October 15, 2003


Ummah stands divided (Phar Kim Beng, 10/15/03, Asia Times)

At the ministerial preparatory meeting held this week in Putrayjaya, Kuala Lumpur, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) tried to appear upbeat despite the many problems confronting the Islamic world.

It sought to show unity by calling for the eviction of United States forces from Iraq. However, Turkey's decision to provide troops to Iraq, which is represented in the conference by the US-sanctioned interim Iraqi Governing Council, triggered divisions within the organization. [...]

Although the OIC serves to represent the ummah (the Islamic community), James Piscatori, a professor in international relations at Oxford University, has long argued that the Islamic world rallies more to causes that resonate with national interests than pan-Islamic ones. Events dating back to 1969, the year when OIC was first conceived, has shown his insights to be prescient.

In his book Islam and the Nation-State, he showed that the foreign policy of some of the most Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran, were each driven by their parochial national interest rather than Islamic ones.

Thus, while the OIC's aspirational goals include promoting the collective welfare of the Islamic world, caught as it is by the hegemony of the United States, the OIC's decisions cannot be aversed to member states' national prerogative too. In fact, the latter always dominate. Hence, the track record of the OIC has always been filled with inconsistency.

When the modern State comes into conflict with the Church, the State wins. That's why, as vital as it is to separate Church and State, it is equally important to limit the power of the State and maintain the health of the Church, so that there is some countervailing authority within the nation that at least has a prayer of restraining the exercise of State power. Easier said than done.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 15, 2003 9:46 AM

Every day I find another reason why inviting Turkish troops into Iraq is another brilliant srategy by GW. He may be a dummy but he is a deep one.

Posted by: john at October 15, 2003 10:17 AM

I think there is a confusion of terms here.

Both Bassam Tibi and Sam. Huntington have argued, fairly persuasively, that either Islamic states do not really exist (Tibi) or that Islam trumps politics (Huntington).

The motive forces in, say, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia that controlled the state were not particularly representative of their people.

One can doubt that, if the Pakistanis had had any say in the matter, they would have financed the Aga Khan's actresses.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 15, 2003 2:46 PM

The point being they have no say, nor do the clerics. The State does as it wishes.

Posted by: OJ at October 15, 2003 3:13 PM

That's just what Huntington argues is changing, and while I disagree with a lot of his book, he's clearly right about that.

That's where Bush is trying to square the circle. You cannot have a popular government (let alone a representative democracy) without mass education. But in Islamic societies, mass education means more Islam. Until now, the states in Islam have not been Islamic, with rare exceptions.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 15, 2003 6:06 PM

Cubans we're endlessly told are the most educated people on Earth--they have no say either.

Posted by: oj at October 15, 2003 6:42 PM

Calling for our eviction is a layup for the majority of this group. A democratic Iraq is a threat both to pan-Islamism and to authoritarian rulers in the component states.

Turkey's interests are the most aligned with ours, in that their state is an outlier in the Islamic world -- (relatively) democratic and Islamic. I agree with Harry as to what Bush is trying to do.

Posted by: Dave in LA at October 15, 2003 8:00 PM

You're new here, Dave. Nobody agrees with Harry.

Maybe you are agreeing with john.

Orrin, you never heard me say the Cubans were the most educated people in the world. No point in knowing how to read if you don't have anything to read.

I seem to recall lots of rightwingers asserting that when Castro goes, so will the regime. Presumably they are basing that on some idea of popular sovereignty.

Nobody ever said, in the '50s, that when Batista went, his replacement would owe anything to popular opinion.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 15, 2003 9:43 PM

When Castro dies, I expect his cronies to maintain power, but not as a Communist nation. THAT is what will go.

However, as that notion is so glaringly obvious, I'm for skipping the wait, and going immediately to normalizing our relationship with Cuba. There's an awful lot of good music and baseball going to waste, right now.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 16, 2003 6:49 AM

Harry --

We agree with you on lots of things. It's just that as soon as we agree, you move further out.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 16, 2003 1:51 PM