still have regional independence:

This is not acceptable to IS, who wants to destroy the Arab nation states and reverse Sykes-Picot. IS supports the Palestinians but burns the Palestinian flag because it wants a unitary Sunni Caliphate, not another Arab state.

The pan-Arabists are no more. Instead, there is a new western-instigated attempt to transplant the 19th century European idea of the nation-state into the Arab world, an upgrading of Sykes-Picot.

The pan-Islamists are no longer a unified block and their activities are not now limited to the Arab world. The belief in a Sunni theocracy remains their central common goal.