by Our Correspondent from London (Occupied Arab World, Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 7, Safar, 1419)
Only days after the adoption of an ‘anti-terrorism’ accord by Arab League States, the US and European Union countries have stepped up their war on Islamic activists worldwide - concluding new pacts with Arab dictators, rounding up Muslims in their terroritories, at the behest of Arab regimes, adding yet another Muslim country to the American list of States promoting ‘terrorism’, and agreeing stricter procedures for denying Muslim States advanced weaponry.
Barely a week after the adoption of the Arab League anti-terrorism agreement in Cairo on April 22, the EU and Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) agreed a deal to fight ‘international terrorism.’ Ministers from the two organizations meeting in London on April 29 vowed to starve ‘terrorists’ of the material resources to which they owed their seeming success - a reference to financial contributions to Islamic groups in the west.
The embattled British foreign minister, Robin Cook, who chaired the meeting (Britain is the current president of the EU) said at a press conference the same day that the EU and GCC officials had discussed the issues of terrorism, political asylum, democracy, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East peace process - adding that the two sides had agreed to ‘combat all forms of terrorism whatever its origins or causes.’
The officials also agreed that political asylum should not be granted to terrorists or terrorist groups, and pledged to co-operate in unmasking ‘terrorists’ and the sources of their funding or other assistance such as training facilities. This is clearly borrowed from the Arab ‘anti-terrorism’ accord which calls for ‘the sharing of intelligence information on terrorists and the sources of their funding.’ (For the details of the Arab League anti-terrorism pact, see "Arab secularists detect trap in new Arab anti-terrorism accord - May 16-31, 1998").
The GCC representatives were clearly delighted to hear Cook - the self-declared champion of ethical foreign policy - say at the press conference that his government was about to introduce in parliament a Bill targeting individuals involved in terrorism outside the United Kingdom. He added that he had invited GCC officials at the meeting to hand over any evidence of involvement in external terrorism by Gulf opposition activists in the UK.
Less than a fortnight after the conclusion of the EU-GCC pact and Cook’s invitation, eight Algerian men were arrested in London under the prevention of Terrorism Act. The arrests took place at about 6:30 am on May 12 at six addresses in London, following a joint operation by British, Belgian and French police.
The French and Algerian authorities have accused the UK of allowing Algerian Islamic groups to organize themselves in Britain. Cook has not only caved in to French and Algerian pressure but he is also honouring the terms of an infamous deal which tars any Islamic activists with the brush of terrorism.
The Americans have also been active in clinching deals directed against Islamic groups. The US and the EU agreed an arrangement on May 18 under which president Bill Clinton would lift the threat of US sanctions against European companies trading with Iran, and the EU countries would, in return, step up co-operation in combating terrorism and fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The EU commitment included backing for US efforts to persuade Russia to stop assisting Iran’s alleged ballistic missile programme.
Clinton was quite specific about the main target of the deal. ‘The waivers we have granted today are part of our overall strategy to deter Iran from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and promotion terrorism,’ he said.
Earlier, the Clinton administration reacting to the Taliban movement’s refusal to expel Shaikh Usama bin Laden - put Afghanistan on the US list of States promoting ‘international terrorism.’ The decision to declare Afghanistan an outlaw was issued by the State department on May 4 and formally published in the US official gazette 10 days later. Afghanistan joins Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria - making six the number of Muslim countries on the list out of a total of eight.
In targeting Islam, western governments are receiving powerful encouragement from Muslim dictators, who view Islamic activists as their most obdurate opponents. President Husni Mubarak of Egypt leads the list of Muslim despots who publicly and regularly rail against Islamic groups worldwide, characterising them as terrorists. Indeed, on the very day EU and GCC officials agreed an anti-terrorism deal in London, Mubarak was on French television, holding forth on the nature and causes of ‘terrorism’ and the dire threat it posed to world stability.
During a long interview on Channel 2, Mubark said ‘terrorist elements extend their services to foreign powers in Afghanistan and other regions in a bid to destabilize the Arab and Islamic worlds as well as other regions’. And unless the European States and the US pay greater attention to this ‘phenomenon’ the ‘plague of terrorism ‘ will spread to the rest of the world, he said.
The centre of ‘terrorist influence’ used to be Afghanistan, where ‘Arab-funded terrorists’ fought communism but eventually found themselves out of jobs, following the defeat of communism and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the Egyptian leader explained - making it plain that by ‘terrorists’ he simply means Islamic activists. And now they are being exploited by various groups to ‘disturb the stability of Egypt, Algeria, Europe and the US,’ he added.
But Muslim leaders are not using only personal crusades to fight Islamic activists abroad. They also press establishment ulama into service - ‘persuading’ them to issue fatwas to the effect that Muslims in the Christian world are exempt from the strict application of the Shari’ah. Shaikh Tantawi, the head of al-Azhar, has for instance issued an opinion that French school girls are not required to inisist on wearing the hijab - making it easy for French authorities to argue that by banning the hijab in French schools they are not getting at Islam.
It is true that they tirelessly argue that they are not targeting Islam, which condemns terrorism, but dangerous opportunists who exploit the religious tendencies of Muslims. But this cannot conceal the fact that they, and their western masters, see Islamic activists as the greatest single threat to their power.
But the Muslim dictators should know how quickly power could be snached away from them, and how swiftly their western supporters could abandon them if they appeared to outlive their usefulness. President Mubarak of all people should realise this. He was the last leader to entertain president Suharto, who cut short his visit to Egypt on May 15, only to be abandoned by his army, political party and US backers. Within six days Suharto was a private citizen.
Muslimedia: June 1-15, 1998