Anti-intervention as a standing policy in all international conflicts

Developing Just Leadership

Mohammad Ali Naquvi

Dhu al-Qa'dah 25, 1434 2013-10-01

Special Reports

by Mohammad Ali Naquvi (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 8, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1434)

Muslim organizations and their leaders are being challenged to adopt an anti-intervention policy as permanent feature of their discourse. It is not likely but what the call shows is that ordinary Muslims are beginning to challenge the spineless leadership.

The following is a petition formulated by Mohammad Ali Naquvi in New York. It is an open letter from American Muslims to their organizational leaders demanding anti-intervention as a standing policy in all international conflicts. The petition is available to sign at https://www.

History & consequences of community support for the Iraq War

One of the more disturbing anecdotes of pre-Iraq war politics was the ominous backdoor dealings between some Shi‘i Muslim organizations and several prominent neo-conservatives — the chief architects of the Iraq war. These neo-conservatives found strange bedfellows amongst these organizations, whom they used to build a stronger argument in favor of intervention. The Shi‘i Muslim organizations, seeing Iraq in the context of the oppression of Shi‘is by a Sunni Ba‘thist dictator, made the case that Saddam Hussein was a deplorable tyrant — which he indeed was — and that US intervention in Iraq would be a blessing for Iraqis.

A blessing? Perhaps we should ignore the 1 million civilian casualties, or maybe we should turn a blind eye to the horrific birth defects found in newborns from Fallujah as a direct result of the depleted uranium used by the United States in 2004. Suppose if we overlook the total destruction of an ancient Christian community, or the cataclysmic civil war resulting in the fragmentation of Iraq based on ethnic and sectarian lines — the effects of which are still felt today in Iraq — or the millions of refugees displaced because of the occupation, then yes, there may be merit to the argument that it was a blessing. Undoubtedly, Iraq is a tragic, yet strikingly relevant example of the long-term effects of what American military intervention can wreak upon a society.

Consequences of military intervention in Libya and Afghanistan

Just as we saw with the destruction of Iraq, “humanitarian” intervention was also the core justification echoed in support of invading Libya. Though Muammar Gaddafi ruled with an iron fist, the consequences of American intervention have turned Libya into a society completely shattered. The rise of militias roaming the streets of Libya exercising power, which should be afforded to the central government is a post-intervention reality. The harrowing anti-black pogroms during the rebel offensive, the destruction of ancient Sufi shrines and the potential break-up of the country into several parts are just some of the tragic consequences facing the new Libya — a Libya that is entirely a result of foreign intervention.

And finally, the American invasion of Afghanistan shows us a striking example of incompetence on the part of American policy-makers leading to a humanitarian catastrophe with no end in sight. Hundreds of thousands have perished in Afghanistan, and the Taliban seem as strong as ever. War-weary soldiers commit acts of depravity toward innocent Afghans, while the use of weaponized drones sanctioned by the US make no distinction between civilian and combatant. This entirely useless war has depleted the American economy, destroyed any remnants of Afghan society and has utterly failed in achieving any of the overarching goals set by the Bush and Obama Administrations.

The grim realities of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan present a dire warning to anyone considering military intervention in Syria as a viable option, simultaneously offering a devastating critique against the proponents of “humanitarian” intervention.

Current community support for the military strike on Syria

Today, the same narrative is being projected on to Syria, with the tables turned and some prominent Sunni Muslim organizations making an egregious error by calling for US military intervention. In fact, in July 2013, representatives from many of these organizations met with National Security Adviser Susan Rice at the White House to discuss US intervention in Syria. One of those organizations released this policy paper in strong support of military strikes, which was delivered to the White House on September 6, 2013:

Not only is it highly problematic to misrepresent the entire American Muslim community’s views as monolithic, especially after the deplorable effects of our recent military interventions, it is highly irresponsible from an Islamic perspective to support such action. And there is no reason to believe that American Muslims do not feel the same as their fellow Americans on this issue, over 60% of whom are against intervention in Syria, according to recent polls.

Ultimately, giving a green light to the American military industrial complex, regardless of how heroic the motive may seem, is a murderous mistake. With the many internal and external forces now involved in Syria, a power vacuum created by military intervention would undoubtedly lead to disastrous consequences. As American Muslims, we refuse to sign off on military strikes, lest we share responsibility for any further bloodshed.

Sectarian lines being drawn in the community

Unfortunately on September 9th, 2013, many prominent American Shi‘i Muslim groups released the following statement explicitly representing the “collective conscience of Shi‘i Muslims in the USA” against the intervention in Syria:

Thus, our community leaders have now successfully drawn sectarian lines among American Muslims. Although we commend the anti-intervention message of the statement, we question it’s claim to be the “collective conscience” of the entire American Shi‘i community. In addition, there is also the issue of why no predominantly Sunni groups signed off on the document.

Promoting the principles of self-determination and anti-intervention through our American Muslim organizations

Moving forward, we, the undersigned American Muslims, request a public statement from your organization committing to the following actions:

  1. Do not claim to represent the Shi‘i, Sunni or entire Muslim community in any meetings or official statements. Recognize that the American Muslim community is diverse in its socio-political views; not recognizing this will only reinforce the mistaken assertion that Muslims are monolithic.
  2. Adopt a standing default policy of self-determination and anti-intervention in all international conflicts, on principle. Focus on promoting alternative/non-violent means of helping those affected by conflict. This will also avoid the temptation toward and/or the impression of sectarianism to the broader public. Such a partisan divide is dangerous, especially given the climate of politically-motivated sectarianism that adds to the degeneration of Muslim-majority countries.
  3. Develop an area-wide intra-faith council in your locale that meets quarterly to discuss and collaborate on common issues, build relationships, plan joint events and participate in each other’s activities to promote Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood. This space can also be used to adopt a joint policy on anti-interventionism in international conflicts.

Finally, as Muslims, we cannot ignore the decree of our Holy Book in times of tribulation. Although it is tempting to call on an entity with immense temporal power to resolve conflict and fight injustice, Qur’anic injunctions state that it is a mistake to rely on an unjust oppressor instead of the Divine for our salvation — especially one we know is responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians throughout its history,

And do not incline to those who are unjust, lest the fire touch you, and you have no guardians besides Allah, then you shall not be helped (11:113).

And He provides for him from [sources] he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah sufficient is [Allah] for him. For Allah will surely accomplish His purpose: verily for all things has Allah appointed a due proportion (65:3).

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