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memri
December 28, 2004 No.
835

The Arab Silence on Darfur

In an article titled "The Arab Silence on Darfur Revisited," Abu Khawla, a human rights activist and former chair of the Tunisian section of Amnesty International, points out that pan-Arabism is the chief culprit for the lack of Arab reaction to the "horrendous crime being committed by their fellow Arabs in Sudan." In his view, the only effective way to counter the pan-Arab "propaganda of hate-mongering and deceit" is to mobilize the Arab liberal movement. The f ollowing are excerpts from the article: [1]

'A Deafening Silence was Observed Throughout the Arab World on the Horrendous Crime Being Committed by Their Fellow Arabs in Sudan'

"The catastrophe unfolding these days in Darfur, Western Sudan, is considered to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. According to all credible reports, nearly a quarter million people are already lost, and one million more will follow suit in the coming months, unless urgent action is taken.

"UN Secretary General Kofi Anan described the matter as a collective massacre of civilians… In contrast, a deafening silence was observed throughout the Arab world on the horrendous crime being committed by their fellow Arabs in Sudan. This 'puzzle' was explained by Kamel Labidi, in an Op-ed article in the Wall Street Journal of July 5, 2004, by the fact that the voices of the Arab human rights community remain of little influence due to lack of access to the official media. The fact of the matter, however, is that official media is of no relevance to Arabs today, thanks to the advent of independent TV channels and the Internet."

'The Arab Silence Can Only Be Explained Once We Understand the True Nature of the Twin Fascisms of Islamism and Pan-Arabism'

"In our judgment, the Arab silence could only be explained once we understand the true nature of the twin fascisms of Islamism and pan-Arabism that continue to wreak havoc on Arab land, and the impact they are having on the ignorant masses.

"To obtain credible information, Arabs turn nowadays to satellite TV channels, especially Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, a tool of communications that is so far completely monopolized by Fundamentalists. In the case of Al-Jazeera, Preacher Youssef Al-Qaradhawi (a leading figure of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood) is one of its most influential founding members. And Fundamentalists are in charge of its news programs and talk shows…"

'The Matter Wouldn't have Raised an Eyebrow Among Muslim Public Opinion had the Slaughter Targeted Non-Muslims'

"Why did these fundamentalist havens try to hide the truth about the Darfur massacre? For starter, we should notice that the matter wouldn't have raised an eyebrow among Muslim public opinion had the slaughter targeted non-Muslims. Fighting infidels until they either convert to Islam or submit to Muslims as 'Dhimmis,' i.e., citizens of second class status under Islamic rule, and pay the 'Jezya' (a poll tax), is still considered by Islamists to be a religious duty. And the above-mentioned status of Dhimmitude is exclusive to the 'peoples of the book,' namely Christians and Jews. Animists, Hindus and other 'heretics,' are all considered 'Najus' (filthy), i.e. fit for extermination. Today's animists in Southern Sudan as well as Bah'ai and Ismailite sects in most Islamic countries are learning about it the hard way.

"But Darfur is different, since it is a slaughter of Muslims even though they are non-Arabs of African descent. Why? In order to be able to answer this question, we need to make a difference between theory and practice. In theory, Muslims aren't allowed to slaughter other Muslims. The much-vaunted reference here is the Koranic verse stating that 'only faith and piety will make a difference between an Arab and an 'Ajami' (non-Arab).' This explains to a large extent the historic animosity between Islamism and pan-Arabism. While the latter refers to the Arab nation, Islamists refer to the Islamic 'Ummah,' considering Arab nationalism as a source of 'fitnah' (sedition).

"The practice, however, tells a very different story. Slavery is among the most horrendous means by which Arabs subjugated non-Arab Muslims, especially those of African descent. The practice was widespread in Saudi Arabia until the mid-1960s when it was abolished due to intense international pressure."

'Arabs Knew About What was Going On in Darfur, but They Didn't React'

"But despite all these facts, there are no reasons to believe that Islamism is responsible for Darfur. To their credit, both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya ended up reporting on the massacre… So the fact of the matter is that Arabs knew about what was going on in Darfur, but they didn't react. Why?

"The chief culprit in this particular case seems to be pan-Arabism, the fascist movement that rose to power half a century ago through military coups. Nasserism took over Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Northern Yemen, and Libya, while Baathism took care of Syria and Iraq. In all these countries, the previous reformist-modernist attempts of the first part of the 20th century came to an end. The whole social strata of people of liberal leaning was decimated. Through intimidation and terror, its members were either silenced at home or forced to emigrate abroad.

"And despite pan-Arabism's crushing military defeat in 1967, and its failure to deliver on economic and social matters, the so-called Arab street is still captive to its propaganda. A propaganda that, in many instances, seems to have the support of Arab governments, with the hope that anti-Western diatribes may help deflect the attention of the masses from their own failures.

"The only effective way to counter this propaganda of hate-mongering and deceit is to mobilize the Arab liberal movement. That hasn't been very successful so far, especially given the lack of support of the Western democracies. As a result, the ignorant Arab masses will continue to be kept hostage to charlatans of pan-Arabism and Islamism, and other Darfurs may be forthcoming."