Sunday, November 06, 2005

Witwityat By Ahmed Witwit

Nothing Like Home
Nothing Like Mom
Nothing like Love
Nothing Like Money
Nothing Like Nothing

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Partisan Idolatry And Religious Feudalism

By Mohammed Hassan Al-Musawi

When young Abraham embarked on his mission to preach for one God, after his conviction in His existence following a long journey of self-struggle in an environment where belief in the physical rather than the supernatural was the norm, he felt that he was taking the first step on an arduous road of transforming his heathen society.

The holy Quran pictures Abraham's conflict and his struggle, both with himself and then with his society: "Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: 'Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.' So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over, he saw a star, he said: 'This is my Lord.' But when it set, he said: 'I love not those that set.' When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: 'This is my Lord.' But when the moon set, he said: 'unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.' When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: 'This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).' But when the sun set, he said: 'O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.'"

Abraham's gift was his ability, from the first sight, to diagnose his people's disease of idolatry, that chronic illness which eventually results in the breakdown of common sense and the paralysis of all rational thought by the mere suggestion that an idol possesses the physical and supernatural qualities to be worthy of worship or to be granted immunity from criticism and contemplation of its true nature, whether it be stone, as the case with the gods of Abraham's people and the gods of the tribe of Quraish such as Hubel, Al-Llat and Al-Uzza, or human as the case with Egypt's pharaoh who declared himself divine.

Abraham believed in God as the sole creator and designer of this huge universe; that His nature simply cannot be comprehended or cognized by mortals, whereas idols are physical entities created by human beings, dependent on them in order to exist. God exists and is in no need for others. Young Abraham decided to convey these beliefs to his people who were hypnotized by the opium of idolatry and heathenism. In order to do this, he first chose to destroy their idols to shock them so that they come face to face with the bitter truth which they were blinded to.

He picked an axe and hacked at the idols. He left it in the head of the largest one; "So he broke them to pieces, (all) but the biggest of them, that they might turn (and address themselves) to it." When his people learned of it they went insane with rage. They asked each other who could have done this; "They said: 'Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some man of impiety!' They said: 'We heard a youth talk of them: He is called Abraham.'"

It was then that Abraham's long journey of pain and suffering started. He meant to destroy the idolatry of his people which blinded their hearts before their eyes and enslaved them to the idols will.

Here in the East we are witnessing the same old new idolatry, this time in the shape of political parties and leaders. Our societies suffer from this grave phenomenon which can only be described as partisan idolatry. The political party or the leader has been turned into an idol figure worshipped, consciously or unconsciously, by party members, a characteristic shared by almost all parties, be they religious or secular. In fact, this phenomenon was born from totalitarian parties, as it can rarely be found in liberal, democratic political parties. We can take Iraq as a perfect example to study this serious trend.

Partisan idolatry flourished in Iraq during the fifties of the last century. Anyone who had lived that period can vividly remember how partisan affiliation divided the Iraqi family, when members of the same family were members of different political parties. One could be a Baathist, the other an Arab nationalist, and another a communist or an Islamist. The clash of political ideologies was brought home and it threatened to undermine the very foundations of our society. We were told horrific stories of brothers turning against each other and of people murdering and dragging their neighbors or relatives, of different partisan backgrounds, in the streets. If an opposition party staged a bloody coup and seized power, gallows and acid tanks would be awaiting the members of the ruling party and vice versa.

Such a situation rises when the individual idolizes his political party or his leader. He is filled with uncontrollable rage when he comes across someone who dares to criticize his infallible idol and he then starts gathering wood to burn his opponent at the stake, just as Abraham's people did when their stone idols were violated.

The gravity of partisan idolatry lies in the fact that it inevitably contributes to the rise of dictatorships. It contrasts with the principles of political and intellectual pluralism which God made inherent in human beings;

It would have been impossible for the West to arrive at its present advanced state of progress had it not totally destroyed the intellectual and partisan idolatry of the medieval Church, and also after it achieved victory over Hitler's Nazism, Mussolini's Fascism and Stalin's Communism.

If Iraqis ever wish to build their modern state, they should forever renounce partisan idolatry and they should believe in political parties as a means to serve and advance society, as practiced in the West, and not the other way around. We would also need to 'nationalize' our political parties so that leadership is open to all instead of being restricted to a handful of elite members of political and religious feudalities. The latter one being the most dangerous since it seeks to win both religious and political leadership in order to secure its narrow interests, usually at the expense of the simple-minded and the impoverished masses by exploiting their devotion and respect to clerics, as witnessed today in the south of Iraq.

Until the members of political parties, particularly those of religious nature, start to question their leaderships and until they reach a stage where criticism is not reacted to with threats and violence we will never be part of the civilized world.

What a great difference there is between Abraham and those members of religious parties who claim to be following his legacy!

Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology" v

Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology"
BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political
Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 1330 gmt 30 Oct 05
October 31, 2005 Monday
Iraq's Chalabi says left United Iraqi Alliance due to "Islamist ideology"
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Iraqi National Congress Ahmad Chalabi said on 30 October that he had split from the United Iraqi Alliance list since there was a need for a list to represent Muslims who believed in "a democratic, pluralistic and federal system of government" but who did not subscribe to a political Islamist ideology. Speaking in a live interview from Baghdad on Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV's "Noon Guest" programme, Chalabi said that the United Iraqi Alliance had adopted an Islamist stance which was not compatible with the views of the people he represented. Other issues discussed included an invitation to Chalabi to visit the US and the withdrawal of multinational forces. The 18-minute interview was conducted by Jumanah Nammur in the Doha studio.
Leaving United Iraqi Alliance
Nammur began by asking him about the reasons which prompted him to walk out of the United Iraqi Alliance [UIA] and form another coalition. He replied: "The UIA was established at a certain era in the political history of Iraq when circumstances called for a strong and unified list that could push the political process forward and enact a constitution that was approved by the Iraqi people in a public referendum." He added: "Now that the constitution has been approved, praise be to God, it is obvious that there is a need for a list that represents a large cross-section of Iraqi people, who are faithful Muslims and who also believe in a democratic, pluralistic and federal system of government. They respect the religious authority but they do not recognize the political Islamist ideology."
Asked why he did not stay with the United Iraqi Alliance, he said: "This section could have been strongly and clearly represented in the United Iraqi Alliance as in the past, but the political circumstances of the parties joining the alliance dictated the need to form another list representing this political segment, which does not have a place in the United Iraqi Alliance at this stage."
The presenter asserted that Chalabi had been dismissed from the United Iraqi Alliance, to which he responded: "This, of course, is wrong and far from reality. It has nothing at all to do with what happened. We held negotiations with them and what you said did not happen."
Asked what prompted him to leave the UIA, he said: "The question is whether there was a place in the alliance for a strong viewpoint expressing the segment I have mentioned to you. The overwhelming majority of parties in the alliance believe that an Islamic ideology should rule Iraq. These parties preferred to adhere to this identity and we decided to have another list."
On whether the UIA preferred to enter the elections "with one colour", he said: "Yes, the alliance's colour now is Islamic. It is an alliance which believes in a government based on Islamic ideology."
Al-Sistani's stance
Asked about Shi'i cleric Al-Sayyid Ali al-Sistani's "neutral attitude" towards the next elections, Chalabi said: "Ayatollah Al-Sistani is fully aware of the situation of the Iraqi society and the Iraqis in general. During the first meeting I had with him in May 2003, he told me the constitution must be enacted by an elected Iraqi body in a sovereign country. This is what took place. He deemed it necessary to support the elections and alliance at that time. Now, however, he believes that it is in the interest of Iraq and the people here to stress that he neither interfered in politics nor prefers one party to another. This is an important and strong message that will boost political pluralism in Iraq."
National Congress Coalition
At this point in the programme the presenter reminded viewers that Chalabi had formed an independent list called "the National Congress for Iraq [sometimes referred to as National Congress Coalition]" and said "it also includes the monarchists, led by Al-Sharif Ali Bin-al-Husayn, small parties, and two ministers in the current government". She then asked him about the issues that were taken into consideration when this list was formed. He said: "The Iraqi National Congress list was formed on the basis of the principles for which the Iraqi National Congress was established. These principles are toppling the dictatorship; establishing a federal, democratic, pluralistic and parliamentary system of government; respecting the freedom of the individual in Iraq; drawing up practical programmes for economic development in Iraq; addressing Iraq's financial and economic problems; defending human rights and the rights of women; and liquidating the traces of the former regime in Iraq in the financial and economic fields."
When asked about the results he expected from the next elections, he said he could not tell in advance, but that his list was "strong" and would win parliamentary seats in the next elections. Asked if he expected a fierce electoral battle, he said: "Yes, there will be an electoral battle and everyone will work hard to explain their plans, but everyone will remain friends and partners in building the Iraqi state. The strength of the electoral battle will not undermine relations between the various parties, which fought to topple dictatorship and which are now trying to rebuild Iraq."
US visit invitation
Asked about the "US State Department's invitation" to him to visit Washington, he said: "I have received an invitation from the US government to visit Washington to discuss issues related to bilateral relations and the situation in Iraq. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called me a few days ago and we discussed the successful accomplishment made - that is the people's approval of the constitution - and other issues that will be discussed during the visit."
The presenter then said: "Some wondered about the background of this invitation, especially since some news media had in the past gone so far as to call you the Pentagon's favourite man in Iraq. They are now wondering about this renewed relationship with the State Department." Responding, he said: "This is old news that is two years old. We have relations with the US government and we do not get into the details of the parties with which we work. We have always sought to liberate Iraq from Saddam Husayn's regime and establish a federal, democratic and pluralistic system of government in Iraq. We also look forward to establishing a good and strategic relationship with the United States, which helped the Iraqi people get rid of the former regime."
Asked why he had not paid any official visit to the United States for over a year, he said: "I stayed in Iraq for 18 months because circumstances required me to stay here and work in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq to deal with the hot issues which continue to have an impact on the country. Developments have now taken place in our relations with all parties, particularly the United States. In view of my position in the government now, there was cooperation and progress in the files for which I was responsible. The US government deems it appropriate now to discuss these issues with the Iraqi government and I will go there in my capacity as the person in charge of these files."
Asked on which issues progress had been made, he said: "These are the issues of energy, contracts, oil by-product subsidies, agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and the security situation. All these are Iraqi issues in which I am involved."
Withdrawal of multinational forces
A question sent to the programme by a viewer asked if Chalabi expected a date for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq and if Iraq would continue to be united after the withdrawal. Responding, he said: "I believe that the Iraqi people's will to keep Iraq united will exceed all expectations to the contrary. The Iraqi people adhere to this unity and the constitution enhances this unity. Article 109 of the constitution says oil and gas in Iraq are the property of all Iraqis in all governorates. This means the wealth is for all. There are many clauses in the constitution on bolstering the unity of Iraq.
"As for the multinational forces, I would like to say that Iraq now needs international support within the framework of the United Nations in order to defend itself and protect its land from inside and outside dangers. Iraq is surrounded by six countries and these countries have three million soldiers and no less than 10,000 tanks and 2,000 warplanes. Iraq does not possess any of this now. The Iraqi army has collapsed and ceased to exist after the fall of Saddam's regime. We are now in the process of building the Iraqi armed forces. In order to be able to build these forces - and we are moving forward in this direction - we need international assistance to maintain security and defend Iraq. We seek to do so quickly. I was among those who called for enhancing Iraqi sovereignty and organizing relations between Iraq and the multinational forces. This will continue and be further enhanced in the future, God willing."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A man from my city

Iraqi police praised as four arrested over abduction Ewen MacAskill and Vikram DoddSaturday October 22, 2005The Guardian
Iraqi police have arrested four men in connection with the kidnapping of the Guardian journalist Rory Carroll in Baghdad. The police are looking for a further four suspects.
Carroll, 33, who has been on assignment in Iraq for nine months, was freed on Thursday night after being held for 36 hours. He is due to fly back to his family's home in Dublin tomorrow.
The Iraqi police have seldom been pro-active in hostage situations. But diplomats praised them for following a trail that started with the head of the family who Carroll interviewed in Sadr City. The trail led to a group of men who visited the home during the interview.
Article continues

Carroll was released unharmed after intensive diplomatic negotiations behind the scenes. The Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, disclosed yesterday that his government had been helped by the British, French and Italian governments. Although Carroll is an Irish citizen, the Irish government, which opposed the war, has no diplomatic presence in Baghdad.
Mr Ahern also thanked the Iranian government for its help. He confirmed that no ransom had been paid and said he had no knowledge of any prisoner swaps.
Within half an hour of the Guardian being alerted that Carroll was missing, government emergency hostage teams were being set up in Baghdad and in European capitals.
The Guardian set up a tight-knit group of its own, and contacts were made with all sources that might help, from governments and security specialists through to clerics.
Dermot Gallagher, secretary general of the Irish foreign affairs ministry, said the Irish government had been planning to send a diplomatic mission to Baghdad. "If an intelligence team stumbled on him and if the military option was to be considered - and this was not our preferred option - we would have needed to have been consulted and we would have consulted with the Carroll family," Mr Gallagher said.
Carroll does not know whether the group that held him was criminally or politically motivated. But various diplomatic sources blamed one of the factions loosely united behind Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who has a large following in Iraq and is backed by his Mahdi Army militia. Carroll was kidnapped in Sadr City, a Shia-dominated Baghdad slum formerly known as Saddam City. The cleric has nominal control of the area.
Pressure was put by diplomats and the interim Iraqi government, including Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister, on Sheikh Sadr to help resolve the kidnap. Salam al-Maliki, the transport minister, who is a Sadrist, was also approached. Sheikh Abdul Darraji, one of the leading clerics in Sadr City, may also have had a role in helping negotiate the release. Mohammed Hassan al-Mossawy, the London spokesman for Mr Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, spoke to him at 3.45pm on Thursday and said he had promised to send members of the Mahdi Army to search for Carroll.
Carroll's freedom was the result of negotiation. His release was carefully coordinated by the interim government.