by Abu Dharr (Guest Editorial, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 12, Muharram, 1428)
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.
It should have been “justice done” by Muslims but it has been turned into “the rise of sectarianism” by the zionist-imperialist masters of the world. Saddam Hussain was used by his imperialist handlers as an agent par excellence during his bloody life, exploited further in his gory death. If intellectuals had the courage to speak the truth, they would admit that the Ba‘ath party inIraq was a club of elitists whose common purpose was to rule to the exclusion of the majority of Iraq’s people – the Shi‘as. That is not to say that they did not admit Shi‘as into their party, but that was nothing more than a way of making the party more effective in ruling the country. (Change the word “Shi‘i” to “Sunni” and you have an accurate description of the Ba‘ath party inSyria.) The whole issue of sectarianism is supposed to feed on the grievances of majority “Shi‘is” and minority “Sunnis” caused by a ruling class of “Shi‘is” and a ruled class of “Sunnis”. This whole perception is contrary to the Qur’an and Sunnah. Saddam Hussain was no more a Sunni than the other rulers who sit on their thrones or relax in their palaces, making a living and a killing out of implementing the zionist-imperialist agenda. Saddam Hussain was no more a Sunni than the Shah of Iran was a Shi‘i.
No-one is expected to condemn Saddam Hussain because he was in cahoots with zionism and imperialism, but not condemn the current rulers of Iraq because of their relationship with the powers of imperialism and zionism. The “details” of these relationships with Washington and Tel Aviv are different; but the fact remains that Saddam and his secular club of politicians were subordinates of their Israeli and American masters, as too are the current “religious” politicians in Iraq.
But the politics of identity and factionalism is an age-old part of the human condition, always exploited by those seeking to divide and weaken a community. Didn’t the Yahud enjoy a period of “national security” as the Aws and Khazraj were divided and at odds? Tribalism was a very useful sentiment with which to divide enemies, and the Yahud exploited it to the full. Sectarianism is also a very useful prejudice, to which Muslims are no less prone than any other community, and the US and zionists are now milking it to the last drop of Muslim blood. Any Muslim who thinks of Saddam Hussain as a Sunni has fallen into the false attitudes that are liable to contribute to a long and debilitating civil war among Muslims. Saddam Hussain, by his own record, had joined the service of zionism and imperialism (al-yahud and al-nasara as awliya'), thus becoming an ally of the anti-Islamic powers (cf. al-Qur’an 5:51). And although he clung to Islamic rituals, and even though we are not here to pass final judgment on him, we do know from the Qur’an that such rulers with such bloodthirsty histories cannot be counted as leaders of the Ummah of Islam. This is also equally true of those who consider themselves “Shi‘i Muslims”, and may have impressive records of Islamic activities and struggle to their credit; once they place their hands into the hands of imperialists and zionists they, too, must be counted among the enemies of Islam. No-one is expected to condemn Saddam Hussain because he was in cahoots with zionism and imperialism, but not condemn the current rulers of Iraq because of their relationship with the powers of imperialism and zionism. The “details” of these relationships with Washington and Tel Aviv are different; but the fact remains that Saddam and his secular club of politicians were subordinates of their Israeli and American masters, as too are the current “religious” politicians in Iraq.
Therefore, to set sectarianism ablaze, Muslims in Iraq and beyond Iraq needed to be given justifications for sectarian feelings and thoughts. And so, instead of an open investigation of all Saddam’s crimes against all Iraq’s people, and the encouragement for these crimes that he he received from foreign powers, we had the charade of a legal process in which Saddam and his co-defendants were subjected to a kangaroo court for a little over a year, totally about forty sessions, all of this centered around the massacre of 148 Shi‘is in the town of Dujail in the early 1980s. This whole process was telecast live via satellite TVs and beamed to the mashriq and maghrib of the Muslim world. That represented a year of preparing Muslim public opinion for the climax of his execution, presented as the vengeance of a Shi'i government against a Sunni former oppressor. The circulation of the appalling video clip showing him being subjected to hate-filled sectarian taunts – phrases such as “the tyrant is in a free-fall, may Allah condemn him.” “To hell [with you],” and “Muqtada, Muqtada” – on the gallows were simply a bonus for the promoters of sectarian hatred; the contrast with Imam ‘Ali (ra), who refused to kill an enemy, ‘Amr ibn Wudd al-’Ameri, on the battlefield after ‘Amr spat in the Imam’s face, because he was afraid that he might be killing him for the wrong reasons – from personal anger rather than in the cause of Allah – could hardly be greater.
Saddam Hussain ranks among the most brutal rulers in the history of mankind. Still he deserved a fair trial, rather than a political one. The form and haste of his trial and execution were designed to raise the sectarian temperature in the Muslim world. Saddam Hussain and his partners in crime should have been made, in a free and fair court of law and justice, to disclose the details surrounding their decision to execute one of the most brilliant Islamic scholars of our age, the late Muhammad Baqer al-Sadr and his sister Bint al-Huda. They should have been made to reveal the thinking behind the death of ‘Aref al-Basri, the well known leader in Hizb al-Da‘wah. And Shi‘is were not the only victims of his crimes; Sunnis suffered just as much if they dared to oppose him. He was responsible for the death of Nazem ‘Asi and ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Badri, the latter being tortured and executed in horrendous manner as to be beyond description in normal language. The scholars and notables of the Hakim and Bahr-al-‘Ulum families were by no means his only victims; his death squads roamed the country targeting opponents of every hue – communists, Kurds, Shi‘is, and Sunnis – who may not be remembered beyond their own families, but whose murders were no less criminal. And beyond the country, their victims included Hasan al-Shirazi and Muhammad Saleh al-Husseini in Beirut, Taleb al-Suhail in the United Arab Emirates, Hardan al-Takriti in Kuwait, and al-Sayyed Mahdi al-Hakim in Sudan. And apart from this war against domestic political opponents and critics, Saddam was guilty also of killing even greater numbers of Muslims through his declared and undeclared wars against Islamic movements in and around Iraq. The two wars that he was instrumental in launching, against the embryonic Islamic state in 1980 and his former ally Kuwait in 1989, cost the Ummah – Sunnis and Shi‘is alike – in Iraq, Iran, the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, around one and a half million Muslims, sacrificed in wars fought at the instigation of imperialism and zionism.
A non-sectarian trial would have shown Saddam Hussain as an enemy of humanity; and the evidence presented at such a trial would have exposed the high-ranking officials in Washington, London, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Cairo, and other capitals around the world who provided Saddam with the funds, equipment, encouragement and support systems that he needed to sustain himself in power for so long.
If Saddam Hussain had been subjected to genuine processes of law and justice, the focus should have been on all his political crimes, resulting in the deaths of well over 1.5 million Muslims during the 1980s and 1990s. A non-sectarian trial would have shown Saddam Hussain as an enemy of humanity; and the evidence presented at such a trial would have exposed the high-ranking officials in Washington, London, Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Cairo, and other capitals around the world who provided Saddam with the funds, equipment, encouragement and support systems that he needed to sustain himself in power for so long. Had Saddam had a free and fair trial in a just court, he would have incurred multiple death sentences that would have acknowledged the scale of his crimes and the number of his victims, even if he could still only have been hanged once. But instead we had made-for-the-camera proceedings in which passions and prejudices outweighed facts and evidence. And in the terrible sectarian mindset of so many Muslims, encouraged by the imperialist-zionist script, Saddam became a hero for standing up as a Sunni Muslim to Shi‘is working with the US and zionist occupiers of Iraq, as a sectarian hero sent to die in a sectarian noose. A man of evil and death who should be ranked with Pharaoh, Nero, Hitler, Mussolini, Bush and Sharon finds himself hailed as a hero and a martyr, a leader of Islam compared with Salah al-Deen!
The mentality of Muslims whose Islam is defined entirely by rituals will make it very difficult for justice to catch up with Saddam’s peers – the kings and presidents who survive him. These rulers will do everything they can to keep the Muslims trapped in their religious or sectarian affinities to them. At a time when the only Islamic state to have established itself in the modern world and survived is the Islamic Republic of Iran, led and populated by Shi‘i Muslims, and Hizbullah in Lebanon is arguably the most important and successful Islamic movement in the rest of the world, such sectarianism is a major line of defense for these rulers.
The trial of Saddam Hussain and his functionaries should have been a golden opportunity to bring to light all the details of behind-the-scenes contacts, secret meetings and off-the-record understandings, clandestine channels and cryptic operatives, the unknown activities of the intelligence services and the super-secret and tightly-guarded encounters between Arabian officials andzionist officials. It is a crime against all the peoples in the area, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, that this evidence has been buried by hasty trials and hurried executions. It is a bigger crime to hide history or fudge the facts under ultra-sectarianism and irrational zealotry and chauvinism. The omission of due process and true justice is setting the stage for an American-Israeli planned war between Sunnis and Shi‘is. This is indeed one of the tests of our time. There may be a silver lining to all this: the wave of sectarianism will carry with it those who are truly sectarian in outlook and mindset and then drown them in the consequences of their own intolerance and bigotry.
The Muslims who stand for unity and justice have weathered` turbulent times before, during the waves of European and foreign invasions from Genghis Khan to Ariel Sharon. In the longer scale of things, any success that George Bush, Tony Blair and Ehud Olmert appear to achieve will prove illusory and short-term. In the meant time how much damage and pain they inflict on the Ummah is in our own hands to limit and control.